Lesson 18- Looking Good Is Important
A shot from, 'The Amy Winehouse Shoot' by Dean Chalkley
A couple of weeks after my triumphant gig at the Secret Garden Party, I received and email from Dean Chalkley with pictures attached. I quickly understood why he was as revered as he was: the pictures he took were great. I was in need of some new pictures to promote myself and they would be really helpful.*
Shortly after that, I was walking down Oxford Street when I literally ran into Jude Law. I apologised for running into him and as I turned around once more, I immediately ran into someone but this time I was able to stop the collision. It was Jay Trachtenburg of The Tratchenburg Family Slideshow Players, whom I’d played with (promoted by super hero Eric Warner) in Toronto. We had a nice chat and he invited me out to their show that week. I decided to invite Dean.
I arrived at the show with my one of my athlete brothers, Troy, who had surprised me by signing to The London Racers Hockey Club for a very brief but appreciated (for me) season. Dean had arrived with his long time girlfriend, Amanda and we hit it off, immediately. Amanda ended up becoming my acting agent (more on that in the future) and one of my dearest friends.
To this day if Dean asks me to do something, I almost always say yes before even knowing what it is he is doing. Something great always comes from it and he has one of the best work ethics I've ever encountered (and I have encountered some great work ethics). My favourite example of this was when he wanted to try out a new (and coincidentally beautiful) stylist so used me as the test subject. The stylist made me into a robot made of musical instruments and we got some great shots. I married her a few years later.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the day we met by Dean Chalkley
Besides being a fabulous person, one of the reasons I love Dean is because I’ve learned a lot from him. One of the more profound and important lessons I learned from him was whilst we were filming a commercial for Cannon cameras. It starred Dean and I was invited to perform alongside him. At that point I always played in , my socks. I was playing bass organ with my feet and it was to my advantage to not wear shoes. Dean suggested I take my socks off. "It looks better".
The week previous on our first real photo shoot, he suggested that I bring the cowboy hat I had one a few days previously for the same reason. The cowboy hat became a bit of a trademark.
He loves music but he also loves someone who looks interesting and I suddenly realised so do I. My DIY grunge/ punk upbringing suggested that it doesn't matter what one looks like but that is just not true. In fact, it's a hug part of what I love about rock and roll, pop music and otherwise. All my favourite musicians also looked outstanding: The Beatles, The Beach Boys, David Bowie, ABBA, Nirvana, The Ramones; every single one of them had an image. I could stare at their photos in magazines or album sleeves for hours and hours. And I did.
It's part of the whole package and I wouldn't have it any other way. So from that moment on, the One-man Band Singing Sensation wore no shoes, a leather (or denim) jacket (at least for the first few songs), his beard got longer and he always wore a cowboy (or trucker) hat. That was the image I chose. It seemed to work, too. When I'd tell people that I grew up on the West Mountain in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (the suburbs) they thought I was a proper mountain man. That was my image. It was not quite a lie but more of an exaggeration that I encouraged.
I ended up making a living from the way I looked, after I'd honed my image as a model and actor. It took me places like China and Colombia. Again; more on that later.
A good song is a good song but I have to admit: when I go to a gig it always seems a bit better when the act looks the part. In regards to looking good for a show, I think Steve Martin said, “You have to let them know who they’re looking at.”
* When I played in Barcelona my awesome, fellow ex-pat, singer-songwriter J Mann pointed out how easy it was for him to get a few mentions in magazines when one has great pictures to offer.