Talented singer Rachael Sage writes exclusively for Female First…
This past weekend (August 27-28) I attended something called "The Triple A Radio Conference" in Boulder, CO. I've been to it a half-dozen times through the years, and showcased at it once prior. Essentially, it's a conference where music industry folks - mostly Radio DJ's & Music Directors but also some management and labels - gather to discuss the state of American "Triple A" Radio (which stands for the format "Adult Album Alternative").
I started attending this conference a number of years ago when I began servicing my albums to this radio format. In an industry where (at the time) indie music was especially challenging to get airplay for on the radio, Triple A was a format that seemed to embrace a much wider range of musical genres than Top 40 and other more mainstream, commercial stations. Folk, Pop, Rock and Alternative artists I love ranging from Sarah Bareilles, Grace Potter, Passenger, Lucius and Marc Cohn have all launched new albums and performed live at this conference, so this year when I was informed I got a showcase to perform with my band, I was excited and honored.
It's a funny thing, constantly "emerging" as an artist: on the one hand I'm still pretty obscure and have never had a full-blown radio hit or massive mainstream film/tv placement, so there are still many DJ's who have never heard my work. On the other, there have been a handful of stations through the years that have embraced my work consistently, and always greet me with a friendly hug, and make me feel like I "belong".
The day of my showcase, I rehearsed with my band The Sequins in my hotel room. I always enjoy rehearsing in hotel rooms, much more than in proper rehearsal spaces actually. We play acoustically at a very low volume, and there's just something very detailed and connective about having to listen so acutely without amplification. It was also my violinist's birthday, so of course we had a little celebration; gifts were given and cake was shared. One thing I've learned through the years is no matter how high pressure a situation may be career-wise, relationships come first. There is always a way to balance letting someone special know you care on the road, while also taking care of oneself; so, for instance, I skipped the late-night pub hang the night before because I just don't like to drink when I'm performing. It dries out my voice, and it's something I generally reserve for when I'm not trying to be in peak vocal form.
Sound check early that evening was a bit of an exercise in patience, as it often can be. We had such a nice soundperson, and he did his best to get everything dialed in just so, and sounding balanced within our half-hour timeframe. Inevitably, however, when we took the stage later that evening (and because he didn't have a digital board and there was another artist before us who'd necessarily changed all the settings), the sound on stage was totally different. There was no vocal in my monitor, which is definitely a challenge for me - I really need to hear plenty of my voice to know where to "place" it dynamically, and so I don't push and hurt myself. In these moments, it's always a tough call whether to stop for a minute or two and re-line-check i.e. make sure everything is where it needs to be level-wise to feel comfortable, or to just "roll with it", to not break the connection with the audience or have it appear one is being difficult as a performer. In this case I tried to land somewhere in the middle, motioning to the engineer that I needed more vocal, but unfortunately it just didn't get there. The whole set I was struggling to hear myself, but on the upside the audience was very positive and I could tell my band were enjoying themselves so I focused more on what was "working", and just did my best to let go of what I wished was more audible for me. At the end of the day, an audience has no idea what your onstage experience might be, and ultimately my job is to engage and entertain, so that's what I tried to do.
After the showcase was over, even though I knew it wasn't quite my best - our rehearsal that afternoon had been stronger musically, somehow - I made a concerted effort to subvert my technical dissatisfaction and focus on connecting as much as I could with the DJs and industry folks who were lingering in the room. One by one, familiar faces told me how much they'd enjoyed my performance, and I met some new folks as well with whom I shared my new CD. Gradually I let go of my self-criticism (and the feeling that I distinctly wanted a "do over"!) and just enjoyed the moment, connecting with the very individuals whose willingness to hear new independent artists like myself truly makes a difference.
Over the next couple days I attended the rest of the conference, sitting in on panels, mixing, mingling and most importantly, seeing some absolutely brilliant performers including Passenger, Hannah & The Hours, The Wind & The Wave, Wynonna, and Norah Jones. The more artists I heard the more I remembered my own mission, and why I love what I do and feel so energized, continually, to keep writing, recording and touring. The pressure I'd felt during my showcase seemed so arbitrary as I was reminded, foremost, that every DJ is a fan at heart, every industry person got into this biz because they are music-passionate, and every artist has something relevant and beautiful to share. There is not only room for all of us, but there is room for all of us to shine and truly hit our "mark" when it comes to the sweet spot between nurturing a career, and developing one's uniqueness.
As the end of the summer approaches, and I gear up to tour my new album overseas in the UK, Ireland and Europe, I'm reminded so profoundly how important it is to take care of oneself, to harness calm when the temptation is to stress out, and to have a sense of humor along the way. I am so incredibly fortunate to do what I love, and while I enjoy navigating the rollercoaster that is "Media" while promoting new music, at the end of the day my goal is to connect with individuals, however many and wherever they may be, who can take away something positive via my songs. I want to make other people feel how I feel as a fan, when great music transports me, and reminds me we are all human and want the same things: to be loved, appreciated, accepted and inspired.
RACHAEL SAGE IS ON TOUR NOW - VISIT WEBSITE FOR UPDATES...
New full-length album "Choreographic" is out now.
- twitter: @rachaelsage