I’m not talking about your audio-holic engineered mastering suites inhabited by troll fighting studio wizards. I’m talking about the rooms where people go when they are expecting to experience the full range of the art and craft of songwriting in a live performance setting. My first ever experience playing a room like this–where people were expected to shut up and listen–was in Nashville at the Bluebird Cafe. Other personal favorites are Douglass Corner in Nashville and Sunday sessions at the Scratcher in NYC. This post will explore the Listening Room.
3 Ingredients of Great Listening Rooms
1. A host who appreciates the craft of songwriting. These people understand that lyrics are meant to be felt emotionally, physically, and intellectually: so televisions, video games, kitchen radios, and chit-chat are generally not seen or heard in their establishments just as smoke machines, gunfire, and acrobats are often not found in pet stores. Songs and the people who love them, require an environment conducive to intensive listening–aka “song-havens” where the soft and deep currents of a song’s dynamic potential are at once accessible to the writer and audience. Given the right environment, a song will “find its legs” and a writer will “find their voice.” Some listening rooms have a direct association with songwriting cultures, active groups of touring writers/artists, and writer advocacy organizations. Other rooms are created by small groups of artists and listeners in homes, barns, and on wooden pallet stages under bridges.
2. People who get a high from great songs. I know I am one of these people. When I attend a live music event, I am actively praying to be blown away by a great song. Songs changed me from the inside out and seemed to transform my world. Songwriting traditions lie deep in the roots of all people. We are lovers of song who listen with an intention to be carried off, lifted up, taken down, or transformed–deep listeners with a gravity of interest that can fill rooms, empower artists, give momentum to old songs, and birth to new ones.
3. Songwriters who put songwriting first. Music is a birthright as is song writing. If you can talk you can sing. If you can count syllables and have a 3rd grade vocabulary you can write a song. If you can cry from listening to a song, you have within you the emotional ingredients for a song that makes a person cry. Just as a piano or a guitar or a special tuning can elicit a slew of songs, great singers, super talented artists, and great writers are a fantastic source of inspiration.
A venue for which I have high hopes and which I would like to make you aware of is known as The Map Room. With very little effort (without a map) you will find The Map Room is located on Braddock Ave in Regent Square, Pittsburgh. With a bit more effort you might participate in its ongoing transformation from simple cozy pub/bar to a premier listening room. December 11th will be the first time I play The Map Room and I’ll be taking the opportunity to play a wide range of songs, new and old, in celebration of my forthcoming, full-length, debut album “Move On.”