Choosing the Songs.

August 12 ,2009

What’s happening my Philadelphonicans?!? I hope this finds you well. The last blog I wrote delved into the finer points of putting my show together. I wanted to continue the theme and talk about song selection.

Every night whether we get to play 30 minutes or 3 hours, it’s a fact of life, we can’t play them all. Songs I mean…You just are never going to be able to play all the songs you and the audience want to hear. And of course, no one in the band or audience can agree on what are the best songs. Trust me it can be very frustrating to say the least.

Why, just last night in Pittsburgh we had a killer show. After the after show shenanigans I was stealing away to the hotel on my bike and a crew stopped me in the parking lot. This one girl was pissed, seriously mad (and drunk ouch) that we didn’t play “Baby’s Got Sauce”. Now, I can dig it. Sauce has always been one of my hits since my street musician days. I play it almost every night. I would’ve played it in Pitts but we just ran out of time.

So, how do I choose which songs to play? We definitely have songs like Sauce, Cold Bev, Weed, Peace, Booty that are staples in the set. Then of course there are the singles from the last 15 years. Songs like Blues music, Dreamin, I 76, Soft and Sweet, Hot Cookin, Beautiful, Rodeo, Kiss and Tell, Astronaut. Then we have over 10 records of songs and probably another 200 songs we’ve written, covered, or are freestyle jams. You start to get the point, there’s a lot of material.

After playing 100-200 shows a year for the past 16 years, I have a pretty good idea about what energy reactions certain songs get from an audience so I keep that in mind when I chose the song. For instance, if I want to play something new, obscure or a slower deeper song that might take the people to a different place, I might follow that up with a song like “Booty Call” or “Hot Cooking” two songs, which, always seem to uplift an audience.

Some days, I wake up early and it’s like a song is knocking around my head singing, “Play me tonight”. Sometimes I might throw on one of my records and say damn, “that’s a good song, let’s work that back in the set”. We just did that yesterday with the song “Love” from the Hustle. Sometimes, after the show a fan will come up and say, ‘hey G, I’ve seen you 7 times but you never play Rhyme for the Summertime” and I will be like damn he’s right, so I work it back in. Sometimes someone in the band or crew will make a suggestion of a song they’re missing and I try to work it in. The only time I get pissed is when it’s like 1 hour to show time, my set is ready and someone says, “why don’t you play this, or this instead of that”. You see, I’m a Libra so then I start weighing my options and I can’t make my mind.

Mostly, I find that song selections are cyclical. Songs kind of come in and out of rotation depending on the mood of life and the world, the time of year, the venue sizes, whether we are headlining or supporting, what country we are playing in. Shoot, it could be, and often is, the weather. Seriously.

I went to see Paul McCartney the other night in Boston on the night off. He played Blackbird solo acoustic, they played Something, Lady Madonna, Let it Be, Live and Let die and so many other hits. I cried. To see all those songs my Dad used to sing to me and the songs I learned to play my guitar by…I guess Paul could’ve played some he didn’t play or not play some he did, all I know is that he looked so happy and sounded so good and I was completely emotionally inspired and satisfied. I was just happy to be there listening, just like I’m happy to be out there playing for you beautiful people. It’s just a tremendous, tremendous blessing and I want to thank you.

Thank you, G

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