Children have a tendency to dream big and follow their dreams just as automatically as us adults reach for the coffee and our toothbrushes in the morning. It’s effortless and automatic for them, like a built-in server of pure delight and connection to themselves and the world around them.
What happens to us as we get older? At what point do we stop doing the things we find fun, shut down that innate expansion and creativity, and start subconsciously telling ourselves that we’re not good enough to pursue our own deepest desires? That there isn’t enough time, or money, or talent (insert your own favourite excuse here)?
Lately I’ve been diving head first into my biggest and oldest dream; the one that’s been with me since my earliest memories and has walked with me throughout my life like a shadow that wouldn’t leave my side. I always knew that shadow was there, so close, but I was so busily focussed on whatever distraction was in front of me that I would forgot about it for a period. Inevitably I’d find myself at a place of disturbance, or feeling unfulfilled, and I would slow down enough again to turn around and see that shadow embracing me.
I, dear readers, have always – and forever – wanted to be a singer.
I used to sit in the bath or shower when I was about 3 years old, or in my bedroom, and I would make up little songs and sing them to myself and my imaginary audience. My creations would come to me in a split second and singing them out loud, giving them form, was like sliding into the most exquisite, comfortable piece of clothing which had been tailored perfectly for me; a second skin.
I’ve had a career as a performer and have had a lot of fun singing for musical theatre productions or childrens’ entertainment but when I’m singing my own songs, I feel more like me than I ever have.
I’ve written songs my whole life. I have piles of handwritten books and notes, many now sitting in boxes in my parents’ garage like little, dusty tombs of my thoughts and moods, and in more recent years, a slew of electronic voice memos that seem to be multiplying on my various devices and cloud like fluoro outfits in Katy Perry’s touring wardrobe.
What inevitably inspires the stories in my songs is the joy and pain and being of my own and others’ lives. Sometimes these stories come to me while I’m watching people, or if I’m told an interesting snippet of their life. Apple & Cranberry Pie is based on a waiter’s dessert recommendation because it had been the dish that had won over his now wife on their first blind date, and I wrote Take Flight after having dinner with a friend who was talking about feeling as though she was experiencing a big shift in her life, for the better.
Some of the most tragic and snot-ridden personal experiences have produced some of my best songs (but I may be a little biased). No Label On It‘s first lyric is “I’ve got a wedding dress and no where to wear it”. I wrote it at a point in my life when I was literally in that predicament, having left an abusive relationship with someone I was engaged to, and moved into my best friend’s spare room. Most details of the wedding, and our future lives together, were already in play, including owning a brand-new, rather expensive, haute couture wedding gown, and in an instant everything had turned upside down. I had found myself in intense grief over what I’d lost, both in terms of the relationship and my own self-worth, and was facing a future without a roadmap and no definitive direction or role. Everything was uncertain but once I passed through the grief, it was intensely liberating and invigorating in a way I could never have imagined. It was a turning point for me in a myriad of ways.
Now that is the stuff Country smash hits are made of! And I didn’t even have to make that story up.
Sometimes I wonder if all these experiences exist merely so I can prime them into my own musical magic. I’m not sure. But that’s my heroin, people. I can’t get enough. It feels like it’s why I’m here on the planet.
Not all my songwriting is that intense though. Some songs are like little sprinkles of sugar or fairy dust. Those ones often come to me while I’m in the shower, probably because I’m so warm and happy and relaxed: not the lyrics and then the melodies, but one complete package that flings itself at me like a giant, drenching splash of water on a really fun waterpark ride. It’s all upbeat and boppy and really, really fun and sweet. (N.B. Good luck trying to record a voice memo on your phone when you’re dripping wet. It’s an adventure).
So why am I telling you all this? Well, it’s one thing to be living out your big dream in secret in your own living room (or bathroom!) by songwriting and literally singing to yourself. It’s absolutely another thing altogether to start putting your dream work out into the world for consumption and analysis by anyone other than yours truly. It’s the ultimate HEAD ON experience, my friends. Vulnerability in action.
Let’s face it: I’ve just been a big scaredy-cat my whole life but I’m finally doing it! I am now the lead singer of a brilliant little band in Vancouver. We play all original music, co-written by myself and one of the other members, and have been rehearsing in one incarnation or another for the past year. It’s a glorious mash-up of Acoustic/Folk/Pop/Country twangs, heavy on the strings and unapologetically sweet. Making music with these beings brings me deep, fulfilling joy.
Over the summer, we stepped out into the big, wide world and did our first few gigs. Woh Nelly! Regardless of my years of professional experience as a performer, there’s nothing like standing face-to-face with your friends and family while you sing something deeply personal to get your heart racing (unfortunately we’re not quite at the fame level where we can play in venues that are so big and dark that you can’t see the audience. Our audience is pretty much sitting right in front of our faces). For the first few songs my vibrato was wildly out-of-control and I had to keep reaching for water because my mouth was so dry. Yet we were wildly loved and supported that evening, despite hitting a bung note here and there, and I felt overjoyed at the end of the night.
It was a very different experience performing at our first corporate gig and wedding. Because I didn’t know the people, I was naturally less affected by what I thought they thought of us (yes, it’s quite ridiculous even contemplating this because one can never actually do any one else’s thinking for them – go figure!). I found I could back myself more easily; feel into the creative work with a comfort as though I’d been doing it my entire life. One day soon I know I’ll feel this comfortable singing in front of my closest people too, and I won’t even remember how terrified I was the first time.
Oh and on that day, singing at our first wedding, I experienced a profound moment of pure, universal symmetry when I sang my song about the Wedding Dress. It was as though all the pieces of my life had instantaneously fell into place and it all made absolute and complete sense. It was a private little exhange between the Gods and I but I knew that I was in the exact place I was meant to be and that everything I’d lived up to that point had brought me there. I smiled to myself. Everything was A ok.
So while I’m breathing life into this dream, it’s onto the next one…and the next.
What about you?
Good night, sweet dreamers.