The Naughty Corner Ukulele Band of which I am one third, play a mixture of original material and covers. To put this balance in perspective for my main point that follows, of the two CDs we have now recorded, 13 tracks are original songs and 10 are covers. As the one who normally puts the draft set list together, the dilemma continues to be how many original songs should we put in our set list when we play live?
Received wisdom from many musicians seems to be that we would do well to do only covers for street busking, weddings and high profile gigs. The logic appears to follow the line that you give the public what they want to make them happy…and that’s not your own material. So when is the right time for it exactly? Tucked away on a CD for a special audience that might somehow appreciate you more?
While I understand the bigger picture point I don’t think I’ve swallowed the argument. If we believe in the songs we write and record then we have to believe they are good enough else why bring them out in to the light? Do people really believe that passers by will suddenly stop putting money in the case because they don’t recognise the song? Our experiences with The Naughty Corner Ukulele Band do not suggest this is true.
The same has been true of recent gigs though wisdom perhaps shows you shouldn’t give them too many original songs in one go in some contexts. In a busy pub who were clearly up for a sing song, personal reflective pieces on childhood nostalgia did raise a knowing smile but they seem to perk up somewhat when they could sing Sweet Caroline back to us at the top of their voices! I guess as with all performances it’s about judging the moment but not I would say at the complete sacrifice of original material. On other other occasions we had people singing and dancing to our own stuff so I know it’s possible even for a uke band.
To finish this brief piece I had an interesting experience recently when we played a wedding and I was asked if I’d discuss the set list with the happy couple to be. They had been listening to our YouTube videos over breakfast that week and wanted to share their thoughts on our efforts. They had gone through every video and noted down which ones they would like us to play if we could (no pressure or expectation) and to my delight, many of these were our original songs! There was something of a raised eyebrow when I took this information back to my other band members, Kevin and David, especially when they highlighted that some of the topics covered were perhaps less than appropriate for a wedding – misery and break ups being cases in point. But encouraged by the comments of the bride and groom we sang songs of break up and loss to them and their wedding party and they loved it!.
As far as we are aware, the happy couple are still together and listening to our first CD that we gave them as a wedding present.
The Naughty Corner Ukulele Band