Blog 1403: The Live Show vs. The Record

“Why doesn’t that live version sound the same way on the album?” I feel like my answer isn’t one some people want to hear…

“Why doesn’t that live version sound the same way on the album?”

I’m often asked this after shows. I was asked more than once on our recent Australian tour. And I feel like my answer isn’t one some people want to hear:

The live version isn’t the studio version – deliberately. And vice versa.

I treat the two as complimentary. It’s exciting for me that there isn’t one definitive version of a song – it hopefully makes for a live show that’s more dynamic, a little less predictable, a little more special even. The songs will be different each time you see us play; they’re continuing to evolve.

Why do people seem to have difficulty with this idea?

On one level, I get it. I am absolutely guilty of being the guy who, sometimes, just wants to hear the song as he knows it. But, even being that guy, I’ve more often gotten more enjoyment out of being surprised – and an enjoyable surprise is a tricky thing to pull off.

If you enjoy something I or we did at a live show, of course I am / we are happy. But why the need to put it on record?

Perhaps that thing worked so well live specifically because it was live. And perhaps on record, it’ll seem underwhelming – that unexpected moment, which was enjoyable at first, with repeat listens may ultimately yield diminishing returns. And perhaps that live moment was so enjoyable precisely because of elements you could never put on record: the mood you were in, the friends you were at the show with, the atmosphere on the night, the weather, whatever… The studio version, the song as you knew it, was the familiar jumping-off point, the trailer for the live show movie.

I enjoy moments of spontaneity in a live show as much as I enjoy succinctness on record. That may sound like two very different, almost opposing ideas, but I think they’re two very different media. I like different things about the live show and the studio recording; and each offers opportunities unique to it. I believe each can not merely echo or reiterate, but compliment the other – and I’m much more excited when they do.

Within my own art, the live show and the studio recording are only two components of a bigger picture I’m constantly creating – a picture which also includes things like the videos and designs I also create. No one element tells the whole story – deliberately – because together, they sketch out something larger and, hopefully, more intriguing…

So: like the live version better? Come to the next show – I promise I’ll play it for you.

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Ray Mann is messing with his own songs at his first shows of 2014 – in January, in Berlin. Dates and details – and a video preview – are right here.

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