This month our featured performer is rock / blues sensation Virgil Flowers. Virgil started playing guitar at age 11 and has played professionally on stage and in studio since he was 17. In RL Virgil has been playing rock, blues and jazz in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and from coast to coast across the entire USA. Now he has brought his awesome talent to Second Life, where his energy and passion never fail to amaze his audiences throughout the grid.
I caught up with Virgil on the day it was announced he would be opening the latest exhibition at the wonderful Art Korner - cant wait for that one !
Michael: Hi Virgil - First of all a huge thank you for taking time out to do this interview with Toggle For Music - I have to say you were such a popular choice with all of our crew!
Virgil: My pleasure, Michael, thank you for reaching out - your team is great and I see them at shows all the time, so definitely happy to be here.
Michael: First up - Could you tell our readers something about your background - were you an established artist in RL before you got here - and how on earth did you get involved in the crazy world of Second Life?
Virgil: I had 2 years of piano lessons when i was 11, which gave me basic music theory at an early age, then I bought a guitar from a friend for $5 around that time, so I have been playing guitar since I was 11 years old. I started in bands when I was living on the west coast near Los Angeles, and have played in all kinds of bands ever since, from LA to San Fransisco to the Midwest and the East coast. As for SL, I met a woman a few years ago that sang here and she said I should try it, so I did and well, now here I am. And I still play out in RL as well.
Michael: You are a wonderfully gifted musician....what made you start to play and who were your early influences and who are they now? Have they shifted as you have got older?
Virgil: Thank you so much for saying that. Playing guitar for me is very personal and from the heart. So when I hear from fans that say how my playing touches them emotionally, it just makes my day. There is nothing better than sharing emotion through art with others. I have always been an artist, so picking up an instrument was never a question..it was just what I did..who i am.
Early influences are so many, but the song that made me pick up a guitar was Davey Johnstone's playing on Elton John's Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting...the sound of that Stratocaster overdriven and slicing those power chords was so cool. My favorite rock guitarist is Brian May of Queen, and of course I like all the usual suspects...John 5, Brian Setzer, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Keith Richards, SRV...on and on...
Michael: Do you remember your first Second Life gig - the venue and how it went ?
Virgil: I think my first gig was at Love Kats II. I opened for the Quadradix, so it went fairly well. I did not really know anything about second life music scene at that time, and my streaming setup was very basic then, so I am sure it sounded like a beginner....which I was.
Michael: Was there anyone here who helped you, or inspired you, during those early days?
Virgil: Yes, I had a friend Jacq that sang in SL and she introduced me to Laurie at Key West management company and they took me on and got me my early gigs. I was not very good then in SL, and after 3 months i quit...but I got my act together and came back on my own after about 6 months. Once I started again, I managed myself and worked hard at my sound and vocals, and marketing. A lot of people helped me, especially the hosts I met and friended..they know a lot of people and recommend the musician's they like to venues and often start their own venues.
Michael: You are often seen giving up your time to do charity gigs in SL - is that work particularly important to you ?
Virgil: It is important, yes. I have made a lot of friends in the community, so when a friend reaches out, I try to make time. One that meant a lot to me was my friend Vanadis - one year for Christmas she produced music videos featuring SL artists playing and singing and sent them to children in Haiti hospital as Christmas cards. This was not a fund raising event, but it was a personal touch and shows how so many in SL give their time. There are many others that have sponsored or asked me to play events and raise money, and when I can, I do.
Michael: Following on from that is there a gig you remember above all ?
Virgil: There are a few. The SL Birthday shows are always a blast, and there was one gig - I don't recall where I was but I got an IM from a research base in Antarctica and they said they were listening to me and loving it. That just blew my mind that I was being heard at the South pole and made my day that they would take time to reach out...they even sent me pics of the base. Another favorite gig was doing the dual stream event with Noma Falta. This is where she and I first met, and we hit it off right away.
Michael: You know the Second Life live music industry inside out by now. Do you feel it is in a healthy state at this moment in time ? If you could do one thing to improve it - what would it be?
Virgil: My experience with SL music is really only about 3 years worth, so not sure I have seen it change much. It seems to me everyone is doing the best they can. It can be competitive out there, but that is the kind of thinking that leads to unhappiness for me...I can only speak for myself, but I function much better when I keep my eyes on the real reason we play or sing...to express ourselves and have fun and share something with the listeners.
Michael: Conversely what would you say irks you the most ? (aside from annoying interviewers)
Michael: If you could tell your noob Virgil anything, what would it be?
Virgil: Oh lord...get a mesh head and a good haircut....
Michael: Finally, in closing, is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Virgil: I just want to say thank you to everyone that comes out to shows and supports the artists, because your attendance and positive vibe matters more than you think it does. It is very gratifying to the performers, and I never take the fans for granted. Thank you to everyone that comes out and enjoys the music and the hang.
Michael: Is there a performer(s) in Second Life you particularly admire ?
Virgil: Yes, there are many talented people in SL. Noma Falta has a golden voice and inspires me every time I hear her. Lexus Melody has a sultry sexy folk delivery that is very understated and personal. I heard Blind Badoink for the first time the other night and he had a very genuine blues picking style and vocal delivery.
Michael: It can be hard trying to find your place in the SL music scene with so many performers on the grid - something you have clearly done. Do you have any advice to new performers on how to break through and stand out?.
Virgil: My advice would be the same in SL as RL. Be yourself and play from the heart. Trust your instincts and support those that support you. Foster good will whenever possible and practice practice practice..work and pay attention to your sound and presentation..SL is a visual environment, and the whole package matters. And patience, lol, something I struggle with...but play music here or anywhere because it's what you do, if it is not fun, then something is wrong.