I love being in a band that loves being on the road. I think music is meant to be performed live. Records are fun to make and great to listen to, videos are exciting to watch, websites are beautiful and boasting and biography pages are wonderfully inflating. But nothing compares to singing live. The experience of performing live is somewhere nestled between the joy of sex and the horror of rattlesnake wrangling. It has wonderful highs and lows, moments of sheer terror and great last-minute soft landings. As an artist, when you are playing live, you are more real, honest and human than at any other time. In fact, if you perform for all the right reasons and you allow yourself the freedom to do so without reservation, you probably are at your most honest not only as a musician but also as a human being. You can look into the eyes of your audience while you sing the lines that matter. You can roll your eyes at your band mates as semi-camouflaged mistakes roll by and moderately subtle pranks are pulled. You can lay bare the best of your soul as well as expose the worst of your inadequacies. People will love you either way. They will love you for the beauty of your art and for the honesty of its imperfection. People will be moved by the occasional mastery of your talent but equally so by the fallibility of a good old-fashioned, “giving it all you got.” Even when people don’t like you, they will at least leave positive that they don’t like you. No middle ground. Something to be said for that
Being part of a live show, no matter what side of the stage you’re on, can be a magical place. “It’s where it’s at.” It doesn’t matter if you’re in front of one person or one thousand, and we have done our share of both. I love the feeling of playing our songs for anyone that will listen. It’s less out of ego than it may seem. It’s not the reaction from an audience that we crave. It’s the feeling of completion that comes from a song, a melody, an emotion or a memory making the journey from the confines of the heart to the limitless world outside. Runaway Home lives for the stage, which is what I love about being in this band.
Some of my favorite moments on the road are those few seconds of waiting in the wings, just before taking the stage. I’ve spent year’s mountain climbing and rappelling and the feeling of waiting in the wings is equivalent to the feeling of those first few steps over a precipice. You’re on the edge, not yet knowing your fate, but knowing that you can’t regain safe standing without taking the entire trip. In a less perilous light, it’s also a bit like Christmas morning rounding the corner of the living room and looking to see all the presents. In this case, the people in the audience are the presents. The transition that is made in the wings and in those first few steps onto the stage is a powerful one. All your senses fire at once. The struggle of purpose, poverty, self-doubt and all the other baggage that comes with art, melts away. The only moment that seems to rival the one before the first strum of the guitar is the moment right after the last strum of the guitar. Both moments put together, night after night, form the drug that keeps an old indie band nimble and hungry. There’s nothing like it.
In these two months of taking time off to plan and record a new record, I find myself missing something important. I am jonesing and withdrawing from the drug of public performance and I look forward to recklessly indulging in it again soon. I guess we’re waiting in the wings now. I guess in some respects, we are always waiting in the wings. Good thing I like that spot. This is after all a hurry up and wait business. But I can’t wait much longer. I want to stand just off stage, in the reflected hues of the spotlights, with the sounds of a half-shushed and half-restless audience in my ears. That’s the magic moment when the band looks at each other and asks the same question every time. “What is it that makes us smile?” We answer that question together, with a resounding, “it’s the music that makes us smile” and then we step up and live it. It’s a good life in the wings….and beyond.
Mark Elliott – Runaway Home
“It’s the Music That Makes Us Smile”