Opinions, oh opinions. They can fly in one ear and out the other or settle in your subconscious for the rest of days, it all depends on circumstances; who said them, when, where, why and how. And as my career slowly but surely starts to progress one persons opinion could halt it in its tracks. Mine.
It is down to me to decide which opinions I allow to agree or disagree with. I'm taking a lot of workshops to try and network, meet performers, directors, MDs, CDs and the like to develop my knowledge and exposure. Obviously I want to impress these people, show my talent and be memorable. I am aware that I have a very niche look and voice. From my appearance people assume I'm gonna have a big belty soul diva voice, I don't. I can fake one at times to get by but not sustain a full on Jennifer Hudson vocal smack down. I sang soprano growing up until coming to uni, where I lived on the alto line. I now have different professionals telling me they like different parts and sounds in my voice and I should focus more on my legit/belt/jazz voice - yep all three different sounds. However I don't want to be mediocre in three styles I want to be sensational in (at least) one. To be honest I want to impress and please everyone but I think my larynx is on track for a mental breakdown.
This morning I watched Showboat. That old school classic MT is where my love began. West Side Story was the first musical I ever saw and even though Anita is a boss, Maria not Anita was my girl vocally. As I grew up so did musical theatre and vocal knowledge. It all became technical. Estill was defining specific 'qualities' and models of larynx's were being used before anything was even sung in a lesson. Then the rise of singers like Idina Menzel with that big ol' 'belt' sound dominated. Granted you had the old school girls like Ethel Merman who used to bellow there way through a sea of legit, pretty little things (go Ethel!) But in my little world its time to take it all back, stylistically and vocally.
I look like I should be in a contemporary musical like In The Heights or Leap of Faith, or riffing my heart out in a show who's ensemble is pretty much an all acting, all singing gospel choir but that is not what I am vocally built as. Audra McDonald is my inspiration. Her voice is stunning, her acting, her personality, its all stunning but how often do you hear that beauty in 'full belt'!?
I've always been different. I've always been unexpected, people think I'm some intimidating, demanding diva when really I'm an awkward, nerdy goon, so why not switch it up now? Yeah I'm probably making it more difficult for myself to get work but easy is boring. I just want to sing. Obviously I want to keep my voice in tip top condition and any time I'm in speech quality for more than two lines my throat aches - that means to me, the owner of my body, that I am just not built to belt all the time. I've been told its just like speaking to a melody - have you heard me speak!? I have the most obscure voice! I don't shout, I shrill and don't get me started on my unspecific accent, so I sing to speak so speaking the melody is singing to me - have I lost you yet?
I've spent the last few days struggling to accept all these opinions and how I should alter myself to make everyone happy. I can't. Most importantly I need to make myself happy because I can't be putting up with miserable me everyday. I need to start singing for me again, sing because the emotion is so much it needs a full orchestra behind it not because I need to fit a mould. Its time to change the assumptions and be something a little different.
(Eastbourne, 2010) (Worthing, 2013)
I've been singing for 20 years. I used to think I just opened my mouth and it came out, I've come to learn there is so much more to it all and I'm loving the learning experience.
Letting go is always easier said than done. When you are comfortable it is a terrifying prospect that one day you may need to just close your eyes and step off the edge into the unknown. But if you want to move forward in life then the leap is inevitable.
I can be quite an anxious person. I never used to be, I used be over confident and ballsy, thinking I was unstoppable, I'd chat away to strangers, spontaneously sing (sober) to a crowded room, be first to volunteer for pretty much anything . Then one day it changed, I felt like my world had been turned inside out.
Maybe because I didn't see it coming it made it more difficult to process. My parents splitting was a complete shock. Only two weeks before they did (they knew there were going to at the time) I said to them that, in my cocky way 'I'm glad I'm not a statistic, you know one in every 3 children is from a broken home. I'm glad I'm not'. I was oblivious, in my own little everything-is-perfect world.
I was a serious daddy's girl. Having three sporty, good looking, testosterone fuelled brothers and me the maths loving, all singing, all dancing 'chubby one' all in one house made it easy for me to hide behind my dad when life got all too hard. But it never really was hard. If my parents could provide me with something they would, dance classes, holidays, school trips, I had a great childhood. So when it all went away I did something stupid. I said I was ok. My brothers dealt with it in very contrasting ways but I just tried to take it in my stride, which led to some serious outbursts and mood swings.
I tried to be brave and nonchalant but I no longer had my shield that was my father. I went to uni thinking it was time for me to be the big man but it was all too soon. I was broken and being held together by a thread, my defences were down and I let all the bad things in. Drinking, arguing, bitching, I thought I was being strong like him but it was all fake. I didn't know how to be my own person and I allowed all the negative things people said to be get into my brain and settle. I thought without my Dad telling me these people were wrong then they must be right.
I found a sort of balance when I quit uni and after returning from Spain, began teaching. I was building my own little easy life and home, and yes some kids can be vile but now I was the one in control. It was all very lovely but I knew I needed more. Back to uni it was. But 5 years on I was still not accepting and processing my parents divorce. I still thought I had to be a bitch to be strong. I wouldn't let people touch me, I would kick in lockers, I would demean others, just to keep people at arms length. Once again, another stupid thing to do. Uni ended and my mind was still heavy with thoughts of not being good enough clashing with thoughts that I didn't really care. Of course I cared, I cared too much. I just desperately wanted to be good enough.
But then the time came, to stand on the edge and to jump. To let go. The fear of never knowing overpowered the fear of being inadequate. All the words, all the actions, all the thoughts that had plagued me, that I had allowed in, needed to be released. They were holding me back and my whole being wanted to move forward. So I took the step.
Now I'm not saying I'm a fabulous, finished product, not even close, but the weights have been removed. Nothing is holding me back it is now only me in my way and I'm slowly backing down. In my weekly singing workshops I can slowly feel the confidence creeping back in but now I understand and appreciate the act of humility. This week a casting director told me I was too critical of myself. He allowed me to take off my shoes and be barefoot, he instructed me to sit down, close my eyes and just sing a Capella. For the first time in a long time I felt unjudged and free, doing what I love to do. I didn't care if the notes were wrong, the rhythms, the techniques, I just let it out. If someone didn't like it I didn't care, I was singing for me. It was like the good parts of 17 year old me woke up again just being sat barefoot singing from my soul.
That weekend I was also given some sound advice, I was told not to try to get back to the person I was but to embrace the person I am becoming. I can't go back, too much has changed to not only me but those around me, that going back is impossible. But why would I want to go back when my future is looking so bright and the person I am becoming is finally, actually strong?