Friday, March 29, 2013

Finding the voice

It's been a long time since I've played music in front of people. The last time I did, it was an immense joy. Jamming with guys I didn't know, in a bar I'd never been in before, and playing a slow blues song and then Bill Withers' "Use Me." Various reasons are why I haven't played live since, but it's not because of a lack of want. The opportunity has not presented itself since that September 2011 night.

I formed a band last year that practiced for a few months, fleshing out styles I had never really played in a band before. I loved the material, but when we couldn't find a permanent bass player and one of the key members didn't want to continue playing with us, everything stopped. Once again, I had to start over and set my drum set back up in my office with sound-deadening pads.

While I was practicing with these guys, who I still consider friends to this day, I had an opportunity to record a couple of songs with my friend and old bandmate, Dave. He wanted to try out some vintage studio equipment he had recently acquired and suggested I record with him. He advised me to write whatever I wanted to and I'd play all the instruments and sing. I had played all the instruments and sung before, but I was so mortified by my singing voice that I never played the material for anyone. I recorded two songs and got some very satisfying drum tracks and guitar tracks. I, along with Dave, felt the vocals and lyrics were not strong or confident enough, so the tracks remained on his hard drive.

This wasn't surprising given my previous experiences with trying to sing and write coherent lyrics.

When I was in college, I liked the creative process up til hearing the playback, so I set the self-recording desires aside. I had originally taken inspiration from Dave Grohl. He was the first guy I knew of that wrote, sung, and played almost every note on the first Foo Fighters record. If he tried something he had never done before, then it wasn't too far-fetched to consider trying it myself. But since I'm not an accomplished singer, I'd approach the vocal microphone with a certain amount of fear. Strangely, fear never held me back from singing with a couple of thrown-together bands in high school. Years of over-thinking and self-consciousness held me back from trying until I got things right in my head.

I'm still not convinced I have a great singing voice, but after talking with singers I greatly admire, like Blair Shehan, I'm going to try once again very soon. I hope to re-record my vocals with Dave in his new studio and present this to the world found on the Internet. Whatever I will call this, it will be of my hands, feet, and vocal cords.

In addition to these two songs, I have five more songs in various stages of development. Four of these songs are made of riffs I have played for many years. While I might consider myself more a drummer than anything else, there were always times I would pull out my guitar. Some of these riffs turned into songs I did with a previous band. Many other riffs were not right for the musical styles of my various bands. For those that know me, the influences on these riffs/songs will be very obvious.

I'm not against playing in a band situation again. That said, I can't help the desire to really express myself where I play all the instruments and sing. And helping me get closer to that desire comes from Dave Grohl's recent keynote speech at SXSW. Hearing one of my main influences be so self-deprecating about his abilities as a singer and a songwriter, I completely agree with his assessment: doesn't matter if your voice is good or bad; it's your voice. And when I recently saw a friend play live and I was convinced he had no desire to stay anywhere near the stratosphere the guitars were in, I thought, "I should at least try singing again."

I think I have all the inspiration that I need. Now to follow through.

1 comment:

Ted said...

Nice! And when you're ready to share a song or two with the world, just upload it to SoundCloud and let us know.