Joel Havea is no stranger to playing home concerts. Between his hometown Melbourne, Australia and Hamburg, Germany where he currently resides, he’s taken part in quite a few living room arrangements. So we caught up with Joel at the last leg of his solo tour around Denmark and Sweden to find out what is so special about playing these small home concerts versus your standard concert venue experience.
When did you play your first home concert?
I think the first time I ever did it was four years ago. I have a core fan from Hamburg, and her friends wanted to surprise her for a birthday present. It was a very small thing, there were maybe only eight people there, but it was sort of the first time I ever played acoustically in somebody’s home.
[Playing home concerts] it’s a way also to get true fans.
How are home concerts different from a regular concert setup?
Well, I think it’s a totally different experience for everyone there, and the concert can be quite intense. I don’t know if I could only do home concerts, I like doing a mix. I just like the direct contact that you have, the real mixing of the performers and the audiences, because it’s kind of a rare thing. It doesn’t really happen at all at a club show. It’s a way also to get true fans. You know, superfans, because you get to establish that direct connection that you don’t get from a typical club show.
How does your interaction with an audience differ from a regular concert?
If I’m playing at a club, I don’t like going out and chatting to people before the show, especially if I am playing in my hometown, because you probably know a lot of people in the crowd, and I find that it’s draining on your energy to have all of these small conversations before you’re about to perform. But for some reason when I do house concerts, I don’t really feel any of that pressure. I think usually it’s because I don’t really know the people there and it’s just a nice experience to sit down with people and have a chat, maybe have some food together. I guess it’s also very easy too, because it’s sort of like a house party and I’m the guest of honor. I’m quite a social person anyways, so it’s nice.
How do audiences at a home concert differ from country to country?
That’s a good question! To be honest, the audience is always kind of similar. When you’re writing a song, you’re trying to transport some sort of emotion and at the fundamental level when you’re in the audience, you ideally should feel what the singer felt when they wrote the song. I think that’s much easier to do in a setting like a house concert, so maybe that’s why I guess the responses are kind of similar, because everyone experiences emotion in a similar way, no matter where you’re from.
Have you ever had any awkward experiences?
I’ve never actually had a bad experience, but I have friends that have had bad experiences. She’s a girl and she was touring by herself in America and she got a request for a house concert from a fan somewhere, and she showed up and it was the guy and his mom and his auntie and that was it. She was meant to stay there and in the end she was like, oh, I gotta go, and went to the hotel. That’s generally a thing about house concerts too, because 50-60% of the time I’ve stayed at that person’s house, cause I’ve done a lot out of my home city, you know. In Copenhagen I have friends, but sometimes I’m in a city where I don’t know anyone and then they offer you a bed as well.
I think if you’re the kind of person who is up for opening your home to a musician you don’t know, you’re generally gonna be a pretty cool person.
What is the difference between playing a home concert solo and with your band?
If I’m doing it in a duo with my drummer Leo, he plays cajon to be unplugged. If we are playing as the trio with Arnd on bass, then we need an amp, and that can be a little bit less intimate, but it’s also just as fun.
Speaking of technical setups. How do you find the best sound or the best acoustics?
I don’t know, I just pull out my guitar (starts laughing). You don’t really have that many options, you know. I’m quite happy to play unplugged. Cause that’s the thing – once you start plugging in, you lose some of that intimacy, and it’s kind of hard to do when you have a band to play totally unplugged. We have done it before with double-bass, cajon, and we all sing as well, so it is possible, but…
And it terms of staging? Do you bring any decorations with you?
No, do other people bring decorations? I’m with my guitar and a few CDs, but maybe I should. It’s not a bad idea.
In Stuttgart we did a Fritz Cola secret concert. We were playing with some Fritz Cola boxes in there as a background. Prostituting ourselves out for Fritz Cola (starts laughing), but you gotta do what you gotta do.
What do you like the most about playing a home concert?
I think I like all the aspects involved, you know. I like the fact that you get to meet people and make a connection with them. It’s the opportunity to make fans that in some cases have actually turned into friends and I have sometimes gone back to stay at their house when I’m back in their city, even if I’m not playing there. I think if you’re the kind of person who is up for opening your home to a musician you don’t know, you’re generally gonna be a pretty cool person. An open person. That’s been my experience.
What are the tips and tricks of playing a home concert that you could give musicians who haven’t done it before?
I think the most important thing for doing house concerts is making sure that the audience feels comfortable. Because it has the potential to get awkward really quickly – you can hear every little squeak in the room, sometimes you might have little kids running around, difficult sounding rooms, and you’re playing unplugged. It involves telling jokes or getting everybody to sing along, which I think is one of the best things to do, at least in my experience. Every musician has had the experience growing up playing for your parents’ friends when they come over – like, hey, go get your guitar. So I guess most people have already played for a smaller group of people around the table, but it definitely does take some getting used to. I just would recommend to get out there and try it, you know. Practice makes perfect. The more you do, the better you get.
If you want to read more about Joel Havea, you can check out his Facebook page and if you want to hear more of his music, go to his Youtube channel, or his Spotify page. Keep an eye for Low-Fi concerts with Joel on our Facebook page or sign up on our platform.