I’ve been performing a lot this year. Actually, more than any other year before, as far as I can remember. Not only did I go on my very first “tour” ever, but I’ve performed locally pretty much every month this year. I wrote about my tour in this space during the summer, both before I left and when I returned. It was a powerful experience. Not only did I play five times in nine days, certainly the most in such a short window for me, but I also took the trip solo and slept in my vehicle most nights. That sort of experience gives you insight on both yourself and also your journey. It helped me to confirm something that I’ve always believed — and that is that while I enjoy performing, like a lot of other things in life it can really become work when you do it too much. And really, that’s the biggest reason I never pursued it at that level. Well, that and because I wanted to stay in southern Utah to raise my child.
So now that Sky has been an adult for a few years, it’s given me the opportunity to look at performing fresh with my more experienced eyes … and while I very much enjoy performing, I wonder if I made the right decision to do music on my own terms. I’ve never gigged what I would consider to be a lot. Once or twice a month, or less, has been fine with me. I’ve even gone many months without a show, and I’ve enjoyed those pauses as well. Trying to find balance with it has always been a bit tricky, but I continue to experiment with it.
This year, near the beginning of the year, I was determined to perform more. I really wanted to get my chops up, refine my act, learn some new songs, and perform at some new spots. So coming out of the winter, I contacted Tom Bennett, known for his one-man band, asking if he had any tips for me to set out on a short tour of gigs. Not only was he happy to pass on some great tips on getting fans and friends in different areas to come out to shows, but he actually offered to book the shows for my little tour. That made the whole thing so much easier. All I had to do was trust Tom to get the shows booked and then just show up ready to play. This took a lot of the stress out of the planning stages of the trip, making it something I looked forward to until the dates came up in early June.
That trip — which included visiting four different hot springs, camping in my SUV, cooking dinners on my tailgate, and performing in towns I’d never been to — really pushed me outside of my comfort zone. It was the first time I’ve ever booked solo shows that were three hours long … a virtual marathon as a performer. I also had to bring and setup my own audio equipment for most of those shows, as the majority didn’t have an in-house sound system. So in addition to the lengthy performances, I also had a fair amount of setup and tear-down time.
All of that intense work has paid off in spades. Not only did I dust off some old tunes I hadn’t played in years but it also pushed me to learn some new ones. And when I returned from the tour, my gigs have felt easier ever since. I’ve always had just a bit of nervousness before performing, even after 25 years of doing it, but now it seems much diminished. I also got compliments from both my mom and my dad … not my harshest critics but both with trained ears who have heard me perform so much over the years. They both mentioned that they thought I’d improved this year, and they would know.
It’s also been a nice bonus financially. I’ve done quite well to stash the extra money away, spending just a little bit on a little new gear and upkeep of my performance equipment.
All of that said, I’m still glad I don’t do it for a living. I have always been concerned that I might grow to dislike performing if I did it too much, and I felt a bit of that this year, as much as I’ve played. So like a lot of things, it’s about balance. I think I’ve about found the sweet spot this year with my performing … enough that I’ve continued to refine my craft, learn new tunes, and get to some new venues and towns but not so much that I’ve grown sick of it and that it becomes a chore.
So I’ll probably have just a few more shows through the end of the year, mostly out in the Kanab area. If you’d like to come chill while I strum and sing, keep an eye on my Facebook page or on joshwarburton.com for dates, and have a beautiful October!