East Side Story Nashville

Last night we ventured to the East Side of Nashville for East Side Storytelling’s evening of song and story at local eatery Mad Donna’s. Chuck Beard, who happens to be one very rad dude and the owner of the eclectic book store East Side Story, hosts two bi-monthly events which bring together local artists and authors to share the stage. Last night was special, in that the band Mary Nail’s reunited for the first time in three years.

Having never seen them perform, before they took stage I looked to their appearance for the kind of music I was likely to hear. They looked like musicians. Rocker edge with a side of hipster and thrift store cool. Probably rock with a little punk – maybe with some pizazz. The hair was gelled and tussled, sparkle was here and there, while chunky boots were paired with causal jeans and Madonna-style tutus.

Showmanship was something they perfected, and as they warmed up the crowd amid technical difficulties, it was clear they were able to throw wit as swiftly as they planned to toss out vibrato. It hit me then, as I waited for them to belt into their first number, that bands, like small businesses, both have to set the stage for their audience. First appearances and impressions are like warming up the crowd, drawing them in.

The Mary Nail’s superseded our expectations. Funny, talented, and each armed with a set of pipes, they won us over from the start. The band is a cross between Weird Al Yankovich and The B-52’s, with songs like Camouflage Jeans, In My Neighborhood, and P U Reena making fun of life’s imperfect moments, while forcing heads to bob an feet to tap. They’re so good – with their ability to work the crowd, play off each other, and laugh at themselves – and their sound is so electric, with their range, harmonies, and infectious beat, that it took me three songs to realize they only had one instrument on stage.

When I think rock band, I think electric guitars, drums, bass, and maybe a set of keys. The Mary Nail’s three singers were front and center, gripping mics and gyrating their hips; not one of them played an instrument. A computer provided the backbeat, and the keyboardist in the back (who also manned the computer) gelled with the others tightly, filling the room with their sound. They so completely sold their talents that they owned the stage, and their passion and energy were contagious. It was clear that everyone in the crowd felt it too.

Not every business has a marketing budget or the funds to build a fancy – all the bells and giant whistles – website. Like the Mary Nail’s, you can march to the beat of your own drum (or keyboard) and still present yourself as professional and authentic.

Focus on your strengths, nail down what your mission is and make sure it’s clear to your audience. Then let your voice come through, and stay transparent as you do so. You don’t have to compete on a level where you’re draining yourself and your bank account.

Whether it’s social media marketing or search engine optimization, it’s less about quantity than it is quality these days. With the right focus and message, your audience will recognize you at the grass roots, organic level, and you can grow.

As Ani DiFranco said, “Don’t be afraid to let your talents shine.”

Be sure to check out the Mary Nail’s: http://www.reverbnation.com/themarynails

And let us know if you need any help defining your message and voice. We’re glad to back you with our keys.

Mad Donnas

A Crowded House