Many musicians feel like they’re “selling out” when they do cover-songs. I know – cause I’m kinda one of them. But I’ve slowly started learning about a secret formula “C + Y = R”
Although I’ve been playing for over 20 years, I’ve only performed about 60 times in front of an audience. My experience is limited, but enough to make these claims:
Every guitarist knows the scenario: You’re in a living room, a camp-fire, or even while on stage… and then people start make their various requests for songs. Having grown to love guitar through classical music, I’m not a big fan of most cover-song requests. (I also don’t know that many covers)
But…. I am a fan of ‘connecting’ with my audience. So how do I resolve? Well, unknowingly, I’ve been using Adam Rafferty’s formula of “C + Y = R”
Those who have been to my performances know that I do some covers. But I do them in my very own way. One of my popular live songs has always been my Gypsy Jazz version of the Beatles’ : Honey Pie. Sometimes I sing it, sometimes I use a “kazoo”, sometimes I do a “mouth trumpet”.
What I do know, is that I always get positive feedback from the song.
So what is the formula:
C + Y = R
Cover + You = Relationship.
C : The cover song is something everyone knows. We’re all comfortable with the familiar. It warms our heart, makes us feels safe, and we open up to the guitarist on stage.
Y: You (or me, or any guitarist) . But it needs to be 100% you. I don’t play covers I don’t like. But those that I do connect with, like “honey pie”, I play 100% in the Nir way. And so I love it, and the audience loves it.
R: This is where the magic happens. The audience feels familiarity, with warm and open hearts. I feel 100% authentic.. the relationship is confirmed, and we can start exploring more. oh yeh!
Like in a romantic relationship, when we feel secure, we’re open to exploring new things together. After a reassuring ‘cover song’ everyone is receptive to my style of playing. People are ready to explore with my original compositions, and they journey with me 🙂
I’m free to play more of what I want, and give more of my personal expression in my original pieces.
PS: for those die-hards who still think “playing what the crowd wants” is selling out. Well, Think about it: even the most successful musicians are forced to play their ‘hits’ from 3 albums ago.