My happy place: Todd Hunter, founding member of Dragon
Todd Hunter says having 30,000 people singing along is the best feeling in the world.
My happy place is anywhere on stage with Dragon. When there are 30,000 people singing the choruses of Rain, April Sun or Old Enough, it’s the best feeling in the world.
Sometimes on a good night it feels like standing in front of a jet engine, it’s so loud. It has to be, in order to achieve liftoff. It’s chaotic and funny and somehow, through all that noise and light and the total concentration it takes to play as a unit, there’s a sort of silence and peace that only happens onstage.
There is something transforming about playing songs that are part of everyone’s life. You get on stage, usually after travelling all day and feeling every one of your 62 years. Suddenly you’re plunged into a zone where you have to bring a huge amount of concentration and focus to bear on what you’re doing. It’s our job to change the dynamics of the crowd, to make them forget their troubles and where they are.
We play our verses very quietly, telling the story of the song. Then we smash the choruses as hard as we can so the crowd can levitate, jump up and down and sing at the top of their voices. Song by song it’s about shifting them from a bunch of disparate strangers to one big happy organism. When that happens and you look down at the huge smiles on every face, it’s impossible to feel tired or old.
My happy place looks different every night. I can be looking out at a sea of faces so large I can’t see the end of it, or in tiny venues where the crowd is so close you can chat without a microphone. It’s always fantastic.
I have top-end hearing damage from all the decades of big noise so I’ve started wearing made-for-iPhone hearing aids. They’re fantastic. I wasn’t aware of the extent of my hearing loss, as it had happened so gradually. I was shocked at the difference when I started wearing them. I am much more engaged with people because I can actually hear what’s going on, and there’s no lag in the conversation as I try to process what was just said.
It’s amazing to be able to hear what I’m singing again. I’d more or less stopped singing, as I couldn’t pitch without hearing the notes. I’m singing in all songs again and it makes me feel much more connected to the crowd and the band.
Our culture doesn’t sing together much anymore, so when we do it’s magic. Singing is a huge joy and singing together with other people is one of the greatest things we can do.
Todd Hunter recommends that anyone who has trouble hearing conversations over high ambient noise gets tested at a hearing clinic. For more information about hearing loss, see www.nfd.org.nz or www.gnresound.co.nz