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This quote from Tom Waits suggests taking a focused, driven approach to musical performances. Some key points in interpreting his perspective:
- Waits implies that having money on one’s person while performing is a distraction that could undermine full commitment or “luck” onstage.
- He portrays money as something that should not divide one’s attention from the art, encouraging leaving it behind and “playing like you need the money” as if dependent on the performance for income.
- Waits’ perspective conveys the viewpoint that maximum intensity, passion and sense of purpose is needed to truly engage an audience, more than mere technical skill alone.
- His perspective reflects a philosophy that musicians should give each show their undivided all, as if the performance was a means of financial necessity, to best connect with listeners.
Overall, the quote reflects Waits’ belief in a mindset of full artistic and emotional investment unhindered by thoughts of personal wealth or gain when performing. But the best interpretation also considers that different temperaments and motivations can enable excellence according to individual talents, situations and definitions of success. The quote captures one perspective, but art allows for diversity of styles and priorities.