The Man with All the Toys… (Maintaining Humility with Success)

2 Aug

It isn’t necessary for an artist to have a conscience or a soul to sell records, but it’s always a plus.

The first time in recent memory when this topic came up was at the first James Blake concert I attended, back in February at the Bowery Ballroom. The concert came, the concert went, and it was time for his encore. The crowd cheered, he came back out, and ended the night with a couple more songs. Before he got down to them though, he paused for a moment and told us, the audience, how much it meant to actually be called back for an encore. In recent years, it’s become almost expected for artists to come back on stage after shows for a couple more songs, but James maintained that it isn’t a given, that it still means a great deal to him. He recalled being back in clubs, back when he was just James Blake and not ZOMGITSJAMESBLAKELUVHIM, and how grateful he was to have made it this far. It was sweet.

Conor Oberst gave a similar shout out at the concert on Friday. Before “Another Travelin’ Song”, he dedicated the tune to all those artists still struggling to get their music heard, sleeping on couches while on tour, rolling with the punches of life on the road, making music for the joy of it. There were some whoops of understanding from the audience, and a big chuckle from Eric and Elizabeth as we’d just been talking about some of their road stories. Conor said that Bright Eyes took that couch-hopping, ramen-eating, playing-to-audiences-of-single-digit-people-and-still-jamming-away route for a while- it’s easy to associate them with success now as they’ve gained notoriety and a fan base, but I like knowing that they still remember their roots, where they came from, where they started out. And even that they still couch surf on occasion.

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