I recently performed in Las Vegas, which was a blast, and here's what I came away with: great memories with my husband, my clients and friends, and... Perspective on why I sing. I told this story to a vocal student/friend and she suggested I put it in my blog here for you.
As always, when I perform, I end up looking for lessons I can use for you. I'm like a mad scientist, experimenting on MYSELF! I was doing live bgvs (background vocals) for a client of mine (Jim Wilkes) at the House Of Blues, and he also asked me to sing a couple of solos. One of my songs I chose at the suggestion of Ron Oates, who wrote a terrific arrangement of "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" -- the Carol King classic.
As I worked myself into it (and yes, it took 7 days to get my full voice in shape because I haven't been singing out much lately), I looked for my usual motivation . I ask myself what the lyric meant to me. It came as a bit of a sudden surprise. I found myself singing to -- my audience. Why is this odd? Because the lyric goes...
Tonight you're mine completely... and the answer came to me... "Probably not". Wow. What a splash in the face. But it is the truth, and in this truth there is great protection and power for an artist. That's why I want to share it with you. Let me explain:
You give your love so sweetly
Tonight, the light of love is in your eyes
But will you love me... tomorrow? (by Carol King & Gerry Goffin)
Earlier in my life's journey, I was having hits on the radio, national awards, on TV and in stadiums all the time, etc. and when I sang, everybody loved me. It was the strongest drug I can imagine, all that validation. Then came the day when I wasn't on the radio or TV much anymore, and guess what... when I sang, the audience reaction wasn't nearly as strong, finally trickling to an appreciative pat on the head. I was devastated. What was I doing differently? Can I tell you how common this is for artists - both now and since the "music business" began?
I finally got my bearings, my journey took some wild turns and I'm amazed and thrilled with where I am now. Getting back to the present: I happened to take a ride in a parking business limo to the airport on this trip. While I was in there I had a brief surge of unexpected sadness... I was remembering when I used to spend a lot of time in limos. Then the antidote to this silliness was sent to my heart: Jesus never rode in a limo.
Hmmm. So I'm already more blessed in this life than Jesus was? If I am really a follower (as I want to be) of Jesus, why is the limo important? Here's the thing: it's really, really true that it is better serve than to be served. I will always enjoy a limo ride, an audience cheering, a thank you from someone I can help... but motivation is everything. When I do what I do out of the sheer joy of performing the act... and out of a desire to truly serve someone with my best ability... that's when I really win.
Fans must always be important to an artist. Without them, you won't have much of a career. In Power, Path & Performance parlance, the audience is the endpoint of your performance, after all. For your voice to work best, your motivation should be to communicate the message of the song so authentically you make the object of your message feel something. But paradoxically, the safest way to have a public career is to be careful how much importance you are attaching to public fame. A good way to check yourself is to ponder if you'd still want to sing if you fell several rungs down the ladder. George Strait says he'd go back to singing in Texas bars (well, not sure he'll have to find out).
That's what I took away from Vegas, and it felt good. I had a ball... and the truth is, I would have had a ball just feeling my voice sound with a full band and horns and Ron Oates playing piano behind me... even if there were only one person in the audience to listen, and that was just God clapping.