I haven’t had a performance in 3 years, and it’s bothering me.
The last time I sang anything in public was at karaoke in a bar, on a night where I was really sad and needed to holla at a mic stand.
I’m a vocalist. I’ve always been a vocalist. It’s a natural reflex for me. I does this. If you talk to anyone that really knows me and you ask them what skill I’m known for, they’ll tell you. While I’m at work or on the train going home, I listen to music, and the whole time I’m holding back from bursting into song and having people look at me like they did Tyrese in those old Coke commercials.
It’s gotten to the point where I feel like I’m not as good as I could be or used to be, because I’m not using my abilities in the capacity that I once did. At one time I was taking lessons and performing in groups or solo acts. I used to sing around the house all day, every single day (I still do occasionally), perfecting my craft, singing along to everything on the radio (when it was still worth a damn), and it made me feel so good. Now, I feel like I don’t even know what I’m supposed to sound like or even if I’m happy with how I sound. But that in itself isn’t enough to keep me from performing.
So, what’s stopping me from performing, you ask? A few things:
1) I don’t have my own material. And I swear to Zeus, if I have to sing one more cover song, I am just…going…to snap. As I said in another post, I’ve never written or composed a song. This is a source of frustration, because I feel as though I should have known that this was important to do as an artist. I’ve always known self-expression to be important, but I was so busy thinking about challenging myself vocally. Besides, melodies don’t come to me out of thin air. That’s just not my area. So…yeah…I have 0 writing credits.
I was also raised in the days of the artist having a writing team, so you didn’t have to write by yourself. Less pressure. This is also before I knew about the business end of it all, as far as publishing and royalties, etc. It’s not just about interpreting a song, rather interpreting your song. But, what am I supposed to sound like? I still have no idea, and it’s taking forever to figure it out. I just know that I’m not one to half-ass it and write any ol’ generic lyrics. Life is too complicated for that.
2) I don’t play an instrument. The only instrument I know how to play is my own set of vocal cords. I have a guitar that I still don’t know how to play. *slacking* I plan on learning, though. This is one of those tasks that I have to incorporate into my schedule which is already a bit scattered. Even if I pick up a guitar tomorrow, it will take a long time to be really good at it, and that’s still a bit discouraging.
3) I don’t read music and I’m not a musician. I know what a sheet of music looks like…
…like foreign alien language sent to confuse me.
I can possibly identify the notes, and I can probably sing along if I heard the first notes. But if I were given a bare sheet of music to read, I’d be screwed, and so would my audience. I learn damn near everything by ear. I don’t speak the language of musicians much at all. I know how to communicate with a band a little, because I’ve done it before. I’ve performed with a live band on more than a few occasions. It’s really not that hard. However, there’s a difference between a performer and a musician. A performer interprets the piece and makes it palatable to the audience. A musician lives and breathes through their instrument and knows all the mechanics of the music itself. I’m not there yet. I just know that once I know a song, I can sing the hell out of it, and that is what gives me life.
4) With what time? I’m still trying to balance the time I have between work, personal wellness, fixing the things in my life that need to be fixed, and just getting oriented so that I can plan my next few steps. I would have to find the time to devote to practice, songwriting, arranging, and whatever else comes with it. Still trying to find that balance.
5) Where do I go to find people to collaborate with? I have no idea. My venue used to be school. In high school and undergrad, I was constantly meeting musicians and performers that, like me, were exploring and perfecting their talent. Now, I’m an adult, living out my days outside of a structured social environment, and I feel as though I’ve lost the connection to my music peers. And I’m not sure how to get that back. I’m thinking about taking some classes and going from there. At the same time, you don’t want to link up with just anybody just to end up looking and sounding like a hot mess.
But, just because I don’t read music doesn’t mean that I can’t be a performer. I’ve done it before. I think what bothers me the most is not getting the full use of my talent. There are millions of other singers in the world, and although we all sound different, we all have to be truly good in order to stand out from the rest. It’s hard to be heard, so you have to be good. I think vocally I am that good, but to take it to the next step and be taken seriously as a performer, I have to have something more. Until I find that something more, I’m very much stuck.