This past weekend, a traveling musical genius happened to visit Alamosa, Colorado. During the preceding week, leading up to this past Friday, I had seen posters around with the name "Blake Noble" on them. Immediately, I presumed he was another touring musician trying to get his music out to the public. As my eyes wondered down the poster, my assumption was affirmed by the predictable acoustic guitar that rested ever so gently against his chest. "March 7th, 9pm, SLV Brewery" the poster read. After doing a quick mental calendar check for prior commitments, I realized that Friday at 9pm was more open than a triad without a third. Shrugging my shoulders, I realized that it would be who of me to go, for three reasons:
1.) As a fellow musician, it is only right that I go and show the support that I would want if I was the touring musician
2.) I could meet him, and throw down some solid networking skills
3.) I could learn tips from him, take some advice from him, and absorb somebody else's musicality.
Friday eventually came, and I was ready to enjoy my weekend, with a side of this touring musician. Little did I realize how much of an impact this "touring musician" would have on me. Friday evening, after taking my girlfriend out to dinner and then dancing with her in the snow, we went to the Brewery to catch Mr. Noble. Thankfully we arrived a little bit early, because he started setting up at around 8:30ish, and soon after, he was making his debut. One cool thing about the performance in general was how he started it. Usually (or at least in my viewing experience) the performer will test the mic (most likely in hopes to break the slightly awkward performer-to-audience barrier, and then introduce themselves and what they are about). Instead of opening with the microphone, Noble started out by playing the digeridoo and guitar. The first things that then came to my mind were judgements and preconceived notions. "What is he doing." "He sounds like a drone." "Why didn't he introduce himself. Is he that shy?" "If he's that shy then why is he performing up there?" "Is this him starting his set? Because nobody seems to be paying any mind..." "Does he sing?" "When is he gonna sing?" "Why isn't he singing?" Before the conclusion of this first song, I was silently choking down my lightly sweetened piece of humble pie.
Not only was he playing the digeridoo with the technique of circular breathing (or a continuous breath), but he was an absolute master at percussive guitar. After blowing the audience away with his first piece, he grabbed the microphone. He said that his name was Blake Noble, that he was originally from Australia, but recently moved to Seattle. After giving a short biography, he continued to make his music. What he did, was Percussive Guitar. Imagine playing a drum set. Now, imagine playing guitar. He did both . . . simultaneously. The guitar was his drum pallet, and his drumming strummed the notes of the guitar. Though he did most songs on stage, there were a couple of times where he entered the realm of the audience, sat down on the steps, and played a song amidst the listeners, as if to say, "Look, I'm simply one of you." One rendition of his reached out to me personally, and that one was "Amazing Grace." The song started out with the classic tune of the well known hymn, and then grew into a masterpiece of originality and deceptive progressions. Though that was my personal favorite, he went on to play many other amazing pieces. During intermission, I ended up going up to speak with him. I thought that when I went up there, I would simply ask him a couple of questions, and that would be that. To no surprise, my words got caught in my throat, and I was nervous. Still, my friend and I, through the thousands of decibals that were ringing around us in the Brew Pub, managed to ask Noble some questions. We asked him how old he was, and he replied with "32." "Thank the Good Lord" I thought to myself. I was hoping he wasn't much younger, because as inspiring as other artists can be, it can also be a tad bit discouraging when you are similar ages, yet one person is a master at what they are doing. But hey (yes, I know I shouldn't start a sentence with a conjunction), even if we were the same age, that would just show that somebody out that is putting in much more practice time than I was putting in. He told me that he had been doing his music for 15 years, and practiced a minimum of four hours a day. When he said "four hours a day", it was comforting because of the fact that I too am striving to practice four hours a day. To whoever is reading this: Have you heard of the 10,000 hours theory? Essentially, the idea is that after putting in 10,000 hours into something, you are an expert at it. And I plan to be the best I can be at my art (and yes, I know that that was a fragment). He then went on to give a good life lesson. He said that you have to be an original. Now, a lot of people say "Be you! Be original!" Noble was going beyond that. He was saying that you have to do what makes you, you. If you are a jazz singer, do it. If you play drums, do it. Don't conform to the sounds that people suggest you should sound like. He said (paraphrased): " You have to be original. People STILL tell me, after years and years of doing this, 'You sound great! All you need is a singer!' Why would I want a singer? Sure they might have a point, but what would that make me? That would just put me up there with every other singer-songwriter that is out there trying to make it. What I do, is original. Not many people do what I do, and I'm good at it. I practice, and I'm good at it. A lot of people say that they're a professional at what they do, but they don't practice. You can be great at something, but if you don't practice, then it shows. If you put in the practice, success will come. But you have to be original. I open my mouth, (as he says in his Australian accent) and I am automatically set apart. Now add percussive guitar to that. You have to be original, and you have to be honest. You HAVE to be honest [with yourself]. You have to be honest . . . "
Thank you Mr. Blake Noble, for being a small, yet gargantuan reminder, of how practical and rewarding following your art can be with dedication, originality, love, and practice. Oh . . . and originality