Monday, April 28, 2008

Music Monday: Cover Songs

As a musician who works hard to get shows, you have to do things that are both a lot of fun and a huge pain (and many that fall right in the middle). Not every show can be the perfect set-up. My favorite way to play is a 10 song set, with my drummer, at a venue that is also hosting artists that I like and/or are popular. A great example of this is when I opened for Matt Costa in Sacramento, but there have been plenty of nights at the G Street Pub in Davis that also fit this criteria.

Now, in no way am I saying I dislike playing other formats, the above example is just my preferred scenario. Last night I played at the Pyramid Alehouse in Walnut Creek. I love playing there a lot. The only drawback (if you can call it that) is that the shift is 3 and-a-half hours long. To prepare for a show like that your voice has to be in shape, your fingers need to be awfully calloused, and you have to have a lot of material to play.

I've written hundreds of songs, and I have a solid twenty originals that I'll break out at anytime, but no matter how good anyone is, if it's not on the radio, it is very difficult to keep an audience's attention for 3.5 hours. So not only do I have to play cover songs, I may play songs that I don't like or enjoy playing. Is it a sell-out move? Maybe. But it has to be done in order to mix in originals and get people interested enough to buy my CD.

So, without further adieu, here are some of my favorite cover songs to play followed by the ones I don't enjoy playing.

My Favorites:

- "Blackstar" by Radiohead - This is a lesser known track off of "The Bends." I recently learned it and I really enjoy playing it. If you like Radiohead's singles, but are unfamiliar with this song, I highly recommend you check it out.
- "Something" by the Beatles - I have a recorded version of this that I did on my Mac in November. You can listen to it on my Myspace page and my website. In my humble opinion, this is one of the best Beatles songs. Solid song structure, great lyrics, moves through different keys. It's got it all.
- "Where Is My Mind??" by the Pixies - You may remember this song from the final scene in "Fight Club" when the buildings are all imploding. The song rocks and is pretty catchy even if the audience is unfamiliar with it. There is also the bonus that it gives "coolness" points for the people who do like the Pixies.
- Any Crowded House song - This band is so ridiculously underrated in the States. Neil Finn's songs stack up well against the Beatles, but for some reason the only song that every got play here is "Don't Dream It's Over." Newsflash, they're not an 80's one hit wonder as they're on tour right now (I'll be seeing them at the Fillmore on May 14th.) Clearly this recommendation is for people who dig the Rock/Pop side of music.
- "Don't Think Twice It's Alright" by Bob Dylan - Do I need a reason?
- "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson - I've had many a college co-ed get up and use the dance floor for this number and it's just a fun song to sing (if not difficult, but still fun.)
- "Don't Look Back In Anger" by Oasis - I've been a fan of Oasis since the beginning and I don't care how idiotic the Gallagher brothers are, they still make good music.
- "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" by Nirvana - This one is not originally by Nirvana, but from their Unplugged album comes a gem that needs more play. When my voice is in good shape, the final part falls into my range nicely and shows off the up-side of my voice. However, it's disaster if my voice isn't up to it. I think I like the danger part of it.

Least Favorite:

- "Brown-Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison - Everyone does it. The song is totally played out. It was played out years ago. It still gets requested and I still play it. Maybe the easiest song to play in human history.
- "Afternoon Delight" by the Starland Vocal Band - I learned it as a joke after Anchorman came out. People still request it. It's a funny song, but I mean, how serious can I be taken when singing about getting down to business in the afternoon?
- "Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears - The band Travis does an acoustic cover of the song that I learned. People still dig Britney. If nothing else it reminds me of young Britney rather than trainwreck Britney. It's not enough to prevent me from loathing myself when I play it, but sometimes you gotta give the people what they want.
- "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash - Blasphemy! How can I put this song on the list? I'm just sick of it. It usually goes over really well and I'll continue to play it, but I think I played it out for myself.

So that's it for the list. I'm sure I left off some important songs that I love and hate to play, but the moral of the story is that sometimes you have to muddle through things that aren't as fun to get the opportunity to get what you want.

1 comment:

producer said...

I agree with this article- I play live as well and I always have to bust out an acoustic cover here and there between originals because people just want to hear what they already know. One of the hardest things to do is introduce a new song to an audience, especially if you're not a famous musician.