It’s amazing the amount of work it takes to create an album. It’s physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. At the end of it all when the final mix is done and I can sit back and listen to it from start to finish with a smile on my face, I know then that I have completed what I set out to do. I’ve been in Atlanta for nearly three years and this is the third album I have made since being here. I decided that for this album I wanted to do something different. I decided to have an album release part at the place where I first played folk music in front of people nearly 14 years ago: The Red Light Café. This decision right away was a pretty heavy and emotional decision and it was a night I was so pumped for.
As the show day grew nearer, I rehearsed my set backwards and forwards in preparation for the big night. I wanted everything to be perfect and this is where I made my biggest mistake. I totally failed to remember my own rule about not being able to truly prepare for the live experience. As the day of the show arrived, I was full of pent up nervous excitement. After arriving at the venue and getting sound check out of the way, I made my way to the green room where I relaxed with a beer and a couple of close friends. Before I knew it, my good friend Mike was introducing me and I took the stage. I glanced down and my setlist and right away I knew I had planned too much. I wasn’t quite ready to open with the first song on my set list so instead I opened with “Wish For Rain.” As I look out at the room of about 25+, I could see nothing but eyes fixated on me and silence. I literally felt my blood run cold and a knot in my throat. This was something I had not experienced in almost all of my nearly 14 years of doing this. An attentive audience. Wow.
As the show progressed on, I told stories and played songs but as I said before, to an audience that I had never experienced before. It made me realize that I have gone all these years playing to coffee shop crowds of people who were maybe paying ½ attention to me and just figured that this was how things were going to be. I had a brief taste of this kind of thing for my WDVX Blue Plate Special show but that felt more like an open mic. This show was something completely different. The room was full of people who paid to come to this venue, sit and watch me perform and tell stories. It was a really emotional night for me and those emotions completely penetrated me armor and distracted me throughout the night. From the audience’s stand point, I’m sure they couldn’t tell that I was forgetting lyrics here and there and re-writing my songs on the spot to cover it up but I just couldn’t shake it. It was like the total other extreme of being distracted by a chatting, noisy audience. The funny thing about this is that while normally I would’ve been beating myself up about it, I loved every minute of.
As I told my stories, people laughed and after each song the applause was louder than I’ve ever heard. Finally by the 5th song or so I was feeling comfortable and in my element. Ghost Town seemed to really bring the house down. I had a blast with “I Listen To NPR” which even drew a few boos from the crowd while my intro story for “Crosby, Nash, and Me” seemed to unite all the fans of Ambien in the room. I also chose to debut a brand new song from the album that had never been played live called “Where I’m From.” For some reason, as I performed this song, the heaviness of the lyrics really hit me hard. It was almost as if I was “hearing” this song as opposed to performing it and caused me to choke up a few times. This particular song basically bared my most personal thoughts and feelings of what I thought the perfect world would be and yet I was just then realizing what a heavy tune it was.
The night was coming to a close and while it seemed to go by so fast, part of me felt like I had been on stage for 4 hours. I began to tell the tale of “Fart Proudly” and as the song kicked in it drew a huge applause and lots of laughter from the crowd. Closing the night was a rollicking version of the Rolling Stones’ classic “Sweet Virginia” with my buddy Mike on backing vocals. I commanded the audience to rise to their feet and take it all home with me and everybody in the room was up, clapping and smiling along with us as I closed it out to a standing ovation.
As I packed up my gear people approached me like a tsunami to shake my hand, hug me, kiss me, and congratulate me on an amazing show. This is a really intense part of the night because as everyone is all smiles and telling me how great it was, I’m still trying to figure out just what the fuck went on up there on stage and just trying to figure and sort things out in my mind. As I sat back in the green room finishing off my beer, I just smiled and nodded to myself. I knew that it wasn’t the most perfect show. I forgot my lyrics but the experience of doing this for so long taught me how to correct for things like that so that the audience doesn’t get a wind of it. I never let it show and instead I took it all in from them. Every set of eyes, every smile, every laugh, and every applause still rings out loud in my mind. This was the night that Don de Leaumont grew up. This was the night that Don de Leaumont felt like a true professional. This was a night that I will never forget for as long as I live. This was my night and no matter what, it was a great fucking night with great fucking people. ‘Nuff said.