Making a Set ListFebruary 7, 2006
I've been making lists for as long as I can remember. Long before I wrote songs, I would write lists of things I thought were important, things I needed to accomplish. Making set lists for shows seemed like a natural evolution. It's a weird thing to do, picking out just a handful of songs to play in a particular setting when you have a lifetime of music stored up inside of you.
It's always the newest ones that scream louder than the rest to make it on the list. Next in line are the old faithfuls that have always served you well, and maybe folks expect to hear otherwise they would leave the show feeling cheated. Finally, you are left with the closet full of empty hangers at the end of a move --- songs you wrote that you have not quite given up on, but never quite made it to the dance. You carry these songs around hoping one day the spark that initiated them will fan into a flame when you play it in just the right way for just the right person.
To survive, songs have to be believed in. They're like orphans that you take care of, coming to you from all walks of life in all their mystery, glory and imperfection. Sometimes it becomes a tremendous burden to find a home for all of them -- to keep believing in all of them. There are some beautiful and sweet that get adopted right away. There are those that have a lot of damage and are rough around the edges and only you can love them --- though you still try to find willing foster parents on occasion. So, it's really not so much a sense of ownership as it is a stewardship. The maker of a thing can never be the owner. It's meant for someone else ultimately.
I think this makes a lot of sense when you look at how territorial we are about songs we like. There are certain songs that you buy with all of your heart and soul and one day you hear that song on an M&Ms commercial and you feel a bitter betrayal because that song belonged to you. Hence the often spoken phrase when referring to artist X: "I only like their old stuff." This is one part of the cantacerous and conflicted nature of music as a business. Ultimately we don't want the music we love to be commercially successful because it loses some of it's magic for us. We no longer feel special by way of identifying with that particular song when suddenly millions of other people seem to feel that same way about it. Sadly, the makers of the music need that song to be loved by millions of people to allow them to keep making it. I only like my old stuff --- back before I sold out ;-)
So here's a budding list I'm cooking up for my show this Saturday night in no particular order...
- The Best Time
- Maybe We'll Just Be Dead
- Every Worthy Cause
- The Secret
- I'll Be Back For You
- White Male Folk Singer