*Note: this post is about my song "brother brother" if you arent familiar, scroll to the bottom and press play!*
When you open a tour, you don't have much time. Usually 15-30 minutes, maybe more if you're main support. The audience aren't your fans yet (that's the point): you've got a small window to get their attention and form a relationship. You want to put your best songs forward and show them who you are. I am a lot of things; singer, songwriter, loud-mouth, funny, male, romantic, millennial. I'm also black.
Cut to me in my dressing room at the Sellersville Theater. It's night two of the tour, I'm figuring out my set and I'm trying to figure out how to fill 25 mins (I leave five because I talk a lot). 'Bad Blood' is longer than 'Brother, Brother' and I had a moment of "Nah I really shouldn't play that song, I'm in a small town in Pennsylvania, it's not that kind of show." After talking with one of my best friends, I thought "I don't have a choice. It's who I am, what I believe, and at the end of the day: they're my feelings." What's the point of being on stage if you're not going tell the truth? My truth may make people uncomfortable, but hell it makes me uncomfortable.
I take the stage, begin my set and as I finish 'Bricks', I tell the crowd I am going to play a song that leaves me vulnerable. I didn't preface it with the content but I'm pretty sure when the first line is "Oh my God, were dying" most people would get it if not by the bridge ("who knew my skin was so scary?"). I didn't give the crowd much time to respond because I went straight into my cover of "Help" which always lifts the mood. My set finishes and they seem to have liked the set.
As always, after my set, I high-tail it to merch so I can thank as many people as I can for listening. There's a ton of people in the lobby and I took photos, signed CDs, and cracked jokes (because I always crack jokes). But perhaps the most moving thing about it was people wanting to talk/ask about "Brother, Brother." It was like I opened a valve for discourse. Here are some of the comments from a 99.4% white audience* (yes, I did the math):
"I'm married to an African American man and I cried through the whole thing. He has to hear this song"
"I'm a teacher and I will definitely be playing this for my students"
"I'm biracial and from Philly and yeah um, I needed to hear that"
In another town, it opened up a the gentlest conversation about privilege that is usually an unproductive firestorm on Facebook.
I was floored at how many comments started with "I" or "my" because those words mean that the song transcended and became theirs. People connected and at the end of the day that's why I write. So after that night, given the climate of the country, it felt like my duty. To give people on whatever side they fall, the space and chance to open up and feel. If today were my last, I would feel satisfied knowing that I created that opportunity for discussion, comfort and understanding for whoever it touched. That's worth more than a hit single, but I'll take one of those too!
*I don't point out that it was mostly white people to "divide" races but rather to illuminate the fact that as a white person, you can choose whether or not to care about my fear/the potential of police brutality. In the same way that a heterosexual, can choose to care about LGTBQ+ issues. Strictly speaking, they don't affect your day to day. Now do I think that we're all on this planet together and we can't move forward unless we continue to strive for equality? I'll never tell :)