Friday, May 22, 2009

Is This What I Really Want?

Last night as I headed out to band practice, I wondered if this band thing was a good idea in the first place.

As much as I hate to admit my husband is right, this isn't just a project that I could do half-heartedly, if I want to be remotely successful at it, that is. Being the lead singer of a band takes a huge chunk of my time during the week. This is what I do:

Practice songs
Learn new songs
Sing in the car to our recordings
Study lyrics

And we aren't even performing yet!

Granted, I spread this out during the day, but my biggest challenge right now is instead of focusing on my fiction, music is taking up more of my brain power and efforts right now. I can't do both very well. Something has got to give and that something is my writing.

Is this really what I want?

I won't deny that this gig has been an awesome ride for me, and I hope to find a balance soon. I love having music and writing in my life. I wouldn't want to give up the band, but if push came to shove...

I could, of course, just not sweat the singing. I could just show up at practice and hope that just listening to our playlist will help me sing well. But it doesn't work well that way.

For instance, at practice last night, the band played songs which I thought I had down, but I had to sneak a look at lyrics. That's because until yesterday, I hadn't really sung our more solid songs.

On the bright side of things, however, good things about last night:

1. L transposed Hit Me With Your Best Shot a step down and wow, I am just thrilled. As I performed the song, I felt so lucky. A song stepped down just for me! My voice turned out so much better, and I hit that last note mighty fine.

2. We did a punk version of Lean on Me. Seriously. It was crazy and "weird" (as R put it), but it sure was fun. I don't think the band is too keen on the ballad version. I improvised the whole way, which produced some fine moments and some silly moments, but I think this is worth pursuing.

3. I sang some ballads sitting down, and I felt like I was singing in a nightclub. I liked that.

4. Pork and Beans as usual turned out awesome.

5. Not sure if Message in a Bottle turned out better, but B suggested when I "freelance" or improvise, the instruments quiet down. He is really keen on the song. I hope it turns out good.

Listened to our recording from last week. Things I noticed:

1. I am no polished singer. I am better than when we started, however, and I need to remember that.

2. Songs that turned out best: It Makes No Difference, Stand By Me, Pork and Beans, Big Me, House of the Rising Sun, Message In a Bottle, I Love Rock n Roll, I Wanna Be Sedated.

3. Sometimes, I sound like a girl. I must be a girl!

4. I wish I could sing like Don Henley the way he does I Can't Tell You Why. But I don't. And I just have to live with that. I have the softness, but my voice just isn't that strong, so it comes across almost too soft. But it's a song I like to sing because it's heartfelt. And what I don't have as far as singing chops, I can make up for in showmanship. And isn't that what half of this is all about, showmanship?

'course I could always say that being in a rock band could inspire me someday to write a novel based loosely on this experience.

But I still have to write the darn thing.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gelling Together

I listened to a recording of our practice from two weeks ago. Some great moments, but mix of vocals to drums and guitars were not very even. Some things I learned:

- doing a lot better in It Makes No Difference
- need to not sing as hard in All Day and All Night
- same for Lean on Me
- though not perfect, my voice is getting can only get better with all this singing
- B can sing! I should encourage this more during our own practice. They usually sing some "guy songs" after I leave.

Fun practice tonight.

I sang four songs from the band's old playlist, and they came off pretty good. Tweaked Message In a Bottle some, but overall, it sounded great. I liked improvising, which was inspired by a video I found of a female singer doing a cover of this song. Surprised to really enjoy Pork And Beans, a cover of Weezer's song. That rocked the house, and got us all just relaxing. B played the kazoo which made me almost laugh. Big Me is a sweet, simple song, and that was fun, too. I channeled Jimi Hendrix for All Along The Watchtower. I don't know if I got that song right, but I gave it my best rocker shot.

We did a lot better on:

I love rock n roll (finally! drawling speed which is better)
Lean on Me (I got most of the clapping right, and harmonized with L)
I Can't Tell You Why (Yay, I got the lyrics right!)

Played their originals, Bad Drivers and My Baby Lies. A lot better this time. R commented that My Baby sounds good with a female singer.

So all in all, a good practice.

As I was leaving, R shocked me by asking me if there is a song I'd like the band to learn. So I jumped on the opportunity and said, Pat Benatar's Hit Me With Your Best Shot. So the band will be learning it! I am so excited, especially after my last post.

I think part of his willingness to do this is because I am willing to learn their songs.

The band is gelling together, it seems.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Singing Like a Girl

I am going to try some songs this week with the band that they played with their male former-lead singer, namely:

Message in a Bottle by Sting
All Along the Watchtower by Bob Dylan
Pork and Beans by Weezer
Big Me by Foo Fighters

I can't wait to see how my covers of these male songs goes.

It's been a lot of fun singing with my band, but...

...I miss girl songs.

I would, for example, love:

Landslide by Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac
Hit me with your best shot by Pat Benatar

Sometimes I yearn to just croon a song specifically written for a woman, ya know?

I'm glad I have I love rock n roll. I think the rest of the songs on our playlist were previously performed by men.

R plays gatekeeper in our band. Not surprised. I always knew he was kind of the leader when I called him to audition the first time. He has a lot of influence as to what we're ultimately going to sing, even though we "vote". Sometimes, it takes just ignoring an email to let an idea die a natural death.

He says he appreciates my learning their songs, and we'll get to my songs when we have polished the others.

I want to be a team player. But it gets awful lonesome being the only girl on a team. I'm gonna have to sit on my hands and learn to be patient.

Friday, May 8, 2009


My post title is a nod to my fellow band-mates, who most if not all have served in the military.

Last night's practice was both good and not so good.

I tried singing most songs from memory, and flubbed on some lyrics. But I tried really hard to "feel" the songs, and so music-wise I think I did better. I moved around more, around the keyboard I usually hide behind, and it was weird to sing and hear myself on the amp behind me. I need myself a cardboard cutout of Simon Cowell to sing to. Ha ha. That would really be encouraging.

As it is, I usually close my eyes or look at a white wall.

I'm getting mixed signals. On the one hand, R said from early on, "We don't have aspirations of going professional."

But then last night he said, "What would be so cool is to play at a bar where people pay to hear us sing."

Makes me wonder what our band would be striving for a year from now.

I found us a gig for a June 6 rodeo weekend, but after some friendly debate, we decided we wouldn't do that big of a venue yet.

I was hoping they'd say yes, but I do agree we're not as solid as would be ideal. But I hope we don't have to be perfect, like R says we should be, before we perform in public. Coz, well, that'd be waiting a long time.

So many of my family and friends ask me when we are performing, and I feel the compelling need to do so, too. But on the other hand, I stress about having to remember all the lyrics. I hope getting down the lyrics will come to me in time. Is this a talent one just has innately, or is it learned, I wonder?

So our band agreed on a compromise. To have a goal, but for a smaller group. In August, for my birthday, I'll host a barbeque for friends and family up a canyon (away from noise ordinances). And sing and have a good ol' time. And D is talking about having us perform for his church, too.

It might not be a grand concert but it's a start.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Me? A Harmonica Player?

If someone would have told me a year ago that I would be playing the harmonica on a rock band, I would have said they had been eating way too many rice krispie treats.

As it is, I would have been eating my words last night.

One of the songs on our band's playlist is What I Like About You, which has a harmonica (harp) solo in the middle. When I first started with the band in mid-March, I decided I wanted to learn this instrument, but had gotten one in the wrong key (I got one in the key of C and the song needs an A - I didn't know there was more than one type!)

Well, last Monday, I was in the big city and decided to check out a music store. I almost didn't get the $30 harp but now I am so glad I did.

Last night was phenomenal experience.

When I whipped out my harp for the song, the band said, sounding a little skeptical, sure go ahead. When I played it during our song, it turned out so cool! It sounded right. The band seemed pleasantly surprised; I was too! Before I left, the drummer gave me a song which has a harp solo to check out.

I said, "But I'm not going to buy any more harmonicas! The songs have to be in A or C."

B said, "When's your birthday? We'll get you more then."

I struggled last night after singing I love rock n roll three times. Two screaming parts ("Owww!") and the chorus were tough on my voice. After that, I could not anthem-sing Elvis Costello's What's so funny. I am no beefy hunky singer to begin with, and my strained vocal chords did not have enough oomph. Some songs, too, I was afraid I was going to peter out. Fortunately I got through practice okay. I think next time, I will ask to have I love rock n roll be one of our last songs.

Despite my tired voice, my signature song House of the Rising Sun came out good. I added more emotion, and the band was very complimentary. D said "It's a song made for you." R said he really liked Stand by Me and Sunshine of Your Love. I like to hear their feedback not so much to stoke my ego, but to feel like maybe I am on the right page with them. Some days I wonder if they are genuinely glad to have me as their singer.

Found out two possible gigs are no longer in the radar. Kind of disappointed, but like my hubby says, I need to be patient. We're better off getting really good instead of performing half-cocked. It just seems like so much practice time without much of a tangible goal like a performance. Thankfully, we record as we go, so there is that tangible evidence.