When I meet new people who aren't familiar with my music, I very rarely mention my music because the conversation is just too awkward. It usually goes something like this.
Person: "So you're a musician, do you play in a band?"
Me: "No, I play solo guitar."
Person: "What does that mean?"
Me: "Well, I write songs that are played just by me on solo guitar."
Person: "So you don't play in a band."
Me: "No, I have played in a lot of bands in the past, but I just play solo now."
Person: "Oh. What kind of songs do you sing?"
Me: "Well, there generally isn't any singing, it's just guitar."
Person: "Oh, so they're not real songs."
Me: "I think they're real songs or a least they're real musical pieces."
Person: "Uh-huh. Who do you sound like?"
Me: "I guess I sort of sound like Leo Kottke a little."
Person: "Leo who?"
Me: "Or sort of like Will Ackerman or maybe Michael Hedges a little and sometimes a little like Tuck Andress."
Me: "It's a little hard to describe. If you look up my music online you can hear it for free. It's hard for me to describe it."
Person: "So do you play classical guitar?" (Person is becoming agitated at this point.)
Me: "Yes, I do some of that as well as other styles."
Person: "Can you play 'Malaguena?'"
Me: "No, I don't know that one."
Person: "That's too bad, I love that song."
Me: "Yes, it's a great song."
Person: "But you don't know how to play it?"
Me: "No, I love that song but I don't know how to play it."
Person: "Uh-huh." (Long, awkward pauses are creeping into the conversation now as the person starts looking around the room for someone else, anyone else, to talk to.)
Me: "You can look up my music or I could get you a CD so you could hear it."
Person: "Uh-huh. I saw this video with this guy playing 'Beethoven's 5th' on acoustic guitar and he was tapping and it was so cool. Did you see that?"
Me: "Yes, I think I saw that. It was really cool."
Person: "Can you play that?"
Me: "No, I can't play that. I might be able to learn it, but I currently don't know how to play that."
Person: "Uh-huh. My uncle plays guitar and he played on an album that won a Grammy. He tours with Garth Brooks now. Have you ever won a Grammy?"
Me: "No I haven't ever won a Grammy. That's really cool that your uncle won a Grammy! Wow!"
Person: "Uh-huh." (Agitation now replaced with boredom.)
Me: "You could look up my music and listen to it. That would give you a good idea of what I do." (Now I'm almost pleading and feeling desperate or something.)
Basically it goes on like this until the conversation just mercifully dies. I don't think the "Person" is doing anything wrong, there's just no way to describe a piece of music in words if you haven't heard it. I certainly have no way of describing my music in words.
Also, I've had this awkward conversation so many times that I sort of dread it so I just don't ever mention music when I talk to people. It's just easier.
It doesn't bother me, I think it's kind of funny, I'm used to it. It's just easier to avoid the topic. Think of something that you really love and sort of torments you at the same time, something that's sort of on your mind all the time, so much so that it embarrasses you. This thing can't quite be described in words but you're asked to talk about it regularly with people who can't really understand what you're talking about. They're not doing anything wrong and neither are you, but it just ruins conversations because the topic is very, very important to you, even if you haven't won a Grammy for it or even if you don't know how to play "Malaguena."
Then, of course, there are the people who are very familiar with my music and really understand it. Those poor souls, when they want to talk with me about my music, I talk their ears off. I talk endlessly and overshare and end up sort of freaking those people out and then I feel really weird. It's just so amazing to talk to someone who knows my music and knows the songs and has sincere questions and thoughts about the music. Those people, I talk way too much to and probably scare them a little. I'm very sorry if you've fallen into this category. But, it is amazing to talk to someone who already knows my music and is sincerely interested in it.