TED Talks have become very popular and quite a prestigious event to be involved with. Tell us how you came to be a speaker at the upcoming, independently organized TEDx event, Nature & Nurture TEDx Cape May?
I’ve known about the TED talk series for a while now, and I’ve watched several incredible talks by remarkable people like Bill Gates, Malcolm Gladwell, Bono & Amanda Palmer. So I was pretty humbled and awed to get an invitation to speak. It all came about because of my connection to Cape May, NJ. I go down there every year to perform at the Cape May Singer/Songwriter Festival, and I also organize a big midnight songwriter’s jam to close out the festival. It just so happened that this past year, the organizer of TEDx Cape May caught my show, and thought I’d be a great fit for this year’s line up. TEDx is a locally-organized offshoot of the main TED series, there are TEDx conferences held in cities all over the world. This is only the 2nd TEDx in Cape May, and I’m excited to represent the musician’s perspective with my talk.
How do you go about preparing for a talk/performance like this? Is there a lot of standing in front of the mirror practicing…recording yourself and playing it back?
This was one of the more difficult things
I’ve ever had to compose. For me the music
part was easy, but figuring out what to say in
addition to the music, writing and rewriting,
editing and just plain old thinking about it
was a difficult process. It took a lot of time,
and I asked a lot of my friends and colleagues
whose opinions I trust for feedback. At this
point, it’s a lot of practicing out loud, to
myself and in front of anyone that will listen,
over and over and over again. It’s a good
thing I spend a lot of time on tour in my car
– that’s when I get most of my practicing in.
Give us a quick rundown of what you’ll be discussing.
The theme of this TEDx Cape May weekend is Nature & Nurture. The program describes my talk like this: “How does a Jew from Jersey come to fall in love with Brazilian bossa nova? Through song and storytelling, Avi Wisnia explores what it means to nurture the influence of a foreign culture in the creative process.”
Of course, that’s just a teaser. I don’t want to give too much away!
For those of us to can’t get to the actual event, will we be able to watch this talk somewhere afterwards?
The greatest aspect of TED is that they really promote “ideas worth spreading.” So in that spirit, all TED talks are filmed and posted to the web – so the video of my talk will be released shortly after the conference ends. People can sign up on my mailing list to get the link as soon as it’s ready! (www.aviwisnia.com)
Has giving a TEDx Talk been on your “Bucket List” or did it never occur to you until this opportunity came up?
I never would have imagined I would be in a position to give one of these talks, it really never occurred to me. I’m still so floored that somebody thinks I know something about something, enough to give a talk about it. But I can’t wait to do it, and I can’t wait to hear all the other great talks at the conference.
What do you hope people take away with them from your talk?
I hope people can connect and relate to my talk. We’re all experts in our own story, and I hope people find a connection to my story. I also hope I’m able to convey my connection to Brazilian bossa nova in an engaging way, and take people on a journey through how I write songs. I also hope it inspires people to realize what foreign influences have opened up their world, or maybe to go out and discover a new one for themselves.
What other projects are you working on?
After this, I’m going to shift focus to getting a new recording project together. I have so many new songs unrecorded that I’m excited to flesh them out and put them out to the world. Also a bunch of exciting collaborations and video projects.
You've got some big gigs coming up, tell us about them.
Aside from the TED talk on Oct 20, I’ll be performing this week at the CMJ Music Festival in NYC on Thursday, Oct 17, at the NERFA folk music conference Nov 7-10, and several gigs around my hometown of Philadelphia including our big full-band concert of the season at the Michener Art Museum on Saturday, Nov 16. There will be a bigger tour and lots more event dates in 2014, which you can check out here: www.aviwisnia.com/tour
You are also the man behind the Bent Compass Party which is the LGBT Music Showcase you put together at the SxSW music conference in Austin, Texas every year. When picking the artists for that event, what are looking for?
The Bent Compass Party is returning to Texas in 2014!!! I’m so excited to plan this event for another year. It will take place March 12 & 13, and we’ll start taking submissions soon. Last year we had an incredibly diverse range of acts representing the international LGBTQ community, from singer-songwriters to punk-rock to burlesque. This year, we are trying to focus on full-band acts that can really put on a great show and keep our party going into the wee hours, but we accept music from any genre – as long as it’s great! Artist can stay in touch and stay tuned to submit by connecting with us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/bentcompass
Tell us something about yourself we don’t already know.
I haven’t slept in a few days.