The Difference...

Between being back there, behind the drumkit, and being up there, fronting the band.

When I'm playing a show, most of the time my eyes are closed. As a drummer, I'm listening very closely to everything that the other instruments are doing. I'm not just listening to hear musical cues for expected and unexpected changes. I'm mostly trying to sink as deep into the sound as I can get, so I can play without thinking about the mechanics of it all. When I'm playing Zeppelin, I put my head down and get back to that place I was in as a teenager, air drumming and just letting the music carry me away. I'm mostly blind for the show, eyes open or not. If I do have a moment of distraction that takes me out of that place, I just squeeze my eyes shut and catch a tail of the music, and let it pull me out of myself again.

The whole time I'm on stage I'm hoping that the connection I'm making with the listener is a musical conversation. I'm hitting the drums as a kind of language that's reaching out to eardrums and, if I'm doing it right, conveying the emotion of the song. I'm speaking to the other players as well, showing my support for what they're saying and responding to what they're telling me. By dancing, I try to make people want to dance, by pounding I try to make people want to yell, by pulling back I try to draw people to the stage to want more. I know this language now... it's a little hard to describe, as you can see.

When I was recording vocals for the record, the goal was always to get inside the words the way that I get inside the music. The words have images and emotions that are very tangible to me. When I was working on the vocals, my rule was always that if I messed up one word, I would start over no matter what had come before. If I didn't get the word right, then I wasn't inhabiting the story. That's what makes a good vocalist, in my opinion. Same thing that makes a good drummer: you can have all the technical chops in the world, but if you don't know the story well enough to convey it, then you might as well be mute.

I love the frontperson I can't take my eyes off of, and it's always because they are completely inhabiting their story and their songs. I love frontpeople who stand in one place and the ones who run all over the place. I love the ones who belt it and the ones who sing in soft, lilting melodies. But I have to hear the story, and I have to believe that they're inside of it. Some vocalists never seem to look at the audience, and yet I'm captivated. Maybe it's not about reaching out and grabbing people by their collars to make them listen. Although I like those singers too.

I don't know what it will be like up there, and if I'll be able to do that. Probably not. But that will be the goal. And I'm finding that it's not just vocal practice I need to work on. It's a lot of other little mind games to play in order to get to a place where I can tell my story honestly and true. How will I connect with the listener? I haven't figured that out yet. It's somewhere in these thoughts, though, the answer.

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