The subject of my first post of this year, on 1st January in fact, was Russell Eponym's concert at Alora Bay. I was a wee bit shy in those days as that was only my 2nd blog post ever. Looking at it now it seems a very brief record of a wonderful concert, and incomplete because it says little about the real Russell Eponym apart from already published information.
So now two months later a couple of people have suggested that I should interview some of the artists I am writing about, to give them a chance to tell it from their point of view, and to develop my blog further by giving it greater depth and interest. Blogging live music in SL is a great learning experience for me and I greatly appreciate the fact that Russell agreed to help me by taking time out from his busy schedule to talk about his work.
Russell Invites XUO xue on Stage
Fleure's Enchanted Corner 6 March 2011
Armed with many questions on a variety of topics I was searching not only for interesting information for the reader, but also an insight into the way Russell approaches and feels about his work in SL. A constant theme which came through in his answers was the importance of and his love of the Eponymous Family.
The Eponymous String Beanie Band
Audience Participation and Great Fun :))
"Lacey's Place" 25 Feb 2011
GC Russell very many people enjoy your music. Is it true you have 1000 members in your SL Group and has it been easy to reach this level ?
RE We are heading towards 1000 members and that is something I hope we will achieve this year. Being a member of the ‘Eponymous Family’ is not just about the enjoyment of my music.
It is a community in itself. The group is diverse, global, multi-faceted and many venue owners say that I have the most intelligent, pleasant and generous group in SL. I am not sure how that can be proved or whether it is of any importance that it should be proved. What is clear to me is that I am a member of a wonderful and highly supportive family of people and I am proud to know that it is my music which brings us together.
Some of The Eponymous Family
GC What's your goal (or reward) ? Is it simply to know that many people enjoy listening to your music ? Is it to have fun ? What are your personal ambitions in SL live music now ?
RE I love performing, building the community, creating and sharing with others what we have here in SL. It is all of these things … I love that people enjoy listening and experiencing what happens at our concerts. I have such enormous fun … someone yesterday said that I bring the child out in the audiences by involving them so much in activities during the concerts. They do that to me too !
My personal ambition is to continue to do what I am doing and to become a better performer, songwriter and musician. To continue to build the amazing community known as the Eponymous Family.GC Is it difficult being a successful SL musician ?
RE Yes … it takes dedication and hard work and it does not happen overnight.
Many new artists ask for my advice and guidance. I always say the same ..... the music is what matters and none of us is greater than that. Becoming a successful musician and performer in Second Life involves more than just turning on your stream, and positioning your avatar on the virtual stage. There is a lot to do: building your following; being available to those people who choose to spend their Second Life listening to you; organizing; planning; decision-making .... and so much more. There is also a need for balance. I have learned that it is easy to take on too much but difficult to reduce what you have taken on. 'Burnout' is a real thing.
GC At what age did you first pick up a guitar and sing to an audience and
where was that ?
RE I was actually 13 when I learned my first chords on the guitar but it was not until I was 14 that I made a public appearance. Blessed with an innovative music teacher who believed sincerely that the way to understand and appreciate music effectively is to play and experiment with sounds and rhythms. I played in the school jam session with 2 other boys. Marc Eagleton played lead guitar, Julian Lloyd-Weber (the world famous cellist) played double bass and I strummed out a very erratic rhythm to Chuck Berry’s ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’. I mention Julian as an indicator of how fortunate I was in knowing some of the wonderful musicians I was to meet and work with in the same school.
GC Russell I know that you celebrated 5 years in SL in January this year. Do you remember your first day in SL and what SL was like then ?
RE I streamed music on the first day in SL. I could not hear how I sounded and could only hope that the quality of the sound was remotely like any of the other artists cutting their teeth in SL live music. It was a remarkable experience; complex, nervous, very new.
I always describe SL in 2005-6 as resembling a building site … and that is really what it was. It was a Brave New World, and although I had been performing live music on the internet since the turn of the millennium, I had never encountered anything like the visual brilliance and the ingenuity and invention that was happening in Second Life. It was engulfing, fascinating, humorous, and in many ways, just wonderfully silly.
GC Where was your first concert and how did it go ?
RE In those days, concerts were really just casual gatherings of friends. New venues were appearing and it is actually quite difficult to pinpoint the first full show I performed. I played on the opening day of Dublin and I was the first to perform in the amphitheatre on Muse Isle. Both of these sims have progressed to be amongst the most proactive and influential in SL regarding live music, entertainment and cultural development.
GC Any idea how many concerts in total you have played in SL ?
RE I play in excess of 1000 concerts a year. I estimate that I have played 3000-4000 in total, taking into consideration that I took a break from SL for
over a year.
GC You speak fluent french with an excellent accent could you tell us how that came about ?
RE I studied French language and literature at school and at university and have been a Francophile for as long as I can remember. Vacations and opportunities for working enabled me to improve my accent and use of figurative and idiomatic French. The French language is simply beautiful.
GC Is the internationality of SL important to you ?
RE The diversity, the variety, the global character of Second Life is the most wonderful thing of all. When I perform I know that there is a probability that every continent of the world is represented, many creeds and cultures are present, many people with varying degrees of disability or illness are there enjoying the experience of listening alongside the rest of the world. For me that is an astonishing experience, knowing that the world is listening and partaking of that beautiful interchange of energy.
GC Russell over your five years in SL you must have had some amusing experiences. Is there one in particular you' would like to tell us about ?
RE There are so many embarrassing yet funny moments to recount. Yes, I have appeared suddenly naked in the midst of a crowded venue and yes, I have suddenly landed in places where I should not have landed. Most recently a game of musical chairs during one of my concerts at my home venue The Still Point with my family and friends proved to be one of those occasions on which I lost complete control and giggled like a hyena on the stream whilst I witnessed a melee of odd-shaped avatars bundling onto cushions and pillows. The incident was made even funnier by the fact that when I stopped playing, it would be 20 seconds or so before I saw the rush for the places.
GC And any bad experiences ?
RE There have been several attempts to grief me over the years but I am very happy to say that I have never felt the need to stop my performance or to utter abusive language on the stream. I have tended to make light of the futile attempts by rather strange looking avatars to affect adversely my composure. I have been removed from venues, pushed over the edge of a skybox, been used as target practice, have been shoved into the most ignominious positions … but I have never stopped singing ! I laugh aloud
when I think of these things.
GC Russell are you ever nervous ? I can't imagine you are.
RE I experience tremendous adrenalin rushes before and during my concerts, but no I do not experience nervousness as such. Each concert is an exciting
experience for me but I am always relaxed throughout.
Never Seen so Much Fun and Nonsense !
GC How important is audience feedback during your concert and do you keep an eye on local chat ?
RE Feedback is vital. The show is an exchange of energy between me and my audience. Each person who attends my show is someone who has consciously decided to spend his or her time being there.
I always keep an eye on local chat. It is my way of engaging with the audience. I greet everyone personally who comes to my concerts, and say thankyou to each at the end for having taken the time to come. I watch local chat and always feel part of what is happening. Believe me there is a huge amount going on and the variety of topics is at times staggering ! It is the way I have to be. It is not an acquired skill but a simple aspect of my character.
Fleure's Enchanted Corner
GC Your voice and your concerts are very soothing and relaxing ... as you say babies stop crying and dogs stop barking. How did you develop that ability ?
RE I don’t think I did develop it. I have not consciously done so anyway. I do not have a powerful voice and it is by no means the best voice in the world, but I have been told that it has a relaxing and easing quality. Some have told me that my voice has a healing quality. I don’t know about that … if it has and people derive benefits from hearing me, then I am delighted. I sing as I feel it is right for me to sing.
GC Russell you have a huge store of songs to sing from british and american folk music. How do you choose which songs to sing ?
RE There are several criteria for selecting songs to be included. First and foremost, I do not play any songs that I actively dislike. I will not mention names of songs but a number of my friends are aware of certain songs which will not be played. Like any other artist, I want to present songs in my own way, rather than as a poor copy of the original. Balance is another criterion.
I like to offer a blend of original, traditional and covered songs in order to provide that variation and balance. Songs which involve an element of audience participation are particularly attractive. The importance of music in the lives of people should never be underestimated.
Very often my sets are determined by my audiences. There are particular songs, some original some not, which are requested almost daily.
Sometimes songs have a special meaning to people at particular times and if it makes them happy to hear me sing them, I am always happy to do so. A typical set of mine will contain a mixture of original songs dealing with universal themes, poignant love songs, animal songs, children’s songs, narrative folk songs and instrumental pieces. I have even presented thematic sets, concerts with a common theme running through the selection of songs. I must do that again soon.
GC Are you continually adding to your songlist ?
RE Yes, continually to the extent that I find it hard to keep up with requests from friends to learn particular songs. I like to spend a long time listening to a new song to be learned in order to understand it as fully as possible. In addition, the original work continues to flow at a steady rate.
GC Do you think you could ever go back to life without SL ?
RE Second Life has provided so much for me over the past 5 years: music, friends, culture and education, a greater understanding of diversity. I am here primarily for the music and the opportunities presented. I am not addicted to SL … it is merely a place where I work and a place where I meet with some very special people. It is not SL in itself that makes it such a wonderful place, but what goes on with in this virtual world.
GC Is there anything you would like to say to your fans ?
RE I prefer to use the expression ‘friends who enjoy my music’ to ‘fans’ but I do want to say that the Eponymous family is a remarkable group in its diversity, the most generous in its spirit and support, and the most amusing and brilliant when they come together. I love them all and cannot imagine ever being without them.
To live music enthusiasts in SL in general I would say support your live musicians and the venues in every way possible. Music does not come free. Everyone who enjoys SL live music has a responsibility to support what they are listening to. It is not only about money but is very much about the ways in which enthusiasts affirm what they hear through every medium.
GC Russell thank you so much for sharing all this with us, and may the Eponymous Family go from strength to strength :))
Here's Russell's Calendar to help you find his concerts:
Join his group the Russell Eponym Fan Club and help them reach their target of 1000 members !!
More about Russell and many other Second Life live music performers can be found in our linked blog - HERE
Here's the SLURL to get to Lacey's Place:
Here's the SLURL to get to Fleure's Enchanted Corner:
Here's the SLURL to get to Fleure's Enchanted Corner: