Craig and I went to an open mic in Port Orchard last week. I was very nervous beforehand.
A little history:
I had not played at an open mic since I was in my twenties. At that one (1978), I got stage fright so bad I blanked out halfway through my first song. I was staring at my sheet music but I couldn’t see it. It took me 30 seconds to recover. During that time I saw and heard the audience get restless and begin talking to each other, clearly nervous about my stage fright. Once I calmed down, I played fine, and even got some nice applause for my last number.
Back to the present:
While sitting there with Craig, watching the people playing before me. I was remembering the chaos of my last open mic experience. As my turn got closer and closer I got more and more nervous. In the back of my mind I was also remembering that I can’t sing on key. I’ve recorded myself singing, and my voice is terrible. For the son of a choir director, I sing badly.
Finally my turn came and I walked up to the stage with my guitar, harmonica and sheet music. The owner was very friendly and came up to help me set up the mic’s and do a sound check. When we first walked in he was singing the blues while simultaneously playing the guitar and harmonica. I have never heard anyone do that. He was awesome! I told him beforehand that I was a better harp player than anything else and he said he would make some calls to bring in some good blues players.
I had planned to introduce myself first, but my sound check sort of turned into my first song. I was too nervous to talk and just wanted to get it over with. As usual, my voice felt very strong, and I knew my harp and guitar were passible, if not decent. I got through my 3 songs without any huge errors. But afterward, I asked Craig how I did.
“Well, your harp and guitar sounded awesome, but your voice was just ok. It’s too bad you can’t find a way to perform without singing.” …That’s my buddy Craig. He doesn’t pull any punches. And he was right of course. If I really want to sing, I need to take voice lessons. Definitely didn’t inherit perfect pitch from dad. I can hear pitch great on my harp and guitar, and it feels right when I sing, but it’s not.
Afterward, as promised, two other great blues musicians showed up, and they invited me to jam with them, which was awesome. I can rock the harp with no problem at all. I’m on key, I can riff between verses, and I was even able to team up with a sax player, who was possibly the best musician in the house. Plus those guys could sing the blues! Man, that was so much fun.
But afterwards I lost my drive to practice. I’m already not painting, not since Christmas. Stopping the guitar too was shutting off all my creativity. Finally today, 10 days after the open mic I played guitar at the kitchen table.
In the words of Maya Angelou: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”