Freedom Train has been working, and working well, for 25 years. The busy trio of Carl Jennings (bass and vocals), Tim Jennings (drums and vocals) and Ed Mitchell (guitar) is one of the best loved local groups that plays bars, public, corporate, and private shows. They are busy, busy, busy and they are very, very good.
I hired them last January to play for our Benefit Kids Music event. Here are some observations of their typical “A Game,” based on what we saw at our event.
Personal attention to details. Carl touched base with me beforehand, tweaking and fine tuning the message about our cause and who our target audience was. He wanted to clarify the purpose and vibe of the event. He wanted to make it work by doing his part to understand the cause. He had begun thinking about ways to bring value.
Know the venue. Different sound equipment is needed for different sizes of rooms. Carl asked me to describe the room in some detail to him.
Meeting and greeting the people who matter. When we were at the venue finishing up our decorations, the band showed up. All three men came in together and made it their business to say hello, smile, look us in the eye, get our names. They didn’t stop until they had chatted and met everyone who was there, including the venue manager and some of our family and friends. We knew we mattered to them, and we knew that each of them felt it was important to make the personal connection. They didn’t just leave it to one guy.
Communicating excitement and anticipation. We heard things like, “We’re glad to be here. This is gonna be so awesome. We’re really looking forward to playing for you guys tonight.” After you’ve been worrying for weeks about endless details, ticket sales, prizes, decorations, etc. it’s nice to be launched into the energizing mindset: “This event is going to be amazing!!”
Meeting the audience. As the evening unfolded, it turned out that Carl, the front man, had taken initiative to meet a bunch of our guests and chat with them about why they had come. One family had some musical kids with them. Before the night was out they had been invited up to sing backups in Twist and Shout. Carl also had met and chatted up the President of the Hamilton Blues Society, one of the event hosts, and surprised him by inviting him up to sing a number. By looking for these opportunities and acting upon them, the buzz at the event increased instantly.
So much added value.
We received so much added value from the “soft” skills that Freedom Train brought with them, it’s hard to measure it in terms of cash.
We felt it: even from the band having a sense of humour. With nothing to prove. And being so comfortable with what they were doing on stage that they could focus all of their attention on being amazing.
Their formula for success is way more than just having a limited range of repertoire and ability, or playing to a niche. It’s about being a master of many. It’s about knowing your instrument from here to there and back again. It’s about having an extended vocal range and using it to your advantage. It’s about being in the mental space where it’s not about you, it’s about you delivering entertainment.
And that is (still) a rare package these days.
By Glen Brown, owner and editor of Hamilton Musician Media
What are the SOFT SKILLS you think are most often MISSING in today’s world of working musicians? Go to the comment section below and leave your two cents. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!