So last night I did what I never thought I would do. I participated in an Open Mic Competition at the Red Clay Theater in Duluth, GA. The Open Mic is hosted by none other than Eddie Owen himself former owner of Eddie’s Attic. I know what you’re thinking. You’re saying, “Don, you said you would never do this.” Well, you are right but after having not played out live since December of last year, I decided that a gig is a gig. Even though this was a competition I knew that as long as I went in there with the mentality that this was just an outlet for me to play my songs, it would be fine.
The venue itself is a gorgeous theater. As I entered I was greeted by a guy at the door to check in and my wife was charged the cover fee of $8.00. I was shown the way to the “green room” downstairs where I could warm up and and what not and I was blown away by how nice this was. This was a truly classy venue but because of the setting, it made it hard to really get to meet any of the musicians. Like most open mics, most people showed up before they were supposed to go on and left shortly afterwards. What I was impressed with though was that there was a really great listening and attentive audience of people just there to listen. This was a cool thing to see and it made me feel that I could indeed just get up there and share my songs to those that would let me in.
I took the stage a bit nervous but right away engaged the audience as best I could with my story about the song “Another Rainy Night in Georgia.” Everyone laughed and as I played I literally felt moved and inspired and just gave them everything I had. I opened my eyes from time to time to see all eyes fixated on me and you could hear a pin drop. This was such a magical feeling because I felt like I had drawn them in. As the song came to a close the applause was so loud that it really choked me up. I proceeded into my next story behind the song “Crosby, Nash & Me” and everyone laughed and I even had them participating in my little pre-song poll. Once again, I played my heart out and it felt so good. I could feel the sweat running down my face and my back as I literally felt like I was exercising the demons from within as I played hard and sang hard. As the song drew to a close, they cheered really loud, Eddie came out and thanked me and off I went.
I hung out for the duration of the show just to see the other acts and it was a mixed bag of performers and I was really curious to see who would place as finalists in this contest. I actually even felt that because of my audience response and my performance I might actually place but it wasn’t even close. The three acts that were chosen all sounded like someone else in popular music. We had an act that sounded like Adelle, another one that sounded like the guy who sings “Walking in Memphis”, and another act that sounded like Gavin DeGraw/John Mayer. Yeah, I know. I wasn’t even in the same universe as these people so right there my thoughts were just confirmed. Folksingers like me don’t win competitions like this and we’re not made to do so. We are made to sing our songs, engage the audience, and spread our vibes to them and take them away for the amount of time we have them. That’s what I did so I felt like I succeeded.
I exited the theater to use the restroom and on my way to the restroom I was stopped three times by three different people. Each of them told me how much they enjoyed my performance and that they really liked my songs. I thanked them all and as I walked away I grinned ear to ear and thought to myself that it was very plain to see that I was the winner tonight. I won in my own little contest. I challenged myself to go against the grain and just be myself. I accepted the challenge and won with flying colors and I’ll do it again… anytime.