What Are They Like At the Table?

On today’s topic, I would appreciate it if some SG fans could weigh in who have been “around the block” and seen more artists than I. Because of the nature of the topic, I’m going to lay out my thoughts on it as broadly as possible without naming specific names.

It seems to me that there are three rough “types” of personalities that an SG fan can observe in personal interactions with artists. First, there are the artists who are just so spontaneously warm and attentive to every single doggone person that it makes you feel downright embarrassed that you’re not just like they are. “How do they DO that?” you wonder. “How do they make every fan feel like they’re it?” Generally, this personality tends to go along with a thick southern drawl and a generally southern personality. “Come here and give me sugar, hon.”

Second, there are the artists who aren’t quite so effusive but seem infinitely relaxed and comfortable in their own skin. They’ll chat easily with you, so easily you feel like you’re having a conversation with your next-door neighbor. They are who they are—down-to-earth and instantly likable.

But the third type is the type who simultaneously inspires my sympathy and my secret relief.  On the stage, with their peers, they’re in their natural element and they come alive. Mingling with the fans, they seem to be not quite “there.” They smile, sign, pose, say “Thank you” and “God bless,” but you can just sense that they’re not really comfortable. They may be sweet, kind people, but they’re not “people people.” They don’t have that wonderful and unsettling ability to pour themselves into each and every fan. When they’re bone tired, it shows, not in the form of un-graciousness, but more subtly, in a forced smile for the camera, in a weary 200th “Thank you so much.”

They inspire sympathy, because you know what a heavy burden they’re carrying and wish it was less draining for them. But they make me relieved, because they’re just like me. Be honest now: If you had a thousand fans, could you successfully make each individual one feel like he was the only one in the world? Me neither.

God has given some people that gift, but he sure didn’t give it to me. And I think there’s a sense in which it’s nice to know that you’re not alone. Those people who seem super-human in their ability to do that… you absolutely love them, but at the same time you feel abashed, and maybe a touch jealous. But you feel something else for the shy, uncomfortable ones: You identify with them.

Does anyone else feel that way?

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “What Are They Like At the Table?

  1. I think you’ve hit the nail pretty much on the head here! But I would also offer another type of personality – the Group personality! There is a group I have seen that is consistently all business at the product table. There’s not much chit chat except talking about the products they are selling. If you insist on an autograph, they’ll comply seemingly out of oblgation and not showing much friendliness at all. And with this particular group, a couple of their members will just sit together at an out-of-the-way pew and talk to each other rather than going to the table during intermission. If you go to talk to them, they’ll acknowledge you and perhaps answer a question or two, but it is pretty obvious that they’re just wanting to take a break – from singing and from the fans! Fortunately, there are far more groups that show a group personality of friendliness and caring about their fans. I took a friend of mine to her first two SG concerts in the last couple of months and she was so impressed with the gracious, sociable attitudes of all of the members of both groups.

  2. Man, I swear that SG fans really are spoiled rotten. If tou go to a Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, or any number of secular artists, the only way to get an autograph is to beg a security guard at the bus. And don’t even think about a photo.

    I watched the Conan O’Brien documentary about his live tour, and there were scenes of “the star” complaining to his manager that after a show, he doesn’t want to have to meet 20 people who are related to his backup singers. Every autograph session was preceded by a security guard screaming “no photos.”

    Then we have SG fans who not only demand to be entertained, but feel shafted when they can’t hug their necks and get a picture. You are right, these singers are human, not idols. They are paid to sing. Feel grateful that they also are willing to take time to meet you.

    • Okay, I can agree with that to a point, which is why I don’t think everyone who feels uncomfortable with fans should be given a hard time. But on the flip side, don’t you think the personal aspect of southern gospel is one of its strengths? Southern Gospel singers don’t have nearly as many fans as Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift, and they don’t need security guards. Read some of our anonymous artist friend’s pet peeves to find out the worst an artist has to fear from the fans: BO, bad breath and spitting while talking. Oh horror, horror.

      The entire point of this post was to point out that people’s personalities are different, and fans should roll with that instead of walking off in a huff if so-and-so didn’t remember your name and hug you warmly enough. But it wasn’t meant to make excuses for artists who don’t make any effort to connect at all.

      • I certainly agree that there are different levels of outgoing personalities and I think if there’s a shy one in the group, that certainly shouldn’t be held against the person! Several of my favorite singers are not really outgoing but they make an extra effort to be pleasant and gracious and it really pays off for the group!

  3. K. Payne

    I worked with a bass singer that only wanted to sleep, eat, and sing. He told me he didn’t have time to talk to people. There is a certain amount of down time that performers need for themselves. On the other side though, there is also a need to spend time with the fans. They are the ones who are “paying the bills.” If you want to continue being a performer, give some time to the fans. It is a people business and if a performer can’t be friendly with the fans ( to a point ), maybe it’s time to find a different line of work.

  4. Despite the business aspect of SG, “ministry” is still an element that must be taken into consideration. The expectations of the SG fan-base is different (and I think should be) from that of secular music.

    Some may not like dealing with people, but because of the tradition, history, and roots of SG in a ministry (and hence people) – oriented environment, artists HAVE to know going into it that they WILL deal with people.

    As to the OP, I agree that the fans have to take into consideration the various personalities. One person’s “standoffish” is another’s shy . . . or it may just be nerves at being in the spotlight. And personality does not always equal nice!

    • If I can introduce a little cold calculation into the equation, this is also about marketing. Michael Buble doesn’t have to worry about a sharp sales decline if he doesn’t do a meet and greet after his concerts. Because of that strong interactive ingredient in the genre, it’s important for artists to maintain it if they want fans to keep coming back for the music.

      • You are exactly right – that certainly has to be taken into consideration. Which underscores my point. An aspiring SG artist has to know this is a part of the job. If they want to be treated like Bieber, Swift or Conan O’Brien they need to seek another genre or field. Because of ministry AND marketing, (like it or not) the expectation is there.

  5. Of course the other aspect not mentioned is.. sometimes an artist has a “bad day”, is sick, or has a personal crisis we do not know about.. They are such troupers they continue on even when their world may be crashing.. like us they have financial worries (maybe even more) get ill, etc. Sometime when a couple of the group members are off talking together it may simply be there is something they must deal with, work on etc. and they really need the time to discuss.
    We all love it when an artist gives us special attention.. but should it all be about me? when was the last time you did something really special for the artist and not bombard them with “me” but simply stood off to the side and pray for them? Until you ride a bus, sing every night, set up the table every night, tear down the table every night, set up the sound system, tear down the sound system, talk to all the fans that want special attention and then hop on the bus again to travel hundreds of miles to do it all over again it is impossible to really appreciate the difficult life the artist live.. to present the Gospel, and entertain us. Yes I agree the artist should know what they have “signed up for”, but as Christian Brothers and Sisters we should also know what they signed up for and be gracious to them also.
    I have traveled with a few artists.. it is not always easy to be “on” every night for every person.

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