South Florida singer-songwriter and alt-country cowgirl Edan Archer isn't afraid of a bold dye job or a tough crowd, but she won't get in an elevator.
"I'm claustrophobic. I struggle with any confined spaces," Archer says.
Planes aren't much better for her, but when people from Southwest Airlines contacted her via Facebook in May, they made her an offer she couldn't refuse.
Southwest representatives came across Archer's music online and selected her as one of six finalists in its contest "Artists on the Rise." To participate, she was tasked with putting on an in-flight performance on a Southwest Airlines flight. The prize? An opening slot at the Fray's sold-out June 26 concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
Archer has flown plenty of times; for the locally based touring musician, air travel is a necessity. "I do have to travel a lot to play, but normally I just kind of get in my seat, listen to my meditation music, and zone out," she says. "So I was wondering if I was really going to be able to engage. But the funniest thing happened: I just went into performance mode. I had this feeling of euphoria in the middle of playing that I haven't had before."
She brought her sister Morgan along for the "Live at 35" (as in 35,000 feet) performance to assist with harmonies and tambourine. Archer channelled her trepidation into the song "I'm Complicated," which she composed for Live at 35. She also sang her tender fingerpicking ballad "I Don't Love You for the Money," off her album Cruel Mother, though she rearranged the composition for the in-flight performance, anticipating that the delicate guitar-picking style might be drowned out by the sound of the engines.
Southwest cameras followed Archer, carrying her guitar case, as she walked through Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and boarded her flight. Bystanders held up their cell phones and recorded as they asked for the name of her band. On the plane, Southwest set Archer up with a battery-powered PA system.
"Everybody wants to do their own thing when they fly — maybe someone is afraid of flying and just wants to huddle up in their blanket. So I just told everyone: 'If you want to take a nap, that's OK... but if you want to rock out with us, we're going to do some songs for you.'"
A Southwest employee held a flight attendant's intercom mouthpiece up to the amp, and some passengers began clapping along in their seats. After the performance, the flight landed in one of Archer's favorite cities, Nashville. Once they deplaned, she met passengers at the terminal gate, including new fans who asked how they could vote for her. She jokes that she felt like a senator, shaking hands and saying, "I hope I can count on your vote!"
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Archer is proud to have been chosen out of countless independent artist hopefuls online.
"It's just a great opportunity. Honestly, regardless of [the outcome], I'm really proud they picked me, because they just found me! That's what's so cool about the internet, because that wouldn't have happened before," she muses.
"Of course the prize is amazing. I think we all want to win, but even if we don't, it was awesome to play on a plane and for me to conquer that fear."