Editor’s Note: We’re trying this again. Getting 30 artists to answer the same question. For the month of September–one for each day–we’ll be getting 30 Lubbock-West Texas singer-songwriters to answer the following question. For the complete list of September answers, click here.
Is there a song that you’ve written that you find yourself singing with your eyes closed more often than not when performed live? Why?
“A large majority of my songs I sing almost entirely with my eyes closed. There are a couple different reasons why I think I do it.
I’m stage shy. It may not be readily apparent if you are watching me preform, but if you ever notice my dialogue between songs, it’s timid, awkward, and unnatural. My dad has always given me a hard time about it. He loves to tell me stuff like, “You need to work on your ‘bullshit’,” which in laymen’s terms would mean “selling yourself” or “engaging the listener.” I wish I were better about just talking to the audience, but I’m just not that great as a public speaker, which may lead you to wonder how speaking to an audience is any different from singing to an audience. Well, for me at least, there’s a huge difference. When I’m singing a song to an audience, I know every word I’m about to deliver and I know exactly why I selected that particular word and what it is supposed to signify. I’ve also put in hours of practice to find the best delivery for every line. By the time I am comfortable showing my songs to an audience, the song has become an extension of myself, and I don’t have to think about how I’m going to deliver it…I just feel it.
So what does this have to do with my eyes being closed?
When I close my eyes, there are no distractions. It’s just my guitar and I, and we’re trying to tap into the original emotion that I had when I wrote the song. Tapping that original emotion, I think it bolsters the delivery and the power of the emotion. Its like I’m reliving part of the emotion in song and giving the listener a scripted look into it.
Getting back to the original question, I almost always sing “Cross to Bear” with my eyes closed. “Cross to Bear” is a song I wrote with my friend Brett Hauser after a night at The Blue Light. He came over to my house afterwards. We poured ourselves some bourbons on the rocks and then made a pact to finish a song by the end of the night. It didn’t get finished till the sun was almost up, but it was well worth the wait. After we had finished writing it Brett looked at me and said, “These lyrics make me uncomfortable, but in a good way.” I have to agree. It’s a song that highlights the passive aggressive nature of someone who has come to terms with the fact that they’ve been cheated on. The song is essentially saying, “I’m not going to call you a whore, but I hope your conscience does.” When I sing this song, my eyes are closed, and I’m trying to make the message as bitter and sour as it was intended to be.”
—Benton Leachman, songwriter
Listen to “Cross to Bear” from Leachman’s upcoming debut album Bury the Hatchet below. This also happens to be the first official look at what Leachman’s been doing over at Mount Vernon Studios. Like Benton Leachman on Facebook here and follow him on Twitter here.