Shoulda Been and The Garden Gigs
When the lockdown began I started playing a game called ‘shoulda been’. April 5th, shoulda been in Aberdeen. April 11th shoulda been in Cottingham. Gilford, Cardiff, Kendal. Shoulda, shoulda, shoulda. It left me feeling pretty low, counting those losses, because that’s exactly what they felt like – loss. A grief for the sudden absence of structured time, of the excitement before a live show, and of the opportunity to connect with new and existing audiences. I tend to write best when I’m on the road, melodies arriving alongside me at each new venue, and I missed the chance to meet them too.
When it was suggested I play gigs online I resisted. I’d never done a Livestream before and was worried about not having any crowd interaction to bounce off of. If you can’t see the audiences faces or feel the room, how can you know if people are enjoying the gig? How do you adjust your set to match the vibe of the room when there is no room? The idea of it all made me feel more vulnerable than the thought of being on any stage. I had to start thinking seriously about how I could find the confidence.
The first step was to think about where in my house I would feel most comfortable and the answer was: outside it. I knew I would be happiest heading out to the garden to be with just the birds and the sun to sings some songs. The afternoon rather than the evening seemed ideal as the sun was still out and people could have a little break during these days which seem to last so long now. I wanted to make it a relaxed and regular event rather than a one off gig with the pressure to wow and impress. I took requests from the audience so I could continue to feel connected to them, and also so I had a challenge during the week learning and rehearsing new songs. This was to be a dependable date in the diary giving me – and maybe others - back some of the structure lost.
I did the first Garden Gig via Facebook Live on April 1st and, to my surprise, I loved it. I’ve found myself connected in a totally new way to my audience, a personal and intimate connection I could not have anticipated as we navigate these strange times together. My audience is also growing with people who click on shared videos sticking around, and with my neighbours who have coincidentally started rambling out to their own gardens at 2pm each Wednesday for tea. Through performing online I have found incentive to keep being creative, to keep writing, to keep looking forward. So while I’m still playing shoulda been my new game is trying to out-sing the local birds, and that is much more rewarding.