A week from now, five of us are going to step on stage at the new World Café Live at the Queen Theatre and do the first IVA show I’ve ever given in my hometown, Wilmington, Delaware. My band and I (Shaun Dougherty, guitar, Joe Trainor, keys, AJ Malme drums and Ray Gagliardino, bass) have been rehearsing for a couple of weeks and I had thought that perhaps we should cover a song at the gig. It had been suggested to me by a friend as a way to help the audience fell more familiar with me at my gigs, since all my songs are original. This past week at rehearsal, as my band got to know my songs better, AJ said “why should we do a cover? I want people to hear you rock on your own music.” And Joe said “when people ask me and my trio to play a cover so they can hear something more familiar, I tell them to come to more of my shows and then they’ll be more familiar with my music.” This Sunday we have our final rehearsal and we’ll be really familiar with my older and new songs by then, and I’ll be wondering .. to cover or not to cover?
On my first album I wanted to do a cover, which my producer was against. But then he made a beautiful arrangement of U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name,” (click to listen on Myspace) and we were off. And earlier this year my lawyer/agent asked if I wanted to be a contestant on “The Voice” on NBC, where you have to sing covers with no rehearsal. Since I’m an opera singer by training and had basically only sung pop songs that I’d written myself, I didn’t know how I was going to be able to handle singing covers on the spot, and we decided that it was not the right context for me to “break” in the States. But since then, I’ve found an awesome opera and pop teacher and we’ve been able to step up my pop vocals with real technical work in a way that goes naturally with my operatic voice. So … a cover is entirely possible technically. But aesthetically? That’s the real question.
This month I’ve been following a very successful cover since I heard it on the radio. Last year’s X-Factor winner Matt Cardle sang a Biffy Clyro song they called “Many of Horror” which he (or Simon Cowell’s team) called “When We Collide”. I absolutely love this song, and since I’d heard it on 104.5 FM I was searching for it on YouTube. I found the Matt Cardle version first, and loved his singing, but thought it didn’t sound like what I’d heard on the radio.
So I dug further and found both versions, and found out that Matt Cardle had the #1 Xmas single with the song, while fans of the band Biffy Clyro made an outcry which brought their original version of the song up to #8 on the charts. Now they are coming to play in Philly. The songwriter Simon Neil is loving the controversy, I imagine, as well as the exposure his song and the band are getting.
So .. to cover or not to cover. What do you think?
I think you should cover, if you feel like it, rather than limiting yourself by some "purist" aesthetic. I think of Bob Dylan playing electric guitar.