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What Do I Say? – Talking to Your Audience

When I ask artists what they need the most help with or what their weak spots are in a live show, the most common answer I get is “talking to the audience.” I can relate.

Many times when I was playing live I would want to say something to the crowd; but when I started speaking, it would come out a disjointed, rambling mess.

It aggravated me so much I started rehearsing exactly what I wanted to say for a song set-up. Then I would put the first few words right on the set list to get me going in the right direction! It worked. Once I got started on the right foot, the rest would come out fine because I’d worked on it.

Artists most commonly like their music to speak for itself, but the truth is, the audience wants to hear YOU speak as well! It helps them get to know who you are and connect with you on a more intimate level.

What to say? The first and most logical thing to consider is to talk about your songs. How did you come upon the idea? What inspired you to write it? What does it mean to you personally?

Avoid clichés like “I wrote this next song about…” Just go right into the story! The audience will piece together that it’s going to relate to the next song. It’s a lot more effective to start with, “I was driving through the desert last summer, when I saw this old man sitting by the side of the road, playing an old violin…” Now a story like that is going to draw me in!

Telling a story draws people right into the song and can become one of your “moments” – especially if it’s personal. It’s much more interesting to hear a personal story, rather than “There was this guy who lost his girl and then his house burnt down.”

Something that happened to you is more compelling and relatable. And if it is a song about someone else, you can personalize it by talking about your relationship to that person and how it affected you as well.

All of this said, however, don’t be tempted to TALK TOO MUCH! No one wants to hear you talk between every song. Mix up your transitions by using a few stories, a few one-liners, and times where you go right into the next song.

For more on speaking to your audience and transitions, check out Tom’s book “Live Music Method.” (There’s a whole chapter devoted to the best method, both when & where, of speaking to your audience.)

As always,
Rock Well & Often, (& SPEAK Well & Selectively!)

Amy Wolter

As a trained Live Music Producer for Tom Jackson Productions, Amy Wolter brings her years onstage as a lead singer & keyboardist - along with her experience as a producer, arranger, and songwriter - to singers and bands who won’t settle for ‘good enough’. She’s worked with artists at all levels, and genres ranging from Rock to Celtic, empowering them to have confidence and authority onstage, and put on memorable live shows, a few of whom have been on two of the largest US tours in recent history. Some of her clients include Grammy award winners The Band Perry & Lacrae, CMA and ACM –winning country acts, Gloriana & Thompson Square, 2016 The Voice contestant Mary Sarah, CCMA (Canada) winners High Valley, Jess Moskaluke & Chad Brownlee, and Winter Jam Tour veterans Sidewalk Prophets & Love and The Outcome.

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Greenroom Comments

  1. Next to last paragraph is key. Once I got comfortable talking to audience, making sure I didn’t talk too much and too fast (I’m also a licensed auctioneer & radio DJ) was something I had to watch carefully.

    • Ha! I know your struggle must be great being a ‘fast talker’…my Dad was an auctioneer 🙂 It will take some discipline but your audience will notice and appreciate the things you DO say, much more.

  2. Thank you..

  3. Malcolm Marchman says:

    Thanks, this is good advice, especially the part about writing cues down. Relating to an audience off the top of your head rarely seems to work for me. Your article was insigjtful.

  4. At first I used to find it intriguing that talking will be part of live show, concert or performance, because given the option many singers like myself would have opted out.
    However, following Tom Jackson’s method, I turn to now appreciate it more and also see how essential it is to not only learn how to communicate your thoughts but also create the opportunity to connect with your audience.
    Having understood the where, when and why of talking to your audience, your article creatively filled the gap for the what part of it.
    Hey Amy, what’s your take on mixing up what you say with some type comedy or poetry to spice things up?

    Thanks for putting up this great article, it’s been a good read.

    • Yes, mix it up! If you’re naturally funny, I love the idea of things that make people laugh, and crowds always enjoy a fun moment(s) in your set. Knowing where/when to use this is important. I know an artist who is naturally very funny and self-depricating, but she sometimes kills an amazing bone-chilling song too soon with humor. Pick your times wisely. I like the idea of poetry too…think about underscoring (‘dinking’ in Tom’s Jaxicon lingo) with your intrument as you recite. Thanks JC!

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