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Down and Dirty with G. Love: On Performing

Time to hit the stage.

Be on time. Give 1000 percent. Play like it's your last show. Become your music. Sweat. Love it. Bleed for your music. Connect with your crowd. Have fun. Execute your plan. Perform technically sound. Let go of your inhibitions. Take risks. Do something different. Take advantage of your opportunity. Love it...

For this week’s blog, which I believe, is my eleventh for Guitar World, I wanted to ramble on to you all about performance. Your performance is probably the most important thing about your music as it relates to people other than yourself. True, the best music you ever play may be in your room or on your porch with only your dog listening but if you do want to make music professionally you'll have to hit the streets, the stage, the studio and you better be ready to cut it up.

The stage is an anomaly. Things happen on stage. Beautiful mistakes, new jams, crazy unexplained energy, unexpected twist and turns. Emotional upheavals and nervous breakdowns. I know you have a set, you have a plan, you have your arrangements but when you hit the stage things happen on their own. I think the best musicians and performers are the best because they can both go with the frenetic flow of stage energy but not let it completely sweep out of control. Great performers can deviate from their plan, their arrangements and let the music, the interaction with the crowd and the room take control. They can lose themselves but find a way home. Great performers can harness this unexplainable ball of nerves, raw emotions, lights sound and crowd and turn it into epic performances. You can do it too. Are you ready? I'm ready. Get me off this goddamn plane and on the stage.

A great performance can at the right moment change your life.

Time to hit the stage.

That's what I've been waiting all day to hear. On a show day from the minute I rise until I step onto that stage, the SHOW is all I think about. I might not talk about it, I might be running around doing what I got to do, I might have personal highs and lows, I might be hungry, tired, exercising, practicing, surfing, sleeping, writing this blog or any type of thing that is getting in the way of playing my goddamn guitar, but in the front of my mind is always the show. It kind of drives you crazy in a way. Having to anticipate the show is real. It's good, it makes you get up there and face your demons, get emotionally naked, be inspired and electric and do it all with a smile on their face in front of thousands of people every night. Many people who don’t do that may not understand but hey, that's what you and I signed up for right? And I'm telling you right now I wouldn't change it for anything, would you?

My show is the best part of my day everyday. It's the time of day that for 45 minutes or 3 hours I know everything is gonna be all good. I might make a couple mistakes, I might piss off my drummer for deviating from the set, I may play longer than I should and piss off the promoter but damn, I did it all for the music and I get to get everybody in that room including myself off.

What about nerves? Trust me, I get nervous as hell before my shows but that's a good thing. I heard James Brown would get nervous before every show as well and there are a lot of peeps that would call him one of the greatest performers and band leaders ever.

What about the arrangements and set lists? I look at it like this, your set is a map but nothing is set in stone. If your stuck on the 405 at rush hour do you just sit there or to you take the surface streets? Ultimately the show is a progression. You start at the beginning, which is a cold crowd, and get to the end, which is a euphoric crowd. Your set list is that plan from point A to B but you never know when some idiot may rear end the dude in front of him cause he was looking at the hot girl in the drop top Benz causing bumper to bumper traffic. I think you should have a plan but be confident in your skills and your bands skills that you can deviate from the set list. Bottom line…YOU MUST CONNECT. You have to play the room. You simply can't ignore the fact that every room, every sound system, every crowd, every town and every night is different. Be willing to make adjustments to get that crowd to the peak. If not you're going to be sitting backstage moping around saying, "Well, damn I don't get it, that set worked perfect last night…what happened?" Last night was New Orleans, tonight is Dallas. The vibes, the peeps, the rooms are different in every town. Adjust.

My drummer, Jeffrey Clemens, and I always say you have to throw down. Give it 1000 percent. Sweat. Get after it. You really gotta charge it, man. No holding back. You must be convicted and play every show like it's your last show. One of my new mantras is to "make every note count". Really, in this day and age can you even afford to let one note from your guitar or vocals out without supporting it with all the technique and passion you can muster? I can't. Try to come up with some mantras to lean on. They work.

Routines work as well. On tour my main routine is sound check, dinner, nap, warm up, cocktail, bathroom, touchup the set and 10 minutes to show time just relax then the band brings it in. We huddle it up, tell a joke or say something inspired. I find the "bring it in" time very helpful. It brings the band together as a team going out there to accomplish something together. It also gives us that 30 seconds or couple minutes where we can just be alone and let everything go before we hit the stage. I recommend this routine. Many, many bands do something like this; sports teams always do it. It works.

Get off. Get everyone off. Leave everyone satisfied and musically satiated but make sure it's great so they come back for more! Ahhhh that felt good...

I'm going to conclude but I could really go on forever. One last thought to think about. If you're talented, original, and passionate and you have something to say, one performance will always lead to another performance. You should get a new gig almost every time you play a gig. If this isn't happening you should keep striving to improve your performance until your gigs are rolling in steady. That's right! Now you're on your way to the tiptop.

Muddy Waters always gave everything every night. Here is one of his greatest performances at the Newport Jazz fest.

  • Good luck!
  • G

G. Love, aka Garrett Dutton, has been the front man and founder of the alternative hip-hop blues group G. Love & Special Sauce since their inception in 1993. Widely known for his upbeat hits "Cold Beverage," "Baby's Got Sauce" and "Hot Cookin'," G. Love returned to his blues and country roots on his latest release, Fixin' To Die (Amazon, iTunes), produced by Scott and Seth Avett. A road dog if one ever existed, G. Love performs roughly 125 shows a year all over the world including Australia, Japan, Brazil, UK, Canada and the U.S. G. Love teamed up with Gretsch to create his own signature model, the Gretsch G. Love Signature Electromatic Corvette, which features a pair of TV Jones® Power'Tron™ pickups, deluxe mini-precision tuners and a cool Phili-green color scheme with competition stripe that would make ANYONE from Philadelphia proud! Check it out here.