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Interview: Tre L. Henderson

Influence of Specific Sermons or Events:

Can you share a particular sermon or church event that had a profound impact on your creative approach?
How did this experience shape a specific aspect of your performance style, such as timing or audience engagement?

I watched my former Pastor (who is now deceased) stand and deliver a sermon. Only that day, I observed that he didn’t have any notes. none. He had an open bible, read a passage, and then closed it. I remember the title of the sermon being ‘No More Crutches’. He gave an example from the passage of a man who was approached by Jesus, Jesus then asking that man if he wanted to be healed. The man’s initial response was an excuse as opposed to just saying yes and finding out what he needed to do to be healed. He created a parallel about real life and how we often miss opportunities making excuses as to why we cant be something, have a thing, DO a thing. Passionate message delivered excellently, without any notes!

The experience was inspirational of course. I think of it occasionally because of the main idea of the sermon, but also because as a performer I want to execute as flawlessly as he did that day. It gives me a benchmark and makes me want to have that same edge.

Combining Speaking and Singing:

How do you blend speaking and singing in your performances to maximize audience impact?
I often emcee with a band or DJ, some sort of musical faction. The types of events I do call for hosting and of course some element of music. I’ve watched speaking and singing happening together for years, so it became second nature. I sometimes sing songs with a DJ (even if I’m only hired as an Emcee), because it keeps the audience engaged and causes them to wonder what else I’m able to do. It hooks the attention of the audience. Not only that, but a band or DJ helps me to create transitions in between introducing people and formalities (almost like what you’d experience watching an awards show on television). It helps to create smooth transitions.

Can you provide an example where this combination significantly enhanced a performance?
Adapting in Real-Time
Sure, I recall introducing someone at an event and it turned out that when I was prompted to introduce the person, the event organizer never confirmed that the person was in the room (he’d gone to the restroom). I previously found out from staff members what songs he likes, I had the DJ set to cue one of those songs right after my introduction. When he didn’t immediately come to the microphone, I glanced at the organizer who gave me a sign that he needed a couple mins. I started performing the song and had the crowd engage as well. It ultimately looked as if it was by design that he didn’t immediately come to the microphone so that everyone would sing along to a song they all knew he loved. My quick thinking made a bumpy moment appear smooth.

Learning from On-the-Spot Adaptation:

Reflecting on your experience with the dessert cue mishap, what specific skills or instincts do you think are crucial for managing unexpected situations during live events?
How have you honed these skills over time?
The necessary skill is being aware at all times. Being aware happens by paying attention to all the moving parts. It can be difficult because the parts are moving simultaneously, but over time you learn what to pay most attention to during certain moments. I observed this in church, observed it in school, and then when I started working in corporate events and weddings- I realized it was necessary and started practicing awareness at each event. Lucky for me I had enough events booked that it created the space for me to practice and practice more.

Preparation for Unpredictable Moments:

Can you describe a routine or exercise you practice to prepare for unexpected changes during a performance?
This will sound crazy but I try to make sure that I am well acquainted with the event timeline/run of show, but not so married to it that I can’t allow myself to be redirected or be agile in real-time. I try not to get so ‘stuck’ to my notes that I can’t move fluidly.

How does this preparation help you maintain composure and deliver seamless performances?
The events world is like life. Nothing is constant but change. Learn it, get used it. The more you fight it, the more frustrated you will be and the more mistakes a person is likely to make. Adopting and adapting to this truth equips me to deliver what appears to be seamless performances.
Preparing for Impromptu Moments

Mental Agility Practices:

Are there any specific mental exercises or routines you use to keep your mind agile and ready for impromptu moments?
I try to remain calm when everything is changing around me. I try to stay centered. As previously stated, I try to remain open to change. I try to remember to breathe, and when I realize I’ve forgotten, I practice it in a low-key way on the spot.
How do these practices help you stay adaptable and creative under pressure?

Being calm and centered helps to remain relaxed. If you can relax you can think better, thinking better means performing better.

Expanding Knowledge for Flexibility:

How does reading a diverse range of materials contribute to your ability to think on your feet during performances?
flooding my mind is a mental exercise of expanding my mind and vocabulary. I heard a saying in middle school years ago, a mind expanded can’t go back to its original size. Having more ideas, concepts, words in your ‘arsenal’ gives you more to draw from in different moments on stage.

Can you share an instance where knowledge from an unrelated field helped you in a performance?
Indeed, but I cannot give away all my secrets! I’ll give you a very minute example. I was reading something that was written in the style of Old English. The ‘main character’ if you will, addressed a group of people as ‘My Dears and my Sirs’- I began using that as a way to not overdo the proverbial ‘ladies and gentlemen’. Sometimes those small changes keep a crowd’s attention (or commands it) because it is different from what they are accustomed to, and because the main person speaking no longer sounds like a broken record that they are forced to listen to for the duration of the event. I often receive compliments when I use different ways to address the same crowd.

Balancing Influences
Maintaining Originality:

During your performance of “What’s Going On?” by Marvin Gaye, how did you decide which parts of the original to keep and where to add your unique touch?
What was the audience’s reaction to your interpretation, and how did it influence your future performances?
The crowd responded very well. much applause and ‘kudos’ post performance. I tried to keep certain signature parts but wanted to have fun and be ME at the same time. So I held to the format of the song, kept certain vocal patterns, and added me whereI felt comfortable. The crowd was able to sing along, but also hear something different. It was simply based on feeling- thats how music is.
Navigating Creative Challenges:

Can you describe a particularly challenging performance where balancing homage to the original and your style was difficult?
What strategies did you use to overcome this challenge?
I had to perform a requested song at a wedding (which I do often). For special dance songs (like the song a Father will use to dance with his daughter) They are accustomed to hearing the song a certain way. This is challenging at times because the idea is to mimic the song as closely as possible, but the creative inside of me (and many musicians and singers alike) feels and hears something else that we’d like to contribute. It takes discipline, but my simple strategy is to follow the original song for the majority of the song, and when nearing the close of the song, add my own ‘sauce’. It works!

Engaging Difficult Audiences
Understanding Audience Dynamics:

How do you gauge the mood and engagement level of an audience at the beginning of an event?
I’m typically in a room (sometimes able to observe the room) while attendees are filling the room. I pay attention to how they interact and what mood they are exhibiting when they enter. That tells me if they are bubbly, spasmodic, exciting, or more laid back.
What specific techniques do you use to tailor your approach to different audience types?
One thing I tend to do is approach each crowd excitedly. In the chance that I am unable to observe, How the crowd reacts to my initial set of greetings tells me all I need to know. I’ve been doing this long enough now that I can figure it out quickly.
Interactive Strategies:

Can you provide more examples of interactive strategies you’ve used to engage a reserved audience?
I heighten my voice, change the rhythm of the event, speeding certain parts up, slowing other parts down. Make the event as unpredictable as possible so that it forces people to pay attention. Speak fast at times, slower at others. Even change my position in the room at times and instead of speaking from the stage, speak from the back of the room to grab the attention of those in the crowd that aren’t as close to the front. Sometimes, I allow them to remain reserved because it may be the type of event (or portion of the event) where being reserved is expected.
What are some key indicators that an audience is becoming more engaged?
They smile, they’re heads lift from their food or from the company at their table, they speak out more, their claps become more pronounced.
Collaboration Dynamics
Overcoming Perfectionism:

How did your perfectionist tendencies initially impact your collaboration with James Dawkins?
It made me approach him to make sure I understood exactly what he was looking for and to see if I had room to be creative and do what I felt.
What specific steps did you take to shift your focus from perfection to authentic expression?
A good working relationship and my ability to do multiple takes and listen back and decide what best fit the song I was there to enhance.

Resolving Creative Differences:

During your collaboration on “Smile for Me,” were there any creative differences between you and James? If so, how did you resolve them?
None, he gave me room to work and luckily it was a studio recording before performing it live, so I had a chance to do a few takes.
What did you learn from this collaboration that you apply to future projects?

As someone who does live events often, studio less, it was great to gain more experience in the studio and to watch others (sound engineer, other musicians) work in the studio and observe how they approach recording.

Authenticity and Consistency
Pre-Performance Rituals:

Can you describe your pre-performance routine in more detail?
How does each element of this routine help you ensure authenticity and excellence on stage?
I am as random as the performances can be. I can share that I like to be aware of what is expected of me, I like to know timeline/run of show, I like to be as ‘normal’ (talk, laugh, relax, eat) as possible prior to any performance but take a few moments right before and center myself, clear my mind, focus on the task at hand, pray, breathe. As previously stated, if you’re thinking better, you can deliver better.

Staying True to Yourself:

How do you balance audience expectations with staying true to your unique voice and style?
I make the audience journey with me. All shows have high points, calm points. Take the audience on a journey and in many ways it’s not about what they expect, it’s more about being along for the ride- anticipating what is next.
Can you share a moment when you had to make a conscious choice to prioritize authenticity over audience expectation?
I was booked by a client and after the business was solidified, the client tried to change the styles of music requested and wanted to blacklist much of the songlist provided, limiting myself and the band with very limited choices to entertain a diverse group. I was able to get out ahead of this before we reached the audience by advising the client that I’m not the entertainer for her (and if I don’t provide a range of selections) people will leave the event saying we weren’t good entertainers- NOT saying, the organizer did a poor job of selecting music. I even offered to immediately return the deposit so that she could book someone else. She quickly changed her tune and gave the professional back the creative control that we should have.

Successful Performance Preparation
Comprehensive Preparation Process:

For one of your most successful performances, can you break down the preparation process step-by-step, from initial planning to the final execution?
Which part of this process do you believe was the most crucial for the success of the performance, and why?
As stated previously, I am very random, but what happens typically (without giving away too much) I can share that I like to be aware of what is expected of me, I like to know timeline/run of show, I like to be as ‘normal’ (talk, laugh, relax, eat) as possible prior to any performance but take a few moments right before and center myself, clear my mind, focus on the task at hand, pray, breathe.

Reflecting and Improving:

How do you use reflections on past performances to inform your preparation for future events?
It’s all about being honest with oneself. Even if the crowd praises me, I know what I expect of myself. If I failed to hit a note or verbalize an idea in the most clear way, or couldve changed my positioning on or off the stage to make hosting/singing present better, had more energy, slow down the energy… whatever it is, having high expectations of self and being honest about ways to be better actually helps make me better.
Can you give an example of a specific change you made based on a reflection that led to a noticeable improvement?
As I mentioned earlier, I added different ways to address the crowd in my tool box. As a singer/emcee, there are times I need to announce a very important directive to an audience and I have to do it at the end or mid-performance of music, so I started making certain (short) announcements musically so the crowds wouldn’t forget (because music tends to make remembering easy). I would also have the audience sing or say the short announcement (on rhythm) to one another so there is no way they can forget and so it doesn’t sound like another typical boring announcement.

Future Aspirations
Themes and Stories for Your Book:

Can you share more about the themes or specific stories you plan to include in your book?
What do you hope readers will take away from these stories?
I’m in the long process of writing a book. without telling too much, I plan to share some serious and some funny TRUE stories about my experiences and encounters in the events industry. The stories will support some of the principles I will share, that I believe will help the novice and the experienced performer get inspired, become better, and think more broadly. As I share some of these stories, you may even recognize some of the names. Stay tuned!!