My interview with Terry Lawless, U2’s traveling keyboardist, was intimate and he shared some details that I didn’t have room for in my original article for atU2.com. You can find “Terryworld’s Other Worlds” here.
Below, I include some advice Terry gives that is especially helpful for up and coming musicians.
Check out this short video of Terry explaining these four points to me and my son before the San Diego Joshua Tree show on September 22, 2017.
Terry often advises and teaches younger musicians about the four things he’s learned in the profession. A long part of our interview involves him talking about these points. His passion is evident. He loves music and he wants to help others find the right balance as they pursue professional careers in the industry.
First, he says, “Don’t think about the money or the venue, only think about the music because you’ve made your choices on the other two.” He reiterates that the life of a musician must first be motivated by a love for music, not for fame or fortune. Second, “Listen to your bandmates because, by definition, the collective story has to be larger than the individual story.” Terry is a huge fan of the team approach to planning and organizing a concert, which is probably why he fits in so well with U2’s live performances.
Third, he advises, “Connect with your audience because they will write your solos and give you the direction of your music for the evening.” At this point in the interview we turn to a long discussion about the importance of engaging a crowd. Commenting about the reciprocal relationship between audience and performer, he says, “Throw it out, amplify it, and it will come back to you amplified and you get this feedback loop.” “Like cybernetics?” I ask. “Yes,” he says enthusiastically. “It is cybernetics and it’s the same in any crowd you’re in no matter what you’re doing. You just get positive energy. I’m surprised it doesn’t burst into flames sometime.” Terry becomes very animated and excited when he talks about engaging the crowds he plays for, no matter how big or small.
Also during our interview, we spend a fair amount of time talking about his fourth point. It’s a poignant one, especially since Terry has been in the business for such a long time and has watched a range of rock veterans pass from this life to the next in recent years. He reflects, “Play like it’s the last time you’re ever going to stand on stage.” We talk about some of the greats who have died recently. As he leans forward, more solemn now, he finds the words that summarize how important music is to him: “I’m not afraid of death, I’m afraid of playing that last gig. Everybody wants to just finish his last note on stage. Every musician feels that way.” He thinks for a moment and then adds, “The saxophone is the only instrument that you wrap your arms around and breathe life into. And that’s how I feel every time I pick it up, that we’re just old lovers or something.”
In case you missed it, a reminder: Terry is running a fundraiser on June 2, 2018, in support of the American Cancer Society. Among a whole trove of prizes, he’s offering two tickets to see U2, anywhere on the current Experience + Innocence tour, plus a backstage tour. Check out my original article on atU2.com for full details.