As I’m now getting ready to play live again, I need to remind myself that I don’t ever want to fall back into the trap of just playing covers for the sake of it and at the cost of performing my own material.
I do want to explore, however, the concept of being an interpreter of songs rather than just a replicator of other people’s music. This means that when I play other people’s songs I will be performing the songs that I want to perform, in the way that I want to perform them.
I’m not really interested in performing to audiences that only want to hear the same old tired songs that every other performing musician does. I’m ideally looking to play to audiences that want to experience something new and different.
If anything it will definitely keep me interested and motivated at the same time.
From my experience of performing covers over the last 15 years or so, there are three main differences between an interpreter of a song and a replicator of a song.
First of all, an interpreter performs the song in the way that they wish to perform it, not by how it’s been performed in the past.
An interpreter puts their own spin, personality and sonic point of view onto the song creating a (sometimes) different version to the point of the song becoming almost unrecognisable to the listener.
A replicator performs the song the way it’s always been played.
Secondly, an interpreter performs the song as a creative exercise rather than it just being a functional activity.
Continuing on from the first point, if you’re performing songs the way YOU want to perform them, then you’re approaching your gig as a creative exercise rather than a means to an end.
Yes, you’re going to be paid at the end of the show (and therein lies the functional element of the gig) but your artistic integrity will remain intact at the same time.
A replicator approaches the gig as a functional transaction of service to payment and therefore the performance of the songs will reflect this attitude.
Lastly, an interpreter approaches the songs they perform the same way as a songwriter approaches performing one of their own songs.
An interpreter looks at the song as a whole and uses the performance of it to inspire and educate the listening audience through the delivery both vocally and instrumentally of the song’s form, dynamics and arrangement.
Every performance of the song is therefore a unique experience for both performer and audience.
A replicator approaches the song as if they were in control of a jukebox.
I used to think that trying to be all things to all people through playing all of the songs that they wanted to hear would give me job satisfaction through playing lots of gigs and therefore making a serviceable full-time living through live performance.
This is what I did for around 12-15 years (with FIGJAM and other cover projects) and at the end of it all, I was left a burnt out and empty shell of a man.
As songwriters, musicians, artists and performers, we have the control over how much of ourselves we want to expose to an audience. Some musicians want to keep the live experience at a surface level and that’s okay.
I, on the other hand, really want to go deeper than that and the best way I think to do that is through the delivery of the music. Whether I’m performing my music or the music of another.
I’ll see you at a gig real soon.