A DIFFERENT KIND OF SATURDAY NIGHT AND A DIFFERENT KIND OF DANCE MUM (MOM)

I write this post in a different place to where most of my other posts have been written. Normally i’m typing away while backstage waiting to perform, or sitting in my car between gigs. Today however I write this sat in my office on a Sunday morning after a different kind of Saturday night. The fact is, I wasn’t gigging at all last night. I was instead looking after my baby daughter Chloe while my wife was working.

My wife, Jennie is a dancer and has been her whole life pretty much. She started dancing when she was five years old and did her first professional job and the age of just eight. After ignoring the careers advice at school that declared she couldn’t be a dancer as a job and would need to choose and actual career, she went to dance college from age 16 to 19 and has been dancing ever since. About three years ago, Jennie became pregnant and finally stopped dancing full time in December of 2014 at 4 months pregnant. We welcomed Chloe into our lives in June 2015 and it’s been an incredible ride since.

It’s understood that having a baby is a huge life changing situation that you’re never truly prepared for, and that is definitely true. However, in truth, life for me, at least work and career wise, didn’t really change much at all with a few minor exceptions. For Jennie though, it was a complete shift. To simply stop doing something she had done almost everyday since the age of five, right through her formative years and through her entire adult life was difficult to say the least.

There was a period of time in 2009 when we were transitioning from working in production shows on cruise ships to going it alone as freelance entertainers. As a singer, it’s a far easier thing to do, due to being self-contained. As a dancer, there are routines to learn that must be done as a team. Before you can start learning anything, you need to get in to that team in the first place. Competition is fierce for dancers as there are so many that want to do the job, far more than there are actual jobs available. We found out that when dancers don’t dance, it can rapidly diminish their mood and their outlook on things. Many dancers we’ve spoken to since have backed up these findings. Wether it’s the sudden lack of endorphin release or some other factor, those six months or so are referred to as “the dark days” as it was not a fun time at all. Don’t let a gremlin get wet, expose it to bright light or feed it after midnight, and don’t stop a dancer from dancing. The result of either act is not something I would recommend. If you want to keep a dancer happy then the dancer simply must dance.

The pay also reflects the level of competition in dancing. It’s so sad that a lot of dancers train for so many years and dedicate so much of their time to learning the craft and maintaining their bodies to such a high standard and they are rewarded so frugally for their efforts. Sadly, it’s simply a case of supply and demand. I am proud of what I’ve achieved in this industry but to have that longevity as a dancer is quite remarkable.

Jennie started dancing again when Chloe was about is six months old but due to the nature of our situation, there is no way she can return to dancing full time. I’m from Norwich in Norfolk and Jennie is from Telford in the West Midlands. When we bought our house together it was in Leyland in the North West. It made sense from a work point of view. It’s right on the M6 and close to all major routes regardless of where in the country we’re headed. Blackpool is only about 45 minutes away and there is a fair amount of work there. Manchester and Liverpool are both within relatively easy reach and the rest of the country is accessible by the motorways that we are so close to. Couple that with the fact that houses are considerably more affordable over here and you have the perfect location for a tag team of a full time singer and a full time dancer.

The unfortunate side effect of living here is that it’s not great for family and friends. We’ve met some lovely people up here and there’s a great group of people that live in our street but it’s difficult to form strong friendships with people that you don’t work with and don’t get the chance to socialise with. An entertainers life means you’re generally working at the opposite times to everybody else which really limits your options for social engagement with people outside of the industry.

Our families do as much as possible and far more that should be reasonably expected with regards to coming up to help out since Chloe has been born but the simple fact is, they live miles away. Jennie’s parents are a solid two hours away and mine, living in Norfolk need to travel in excess of five hours each way. If we’re having a tough day, there’s no popping round for a cup of tea i’m afraid.

As I’m the one still working, it’s down to me to make the money to keep our little family going and living to the standard we have become accustomed. That means however that as “The Constant Singer”, I’m very often out working and not just evenings. A lot of the time Jennie is facing things alone at home and this brings it’s own struggles.

This last weekend was a real rarity then when a couple of weeks ago, Jennie was offered a dancing job for this Saturday, and I hadn’t yet had anything booked in. Usually dancing gigs are booked at shorter notice so my diary tends to be full before anything can come in for Jennie. Of course, there’s no childcare at the time of day or days of the week that help out entertainers so we have to chose which one of us will work.

So yesterday was a real change and a nice change at that. Me and Chloe spent all day together and Jennie got to dance. I can’t remember the last time that Jennie was working on a Saturday night and I wasn’t but it was fantastic to spend the day with Chloe having some quality Daddy/Daughter time. We had a fab time together and I was able to focus fully on playing with her and entertaining her and the time flew by, almost too quickly. Of course, had I wanted to actually get anything done like my wife does while she is with Chloe full time day in, day out, it would have been a different story altogether.

The Constant Singer Mk2

Did I relish and enjoy the time we spent together yesterday? Absolutely! Could I do what my wife does in looking after her solo for the majority of the time while running the house and doing everything else that mothers do? I would hasten to suggest, probably not. Being a parent is wonderful, it’s a gift that you should enjoy and embrace if you’re lucky enough to do it. It’s not easy though and it’s not all smiles and selfie snaps. Parents who stay at home with their children all day while the other one works have a very tough life and alongside the minefield of mood swings and scattered toys that they must traverse throughout a regular day, they may also be facing the very real prospect that their previous career that they loved so much may realistically be in their past. My mum did it with me and my brothers while my dad worked away a lot and now Jennie does it and I will never fully understand how. Jennie maintains that while she sorely misses dancing, she gave it up for the best reason. Given the choice between singing and having Chloe, I would of course choose Chloe every single time. I’m lucky though. I never had to make the choice.

Let me know your thought’s below in the comments and if you’d like to know each time a new post is added here at The Constant Singer Blog, then please subscribe. Please share this with anyone who you think could relate as I’d love to hear other experiences of how entertainment families deal with the changes that children bring.

Have a great day everyone and keep smiling.

Mike

HOW TO NOT LOSE CONFIDENCE AFTER A BAD GIG

Ah, confidence. That most fickle of beasts. When confidence is running high you perform better. You sing better, you’re funnier, quicker witted and just all round awesome. But when that confidence takes a knock it can be absolutely debilitating?

As entertainers, we’re generally a fairly insecure bunch. This is why we’ve decided to go into a career where we are constantly applauded and told how wonderful we are. If I wasn’t bothered about that, I’d stick to singing in the shower but the truth is, I need that audience. I need the buzz of a live crowd and the instant validation that applause and cheers can give me. Like I mentioned in my first post, it’s a drug. It builds up momentum too. The more you get that reaction, the easier it tends to be to carry on getting it. When a performance is going well, everything you touch turns to gold but the seasoned performer will tell you that this can be taken away instantly at any time without a moments notice. There are people that are supremely confident to the point that nothing can throw them off their stride. I’m not one of those people. My confidence is as valuable as it is fragile. It’s like a Farbergé Egg!

If I’m on a good run of gigs, I may go into one feeling on top of my game but the truth is, even after all these years, whenever I first step on stage and as I ready myself for that first note of the first song, I’m riddled with nerves and self doubt. I’ve got terrible eyesight but what I do have scans the room frantically, peering through the lights seeking out friend and foe. Trying to see in what parts of the room I’m likely to win and where I’m likely to find it difficult. It’s called reading your audience and I suck at it. Flat out, I’m the worst judge of an audience that’s ever wielded a live microphone. I think it’s because i’m naturally pretty “judgey” and I trust my instincts a little too readily. Have you ever seen someone who’s face relaxes into “F#%k Off”, only to find that when you meet them, they’re lovely, charming and every bit the type of person you’d like to spend some time with? Well I have, many times and it can be a real problem if you’ve already absorbed their presumed hatred of you while you’re supposed to be entertaining them. This is a problem I have that I need to work on, full stop.

Confidence, I tend to find is very much a reflection of our own self-worth. It is a combination of how we perceive ourselves and also how we believe others perceive us. A drop in confidence occurs when there is a contradiction between how we believe we are viewed through the eyes of others and how somebody’s actions has suggested we are viewed. If you know you’re doing a good job, and you think that everyone else knows you’re doing a good job then your confidence in understandably high. If you are then pulled aside and told that you are not doing a good job and it appears other people agree with this assessment, the conflict occurs and the confidence suddenly drifts away. Everything you believed about yourself has become a lie… or so it would seem. In reality, nothing has really changed. If you believe you are doing a good job then in essence you are, whether people agree or not. The problem comes in this subjective world of entertainment where the metrics of “a job well done” are almost impossible to measure. If an accountant completes his work on time and accurately then there’s a fairly substantial chunk of evidence that suggests that person is a good accountant. If a singer performs ten songs pitch perfect, note for note as they are written but for whatever reason doesn’t engage the audience then as far as those audience members are concerned, they’re rubbish.

Something else that makes this difficult is that audiences tend to have no filter. I’m always shocked to hear some of the comments that fellow performers have had to endure from members of the public. I’ve had to endure plenty myself. I liken it to a football crowd who aren’t concerned about the personal feelings of the players on the pitch when they’re hurling abuse at them. As far as the crowd is concerned, everyone out there is fair game and can be shot down at will. If someone can insult the singer on stage and get a laugh from his mates in the process, then he will. It’s as if they don’t see us as human beings sometimes. Alcohol certainly plays into this as does the fact that usually they’re in a safe group of people so they feel protected.

Anyhow, we’ve established that there are many reasons that people will say or do things that can knock our confidence, and therein lies the point. None of these things actually equates to the fact that you’re not very good. Other peoples opinions of you are one thing you simply cannot control. You can do everything right and sometimes, people just won’t respond in a positive manner. The trick is to learn to put greater weight in your own opinion of yourself. Combine this with managing expectations (that I talked about here) and you have the recipe for bouncing back from a bad gig.

A bad gig is in essence one that either factually didn’t go well, or (and this is far more likely) you didn’t think went very well. I know the feeling all too well as you’re humping your gear back to the car, just praying nobody talks to you so you can just get out and get home. You’re embarrassed, you’re annoyed and you’re exhausted. Sometimes you get angry at the audience, or the club and even if you do, eventually a lot of entertainers will eventually blame themselves and descend into questioning whether they can do this anymore or if they were ever cut out for this in the first place.

The MOST IMPORTANT THING to remember is that EVERY SINGLE ACT goes through this. Nobody nails every gig. Sometimes you can have a long run of gigs where nothing seems to work. It happens and it happens to us all. What you must remember is that you’ve had good gigs in the past. You can sing. You can entertain an audience, and you will again! I find in my career that everything is very cyclical. I tend to have a run of great nights followed by a run of bad ones. I can’t explain it and a lot of the time there is no rhyme or reason to it. You’ll no doubt notice how amazing everyone else’s gigs seem to be when yours aren’t going well. It’s natural. You will look at all the things that other people do that you can’t. Perhaps if you don’t play an instrument you’ll look at all the acts that do and think that you can’t possibly compete. Perhaps someone can sing higher or lower than you and with them on the scene, who would ever want to hear you with your tiny, limited range? Perhaps everyone else is better looking, in better shape, can hold notes longer, have a larger repertoire. All these things will nag at you but none of it really matters. The only reason you ever have a good night is because something about you specifically has connected with the audience. That is all that matters. I’ve seen awful acts get amazing reactions because the crowd just somehow loves them. I’ve been doing this for fourteen years and I still don’t decide if I have a good night or not. I try each time and I win more than I lose but I still lose my fair share. Every time I get stuck in that bad run of gigs that inevitably comes, I question myself…. But it always turns around.

The better I am feeling mentally, the shorter the recovery times after bad gigs. Sometimes, if things are good, I won’t need anytime at all. By time I’m in the sanctuary of my car, I’m already getting excited about another gig coming up. Other times, when things aren’t so good, it can last weeks. One thing I do know though is that the more aware I am of the fact that I’m letting other peoples assumed perceptions of me dictate how I feel about myself, the easier it is to recover control and get to realise just how bloody awesome I really am! It’s worth remembering how poor a judge of people we can all sometimes be so don’t assume you know what others are thinking because chances are, you’re wrong.

I know this might have seemed like a muddle, but to be honest it has kind of helped me focus a little more on how I approach getting over those bad gigs and I really think it’s going to help me. I hope it helps others too.

As always, thanks for reading and please feel free to share this post around. The more the entertainment community come together and talk about these things, the better for everyone. Oh, and why not subscribe too so I can let you know when I write another post. Go on, it can’t hurt, can it?

Have a great weekend everybody and keep smiling.

Mike

SINGING IN WORKING MEN’S CLUBS: THE GREAT BRITISH INSTITUTION

Welcome back to The Constant Singer and today I’d like to share the third part of my posts about the types on venue I perform in. Having already spoken about hotels and pubs, it’s now time to focus on one of the places that many of you will do a great deal of work, the Working Men’s Clubs.

The Working Men’s Clubs (or WMC as they’re sometime abbreviated to) encapsulates a large amount of types of clubs with a huge variance in quality, audience and particularly attendance. A typical club can be a Conservative, Labour or Liberal Club (named after their political allegiances though is barely relevant or even noticeable these days), simply a Working Men’s Club, an Institute, a Sports and Social Club, or any other name that given to it but it all boils down to largely the same thing. It’s a members club where people will have paid an absurdly small fee (often around £25 per year) for the privilege of being a member of the club. Some will charge a small fee on the door too but most don’t. It’s an ailing trade that used to be the backbone of the working class social scene but has largely failed to move with the times and simply isn’t attractive or relevant to the newer generations. Because of this, it is mainly an older audience.

As a general rule, I really enjoy clubs but all clubs are not created equal. Some clubs tick all the boxes that I really like; an older audience who are attentive and respectful, a stage, a dressing room and a compere. All of these things help me do my job better. It is not a given however that any of these things will be present. What I really love about clubs is just how retro they are. Some are literally like a window to the past. I don’t know if this is still the case but the last time I was at the Collegian Club in Lancaster (which admittedly was back in March 2013) they were still playing their background music from a cassette tape. At Christmas time, many of the clubs will be adorned with the same tired yet irresistibly festive decorations from twenty or thirty years ago. It’s tacky but I get a real warm glow when I see it. It feels like walking into your grandparent’s living room.

The setup of your act is traditionally the same as the hotels, in fact it very seldom veers from this at all. Two 45 minute spots, first one is cabaret, second is the dance spot. Some clubs prefer three 30 minutes spots but the majority go for the two 45s. I remember the first time I was gigging in Scotland though and I got quite the shock to realise that the standard up there is two 60 minute spots or three 40 minutes!!! You really have to work for your money up there. Things do change when you are working with a live backing band but these are so rare, it’s barely worth mentioning. It used to be the standard but now in this world of self contained acts, you see it so infrequently.

The biggest problem with the clubs now though is the attendance if you can even call it that in some of these places. It breaks my heart to stand up on stage at the Bloomfield Club in Blackpool looking at the swarms of empty tables and chairs and just try to imagine what it must have been like when these places were full. If you ask any of the long standing committee members, they will tell you wistfully about the times you couldn’t get a seat and people were queuing up to get in or when there used to be a waiting list to be a member. Some will apologise that there’s not many people in, others will tell me that they’re usually rammed but quite a few are on holiday this week. Not entirely implausible but it’s like that every single time I go there. Unless these people are spitefully arranging their holidays specifically to coincide with my visit to their club so as to avoid my show, then I think there may be a certain amount of creative license in what i’m being told.

To be fair to the clubs, there’s not a lot I can see that they can do about it. They’ve had a lot working against them. Their own members are included in this. The smoking ban hasn’t helped them, the cheap booze at the supermarket, the massive amount of TV channels there are to choose from, streaming services, social media and a whole host of other things mean that people just don’t feel compelled to leave their living room on a Saturday night, pay for a taxi and sit through eight weeks of bingo just to have a pint with their mates and watch an act. Another way the members don’t help themselves is that a lot of them just won’t buy a drink. I see people in the clubs that are failing, sit there with half a pint of lemonade and make that puppy last all night long. They want the club but refuse to spend money there. How they think the club makes money is beyond me. These are the same people that complain that the club will have to close down or that Saturday night’s are now being taken away from the members so the club can hire the venue out for private parties.

Then finally, we have the problem that is closest to the hearts of many of the people that are reading this and that is the acts themselves. Now let me preface this by saying that I don’t mean the acts are to blame for the decline but hear me out. Since the explosion of karaoke throughout the world and readily available backing tracks, clubs decided to save money and sack the in house band or at least scale it back. Some scaled it back for a while and then just dumped it completely. This means that acts have to be self contained. Now this sucks for the musicians but it gets worse all around very soon. To sing with a live band is a different skill altogether and not one that i’ve been able to spend much time working on due to the limited availability of in house bands I’ve found in my solo career. Fortunately for me, I first started singing on cruise ships so I was able to get a bit of experience with the musicians on there. But the point is, it takes years to build up a set list with chart, dots, sheet music or whatever else people want to call it. It’s expensive too. People spent years honing their craft and building their act, so when people used to go out to see an act at the local club on a Saturday night, there was a certain level of professionalism and skill that you knew was going to be on offer. With the dawn of the self contained act, the entry level is so low that anyone can stroll into Maplin, spend £150 on a PA, download a few karaoke tracks off ITunes and call themselves a singer… and many do. This is not to say that if you do that, then you’re no good though. What it does mean, in this X-Factor ridden world where everyone is sold the dream that you can do nothing to cultivate your voice but you can hit it big on a TV talent show, is that more and more people think they can do it. It doesn’t cost a lot of time and money to give it a go so many people will. Ultimately as clubs try to cut costs, they then look at how cheap they can get the acts for.

Singer 1 has been performing full time for 20 years and has a wealth of experience working with all sorts of different audiences. He is relaxed with his audience and puts them at ease. He elegantly glides through his set like a gazelle on a desert plain. Singer 1 charges £250 and he’s worth every penny. Singer 2 started last week. He bought his PA off Amazon and has spent all week practicing setting it up and packing it down. He’s been wailing through the most recent top ten chart hits and he’s downloaded all the karaoke tracks. He even knows most of the words off by heart. Singer 2 charges £50 but will do it for free drinks all night if necessary. Extreme examples I know but Singer 2 gets a lot of work because the venue thinks this save them money. The upshot is the people who religiously came to these places to enjoy the entertainment, slowly become conditioned to the fact that the acts may very well be terrible so they stay at home instead and watch the telly. They’ll invite Mavis and Bob over and they’ll work through a couple of bottles of Tesco’s finest. Singer 1 can’t get a booking now because the revenue has gone down at the club because nobody comes in anymore. That’s really simplifying things with a very broad example but that is what I believe has happened to club land.

So, having got that out of my system (it’s been brewing for a while) let me say that I encourage new singers all the time. Indeed one of my key motivations behind doing this blog is to help new singers coming into the business. It’s to let people know that there is still some money to be made here and if you want, you can start with nothing and go to being a full time singer making a decent living for yourself and your family. I don’t consider all new singers to be Singer 2. Singer 2 is a nobhead and I doubt that’s you if you’re bothering to read this blog.

A club audience (when you have one) is varied generally. The age range is usually 50+ but the types of music they like can be all over the place but generally I stick to what works in a hotel (more on that here if you missed it). I think the audiences tend to be harder to please though as they’ve seen acts every week and you don’t have the added bonus of performing to people who are on holiday. If these people are on holiday, you ain’t seeing them.

You’ll probably get told in a few places, “We like modern music here.” Don’t be fooled, they don’t. Most of the time, what they mean is, “Can you sing Human?” Also, don’t be fooled when they say, “We love The Killers”, so you decide to bust out Mr. Brightside. What they actually mean is, “Can you sing Human?” I tend to stick with what works. I do a mix of things including the dreaded “S” word. Yes, as much as people will tell you, “they don’t like swing in here”, what they actually mean is, “Can you sing Human?. Oh no, sorry, not that time. What they actually mean is, “Please don’t spend an hour and a half recreating Robbie Williams’ Swing When You’re Winning album”. Swing still works when done well and at the right time and don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise because they’re the ones that aren’t doing it right.

Now a tip to all new singers out there. If you learn only one song to take with you into clubland (that’s a really short set by the way and you need to be better prepared than that) then learn Billy Fury’s Halfway to Paradise. Many will groan when it starts, but 20 seconds later, they’re singing along.

Bingo is the worst spectator sport on the planet so make your peace with the fact that it will happen and try to find something you can do while it’s on, like write a blog for example. Some acts like to play the bingo, but trust me nobody likes it when the act wins the bingo! Sometimes the only reason people are there is for the bingo so don’t be offended if everyone leaves after the last game just as you’re coming on for your party spot. You could be Ed Sheeran, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Mozart rolled into one, and they’re still leaving after the jackpot game. Don’t take it personally and enjoy that party spot. You may outnumber the audience by the end of the night, but know that this happens to every act there, every week.

The club scene is strange and nuanced but I’m a big fan. I wish it was busier but it just means that when you happen to stumble across a full crowd, it’s especially rewarding. I love how involved people get in the games they play during the interval. Horse racing, Open the Box, Play Your Cards Right, all the classics are there, even the meat raffle which still tickles me. Imagine going for a night out and coming back with a joint of beef. Only in clubland people, only in clubland.

This post has only scratched the surface of the things you come across in the clubs. There’s plenty of bad but there’s also a great deal of good. If you’ve never performed in a club, you should, you really, really should. They’re fantastic for what they are. Some good, some bad but none of them will be around much longer. Embrace this most British of traditions while you still can because when they’re gone, we’ll only have our stories and it’s through our stories that the legend of the club scene can and should live forever.

I know a lot of you will have some great stories of clubland and many of you will have questions about certain aspects. Any of this and all other comments are of course welcomed below. Please share this post with anyone that you think may have even just passed through the club scene, I’m sure everyone has their stories either on stage or off stage from these fascinating, character rich venues.

As always, please subscribe and I look forward to the next time.

Until then, keep smiling.

Mike

SINGING IN PUBS: WHY IT CAN BE SO HARD

Evening everybody and welcome to The Constant Singer Blog for another post. This one is a continuation of the post a couple of days ago where I plan to discuss the different types of venue that I perform in. If you missed the first part about singing in hotels, you can check it out here.

So this evening, I come to you live (sort of) from backstage at the Broughton and District Club near Preston where I’m performing for the second year in a row for their annual President’s Night. I enjoyed this gig last year so I’m hoping it will all go well tonight…. I’ll let you know.

Today I want to talk about singing in pubs and why I’ve found it so difficult to master this craft.

A pub crowd I believe is the most difficult to predict and the hardest to control. The main reason for this is that apart from the fact that everybody you encounter should be over 18 (and I say should because it’s by no means a guarantee in my experience), you’ve got no idea what you’re likely to come up against. Couple this with the fact that most likely they’re not there to see you and you can be running up hill before you even get started. This is true of course unless you have the right attitude going in and have managed your expectations accordingly (more about that here).

My biggest obstacle with pubs is something that I expect is not that common. I find it difficult sometime to relate to the audience as I’ve never really been a pub guy myself. I’ve never really frequented pubs and when I have gone, it’s usually been a jumping off point for the rest of the night, not somewhere I intend to stay for the duration. With that being said, I’ve never quite worked out the balance between getting an audiences attention and allowing people to enjoy their night out with their friends.

Another reason I struggle is because of my repertoire. I try to be all things to all people in this game but some songs come a lot easier to me than others. I’ve tried many times to expand my repertoire of songs that will work in a pub environment but it’s a really slow process as by and large, these are not songs that I personally enjoy.

The setting can be challenging too. Forget about having a stage, you’ll be lucky to get a table. More often than not, you’re put in a corner and expected to work the entire building from there. Also, because of this, as the night wears on and hopefully people are up and dancing and enjoying themselves, you will inevitably get the really hammered ones come up waving their pint glasses over your equipment while they demand their favourite song that they insist everyone will want to hear. Heaven forbid if it’s not in your repertoire as you will instantly be deemed a terrible singer, a rubbish entertainer and an all around horrible person… but with much more colourful language. So as you juggle performing the song you’re currently doing and holding a full on back and forth conversation with Hammered McDrunk-Features, you’re also attempting to protect your precious equipment by body checking the lass who’s been threatening to capsize off those seven inch heels all night. All of this causes me a lot of stress on the night and subsequently anxiety about the next pub gig in the diary. For that reason, I decided last year to stop doing pubs as a general rule unless I know that they’re decent venues. Having said that, when gigs are slowing down (January and February specifically) it can be very much a “beggars can’t be choosers” mentality in which case I just have to grin and bear it. More often than not, they’re absolutely fine but the feeling of impending doom is still prevalent on the build up to the booking.

If you do pubs or if you’re thinking about doing pubs, then please don’t let this put you off. As I said, most are no problems at all. There are a couple of stories I’d like to share with you though that have really stuck with me.

Once, I was doing a pub in Blackpool on a Saturday night. It was one of the Sizzling venues that serves food. I’d done this particular one a couple of times before so I knew what I was getting in to and had been able to more or less put a set list together that I thought had a good chance of winning. First half went well, very well in fact and I had people dancing and some requests came in that I was able to fulfil. Confidence was high going into that second set until a group of about six lads walked in and gave me the evil eye as they passed. They got they’re drinks and you could tell they were going to be rowdy. The type of guys that just shout and talk loud for the sake of it, made worse by the fact they’d had a few cans and were feeling invincible. They rocked up against the fruit machine directly opposite me about ten feet away and all stood facing me. “Great”, I thought. “If they’re not actually interested in listening to me then this is a very threatening formation”. I tried to ignore them at first, then I tried to smile at them. Big mistake. I just came across all creepy. Quickly stopped doing that. They kept huddling together and saying stuff then pointing at me. For forty minutes, I was distracted, nervous and I kept thinking about how many I thought i’d be able to take out with my mic stand in the car park should they come at me later. With just a few minutes to go and sweating profusely I happened to turn around and notice the TV just above my head showing Match of the Day. Turns out, the guys probably didn’t even notice me and were fully engrossed in Gary Lineker and company on the box. I’m not sure I would have felt that insecure about it if it had been anywhere else other than a pub. I have the wrong mentality going into pub gigs.

This mentality isn’t completely unfounded though. I have cultivated it over time having had a few genuine nightmares in the past. One particular gig stands out that I ended up actually doing a second time in error. It was in an area called Halewood near Liverpool on a Sunday afternoon. It was quite a while after the smoking ban had started but the punters and the staff didn’t care and were all openly smoking in the pub, behind the bar and over me and all my new gear (that I was delighted wasn’t smelling of smoke, having been purchased since the ban came into effect). Not only was this in itself weird but also suggested that their respect for rules and general decorum was fairly loose at best. This was piled on to the fact that when I arrived and was carting my gear in, there was a group of guys that insisted on grouping in front of the door so I had to ask to get past them each time. Then the big one bellows, “You any good?” I hate this question as you only have two options. If you say, “Yeah, i’m amazing me. You should see me”, you sound like a proper tosser. I chose option B and said, “No, I’m Sh!t, mate”. Without missing a beat, he replied, “Well f@ck off then!” There was not the slightest hint of irony or humour to be seen. Just awful. Ironically, they loved my set, but I was terrified the whole time!

Now, with all the bitterness and resentment out of the way, I’ve got to say that when a pub gig goes well, it really is incredibly rewarding and they can make you feel like a superstar at the end of the night. It’s nice when people who looked like they hated you at the start of the night, all want to be your friend at the end.

As I mentioned earlier, I just have the wrong mentality for pub gigs and my ego is far too fragile to cope with it. For those of you who regularly do pub gigs, I commend you. If I was in a duo or bigger group, it would be a different matter altogether, but as a solo, it’s just a big, “No thank you” when the agents ask. It took me a while to realise but there are agents who will put the word “Hotel” after the pub’s name and try to palm it off as such. Many a time have I arrived at the venue only to be disappointed to find that the Kings Arms Hotel is not in fact a Hilton. Plus there’s never anywhere to get changed and I love a good dressing room. Where the Hell would I write this blog from otherwise?

I’d love to hear your stories of good and bad experiences from your pub gigs. Maybe someone will be able to say something to change how I look at them and I’ll start taking them on again.

Once again please post your comments below and if you haven’t already, sign up on this page to get notified once a new post goes up.

Oh, and by the way, the gig went great.

Keep smiling.

Mike

SINGING IN HOTELS: WHY I LOVE IT!

As I write this, I’m sat outside the Lyndene Hotel on Blackpool sea front which is where I’ll be performing this evening. As The Constant Singer, working on a Thursday night is very important to my reputation and my ability to pay bills! As I mentioned in my very first post, I sing in all manner of different venues and each type of stage presents it’s own wealth of challenges and rewards.

I’d like to talk a little about the main types of venues that I do and what I feel is the best approach to each. This will be split into as many parts as needed to keep the bites in manageable chunks so here is the first part today. To preface this, it’s my experience of what works or doesn’t work for me, so please feel free to shoot me down if you disagree but also bear in mind, our acts may be very different.

Let’s start with hotels as that’s where I am this evening. Hotels are one of my favourite types of venue to do, or rather one of my favourite types of audience. Don’t confuse this with a private function that just may happen to take place in a function suite within a hotel, that is a different animal altogether which I generally don’t have great experiences with…. but I digress.

Firstly, the majority of hotels I perform at are based by the sea and typically serve an older clientele. This has always been my target demographic and this is for a couple of reasons. Initially, I find the older generation generally more appreciative of live entertainment. They have grown up in a world where they would have been seeing live acts in clubs all the time and these were often acts that were respected. Singing in clubs didn’t carry the same stigma that it does today. You had to be good back then. So generally I believe that generation has been conditioned to appreciate and respect acts. The other reason I love this kind of audience is because it’s the first audience I ever worked regularly in front of. As a production singer on a tiny (yet possibly greatest) cruise ship called the Van Gogh back in 2003, the passengers were of the same kind of age range. Retired and beyond! Subsequently this was the first audience I began to figure out so my whole understanding of constructing a show and interacting with an audience is based on my experiences with this type of audience. This is undoubtedly the audience to which i’m most comfortable performing in front of.

Another reason why hotels are so good is that there’s the possibility that they will book you often. With a club, you may only go once a year, maybe twice at a push. Some don’t want the same act within two years which I think is absurd. I’ve never once seen something that I enjoyed and thought to myself, “That was great, I think I’ll leave it a solid 24 months before I enjoy it again”. I know you don’t want too much of a good thing but once every two years is barely a trace amount. Anyhow, where was I? Hotel audiences change every week but tend to attract the same types of people. This means that when you find something that works, there’s a very good possibility it will always work in that venue week after week. It’s important to change your act up all the time and keep adding new things, but never underestimate the value of having a core set list that you know works. Not everything can be your strongest material and the first time you sing something will invariably be the worst time you sing something. The more often you do something the better you will get at it. That means everything in the act improves the more often you perform it. This means the songs become more comfortable and easier to sing. The links between the songs become more fluent and smooth. Throw away lines that start as ad-libs can be worked in to the set because there is a good chance that whatever you reacted to will happen by presenting the same material to a different crowd that is mostly made up of the same types of people.

Being able to get booked regularly at the same venue has a lot of other benefits too. You know what you’re going in to. You know if you’re going to have to carry your equipment up a shaky set of fire escape stairs the width of a pencil sharpener or encounter a stream of closed doors that have been ingeniously designed to alternate opening directions. You’ll get a chance to get to know the comperes, the bar staff and the receptionists. All of these things help you prepare mentally for the gig and keep you calm. A calm performer can often generate the best results as the audience sense the calm and it relaxes them. The quicker you can get your audience to relax, the better time you’re all going to have together. If you’re really lucky, you might get your tea too.

The best advice I can give is to talk to everyone and be nice to everyone. I’m not always the best at this mainly because I suffer from a condition called Prosopagnosia which in laymen’s terms is facial blindness. I really struggle to recognise people even people I know very well. This means that I may have a long, depp and meaningful conversation with a member of staff and get on really well with them, but if they’ve changed their hair or their clothes the next time I see them, then I won’t know who they are and I worry that I’ll offend them by acting like I have no idea who they are. That sounds really stupid when I write it down but it’s something that has reared it’s ugly head a few times in this business but we’ve all got our own hurdles to overcome so I shouldn’t make excuses. I guess the key here is to not let your problems turn into excuses for not doing the right thing. Talk to people and be nice to everyone because you never know who has influence in these places, and more importantly, it’s just a nice way to be.

I’m going to end with that as it’s time to get cracking and I think it’s a nice thought to finish with.

In the next blog, I’ll discuss pub gigs. How to approach them and why I no longer do them.

Until then, please leave any comments below. I love hearing back from people who have their own take on what i’ve talked about and I appreciate and try to respond to every comment. It would really help me if you left the comments here instead of on a Facebook post as it keeps all the comments in one place and everyone can see some of the great responses and view points that my readers have. Either way though, I’m really happy people are reading and getting involved.

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Have a great night everybody and keep smiling.

Mike

ENCORE, ENCORE: BUT HOW MANY IS TOO MANY?

“Encore, Encore”, is lovely to hear. Nowadays, you’re more likely to hear it simply put, “More, more”, which is equally as gratifying I’m sure you’ll agree. “One more”, is also nice to here at the end of your planned set. That’s pretty much the sum total of shout outs I like to hear at the end of my gigs. It says that the audience liked what you did and they’d like you to do another before you leave. That’s nice.

Then there’s, “Do two more”, or “Do three more”, which sound less like requests from an adoring audience and more like demands from a crowd who just aren’t ready to go home yet. Then there’s my favourite (read least favourite), where you can see people tapping their watches (even when they may not even be wearing one, giving it the classic wrist tap) and shouting, “Already?? We don’t close ‘till one”, or, “You’re having a laugh mate, you finish when we tell you!” Not as nice. Not as nice at all.

I must just quickly say before I go any further that this post was inspired by Joanna Allen, who read my last post about dealing with a bad audience. She left me a comment on the Facebook group that I shared the blog in and asked me to write about this. I’m glad she did because I have plenty to say on the matter. Thanks Joanna and I hope you get to read this.

The encore is a staple in this business. It’s almost expected in pretty much every venue and every type of performance that, as long as it hasn’t been a complete disaster, you will do one more. The more experienced among you may know it as a “false tab” where your ending is not really your ending at all. It’s all part of the drama of the show and is deeply rooted in the traditions of this business.

I’m sure we’ve all been there though. That crowd, or worse, that compere that just won’t let you leave. It can be a real juggling act to know how to handle this. You don’t want to appear ungrateful for the cheers or rude to your audience, but also, you don’t want to do a mass of overtime for nothing. If you were working on the tills in Tesco and your shift ended, are you likely to want to stay on and do an extra 10% or more of your shift duration for nowt? Probably not and that is in effect what we as entertainers are expected to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind doing one more and usually two. It’s assumed on my side of things and it’s planned for in my act. I like to build the end of my set to a crescendo and my encore is designed to tip things over the edge if you will. However the old show business adage of “Leave them wanting more”, is so vitally important.

I’ve had this conversation with so many of my fellow entertainers over the years and have been really surprised with the difference in response and attitude to this particular subject. I’m not saying any of the people who do it differently are wrong, it just doesn’t fit in particularly well with my way of doing things. Allow me to give you an example;

A friend of mine has said that if the crowd are up for it, he’ll just keep going… indefinitely. Now, in reality you’re not going to go on forever, but it’s quite easy to get carried away and do another 45 minutes without really trying. I don’t agree with this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, this is a job to me. I love it, mostly, but it is still a job. While the crowd might be having a big blow off and celebrating like there’s no tomorrow, in my sober state I’m acutely aware that there is a tomorrow and often I’ll be singing then too. Is it right then that I should risk over doing it tonight and possibly not being able to deliver tomorrow? Or worse, maybe I will sing too much and too hard tonight when the adrenaline is flowing and then realise in the morning that I actually can’t sing at all and need to cancel that gig. That lets someone else down, hurts my reputation and hurts my income. Not a risk I’m prepared to take. Secondly, and I believe this is probably more important, is that it adversely affects the perception of your value. If you are effectively giving this extra performance away, you may think it is giving extra value to that audience but in reality you’re cheapening yourself. If you are booked again at that venue, trust me, they will expect the same duration for the same fee. Likewise, if someone else who has seen your show there decides to book you for a different event and you don’t do a 45 minute encore, they will feel cheated as they will have expected that. If you treat yourself with value, others will subconsciously do likewise. Have you ever noticed that if you are buying a new mobile phone, that when the sales assistant takes it out of the box and hands it to you, they will cradle it in to two hands, almost like a new born baby. It gives the object a perceived value, greater than what it is actually worth. Try it next time you hand something to a friend to look at. Pass it over like it’s a priceless work of art and watch how the recipient will likely hold it the same way. Value your own worth as an entertainer and others will value it too. Give yourself away and people will invariably take.

It’s important that you finish strong as it’s what people will remember. How can you choose your big finish while worrying that you may need to hold something back that will top this one? If I have some grade A material, trust me, it’s going to be in the set, I’m not saving it for those audiences that want seven more at the end. Once you get three or more deep into my encore repertoire, you’re really starting to touch on my B, C, D grade or worse material. Like I said, if it was good stuff, I’d be using it. I don’t want to finish the night with a substandard throwaway song and undo all my hard work building the audience to a climactic finish. That would be crazy!

So what do you do? How do you handle this awkward moment on stage as you’re shuffling towards the wing not knowing if you’re leaving or not? Well, first and foremost, think ahead. You know it’s going to happen so address it before it does. Talk frankly with the compere or concert secretary about how the night will end. Decide beforehand if they want one or two more. I tend to say one if I feel I can, then if it’s a really good audience, I’ll do another. This makes the compere feel like you’ve given more because they’re now actually getting more than they expected. It’s important also that you know if licensing laws mean you need to finish bang on a certain time. The only thing worse than being expected to carry on after your big finish is being cut off in your prime and not getting to the big finish at all. I’ll let you insert your own analogy here…. That’s what she said last…. never mind.

Remember too that what is due to happen after your performance will have a bearing on how your finale should go. You shouldn’t finish the same if you’re the opening act on the bill as you would if you’re the headline act. Respect your position on the card. Also, if a DJ is following you, help them out and try to finish with a full dance floor of people who are up for a disco. My favourite song for this is Barry White’s “You’re My First, Last, Everything”. I will tell the DJ that this is what I’ll do and that I don’t need or want any more thanks or extra bows after this song. I’ll have taken my applause in my false tab and I now what to seamlessly hand over to the DJ the second that song finishes so he can pick right up where I’ve left off and hopefully not lose the crowd and have to start again. Having said that, some people just don’t bloody listen and with them, there’s just no hope.

How many do you do? Have you ever refused to do an extra encore because the audience has been sitting on their hands all night? I have, and I will continue to do so. This can be a divisive subject so i’d love to hear other people’s stories and opinions.

I’ve added an email sign-up box on the right of this page so if you would like to be notified when I put a post up here, please just pop your email address in there. It really helps me to know who actually reads these and who wants to read more.

Please leave any comments below and once again, feel free to share this with reckless abandon.

I hope you all have a great weekend and I’ll be back with another post next week.

Keep smiling.

Mike

MANAGE EXPECTATIONS (HOW TO COPE WITH A BAD AUDIENCE)

They say there’s no such thing as a bad audience, only a bad entertainer. Well “They” have clearly never performed at the Ma Kelly’s South venue in Blackpool, or a matinee show at the Winsford Lifestyle Centre! “They” would surely change their bloody tune if they had. Now there is some truth in it. It is not the audiences responsibility to like you and it is your job at the end of the day to entertain them. However, some audiences are just full of vile sub-human neanderthals whose only purpose in life is to make your 90 minutes in front of them as uncomfortably awkward as possible in an attempt to drag you down to their festering level of self-loathing. Ok, maybe I need to work on my judgmental nature a littlE, but trust me, some audiences are just plain bad. In these instances two words will save that fragile self-confidence from shattering like a cheap mirror. “Manage expectations”.

It has literally taken me years to reach this epiphany and I wish I had learnt it sooner. Firstly you must recognise that every type of venue is markedly different and what works in one won’t necessarily work in another. What works wonderfully in a theatre, where people have paid to see the show, are sitting down, paying attention and eager to be entertained, may fall completely flat in a pub where people are on a night out with their mates and you’re somewhat ruining the evening with your annoying music and incessant babbling. You’re also not going to get a standing ovation every night. In truth, if you don’t happen to be in the right venue on the right night with the right material, you may never get one. But that’s ok! This is where managing your expectations comes in. You must try to entertain your audience, you really must try. But some people in some situations just do not want to be entertained. Perhaps they’ve had a bad day and are just there out of of habit. Perhaps they’re there because their other half has insisted they go or maybe, just maybe they’re even more judgmental than I am and they’ve decided that you’re going to be trash because they don’t like your tie, your shoes, your first song or even your face. Make a valiant effort but don’t be afraid to cut them off. Don’t let them dictate the show as you may find that other people are really enjoying what you’re doing but they might just be doing it quietly. Many times I’ve slumped off stage in tatters after trying everything and really feeling like a tremendous failure because every song ended to the sound of my own reverb fading out. Then the concert secretary will come up to me backstage and tell me how fantastic I was or people will approach me while I’m packing my gear away to tell me I’m the best act they’ve had there in ages. Some people just don’t know how to show it and even some of the younger generation who’s experience of live entertainment consists of watching the X-Factor at home, simply don’t understand basic audience etiquette, like applause for example.

If it’s a venue you know and you’ve always had an audience that you felt you’ve struggled with, and yet here you are again, obviously having been rebooked, then for the love of all things good, manage your expectations! Don’t think, “I’m going to crack it this time! Wait till they hear my new 15 minute Al Jolson medley. That’ll bring the buggers round”. Better to think, “Ok, here we are again. I’m expecting crickets and anything more than that is a bonus”. You’re here not because you love it. No performer loves to perform when there’s no reaction, it’s not in our nature. You’re here because you’re getting paid to be here. Do your job, be a professional, perform your act to the best of your abilities, get paid, get home and don’t think about it again.

I did this very thing last weekend in Stretford (where the compere didn’t turn up). I’ve never had a great gig there and so many times, I’ve got myself so worked up on stage, getting annoyed, sarcastic or desperate, fumbling through my set list to find something, anything that will get a reaction. Every time I’ve walked off stage I’ve felt terrible. I’ve questioned my career. “Maybe I’ve lost it, whatever it was. Maybe I should give this up and get a proper job”. It’s an awful feeling. This time, I knew what reaction I was going to get, so I was prepared for it. I might have got a little better than I have before, I couldn’t tell you, but I know I sure as Hell felt better afterwards. I enjoyed singing my songs. I transported myself from that dusty stage and I was in a happy place, singing my little heart out and enjoying every note. I was having a wonderful time. Some in the club may have bothered to observe it, but I’m sure most missed it. Regardless, I had a good time, I got paid and I went home. Sometimes after these kind of nights, I’ll give myself something to look forward to when I get home. It’s usually a Jack Daniels and Coke. If it’s good enough for Sinatra, it’s good enough for me.

Let me know how you tolerate bad situations or what reward you give yourself after a tough time. Please leave a comment below and please share this blog with anyone you think may find it interesting. By all means share with everyone you think will find it dull too, you never know. Have a great weekend everybody.

Keep smiling.

Mike

THE BATTLE WITHIN…..

I sat down to write this post with a completely different title in mind. I composed a few sentences on a subject that I’d wanted to talk about for a long time. It’s a subject that I have spoken about often with the many other entertainers I have shared long car journeys with and so I have a lot to say on the matter. The title was supposed to be, “Ambition: The Entertainer’s Curse”. I was trying to come up with a few summary points on which I would embellish on later through the post. However, I realised as I was typing, deleting, retyping, deleting and typing again that there had been a change. In fact this change is probably a huge reason behind the fact that I’ve started this blog in the first place. This change in me and my mindset means I’m not sure I fully believe what I was about to write about, and therefore, i’m no longer going to write about it.

Instead, I’ll talk about this change and how it has become a constant evolution. The Battle Within is something that all people, not only entertainers will face. Sometimes it’s briefly, for others it can be all consuming. It is however something that is particularly rife within the entertainment industry and all areas where artistry and creativity are involved. I’m primarily talking about depression, but not exclusively.

For a brief bit of background, towards the end of last year, I was told by my doctor that I was suffering from moderate to severe depression. A fairly wide scope I thought. Surely there is quite a leap from moderate to severe, however, that’s what he said. I have not suffered anywhere near the level of depression that many others have suffered and I don’t fully understand how the different types and different levels of depression work. I will not try to tell you I have found a cure for depression, but I can tell you what worked for me, at least thus far.

In truth I would describe myself as having very mild depression, trace depression if you will. An overwhelming lethargy consumed me constantly. My “get up and go” had got up and gone and it had left me feeling empty and bleak. My life was full of wonderful things but my worries, trivial things in the big scheme of things had overtaken my positivity and it was dragging me down. I didn’t feel I was fun anymore. The best way I could explain it to myself was that I used to whole-heartedly and fundamentally believe that it will all work out. It’s something I’ve told my wife numerous times when she worries. “It will all be fine. It will work itself out. It always has up to now and it always will”. I truly believed this and I had no reason not to. Every time we’d been faced with adversity, we’d come through it. Even predating our relationship, everything I had ever encountered, however difficult it appeared at the time, I was able to overcome it. I couldn’t always explain at the time how it was going to work out, I just had blind faith that it would. I didn’t realise how much a part of me that was until suddenly it was no longer a part of me. I just wasn’t sure it was all going to work out. Now I had the questions. How will it work out? Why will it be fine? Who is going to make everything ok? I needed answers to questions I’d never felt the need to ask before and it threw me completely off centre.

It came at a time when my nagging concerns of not making enough money are at their worst. When the diary is looking a little too empty for my liking. This had happened because of another issue I will go into greater detail on in another post. In August of last year, I lost my voice. Gone. Kaput! Mute! It had never happened to me before and it scared me. No, it terrified me. This thing I’d done for so many years that was providing for me and my family was suddenly something I couldn’t do anymore. I’d had a sore throat before, I’d struggled before, but never, ever before had I actually been physically incapable of making a noise. This was serious stuff and it just went on for what seemed like ages. I thought I’d give it a couple of days and I’d be back up and running but it didn’t happen. Anyhow, very long story short, I found out that this was caused by acid reflux, something else that is far too common in singers. Anyhow, more on that another time….

What this meant was that not only could I not make any money but I was also incredibly reticent about taking any further bookings in case I couldn’t perform and needed to let people down. This meant that as the voice slowly recovered, the gaps in the diary were already there. December, which normally sees me through January and most of February, turned out to be a good month but not a great month. It needs to be a great month as January and February are so poor. I always like to have a big chunk of change stored up in the bank for that dry spell at the beginning of the year but that wasn’t looking like happening. To make it worse, the bookings weren’t coming in for January and February either, so what is normally a terrible couple of months, began to look like a catastrophic couple of months. Anyhow, this all spiralled in my head over and over and over, sending me in to a feeling of despair. I’d lost my enthusiasm to get more work because I was afraid my body might let me down. In truth, that may have been a bigger cause of the depression than I realised until i’ve just written it now. The fact that suddenly, things didn’t feel like they were under my control. I wouldn’t call myself a control freak but I like to know that I can go it alone if I ever have to so I rely heavily on myself and what I know I can do. When a large part of what I relied on failed me, I was knocked sideways.

So anyhow, how did I dealt with this and how are things now? Truth is, I don’t know specifically what changed but I know I feel better now. I know I sat down and talked with my Wife about what I was worried about. She is super organised and bloody loves a good list. I wrote a list, a battle plan of how to take back control and then that’s what I did. I came up with a back-up plan just in case the singing was no longer a viable option. I was going to go back into a field I’d studied but never actually started a career in and that was financial planning. I liked the idea that as I got better at something, I would make more money. This is in stark contrast to singing where you’ll only make as much as someone will pay you. Singing is subjective and many venues won’t pay more if you’re better because they generally don’t care. Sure, if you’re good then there’s a good chance you’ll get booked again, but you’ll still only get booked for the same fee. Again, a rant for another day….

Slowly as I accomplished more, each day felt more worthwhile. It improved my self-worth and my positivity crept back in. I’m still in it really though as I constantly battle with keeping motivated but that’s more generally who I am rather than any depressive state I may be in. The back-up plan is still there but it’s looking less likely that I’ll use it, at least for now.

So, anyhow, this kind of brings me full circle to where I was when I sat down to write this and how I felt about ambition before. Ambition drives us from one achievement to the next. It stops us from getting too comfortable. I saw it as a curse, as something that what stop me ultimately becoming contented but I realise it’s not ambition that is doing that but my lack of a final goal. The list making I started has helped me to realise that if I define exactly what my ambition is and what it looks like, then I’m far more likely to achieve it and also be content with getting there. Ambition will keep me from aiming low. I have a far greater vision for myself than I’m currently living and it’s ambition that will drive me, and it’s focus on my goals that will help me to achieve them.

I still don’t really know what my goal is. I get so caught up in the day to day that I don’t really know where I’m headed. I’m working it out though. Many people, I’m sure will feel the same way. I remember before I got my first singing job that getting that job was going to be a huge achievement. I watched cabaret acts perform as a solo in front of a full theatre and dreamed one day I might do that. Once I achieved that the goal posts moved again. We are constantly evolving and our goals are always moving. Reaching where you want to be in this business can be so difficult because a lot of the time, you are relying on someone else spotting your potential and putting you in the position that you want. Wether this is in an audition, a showcase or wherever, it’s somebody else’s call and you can’t make them choose you. All you can do is keep plugging away and try to believe that it will all work itself out. It does far more than it doesn’t.

So, not really much about singing today, and a little bit of a muddled ramble to be fair but I hope it helps somebody. Depression is real and it affects many of us. It’s in my family and in some of my closest friends. Many will have a far deeper experience of it than I have had and will face many more difficult challenges than I did. However, that glimpse of it was more than enough for me to at least begin to appreciate how hard it is for those who are affected more severely. It also serves as a reminder to myself that being positive isn’t a choice, it’s a consequence of taking positive action to achieving goals. It’s a fantastic side-effect you get when you are motivated and passionate about something.

If you have any comments about this, please leave them below. If you want to contact me privately you can do that too. All comments are welcome. I hope this post has touched some people and I really hope that anyone who’s struggling with any form of depression finds the help they need to get them back on track.

Keep smiling

PLEASE WELCOME YOUR ARTISTE FOR THIS EVENING……

I’ve been meaning to start writing a blog for a long time now however, as you’ll discover if you continue to read this blog, I am a perennial procrastinator…. but more on that later.

My name is Mike Palmer, i’m 35 years old and i’m a professional singer. You won’t have heard of me (unless you know me personally) but I have been making a living as a full time singer since October 2003. It will be 14 years this October and when I think about it, that’s a fairly impressive streak. The reason i’ve called this blog. “The Constant Singer” is because in order to make a living doing this, i’m doing it constantly. I usually perform about 300 gigs a year and sometimes up to five in any one day. That’s not a typical day of course but it does happen.

As I write this, i’m sat backstage on a Saturday night waiting to start my first of two 45 minute sets entertaining the punters of the LMRCA Railway Club in Stretford, near the Old Trafford Football ground. It’s not glamorous, there’s no denying that and to be honest, most of this job isn’t. However, there are times when it’s incredible and I can feel like a superstar. Sure, these moments can be fleeting and sometimes very infrequent, but they come and they’re worth remembering as it’s these moments that tend to drive us entertainers on to the next gig. We hit an incredible high then constantly strive to reach it again and hopefully surpass it. It’s not entirely dissimilar to the mindset of a drug addict and it’s no coincidence that so many big stars in this business have dealt with or have succumbed to addiction. Performing is a drug and I am most definitely an addict.

I stated that it’s not glamorous right now and just to prove that, there is no compere this evening. He’s had to work his normal job (so i’ve been informed) so there will be nobody to introduce me on to the stage this evening. There’s also no background music in the room and i’ve just been called to help a committee member work out how to turn the microphone on so they can call the bingo because God knows, bingo must be called!

I sing in a wide variety of different venues to different audiences in different styles for all manner of events and occasions. One day I may be on stage singing to 600 people in a theatre, the next I could be singing to 16 people in a village hall. I’ve performed on cruise ships, in theatres, social clubs, pubs, hotels, masonic halls, churches, care homes and pretty much anywhere else you’d imagine a singer might turn up. Hell, i’ve even been booked to perform in a garden centre and a doctors surgery. There really is no low to which I won’t stoop in order to take a paying gig.

The aim of this blog is to help others who are aspiring to perform for a living. Before I started out, I had no idea you could be a singer as a job. I only knew of famous singers, the big “pop-stars” of the time and I had no idea that there was another level below that. Well, in truth, there are many levels below that and indeed plenty of levels above it too, depending on who you speak to. I have to be honest and say that i’m not particularly high on the ladder when it comes to success or popularity within the business, but my point is that despite that, I make a living. I have a beautiful wife and daughter whom I support, a mortgage that I pay and a nice car that allows me to travel across the country in a healthy degree of comfort. All of these are paid for solely from the money that people pay me to perform. I’m proud of that and anyone else who can say that should be proud too. Really bloody proud!

It’s time for me to get changed into my stage gear now (in truth i’m late so should have started a few minutes ago) so i’ll wrap this up here. I’d love to hear from other people who are in the business and making a living. Also I’d like to hear from people who would like to get started or perhaps people who are doing this part time but want to go full time. Basically, I’d love to hear from anyone that happens to read this.

Over the coming weeks I plan to cover all manner of subjects including how I got started, what i’ve done and where i’m at now. I’ve no idea where this little blog will lead, if anywhere, but i’m excited to give it a go. Anyway, must go, i’ve got to introduce myself on stage. Keep smiling.

Mike