On a recent flight from Cincinnati to Seattle, I was sitting in first class enjoying the legroom after an extended speaking trip that included Mesa, Ariz., Newton, Mass., and Indianapolis. As tired as I was, I was grateful for opportunity to serve my clients. I am the luckiest guy in Washington State.
An hour before the plane landed, the fellow next to me had just finished reading the 40th anniversary of Rolling Stone. I smile and commented, “Rolling Stone, I used to subscribe to that magazine … it’s been a long time.”
He smiled and said “I’m all done with it, here you go.” A kind gesture.
“What do you do?” I asked.
“I’m a musician.”
Pausing for a moment to reflect on his “elevator speech,” I continued, “Have you recorded any CDs?”
“Eleven,” he replied with a quiet confidence.
“What’s your name?” I said curious and interested.
“Oh, man, I am a huge fan! I had just made a note to re-purchase ‘Translucent Soul’ this morning! I love your music and style!”
He smiled that Cheshire Cat grin that comes of appreciation of a sincere compliment. He was doing shows in Seattle, Portland and Eugene. I commented I did 65 presentations last year. He smiled and said that in 2006 he did 150!
As we discussed the business side of our respective lifestyles, he commented, “We are both in the same business. The models are very similar.” How true.
We talked like old friends that had not seen one another for 10 years; twin sons of different mothers. The conversation lasted until our bags arrived at the carousel. I gave him copies of my books and a CD. He gave me four CDs.
Deb and I attended his show that night in West Seattle. He is actually better live than in the studio and his CDs are amazing. As I analyzed the causes of his success as a performer, I took some pictures with my cell phone. He had the audience in the palm of his hand after the fourth song. Here is why:
* Sincerity – It was tangible. He is authentic and genuine.
* Self-effacing humor – Despite his fame and extraordinary talent as a musician, singer and songwriter, his humility was like a cool breeze in a stuffy room.
* Mastery – His ability to sing, play the guitar and piano were amazing. It’s clear his has invested the time practicing to master his art.
* Storyteller – He holds the audience captive with great stories. The last time a singer had that affect on me was Bruce Springsteen in 1980.
* Smart – His lyrics are thoughtful and intelligent. The stories behind each song are steeped in research and experience. As a writer, I am a lyrics guy and his are profound. Translucent Soul is a wonderful example.
* The look – On one album cover, he looks a lot like Kevin Costner. When I mentioned that he replied, “Maybe he looks like me!”
* Interactive – He came off the stage, down in front to ask questions, solicit feedback and requests. He had the audience singing the refrain on several songs. He was clearly enjoying himself.
* Entrepreneur – He has 20,000 subscribers to his e-zine. He is a wired road warrior with a GPS handheld, Blackberry and laptop.
* City specific tailoring – He made references to Seattle landmarks, weaving them into his stories (Robin Williams does this as well as any performer I have seen or heard.) That only further endeared him to his audience.
If you get a chance, check out his Website (www.ellispaul.com), invest in one of his CDs (or all 11!) You will be glad you did. His music is timeless, and thoughtful. I think I’ll read that copy of Rolling Stone and put on “Translucent Soul” by my favorite Troubadour ... it’s going to be good day.
What’s on your I-pod? Or is it 8-track?