If you’ve been keeping up with me over on OTV Magazine, you might have read one or two things I’ve written about my relearning how to sing after a year of sub-Beiber attempts to open up some rusted (hell, deteriorated) pipes. Illness is a bitch, especially when its after effects hang on so long and pretty much strip you of you. You might also have noticed that I was rather optimistic that I’d eventually recover most of my former range and I still am. It’s not taking longer than expected or harder than I thought, either. In fact, everything seems to be going along at, what I assume, is a good, steady pace. But just because it’s mostly working out doesn’t mean I haven’t had some nights when I’ve wanted to beat my own head in with the microphone stand with built-in karaoke I just today purchased yet (got bills, y’all). But this is a thing I not only want but need and am as determined as ever to go all the frakking way.
In the months since I discovered I had a wee bit of the old talent back, I’ve been working my way through progressively tougher songs. These choices weren’t always workish but when you’re starting from scratch, Mary Had a Little Lamb is no easier than The Star-Spangled Banner (which is harder on you than four hours of Viagra and your doctor can’t do diddly to help).
One night, feeling all super positive (or maybe it was masochistic) I searched YouTube for some Tina Turner. Yes, I sing me some mean Tina. Her songs, though you may not know it listening idly as most do, are a nice vocal workout that gets those cords moving. I figured it’d be a so-so go but to my surprise, it actually sounded good. Like, I jumped up and down, shouted. Like, I jumped up and down, all YAY, ME! and threw on another one. I was so in the zone. It was more pitch-perfect than I’d imagined I could pull off at this point. After a half-dozen songs I was at the perfect happy place that only comes when you and your passion are one and I ended that session giddy as a little boy on Christmas morning. The next night was just as awesome. As was the next. And next. And next. And then came the biggest breakthrough in months.
Don’t know what that is? You know who Cher is, right? Do you believe in life after love / after love / after love / after love? Of course, you do. Now think of that vocal quake thing she does. That’s a Cher-vibrato. Might seem like a silly thing to get all amped over being able to do but when your vocal cords were legit paralyzed, being able to shake ‘em like Shakira’s hips is a reason to celebrate.
Most singers have vibratos – some big, some little – and there’s good reason: most vibrato-free singing SUCKS; there’s no fun in the voice. Monotone is so not a good sound – unless you’re Liz Phair ‘cause even without the voice shiver, she is amazeballs. But there’s only one of her so that tells you how rare it is. I lost mine after getting gross-sick and it slowly crept back in but it wasn’t until that post-Tina practice time with If I Could Turn Back Time and I Found Someone it made its presence known. I thought I’d pass out from sheer shock.
Before that blissful evening, my biggest moment was recording myself, something I detested at my best. I cringe when I hear myself, which is problematic when listening is a major part of the whole journey. But I did it. And I shared a couple. Talk about an icy cold fear. When I had control over my voice, public performances were something to look forward to; not even Simon scared me. Much. But recovery singing is a different story; I’m not where I want to be so not so much with the good feelings when others’ ears are involved. That’s something I want to get over and by posting to Instagram, it was a small step toward that long term goal
When you undertake any kind of life-changing journey, like the kind I’m on, there’s a lot of anxiety and doubt and flat out fear involved but that’s what you get when you face down what stands between you and your destination. I’d like to say it’s about the journey but in this case, it’s all about crossing that finish line. Singing is too important to me to let myself relax and comfort myself with that kind of reassurance. This journey is pure work and I so want it to be over.
Sometimes reclaiming my voice – my identity – feels like a never ending quest but that’s only because the mountain I’m climbing is Everest-sized and the peak isn’t about bragging rights or flag planting but the core of who and what I am. There’s still work ahead but with every night of practice I’m that much closer to stepping into the spotlight – or hazy bar lights – and putting on my comeback performance. This journey will eventually come to an end but when that happens, a new one will begin.