I don't remember is a time before singing. It was always there. My mom said I used to sing to myself in my playpen as a baby. I suppose it soothed me. It still does. When something hurts I sing it out. I had a Sesame Street record when I was about 3 and when I was lonely I used to put one track on over and over and sing along: "Somebody Come And Play". (I don't know how my mother didn't murder my little needy, dramatic ass, honestly.) I always like it better when I have people to play with. I do a lot of solo shows cuz that's what works logistically and financially....but when I get to play and sing with others? Hoooooboy that's my happiest of happy places. (My other happy places are dancing, swimming and frolicking in the snow. Which, if put into a blender, would result in a singing water ballet performance of White Christmas, I guess??? Dafuque... I swear I don't do drugs. Maybe I need to start.)
"Whenever I feel afraid
I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune
So no one will suspect I'm afraid" - Rodgers & Hammerstein, "The King & I"
Yo - Mrs. Anna knew what was up. When I made this video a few months ago I was feeling anything but fine. I was feeling fat and washed up and depressed and a bunch of other Sensitive Creative Type what-am-I-doing-with-my-life shit. 100% "first world problem" fare, I fully acknowledge, but still not fun to walk around in. I've learned over the years that when I get that shoes-stuck-in-concrete feeling doing something - anything - is better than doing nothing. Bonus points if that something includes leaving the house. So to combine "leave the house" mission with combatting the feeling fat portion of the equation, I started running again. Most of those SCT, anything-but-fine feelings are a chronic condition with semi-regular flare-ups, but at least my clothes fit better now. I'll take it.
Soooo Tuesday was fun.... Here's the text I sent to my squad:
"That time when you're singing BGV's for flood benefit at the opry and they say "can one of you go stand in for Demi (Lovato)" so you hop on out and stand IN THE FUCKING CIRCLE between Darius Rucker and Brad Paisley and get to sing duo bits with CeCe Winans on "With A Little Help From My Friends" #holyshitholyshitholyshit"
Lemme break that down for ya...
I saw the call for videos to celebrate Indigo Girls' 30th anniversary (#IG30) and even though I'd just finished two other acapella vids, I busted this out a few weeks ago. Now that I just came back from week-long song school thing in Colorado, exhausted and inspired, today seems the day to share.
Oh y'all....sorry I disappeared for a few months. That Hamilton piece took it out of me!!! That was hard to top and I had to catch my literal and metaphorical breath. But I'm back, yo! This is actually one of THREE acapella pieces I did in the last week - two I planned on, and one that just kinda happened last minute cuz I was already in the groove. I'll tell you about those other two later. But let's talk Hall & Oates, shall we?
I warned you. Remember when I told you last month that I’d listened to a certain soundtrack 3 times in a week on the road? Well I haven’t stopped. I have an acute and probably highly contagious case of Hamilton fever. I can’t remember the last time I was so consumed and inspired by a body of musical work. It's so, so, SOOOO good. As a listener I’m moved to shouting, singing, dancing and tears. Every. Single. Time. And as a writer? I am sat-the-fuck-down-can’t-even-spell-fathom-much-less-actually-fathom how Lin-Manuel Miranda did that. Every. Single. Time. (Note to LMM: if I meet you I will probably blubber incoherently and pee a little cuz holy #writercrush.) The fact that it took him 6 years to write this musical offers a teeny bit of consolation, but barely. It's an absolute masterpiece in lyric, rhyme, wordplay, melody, groove....GAAAHHH!
I freaked alllll the way out when I heard this particular track for the first time. Once I stopped hyperventilating and yelling "YAAAAAASSSSSS" through tears of joy, I knew #singernerd had to get her hands on this one. I finally started it just over a week ago – got the arrangement worked out in pro-tools and only had time to record two video squares: bass and beat box. OH HELL YES I SAID BEAT BOX. (!!1!) But then I had to fly to NYC for some shows with Lynda. (Carter….as in Wonder Woman, in case you missed that singing BGV’s for her is something I do. It’s kind of ridiculously awesome.) And, well,….lemme back up a second.
You guys....I SOOOOOO wanted to be Cyndi Lauper when I was 13. Anyone who knew me then will remember my pink hair and fluorescent clothes. (Sharing of photographic evidence of this phase of my life gets you extra credit.) I thought she was super-neato back then, but as I got older I came to recognize and really appreciate what a shredding beast of a singer she is. And this song is just too good in the feels department. So much so that I got requests from TWO different people to #singernerd it up (big thanks to Jen Jeske and Mel Buckner!). Plus, I'm all about recognizing and celebrating true colors. So here ya go.
I found myself on I-40 west of Amarillo yesterday, as I'm making my way to CA for some shows this weekend. I'd just finished my third time through the "Hamilton" soundtrack in 4 days (sidebar: HOLY SHIT THAT IS THE MOST BRILLIANT THING I HAVE EVER HEARD) and was ready to just listen to road noise. Until my brain went "hey let's make an a capella video right now - we've got like 4 more hours on the road going in a really, really straight line - let's see if it'll work." My brain is a dork.
I started this last Friday, January 20, 2017. I reached for funny. It was out of my grasp. This song popped into my head and I couldn't get it out, so I decided to sing it out.
SINGER NERD GOT ALL HOLIDAY SPIRITED UP!
I may have out-nerded myself with this one. I transcribed horn parts and a clarinet solo. There are hats and hairdos involved. I'm a weirdo. BUT SUPER JINGLE CHRISTMAS FUN TIME!!!
SINGER NERD IS BACK WITH ANOTHER A CAPELLA THING!!
I'm having a super nerdtasticly good time with this ongoing project. Allow me to state the obvious right off the bat: FREDDY MERCURY WAS ONE BADASS MOFO. This is likely not news to anyone, but what it means in this context is this shit was hard!
The one where I tell a story about Garth Brooks, talk about how self promotion is hard, and Lynda Carter helps me do my intro video. Related: my life is weird and great. :)
I MADE ANOTHER A CAPELLA THING JUST LIKE I SAID I WOULD!!
Remember how I made an a capella version of Time Warp last month cuz it was all my friend Zip's fault? And then had so much fun I decided to do a new a capella video every month and let you guys suggest songs for me? Even though I thought the whole thing might be a really dumb idea? I've decided: it's a great damn idea.
I MADE AN A CAPELLA THING. I’M GONNA MAKE MORE. WANNA PICK MY NEXT SONG?
Oh my god, you guys – my singer nerd is showing here BIG time. It’s all my friend Zip’s fault. One of the incentives I offered on the PledgeMusic campaign for my new album 3 AM was “I’ll record a cover song just for you. Go ahead – make me learn something weird.” Unable to resist this challenge, Zip sent the following directive along with a generous pledge (thanks, Zip!): “Time Warp. WITH the dance moves.” (Bite me, Zip.)
I wrote this step-by-song guide/blog/thing to accompany the release of my “epic breakup album” 3 AM, but there’s one song I hadn’t included yet. That’s because the first song on the record was the only one I wrote while he was still here. It was the writing on the wall, I just didn’t want to read it.
I’ve played well over 100 house concerts over the past several years and no two are the same. I’ve played to audiences of anywhere from 3 to 80+ people. I’ve played big, lavish, 3-story houses and tiny A frames where I still have no idea how we squeezed in 20 people. Inside, outside, daytime, nighttime, rowdy, reverent… Here’s what they have in common though: there’s something about playing in someone’s home that fosters a deeper connection than a public venue can – both between me and the audience and between audience members themselves. It’s special.
Can a breakup be a gift in disguise? While the wrapping on mine was utter shit, it was still the best gift I ever got. Opening the box was the opposite of fun, but inside was the realization that I didn’t deserve what I’d just been handed. I didn’t know what I’d been putting up with until I wasn’t putting up with it anymore.
This is a hard one, and it takes a while. In fact, it doesn’t just happen one day and then it’s done. You don’t get bonked on the noggin by the forgiveness fairy and immediately commence to feeling groovy. The hurt or betrayal you felt doesn’t just magically dissipate, but you can learn to soften around it rather than letting it fuel your anger and harden your heart. Time really does heal. Not in the same way time allows a physical wound to close. But when it comes to emotional wounds, time allows for some perspective to develop that you couldn’t possibly have when you were still pulling emotional shrapnel out of your tender places.
It would be understandable to not trust again, not love again – decide the whole thing was for suckers. Who wants to risk getting hurt again, right? That’d be a valid choice. But that would mean the heartbreak won. The darkness won. The one who left won. Fuck. That.
"When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." - Maya Angelou
That’s hard to do, especially if you tend toward Sister Mary Sunshineness like I do, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. There’s something to be said for seeing the good in people or the potential in people even when they don’t necessarily see it themselves. But there’s just as much to be said for trusting your gut, drawing healthy boundaries, and recognizing that while something may be shiny and pretty if it’s concurrently really hot and hurty it probably burns BECAUSE IT’S PROBABLY FIRE.