Wednesday, September 17, 2008

how to be a pushy canadian

i was a typical lower-middle class canadian boy, raised to be polite and unassuming. i've had my moments since, but basically i'm still that person.
so it's a bit difficult now that i'm trying to get myself out there, as a performer and teacher of songwriting. it goes against the grain for me to shine my light out from under the bushel.
it's a fairly common phenomenon among my musical friends, many of whom have what it takes to be out there playing to a wide audience. we play at song circles and farmer's markets and tend to look down our noses at those who aren't so backward at coming forward, laughing at their shameless forays into show biz. and we get even more ruthless if they're successful at it, seeming to play at every festival and concert series. they really ought to be ashamed of themselves.
how can one be both an artist and a self-promoter? the bit of buzz that's happening around my new cd is mostly thanks to friends and supporters, who are excited for me and would like to see good things happen. so my bud Scotty tells his aunt about it, she happens to work for the London Public Library, tells the collection people about it. they're keen on anything relating to the Donnellys, so i sell four cds and my work is now in libraries. it's a lovely thing, but the proverbial bulldog is still licking his chops.
i'm very fortunate to have a wife who has made a path for me, herself finding a degree of fame and success in her art, which is knitting design. she is also an introvert (opposites attract!), so it was even harder for her to promote herelf. Deb is a great help when it comes to this stuff, both in the practical side, like showing me how to blog and use Publisher for promo material, and the gritty self-knowledge side. she asks all the right questions and has 42 million (that's her favourite number for purposes of hyperbole) ideas for my campaign.
interesting choice of words. i probably wouldn't have used "campaign" if we weren't in the midst of an election, but it is somehow apt, and a useful nudge to myself, to start taking the Project seriously, and embark on a mission to share it with the unsuspecting world.
i'm convinced that a lot of people will take to the Donnelly stories the same way i did, when i got the chance. in a way, it has been my mission for a while, to rectify the lack of their telling. our history books are full of holes, which aren't much better than lies. but for the same reason, it hinders their elaboration. as unbelievable as it may seem, after 128 years, people still don't want to hear about it, never mind talking about it. you can witness this with a visit to Lucan, a lovely little town with a museum and an engrossing piece of history to promote it. thing is, it's not easy to find the museum, and even harder to find it open. it's uncanny.
but that doesn't really have much to do with me getting out there - it's just a dangerously handy excuse.
i am actually enjoying the exercise of producing promotional material. it is very much like writing a song from another's perspective - as i did in 9 out of 10 songs on Blood and Fire (and even in the 10th, i fictionlized myself as being 3 years older and passing through Lucan, which i did not do at the time): you have to anticipate what the artistic director is looking for, and the best, briefest way to give it to her/him. the package i'm working on is a one-page maximum, for the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals conference in Ottawa next month. also much like songwriting - keep it simple but inspiring, and edit, edit, edit. you can't tell them everything you'd like them to know, so you have to work at whittling it down to what's most important, what will draw them in. everything's there in the cd - your job is to get them to open it and to want to pay attention when they play it.

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