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  • Writer's pictureChristian Anderson Smith

Lesson 13- Always Be Nice To People

Siblings... photo by Roman Sokal

  I wish that I could say that if one works hard and is a nice person, they will succeed. The problem is that if I did say that, I’d be lying. Yet I still believe being a nice person is always worthwhile.

  I’ve worked with, toured and opened for some acts that have become pretty successful. The truth is that if you haven’t heard me mention someone you know I’ve worked within this series of blogs, I probably don’t have anything nice to say about them (however in person, if you goad me a little, I’ll tell you some stories).

  Most of the successful acts that I’ve been fortunate enough to be associated with have been brilliant, kind and generous but I’ve seen some acts rise to prosperity as a result in part of them being self-centred, single-minded and kind of awful people. It’s a real bummer to watch these people’s careers overshadow my own. In spite of this small minority, I still believe that it’s always best to be a nice person and one will benefit from doing so. Wouldn’t you want to be nice anyway?

  People often think that in order to be a rock star you have to act like one. This is totally untrue or in actuality, rock stars can be very nice people. Especially if they’re comfortable with their position in life. It’s the people aren’t where or who they want to be that will give one a hard time.

  And being friendly with those who spent their hard-earned money will only ever do a person good. As far back as I can remember, times have been tough. People spending their money on the entertainment that I was providing was never taken for granted. Life isn’t cheap so I’m thankful to anyone who has bought a record or t-shirt or come to a show.

  Here is some general advice on being kind to your colleagues that should be obvious but for some reason isn’t:

  One should always be nice to the sound engineer. I’ve always been puzzled by acts who are rude or dismissive to the sound person. They are the ones who are going to make you sound good or bad! And believe me when I say I’ve seen more than one reasonable and genuinely nice sound person turn up the, ‘sound like crap’ knob after being given a hard time by a band. It’s a practically thankless job and a lot of these people are musicians themselves. For goodness sakes be nice to them, learn their name and thank them on stage; it doesn’t happen enough.

  Also, be nice to your openers. One never knows who an act will turn out to be. Sum 41, Feist, Tegan And Sara and countless other acts opened for me at one point, carried on and eclipsed my career in tremendous and in my eyes, profound ways.

  Instead of going through a list of the different situations I'll point out one with some of the biggest names. I was opening for Noisettes at the ICA in London and Noisettes’ super-human singer, Shingai invited some of her friends out to sing back up for them. Their names were Pinky, Paloma Faith and Adele. I only ended up playing with Paloma one time after that and she was great. I’ve been for beers with Pinky and I never saw Adele again. I wonder what ever happened to her. Maybe she is in a position to give me a gig. Who knows….

  Being a friendly person, in my opinion will almost always work out to your advantage. If someone is a jerk, word will get around pretty quick. I think it’s pretty obvious that when one is given the choice of a kind person and someone less kind; the kind person is going to win out every time. I can think of countless situations where being a nice guy worked out in my favour.

  When I had just finished my ambitious, fourth record, “El Limb Men Oh Pee”. It was to be self-released. I sealed distribution so after pressing some discs, I’d be ready to go. A few months before its release, numerous friends headed up by ‘Sister’ Julie Fader did the nicest thing that has ever been done for me.

  “Hats Off To Mayor McCa” was a night where mostly Hamiltonian acts like Julie’s tragically underrated band Flux AD, A Northern Chorus, The Bell brothers (from Chore)bband some out of town friends like Sarah Harmer and Jenny Omnichord all took turns singing my songs. This sort of tribute is usually reserved for dead people so it was a touching and surreal experience for me.

  At the end of the night, I was handed an envelope of cash which which was almost the exact amount of money needed to press a run of CDs.

  I found myself overwhelmed at the gesture and I was surprised how many times I thought to myself, “Wow! That’s a good song!” briefly forgetting that I’d written them. This was the community I’d come up in at their kindest. I wish I had something profound to say about how the gesture made me feeI but for once in my life, I went on stage at the end of the night and was speechless.

   Even more than the money, the greatest gift they had given me was allowing me to have the confidence to say they didn’t just do this because I had been a nice guy. They also did it because I had written some good songs.

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