They sat next to each other on stage. Two country music troubadours. John Hiatt who has played a rough edged, twangy country music bordering on rock and roll since the early 1970’s, and Lyle Lovett who finds a way to effortlessly switch between country western and big band jazz music while telling bitingly clever stories of love, friendship and family. Each is an excellent singer songwriter and musician in his own right. Each with stories to tell and songs to sing.
I had the pleasure of recently seeing them perform together on stage, and through their performance, I got to watch an amazing demonstration of Working Out Loud.
Hiatt and Lovett have been performing together for years, and though I am sure there is some repetition in song choice and in on-stage banter show to show, much of the show I saw seemed impromptu and unplanned.
When the lights went up, the two of them walked out on stage and sat next to each other on simple chairs. Each had three guitars next to them. They sat down, and they each put a guitar on his lap. Hiatt played first. Lovett looked a little surprised at the song being sung, returned his guitar to its stand, and selected another guitar to play when it was his turn.
Each song informed the next. If Hiatt played a dark song, Lovett would follow with a song of the same mood, then followed by a brighter, happier song by Hiatt. When one played, the other watched. He smiled. He tapped his foot. Sometimes, a supportive riff would be played, or a background vocal would be sung.
For “Perfectly Good Guitar,” Hiatt whistled where the electric guitar solo would have been. Lovett commented on the beauty of the whistle. It had color, it had tone, it had shape…Lovett told Hiatt he could whistle during any of his songs if it sounded like that. Towards the end of the show, Lovett was performing one of his songs and had a genuinely surprised look on his face as Hiatt began to whistle. A perfect whistle. Perfectly timed, perfectly toned, perfectly delivered.
As the practice of Working Out Loud teaches us, we can be more effective in our work when we form relationships with people who can add to our knowledge base, when expand our networks and relationships through generosity, when we make our work visible and amplify who we are and what we do, when we establish a goal to help orient our work, and when we have a growth mindset…when we want to do more, learn more and succeed more.
Though I would absolutely pay to see either Lyle Lovett or John Hiatt perform an acoustic concert on their own, seeing them perform together was something special, something different.
As these two friends perform with each other and for each other, we see their relationship. We see how, through their generosity, songs are shared and sometimes made better. As they work through these songs, their collaboration is laid bare for all in the audience to see. They do not compete, they only support one another with their music. A growth mindset takes them beyond a tightly scripted and choreographed show to something that has more character, more risk and more reward.
After the show, I was incredibly fortunate to meet Lyle Lovett backstage. He was warm, generous and sincere. That personality I saw on stage, that person who collaborated so effectively with his colleague and friend, seemed to be the exact same person I met in private. Always wanting to share more, always wanting to do more.
In fact, when I told him that I was planning to see their concert again in a few days, he invited backstage for the next show without missing a beat, and encouraged me to bring my wife.
Working Out Loud succeeds when we have a Working Out Loud mindset. When we decide to share, to collaborate, to be generous and to expand our networks we can do great things, we we can make important and valuable connection, and we can create something that did not exist before.
Thanks Lyle and John for being great teachers!