About Kevin

Kevin is a Grammy nominated artist, podcaster, and indie musician advocate. He resides in Portland, OR where he is the Director of Marketing for CD Baby (cdbaby.com). Oh, yeah, he also plays guitar in Smalltown Poets.
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    Creating Moments on Stage: Idea #1 Your Influences

    Well, this is the first post of what I hope will be a long series of posts where I share a specific “moment” creating idea. All of the ideas I plan to share come from first hand experience, whether I was a part of the performance, or a member of the audience who was moved by the moment. I’m starting out with something we incorporated into the Smalltown Poets’ set for the Listen Closely tour. We heard over and over again how it was an audience favorite.

    Sharing Your Influences: In the 90’s you might recall how the acoustic set had become extremely popular thanks to shows like MTV Unplugged. When we were planning out the Listen Closely tour, the acoustic set had become a little too trendy, but there was something to be said for the intimacy that the acoustic set added to the performance. We decided, that instead of playing a few of our songs on acoustic instruments, that we would set up an intimate moment and share some of our specific influences that were the foundation of our musical journey. We did sit on stools, but I played a hollow body electric instead of an acoustic guitar, and we had a little drum set that we brought out to the front of the stage. Each individual in the band had their own little segment.

    For my segment, I explained to the audience, “I got my start performing in church(This was long before there were pop/rock bands playing worship music in church like you might find today). Being an electric guitar player, there weren’t many performance options that would be appropriate for that setting. I was a big fan of Phil Keaggy, so I learned a couple of his instrumental pieces that worked perfectly” It was at this point, where I would play about 8 bars of the instrumental piece by myself. It was a little nerve-racking, as you could hear a pin drop in the auditorium as I played. This created a huge contrast to the full band production they had been hearing up until that point in the show. After I finished the 8 bars, I would say something like, “ Phil Keaggy is still a big influence on my playing, but this isn’t a church service!” At that moment, the whole band would kick into a shortened version of an uptempo song by Phil called ‘Shouts of Joy’. After that, we would go on to the next band member, and they would share their story. Each time, the story would conclude with all of us playing a song by one of their influences. Every night we heard how that was the favorite moment of the show, which at first left us thinking, “Great! You liked all the songs that weren’t ours!” In reality though, the reason that it was such a striking moment, is that the audience felt like they knew us better after that set of music. We shared our musical past with them, and they felt a stronger connection to us as a band. An idea like this would be easy to incorporate into your show. You don’t have to do the alternate setup like we did, just think about how you can creatively incorporate the story of your musical influences into your live performance.

    • http://www.arthurpope.com Arthur Pope

      Sounds like a great idea… although, I don’t think I’ll be able to pull off Demon Hunter or Extol on an acoustic guitar.

      I think I could handle a little Derek Webb, though. :)

    • http://kevinbreuner.com Kevin

      I wouldn’t focus on the acoustic part. I think what really grabs an audience, is seeing a little glimpse into who you are and where you came from musically. During that Smalltown Poets tour, I realized how excited people get when they hear how you’ve been influenced by other artists they love. When I would mention Phil Keaggy, people would cheer. They also liked to hear about my humble beginnings playing some simple guitar melody in church. It enabled the audience to identify with us on a more human level. People tend to see a big rock show or some sort of rehearsed performance and think that you were always at that level. The audience loves to hear about the beginnings and the struggle.

    • http://www.arthurpope.com Arthur Pope

      Thank you for the insight. Truth be told, the first thing I ever played on a guitar was the intro to 3 Doors Down’s “Kryptonite.” :) About the acoustic guitar: the thing is, I’m an acoustic singer/songwriter guy, so an acoustic is all I’ll have on stage. Granted, it is an acoustic/electric hybrid. I don’t plan on doing too much with the built in distortion when playing live. That will mostly be reserved for recording. and church. if I find a church to play in again.

    • http://AtmosMusic.com Rob Michael

      Great post outlining an approach which can be modifies many different ways.

      Thanks for this.

    • http://kentampinvocalacademy.com Vocal Coach Ken

      I would love like to see Christians take their singing and playing craft more seriously. We seem to have fallen in to a rut of “campfire music / singing” and though there is nothing wrong with that (for people 16 and under) this seems to keep getting spoon-fed to the church as “great modern worship.” Paul said when I was a child I spoke as a child I reasoned as a child etc. but when I became older, I put away childish things.” I wish we could do that. Also: David played skillfully before the Lord. Old testament singers & musicians were hand picked by by their talents first and then weeded out by their dedication to God (because they had so many people “trying out” that were skillful, they could afford to do that). Nowadays what we do is we pull in anyone “who’s heart is right” and leave out the talent part altogether. Paul said to run the race for the victor’s crown. The bible instructs us to study to show ourselves approved. Yes of course it means to study scripture but also to strive for excellence in all we do. I’m not in any way trying to eclipse the holy consecration of one’s self unto our creator in an abject posture of total surrender and holy communion unto our Lord, but I would so love to see the church take God seriously as though they are playing before a King, rather than it be “just good enough.” (PS: and why does it all have to sound like bad Coldplay meets Bad U2? It remonds me of when all the bands tried to sound like Eddie Veddder from Pearljam Seems we are still living that one down…sorry had to ask)