Guide to gigging for closet singer-songwriters

This post is for all the closet singer/songwriters who dream of playing to an audience better than their bedroom wall but aren’t sure how to go about it. Of course being a shower singer myself I am hardly a source on the issue so I have picked the brains of two Brisbane musicians who actually have the guts to get up on stage and chase the dream.

With a notebook full of original songs collected from when he was about six years old George Higgins was finally nagged/bullied by friends into performing at an open mic night in August. After playing his designated three songs he came down from the stage buzzing with excitement, wanting to do it all over again. The guy was hooked. A month later he now has five gigs under his belt with many more planned and had the following words of wisdom to share from his experiences.

George Higgins playing at QUT Muso's August open mic night Source: Ellie Robinson original photograph

George Higgins playing at QUT Muso’s open mic night at the Gardens Point campus Botanical Bar
Photo credit: Ellie Robinson

“I started gigging because I was sick of everyday life and I had reached the point where I just said stuff it, I am going to do what makes me happy,” he said.

“The Brisbane music scene has been a lot better than I thought. Open mic nights are great because often people associate just associate music with the industry and competitiveness when it should just be about people coming together from different genres, with different influences and appreciating these differences.”

So far George has played at the Blackbear Lodge in Fortitude Valley, twice at the Queensland University of Technology’s open mic nights at the Gardens Point campus and twice at the Retro Bar in Kenmore.

“My favourite place to gig so far has been the Retro Bar. The atmosphere and set up make it; it’s just a cool place and the locals are really welcoming,” he said.

To secret musicians who are worried about putting themselves out there George has the following advice.

“Just do it. Forget what people say and think, just do what makes you happy.
My favourite musician Bob Dylan said, ‘“At times in my life the only place I have been happy is when I am on stage'”.

(If you want to check out George Higgins’ music go to his Triple J Unearthed page and if you like what you hear give the guy a review)

Another supporter of new local artists is pop-folk songstress Hannah Rosa. With a warm stage presence and honest lyrics Hannah is a regular on the Brisbane music scene. With plans to release a new single this month and an EP in the works for mid 2014 Hannah is one busy lady so I jumped at the chance to pick her brain.

Brisbane pop-folk songstress Hannah Rosa. Photo credit: Bec Newman Photography

Up-and-coming Brisbane songstress Hannah Rosa.
Photo credit: Bec Newman Photography

“I started gigging three years ago at a restaurant near the Brisbane river doing background music. After a while I started entering myself into open mic nights and singer-songwriter showcases, that’s where it all started,” she said.

For those concerned about Brisbane being a difficult city to work in as a musician Hannah had the following advice.

“While the industry in Brisbane is quite small I think the internet has made it easier to connect with audiences from overseas, so it’s not as hard as it used to be. In saying that I don’t think you can stay in Brisbane forever though. If you really want to succeed, you have to be prepared to travel around.”

“I use a bunch of online outlets; I use Facebook the most but I also use Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, iTunes, BandCamp, CD Baby, Spotify and more.”

Hannah’s number one tip to musicians starting out is don’t give up.

“Have a lot of perseverance because things don’t just happen. You have to be willing to play to a lot of empty rooms before you get anywhere.”

(If you want to hear some of Hannah Rosa’s stuff, see her next gig dates or find out where to buy her EP go to her Facebook page

So in summary I have come up with the following top tips for all those closet musicians wanting to get into gigging.
I present to you….

My tips for getting started in gigging

  • Look up open mic nights in your local area. They are a great way to get started as you often only get to play one to four songs and the audience aren’t expecting you to sound like Bon Iver
  • Practice! This seems obvious but you’d be surprised how nerves tend to affect people. Play the planned songs to a couple friends or family members before hand and pick out what song/s will be best for the gig. Do think about the type of audience you’ll have. If its a hipster joint try and avoid Justin Bieber like tunes…or just avoid them in general
  • Dress appropriately. You haven’t made it yet and you’re not Miley at the VMAs. Wear something comfortable to play in and something you have practiced in but don’t stress about it too much at the end of the day you’re going to be judged on your performance, not what you’re wearing.
  • Bring support. Perhaps don’t bring a whole rugby team of mates to your first gig as that will probably make you more nervous but just bring a couple trusted friends or loved ones who won’t heckle you on stage and will shout you a drink afterwards
  • Relax and enjoy the experience. So you were sweating like a pig and mucked up a couple words, no one really noticed and who cares – YOU DID IT! As everyone knows the first time you do something it’s going to be the scariest. So keep practicing, try and gig regularly and you’ll notice yourself getting more comfortable on stage. The only way is up and as ACDC said “It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock n’roll”

So there you have it. If you love music and want to share your talents with others the best thing to do is sign up to an open mic night and give it a go. If you’re nervous just youtube some of the X factor audition failures, not only will they make you feel a lot better about your musical ability but hopefully they’ll make you think ‘If these people can be this bad and perform on national television, I can play to crowd of of five people.’