I’m not sure why I can’t sing in public anymore. I could blame it on a disastrous solo years ago in front of hundreds of people. Or I could say I’ve lost three octaves in the last 15 years of the terror of singing in front of anyone but my closest friends (who will attest that a couple of rum and cokes and a game of Rock Band bring at least a couple octave back real fast). My voice is constricted. Cut off. Choked.
Worse, I have forgotten how to hear the harmonies and can only pick out the melody.
Honestly, I’m not sure what’s caused it all.
Brian invited us all to Voicebox for his birthday and I sang alone in front of strangers for the first time in a thousand years. SOBER.
I sounded tone-deaf, insecure and quavery. I lost the song halfway through and had to call out for help from the crowd.
I’ve been to karaoke before. Usually I do “sing along” when a full group is at it and I’m not close to the microphone or near anyone’s ear.
Don’t get me wrong, I fuckin’ shriek like Aerosmith in the car on my way home from work every night – but I turn the music up so loud I can’t hear how flat my voice has become.
Brian’s birthday was a blast. Great people and drinks and location. Awesome company and good music. And he jams like one of the best, which is one of the reasons I adore him so much.
But on the way home, I was sad. More sad than I’ve been in a long time. I’ve lost my music somewhere. Like I set it down on the counter in my rush to get ready one morning and walked away, and can’t remember where I left it.
Four octaves. Classical training. Eight years of music and a soul that sang in its sleep and I just can’t remember where I put it.
Did I cash it in for something else? It’s a strange question, since it used to be so important, in fact my music classes were the only thing that kept me in school as long as I stayed. Eight years of trumpet, French horn, show choir, choir, band, pep band, choral ensemble, and so on.
Then one day, I just choked up, froze on stage – and walked away.
With no explanation, a decade passed and I couldn’t understand how I’d just stopped hearing the music. One day there, next day – silence.
People I grew up with would ask on and off for years, “So what are you singing these days?” or “Why aren’t you singing somewhere?”
I didn’t have an answer that made sense. I’d just say, “I don’t really sing anymore.”
Keetster met up with me a few years back and said something like, “Why aren’t you back to singing yet? I thought you’d be back to your songbird ways now that you’re through your divorce.”
“What do you mean?” I wondered.
“Well, caged birds don’t sing. So I thought you’d be singing again by now.”
Apparently, it was a conversation some of my folks from home had been having about me, and they’d been hypothesizing about why I’d stopped making music. There were theories, some romantic and other just plain strange – but the gist was, no one could quite figure why I’d shifted from music and theater, to writing with so much conviction.
I guess that conversation was about seven years ago…
Still, I don’t have an explanation.
There are days when I feel the ache of song stuck in my throat, or caught in my chest. I swallow so it sits like a lump in my belly for the rest of the day.
I didn’t make the connection until after Karaoke that the days I don’t let myself sing – even badly, are exactly proportionate to the days I cry in the shower or on the drive to work. Interesting.
I didn’t realize until just recently, that I miss it so much. Apparently, I’ve been able to sort of block it out – stop listening, stop hearing, just cut it off. But after the party I’m realizing there’s a muscle that needs stretched, an ember that needs some oxygen.
And so I’m gonna have to start working the chords again. Vocal chords are muscle memory, if I had it before I can get it back. It’s just going to sound like a dying cat in my bedroom for a while. And I’m gonna have to be okay with sounding awful again for as long as it takes to start hearing harmonies.
I’m not sure music will ever be my most powerful outlet again, but I admit, it’ll be nice to go to Karaoke and not think I’m gonna piss myself in front of everyone.
It will also be nice to be able to answer that question when it pops up, because it will, that I’m not singing currently, I took a break …
But I’m working on getting my voice back.