Jim Mathis

Monday, December 28, 2009

Stage Presence

I was part of a five-piece bluegrass group that played at our church on Christmas Eve. After the first service I asked my wife how we sounded. She said we sounded fine, but I forgot to smile or make eye contact. I related this to the other guys before the next service and with the first chord, we all had big smiles, looking out, looking people in the eye. The response was tremendous.

As musicians we tend to forget that performing is about 85% visual. What you look like is literally six times more important that what you sound like.

I was reading through the requirements for the Montreau, Switzerland Jazz Festival and the first thing mentioned was “Strong stage presence.” If you are auditioning for Montreau, you need a video, not audio recording. They need to know what you look like and how you relate to the audience. I don’t know about you, but I need somebody to remind me of that every time I walk out on stage.

I was relating this to my mother, who has about 75 years of performing experience of one type or another, and she admitted that it is harder that it sounds. Relating to the audiences and holding their attention is primarily a visual activity. All the nationally known acts know this, many local musicians don’t, and there is the primary difference, not how well they play or sing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bob Kaat-Wohlert

I first met Bob about seven years ago. I knew right away that he was one of the best guitar players I had ever met. I soon realized that he was THE best guitar player I had ever met, and since I have been around music and musicians all my life, this is no casual observation. Bob can play any style and genre of music with ease and is knowledgeable about all sorts of music theory and trivia. He doesn’t “showboat,” but plays whatever the music requires.

Bob and I began to talk about putting together a band and started meeting in the fall of 2004 to form what would become Sky Blue. Our intent was to form a Christian blues band, but our eclectic tastes and experiences soon caused us to outgrow that moniker. Sky Blue played our first date in March 2005 with Bob on guitar, me on steel guitar, Bob’s wife, Theresa playing bass, and Doug Gunn on drums. Doug was later replaced by Wes Burrows.

I learned a long time ago that a good way to judge a man is to look at his wife. The type of woman that would marry a man tells more about that man that most of us men know. Those of you who know the terrific Theresa can tell, by that theory, that Bob is a great guy.

Bob, Theresa, Wes, and I are coming up on five years and our 100th paying date together as Sky Blue, as well as having played numerous jam sessions and casuals together. Bob and I see eye to eye about 95% of the time, but we both realize that the music is bigger than both of us, and that tie keeps us all together and loving every minute of it.

One of the big puzzles in my life is why there aren’t lines of people around the block wanting to see the guitar master at work whenever we play. If you are guitar player, there is no better way you can spend your time, other than practicing, than to come and sit in front of Bob whenever Sky Blue plays.

Learning from other musicians and exposing yourself to all kinds of music is one of the best things you can do for your musical career. Playing with Bob has certainly improved my playing and encouraged me to work harder at my craft.

One of my greatest pleasures is playing in a band with these wonderful people.