Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I think I have about enough saved up for a new acoustic electric guitar, especially after my mom and dad's very generous Christmas cash gift.

Which is amazing, since I have usually frittered away my personal savings on clothes. I anticipate the guitar will make me look better (well, I'll still have clothes on, of course!).

I'm so excited!

I played carols at my mother-in-law's and niece's birthday party. I feel silly about "putting myself out there" so much, but it was great. It helped smooth the party anyway since the lunch fare was taking longer to cook than expected. I love playing the guitar and singing!!

I realized I didn't post about my recent "gig" at a nursing home with my girls. Last week they performed piano pieces with their piano teacher's group. I tagged along too and played my guitar, sang. There were four residents, only one of whom really got into our performance, but it was so worth it. I loved that intimate connection which a guitar gives me with an audience. After everyone played, the one resident said, "Are you leaving already?" in a crushed voice so I offered to play some carols. It was fun to bring music to these ladies.

I was disappointed that I didn't push through with my guitar class this quarter and thus didn't perform in a recital with them, but I feel like I am still creating musical opportunities for myself. My first priority is my writing but for some variety and spice in my life I will play and sing at every chance I get.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Partying With Songwriters

A writer/musician friend of mine invited me to a holiday party for Utah-based Nashville songwriters, producers, etc. I just had to go, if nothing else, out of curiosity. And it sounded like fun.

They said to bring a holiday song to share.

For several days, I tried to come up with something brilliant, but couldn't. Finally, I realized my song Wishing On a Star could be changed to Wishing on A Christmas Star.

Voila, a holiday song.

I don't know what I expected, I guess a mansion on a hill somewhere, not the modest two-story I came to.

The already assembled crowd of about 20 people was gregarious, welcoming. Songwriters are an interesting breed. They have the sensibility of writers - introverted and poetic - and yet always looking for a public forum to showcase their work.

I love mingling with other writers, don't get me wrong. But the combination of music and writing is just so much more multi-dimensional, I'd have to say songwriters seem a more dynamic bunch. Not so angsty.

Our host's living room was set up for a mini-concert hall. Chairs facing the fireplace and a multitude of instruments. After two men performed their compositions, I stood up and asked the last person if I could borrow his bowl-backed Ovation.

Changing the lyrics the last minute was crazy. I kind of messed up on a few and didn't exactly rhyme my verses. But my chorus was strong. And I got through the song. Polite applause at the end, with a compliment about my voice.

What I learned:

Don't tweak lyrics at the last minute. If you do, offer your performance as part of a comedy routine.

Relax. I felt tense, hunched over my borrowed guitar and I'm sure that didn't do my voice a favor.

Polish. A group of songwriters is no karaoke bar. Their expectations are slightly higher than the average adoring family party.

Have fun. At the same time, music is for everyone, not just some exclusive group. So what if your song isn't a certain style? Who says one style is correct?

Play anyway. I re-learned the guitar just to write this song. I could've been like the girl in front of me who said she had a song but didn't have music for it. She could have played her song with tambourines.

Bring your own instrument, if possible. That's the operative word: if possible. I am still saving up for a nicer guitar. I could have brought mine, but at least if I sucked I could only blame it on my singing, not my guitar.

Study. Create. Learn. Repeat. I have a lot to learn still, but meanwhile, I will perform at the level I can.

I don't know if I'll stay involved with the group, but I know I will continue to write songs. Maybe even collaborate with my friend.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

First Solo Gig

After a couple of wrong turns, I finally found the venue with minutes to spare. And here I was thinking I should have brought my library copy of Slumdog Millionaire to pass the time. The occasion was for a festival of lights that a new high school was hosting. I had signed up to perform from 6-7, before a school production of Footloose.

Mr. L was setting out a box of donuts to sell when I came in. There was a small hall to the left with beautifully lit Christmas trees and I wondered if I was to perform in there, but he pointed towards the school lobby, about a 30 by 30 foot echo-ey area which concerned me because I wondered about acoustics. He explained that people would be lining up and going through there to get to the musical. I could choose where to set up.

I picked a spot by the donuts and silent auction table, between the lobby and the Christmas tree hall, so I can get some exposure but not get run over. Already, my vocal chords were tired because of practicing over the guitar at home, so when they found a teacher who loaned me a wireless mike to clip to my shirt, I was so grateful.

(I would really love to amp up someday soon. I'd love having my own mike and acoustic/electric guitar. But this still worked.)

Next to me was a set of stairs where two girls from student government hung out as they "babysat" the trees and the refreshments table. I took out my guitar, my song book, and launched into Christmas carols.

A few groups of students paused and eyed me curiously or with surprise. Some grown-ups, arriving for Footloose, stopped and smiled at me. An elderly couple with their granddaughter hung out for several minutes. I asked the little girl what song she wanted from my songlist. We settled on Rudolph (note to self: learn other "audience participation" songs) and she sang along with me.

A woman stopped and looked at my song book. "Ah, so you're the entertainment? You have a beautiful voice."

At 7, a frazzled-looking Mr. L came by and said, "Maybe another 15 minutes?" Which was good, because I was already recycling some songs. I ended strong with Rocking Around The Christmas Tree which is one of my favorite songs.

As I packed up, the two girls complimented me on my performance. "How long have you been playing the guitar?" one asked. They made me feel that even though I wasn't exactly rocking the joint with songs high school kids could jam to, they appreciated my singing.

My audience was sparse, there wasn't really a line to speak of, and only a few people came by for donuts or the trees. But I loved every minute. I loved bringing the spirit of Christmas to this high school that was also trying to bring Christmas to others. I felt like a "real" musician and I think I did a good job of being professional even though I was quaking inside.

This could grow on me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Two "Gigs"

Well I have gone and done it. I volunteered myself as an alto to our church choir director and she has assigned me to sing in a trio for our Christmas program. I was terrified at the prospect when I looked at the music. But I am learning it, better and better each time.

Practiced for the first time today with two ladies. They are both very good singers. Especially one, who just learned her part today and sings effortlessly. She has a strong soprano voice. Some people just have that gift. Amazing.

I loved singing low to her high part. I am excited to arrive at a place where we can sing smoothly and harmonize. It's a relief that we don't both sing high because comparisons will be inevitable.

I will also be performing next week at a local festival of lights. I will sing while playing the guitar. My first public performance involving the acoustic guitar. I will mostly sing Christmas, though I'd love to throw in a few pop songs.

These songs are so different from what I was singing just a couple of months ago. These make me feel good and lift me up.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Live Strings

I changed the strings on my guitar last night. What a difference they make.

So now I can play any Eric Clapton, Tracy Chapman, Heart, that I want.


Seriously, I like to think I just might sound better than I did on my Youtube videos. I am taking nic4strings' advice to heart.

I am still on the hunt for a guitar. Meanwhile, I will enjoy my old guitar's new lease on life.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Pink Guitar

Last night, I checked out a pink acoustic electric guitar I saw for sale on KSL. I tried to see by phone if it might be a good match for me. The lady said it had been hers, used only twice. A Dean that didn't show up on Google.

So I went to the house and I could tell right away that apart from the blindingly pink color, it didn't have a lot to recommend it. I tried it anyway. It wouldn't hold a tune and it sounded worse than mine. So I thanked her and left quickly.

I would have loved a pink guitar, but I guess I am back to looking at the "normal" ones.

I borrowed a friend's daughter's amp to plug the guitar in just in case I was serious (I didn't.) At her house, my friend showed me her daughter's room. It was decorated with a couple of old-fashioned records on one wall, green and black motif room. Very spotless, with a white electric guitar in the corner. This girl is so lucky! She has the electric, a black acoustic, and for Christmas will most likely get an acoustic electric.

And then I got thinking of all the money we spend on horses, and how by now I could have a Taylor.

Life doesn't work that way though. Horses in our life are a given. But I still want a nice guitar. I'm getting there!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tears and Cheers

Songs I am working on:

Tears in Heaven - How do they do it? I see people on Youtube play this song so beautifully. I think I have the first three tabs down, ha ha. How long before I will be playing like them, I wonder? All I know is the day I get this song down with more than just chords, I will be very pleased with myself.

Moon River - My kids request this song for a lullaby all the time, I decided I might as well learn it.

Someone's Waiting For You - This is also a requested lullaby.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Getting My Head On Straight

I am emerging from a fog. A fog of guitar-playing, Youtube posting, and wanting to launch a local solo performing career, a notion that bit me, oh, about three weeks ago, when I quit my rock band.

As fun as music is, I need to get my head on straight. I have been writing for far longer, with far more success than I have been performing or playing the guitar. And I can't let all that go by the wayside. I remind myself that I have aspirations of crafting good stories, having a novel good enough to attract an agent, and ultimately, publication.

What will it take for me to make this happen?

Write. Write. Write.

I still aim to perform this December at a couple of small, local events, but other than that, I have to put my writer hat back on.

Because it is the "write" thing for me to do. And published novelists rock!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Guitar Shopping

This past Saturday, I stopped at a guitar store with my girls on the way home to check out acoustic electric guitars. We passed a crowd of spiky hair, tattooed, be-ringed goth-types to get into a smaller room of acoustic guitars.

I wish I could spring for one of the ones in an even smaller room, the thousand dollar ones and then some, but I couldn't so I focused on the 200-500 dollar range ones. Relieved to see that more isn't necessarily better. I tried a 600 dollar one and I didn't like its sound. I also decided I don't like the smaller Ovations. Too weird to cradle almost-nothing in my lap.

I really liked the Fender All Dao. The salesman also tried to tempt me with a used 100 W amp for 175, which has 3 inputs and 1 output. I giggled at the irony if I would have gone home with an amp but without the guitar to plug in it. I would absolutely love to have both at the same time, but I really should focus on the guitar first...I can always borrow an amp if I need to.

So with superdiscipline, I said thank you and left the store empty-handed to sleep on it.

At church today, I told our choir director that if she ever needed an alto for a special number at the Christmas program, I would be willing to sing.

A first for me, saying that I am willing to sing at a church program. Whether or not they ask me, we'll see, but at least I said I would.

I filmed myself singing Teardrops on My Guitar because a friend requested it. After several aborted attempts, posted it on a certain social network. Then I checked out other Youtube covers of the song; considered posting it there. Ah, never mind. There are some really great singers - it's a popular song to cover - and I do not want to open myself up to ridicule by strangers.

Listening to some Youtube videos of guitarists, I cringe at my amateurish attempts. Who am I kidding? I have a long, long way to go.

I suppose I could just stop right here and say, I should stick to writing, but a part of me still wants to perform. What I need is some time and patience with myself. And a nicer guitar.

Friday, October 16, 2009


"The past is a great place and I don't want to erase it or to regret it, but I don't want to be its prisoner either." - Mick Jagger

"Don't dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer." - Denis Waitley

"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." - Walt Disney

I Have It. Bad.

There has got to be an OCD term for wanting to play guitar all the time because I have it. Bad.

Deep breath, Jewel. You need some balance.

But you know, Taylor Swift had it, too. That obsession, I mean. When she discovered guitar, she played until her fingers bled and her mother taped them for her before she went to school.

My fingers are just hard-callused, so I don't have it as bad. I wonder what my life would be like now if I had discovered guitar as a teenager.

Speaking of Taylor Swift, I googled Teardrops On My Guitar yesterday and found a GCDEm version which was heaven to play and sing. If my teenage daughter, who loves Taylor Swift songs, was impressed, she didn't show it. Maybe she was just trying to be ultra-cool.

I also found Ain't No Sunshine. Oooh. Very nice.

The fun thing about accompanying myself is I can sing songs at my range right off. And even the strumming pattern can be part of expressing the song. I thought karaoke was the cat's meow, but now I know better.

I don't know how my kids feel about my latest diversion/obsession. I sing lullabies to them now with the guitar; I've come a long way from my muddy chords three months ago. I think my son is intrigued by the instrument, and we've talked about me teaching him how to shred, I mean, play the guitar; maybe when I replace my current guitar, I'll have him learn on it. My oldest is always playing the piano when there is down time, so I suspect she can relate to my love of guitar.

Last night, I was going to have guitar class, but it would have just been me, so the teacher gave me the option of just attending next week's.

(I am such a flake about this class thing. I want to learn through class, but honestly, I feel like I am learning just by playing songs. What I really want is to perform with the class, so maybe I could just focus on lining up opportunities for me to perform solo in public? Sigh. I cannot make up my mind.)

So I opted to not go, and instead as a family on a rare open week-night, we went out to eat to celebrate my hubby's birthday.

I loved being with my family. I loved not having such a late Thursday. I know it's for the best, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss Thursday night band practice. Maybe not so much the politics, which is just part of being in a group. But the musical give-and-take and that rush from a weekly "performance". I admit to being disappointed that they have moved on and I am, well, dispensable. But really, what did I expect? Maybe I will have to google the David Lee Roth support group.

After practicing pretty much weekly for the last six months, I suppose my system has to adjust to this loss of routine. Thank goodness for my own singing and guitar playing, or I'd probably have a harder time of it.

More songs on my "can play" list:

Bubbly - Colbie Caillat
Teardrops On My Guitar - Taylor Swift
Ain't No Sunshine - Bill Withers
Poems, Prayers and Promises - John Denver

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I went to the music store yesterday and found Colbie Caillat's song Bubbly for piano/vocal/guitar. It seemed simple enough, and I was really excited to try it at home. At the end of the day, when things settled enough that I could play, I discovered it wasn't as simple as I thought. So I simplified the chords, and it began to enter the realm of possibility. Then I googled it on Ultimate Guitar and found chords for the key of A.


I fingerpicked the first part, and it made me giddy. It sounds like the song on the radio. Well, not exactly, but close. The power went out and I kept playing by flashlight. When the light came on, I sounded better, since I could actually find the chords on my guitar. I love this song!

So far, songs I can play:
Tears of Heaven - Eric Clapton
Big Yellow Taxi - Joni Mitchell
Let it Be - The Beatles
Stand by Me - Ben King
That'll be the Day - Buddy Holly
Wishing on a Star - yours truly
Grandma's Feather Bed - John Denver
Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd
Nights in White Satin - Moody Blues
Tennessee Waltz - my parents' theme song
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree - well, Christmas is coming up
O Little Town of Bethlehem

Songs I want to learn:
Sitting on the Dock of the Bay - Otis Redding
New York State of Mind - Billy Joel
The Best Day - Taylor Swift
White Horse - Taylor Swift
The Climb - Miley Cyrus
Landslide - Stevie Nicks
Like a Lighthouse - Michael Webb
La Bamba - Ritchie Valens
When I'm 64 - The Beatles
Ain't No Sunshine - Bill Withers
It's So Easy - Linda Ronstadt
Give Me One Reason - Tracy Chapman

My musical goals:
Buy a good acoustic/electric guitar and amp
Perform at my guitar class' December recital
Perform at church talent show
Apply to perform at local music series
Write another song

Friday, October 9, 2009

New Guitar Class

Last night, I checked out an intermediate guitar class. There would have been three other students, too, but they were caught in a traffic mess on the freeway, so it was just me, the guitar teacher (GT) and an 11 year-old girl I will call E. My self-consciousness about my cheap guitar evaporated when my guitar seemed pretty much in synch with GT's.

We went over three songs, Let it Be, Horse With No Name and Margaritaville. G-C-D chords, I know already, so I chafed a little when GT would pause between chords for E to catch up.

Horse with No Name only has *gasp* two chords?? Dadd6add9 is just two notes on the guitar fret. The chord names look scarier than they actually are. How can people get away with making money off of a song with only two chords? :-) It will be fun to sing and play it since I already know the lyrics from my former rock band.

After class, I played Big Yellow Taxi for GT and sang it. E harmonized in the background. We got talking and I told him I just barely quit a rock band. E said, "I play Rock Band!"

I wish the class was a little more challenging than G-D-C songs, but it will be good for me to go back to basics. I'll take it a month at a time. This block runs for three months, with a concert recital in December. Whether or not I take the class, the guitar school says I can perform with them. They also perform occasionally at the senior center and other venues, and that'll be fun.

I am leaning towards returning to this class next week (since the advanced classes meet when I can't go), see if it'll be a bit more fun with FC, a lady in her 50's who likes to play similar stuff as me. Next week, we'll learn some tab work, which I really don't know how to do.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Paying Gig

We rocked a military base last night. Click here for my recap.

Our playlist:

Big Me
All Day and All Night
What I Like About You
Lean On Me
I Can't Tell You Why
House of the Rising Sun
My Baby Lies (written by R)
Pork and Beans
Sunshine of Your Love
Horse With No Name
Like a Hurricane
All Your Love
What's So Funny
Stand by Me
Wishing on a Star (written by me)
Bad Drivers (written by L)
It's So Easy
I Love Rock N Roll
Hit Me With Your Best Shot
It Makes No Difference
Message in a Bottle
Rocking in the Free World

Friday, September 25, 2009

My First Voice Lesson

I indulged in a pity party when my dad gave me a zinger, then decided I was gonna stop moping and improve my voice. I dialed the number I've had up on my bulletin board for a while now, and left a message for a vocal instructor, whom I will heretofore call Vi.

I'd never had voice lessons and I came to my first one with some trepidation. Especially since on her message and when I talked to her on the phone, she sounded a little snarky. She lived in this little house with a cat on the window sill, and that made me smile and relax.

She looked a decade younger than me, freshly graduated from her masters, and looking to build her voice lesson clientele. We spent a few minutes chatting and she said her training is classical but that a lot of the techniques can transfer over to rock.

I am an "alto 2," Vi says so. Which I already suspected. But now it's official.

Warming up exercises is not for the inhibited. I was doing things with my mouth that I'd have scolded my children if they were to do this at the dinner table. Like blubbering and letting my mouth hang open as though I had marbles in my mouth.

We worked on "All Your Love". She taught me the "belt" style. When my CD recording began playing she said her dad would love that music. I told her I wanted to learn how to project my voice better and really rock out. While I sang, she kind of manipulated my posture and chin and chest and everything! that it was really hard to just sing. I have to unlearn some breathing I have done for the last thirty some-odd years. Not an easy feat, but I am sure I can learn.

There's another teacher I will check out next week. She lives closer and is more experienced. She said I wouldn't have to perform in a recital if I didn't want to, and I resisted the urge to giggle. Me - reluctant to perform in front of people. It's like saying I don't have to breathe if I didn't want to.

Meanwhile, I wandered into the music store the other day and came upon a guitar recital. Oh man, I can't really afford both voice and guitar lessons, but the atmosphere in that room was electric (and not just because there were cool-looking guitars on the stage)! What a fun bunch of people. I would LOVE to be part of a guitar recital someday. Or maybe even play guitar with my band on some songs.

But for now, voice!

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Practice went so much better yesterday.

Especially since I told myself, dagnabbit, Jewel, have fun. Advice that came from an unlikely source: my hubby.

He didn't like the idea of me joining this band in the first place. Probably still doesn't, just not admitting it. But when I say, "I don't know if I can do this any more..." he says, you committed to this, so be a team player and buck up.


-Sang It's So Easy in higher key, and I liked that so much better. I sang it for L the way I like it and he found the right notes which I think is amazing.

-Sang my song Wishing on a Star and was thinking, "Wow, I can't believe I'm really singing something I wrote." Arrangement varies every time we practice it; I think I like the earliest versions as far as the guitar, though this last one I liked the tempo better. While singing it, I saw L watching my face, then smile at me, and I wondered if I looked so silly-transparent in my pleasure. For a rock band, this song is bubblegum pop, and I worry that my band mates don't really like my song. If they don't, they are good actors. (I have another song on the backburner. I wrote it with 70's sensibility in mind. Can't wait to come up with melody after this next performance. I hope the band will really get into it.)

-I don't like the message of the song I Wanna Be Sedated but I know the rest of the band likes to play it (silly that we are such at odds over one song), so I suggested that someone else sings it. This seemed like a good compromise. Such a relief for me to not sing it. It might not make the October first playlist yet because B kind of just got thrown into it and the lyrics had lots of "..." which I am sure confused him, but maybe in future. Meanwhile, I am off the hook. :-)

-We had so many songs! Probably at least three hours worth, and we have to whittle our list down to 2 hours. But it's good to know we are building up a repertoire.

-The band played the chicken dance. I'm looking forward to getting some audience volunteers to come up and teach the rest of the crowd. Our gig is at a military base, and it'd be a hoot if I can convince some hardened general-type to get up and do it for me.

One more practice week!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

This Is For Fun, Right?

The other day, I showed up to practice thinking, "Okay, I'm gonna get down to work, then leave."

Since when did this band thing constitute work?

Maybe since I heard that the October first gig is a paying one. Or it could be because it's hard for me to really get into some of the songs.

Whatever the reason, I can choose to have fun! And be happy!

It's no fun singing when I am gritting my teeth the entire time.

The goal is to have fun with my male band mates but still have an appropriate amount of emotional distance.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Feels Good To Sing Again

Scratchy throat today...almost losing my voice, in fact. Midday, went to practice which went very well. voice actually does better when I have a little raspiness to it.

It felt good to sing again with the band after about a month of a hiatus.

Practiced my song some more, and I liked the slower tempo better. Will go with the higher note.

Added Neil Young's "Like a Hurricane" (which I really like) and "It's So Easy" (Linda Ronstadt cover of Buddy Holly's song). I will need to work double time on memorizing.

Just two weeks away until prime time!

R had a Martin acoustic electric propped in the basement. What a beauty. Someday, I 'd like one, too. Mentioned it to R, and he suggested I focus on the keyboard, which doesn't excite me as much, but I know I ought to give it a shot. After our October first gig, I plan to look up more music pieces to see if I can find some keyboards to complement guitar riffs.

A little rusty on lyrics, but for the most part, remembered them. It felt weird to stand there, panicky for a moment, and then the words just pour out. What a relief when that happens.

I kept wanting to sing "Stand on me" instead of "Stand by me". :-)


Why is it that when we are finally scheduled to have a practice, I get a sore throat?

Why do I care what the girls in the opening act to Keith Urban's concert were wearing?

Why do I worry about what to wear to our October first gig when singing should be what matters?

Why aren't there more uplifting rock songs?

Why do I think that male rock singers get taken more seriously for their singing than female rock singers?

Friday, September 4, 2009

While I Wait

It's official. The band has a gig on October first.

And we haven't practiced since the start of August, before I went on a two-week vacation, due to schedules that aren't quite lining up.


Well, I have tried to practice here at home, but it is not the same. I think my voice is feeling it, like a muscle that is a little rusty from dis-use.

Ah, well. Life happens. And my hope is when we come together again, we will be refreshed and ready to rock.

So meanwhile, I have been playing a lot of acoustic guitar. I am learning "Grandma's Feathered Bed" and my kids always jump in with "ewww" at the right moment (after "...I kissed Aunt Lou") and I told them they should sing and dance back up if I ever perform this in public. They give me this panicked look.

And learning some new songs. I have discovered Linda Ronstadt. I plan to sing "That'll be day" a note lower than she does. Wouldn't have occured to me to sing a cover of a cover of a Buddy Holly song if it weren't for R suggesting it. Fun song.

Got a copy of our band's take on my original song, "Wishing on a Star". So cool to hear it, though a bit rough in the edges. There's two versions, one is in a higher note. I find it easier to sing the higher one, but the lower one brings out a richness in my voice. I am leaning towards the lower one.

I have a lot to learn in songwriting, like how to make my songs more interesting by varying the arrangement. I am excited to write more songs.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What A Woman Wants

I really really want a new guitar.

For my birthday, I got a John Denver guitar songbook. D told me that a former singer of theirs liked this kind of music and was declined from the band. Which is too bad. I really like singing some songs, especially "Leaving on a Jet Plane". But if we did start singing folk songs like this, it'll kind of dilute the rock band image.

I'm getting better at playing chords, and my fingertips are starting to have calluses, but sometimes, my guitar veers from ukelele sound to country twang.

Not good.

A friend's guitar teacher is selling hers for $1k to $2k. A Taylor. If I save up for it, I can probably pay it off in 100 months.


I told my kids I could sell our "real" piano (we have a digital, too) but that was voted down.

I was really only kidding.

But I still want a new guitar.

Friday, August 7, 2009

My New Candy

After our first performance, I sense that our band is more committed to me as the singer. It was, in essence, a test. And I think - I hope! - that I passed.

Practice last night was not the usual. Well, for one thing, I shared a song with the band that I wrote, called Wishing on a Star.

I am getting the shakes just thinking about it.

It was the most terrifying - and wonderful - experience I have ever had, musically.

After the band warmed up with Big Me, L picked my song to practice next. (That is what we do, we go around and take turns picking a song to practice.) No more hiding my light under a bushel! So I took out my acoustic guitar and strummed the first chord.

I could practically hear them all wince, the chord did not sound like an "E". I felt so mortified (My guitar was a cheap purchase I made early on for guitar lessons, when I was pregnant with my boy, so that is what, oh 11 years ago?).

L tuned my guitar, but it still had "issues". So I asked if I could borrow L's red electric guitar. The worried expression on his face was funny. He handed it to me with the charge to take care of his "baby".

I've always thought an electric guitar is smaller and easier to cradle -and it is - but I didn't expect it to be so heavy! I sat down on a stool, crossed my legs and tried to not drop the thing.

I strummed the first chords - okay, much better! - and the band came alive around me. D got a good beat going, the "samba" beat I envisioned, the others followed along well. It was hard to sing and play the guitar (half-falling off my lap) at the same time, but somehow I managed.

After the first run through, I sat there waiting for the verdict. I told them I welcomed any suggestions. As an artist - music or words - I am open to feedback and would have taken any bad news like a big girl, but honestly my ego was fragile at this point. R said my song was "pretty" and he liked it. And the others didn't seem to think - at least judging from their expressions - it was too sappy for the band. So I was grateful for them treating me with kindness.

I handed back L's guitar, and they played while I sang two versions in different keys. The lower one sounds more R&B, but the higher one is easier for me to sing and to make pretty. I will listen to both versions on our recording and decide which one is better.

Wishing on a Star is definitely a sappy love song, but infused with my band's soft rock tempo, I thought it sounded upbeat.

R said it is better than my first one. He was referring to my earlier tongue-in-cheek attempt at composing a band song which was inspired by Dr. Seuss' Fox in Socks.

Writing the lyrics to Wishing on a Star was cathartic. Coming up with a melody was a marvel. Figuring out chords was fun.

But hearing it all come together - like a real song - in a band session. Wow! It is just simply amazing.

I am just blessed, so blessed to have this creative opportunity with a really good group of musicians with good hearts.

I have found my new candy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Rock Star Debut

You can read the recap of my August first rock-star debut here.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Recovering Before My Debut

Was so tired last night from going to the county fair (and getting sick from riding a turbo propeller like ride - I am good to go on fast rides for another fifteen years; back to the carousels for me!) I fell asleep promptly. Woke up in middle of the night and then I tossed and turned.


Tonight, at 7, is my first ever rock band concert performance.

Here's my glamorous to-do list for getting ready for my debut as a singer for a rock band:

1. Change light bulbs at the venue with drummer. Check!

2. Clean off picnic tables for tonight.

Yesterday, I went down to the park with D and my kids and we unscrewed the bases of light bulbs some marauding vandals shot out with air soft guns from weeks ago. My park contacts had said they will change them, but as of yesterday hadn't, so I thought I would just do it as a favor, in exchange for the free use of the park.

This morning I will go down and hose off the tables. You know that saying, leave it as you found it? Well, I hope we will be leaving the park in better shape.

My mind is full of rock band thoughts, so bear with me.

At the county fair last night, I watched other bands perform and I made the following observations:

1. A classic rock band had hoola hoops and air guitars to involve the crowd. Brilliant.

2. But their lead singer - who looked like Bruce Willis - was dressed like he just tumbled out of bed, like a Hanes shirt and rumpled shorts. I still don't know what I'm wearing tonight, but I know it won't be slapdash. At least not on purpose.

3. Bribery works. They put out a call for air guitarists. They dangled two tickets to a baseball game to the first adult to come up, so I got up and did it. It was so fun! And I wasn't nervous at all. I mean, it was peanuts compared to having to really sing the darn thing (Go Johnny Go). And the singer really did look like Bruce Willis up close.

4. I am glad my band doesn't look like a biker gang (the blues band that followed). I would have a hard time justifying this to my mother-in-law.

In a quiet corner of the fair, a woman and her acoustic guitarist-husband played songs that I love love love. Norah Jones, Jewel, Tracy Chapman, Maroon 5. Later I introduced myself and we got talking. She told me she was in a 7-piece cover band other times, but decided to do this duo act to indulge her craving to sing "sappy chick songs". I told her I could totally relate and why.

I appreciate my band for "indulging" the bluesy ballads that I enjoy, but the songs kind of dilute our hard rock image, ya know? But give me an acoustic guitar and folk songs and I feel like I am carving time out of limestone cliffs. Timeless peace.

I requested "Ain't No Sunshine" and they winged it from the recesses of their long-ago archives, and the result was so Amazing! Everything about it - the guitar solo, her voice. Man.

The singer was not only beautiful and talented, but kind. When my sweet patient family came around at 10 pm to see if I was done indulging my live music fetish, she said, after a song, "You have a cute mom. Is it fun to have a rocker mom?" My kids looked at me in surprise - she knows? - and nodded sheepishly. Then she said we have a beautiful family.

Which I have. My kids are precious. And my husband, to support me in my rock band aspirations...he is the best.

Lastly, the other night I was on top of the world because I composed the lyrics and melody AND figured out guitar chords for a ballad called "Wishing On A Star". The best thing about it was, I performed it for my family and my older daughter said she likes it, which is such a compliment. I like writing stories and songs that my daughter enjoys. I feel like I have passed a litmus test when I do.

I wanted to share this song with my rock band at last week's practice, but between having to focus on the task at hand (last practice before tonight's performance) and not feeling like the song is really rock band material, I just held this song close to my chest. Someday, I would love to perform it in public, with me on acoustic guitar.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Faking It Till It's Real

I got through practice last night with a few scrapes, but overall it was good. Looking back, I have come a long way since that fateful night in March when I decided to be rocker mom along with being soccer mom.

What an education it's been.

I open my little notebook of lyrics to the song so I have the words just in case. 21 songs is lot to memorize. Some songs I think I have pretty much committed to memory, but the whole performing thing makes my brain freeze or something.

We did a quick run-through of all the songs and they took about an hour and a half without me bantering between songs.

I was just plain worn out afterwards.

Hey, *news flash* - singing is a lot of work.

As for our playlist...

21 songs do seem like a lot. We might can a song or two.

What's so funny is out the window. R thinks Big Me should go, too. I really like Big Me. I'm not sure why he doesn't want our rendition, other than maybe he expects me to sound a certain way?

Hit me with your best shot is wobbly. I love rock n roll is good most of the time, but is it consistent enough to perform?

Next Thursday is our last practice before the real thing next week.

If I can continue my good-bandmate behavior
If I can practice my lyrics and not flub What I like about you
If I can quell my nerves
If I can get sleep and stay healthy
If I can remember this is all just for fun
If I can remember to ask Heavenly Father for help

then we are good to go.

We need us some swagger. Who cares if we are not like a "professional" band? I think we sound pretty darn good.

Teen bands who don't have as much polish as some act like they are going to be the next Rolling Stones. My husband says, well, you're not a teen band.

Yeah, but we can still take notes from them. Even if we have to fake it till it's real.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Real Me

I spent last week at girls' camp for our church, as one of the leaders in our young women (12-18 yrs of age) program. I had a lot of fun, but sometimes, I had a hard time just really letting my hair down.

We exchanged embarassing moments one night, and I was just mortified to say some of the things I said. I have no problem getting up and performing songs in front of strangers, but talking about embarassing things with a group of girls was like going to the dentist.

My fellow leaders at girls' camp seemed bewildered when I invited them to my August first concert. They can't believe I actually perform with a rock band.

One of them said, "You are very brave."

I suppose this takes some courage and a bit of insanity.

If they actually show up, I think I will give them the biggest shock of their life.

Do I need an extroverted personality in real life to make it as a singer-performer for a local band?

Do I break out of my real self to take on a certain performing persona? And will it spill over into "real life"? Or will it be the other way around?

When I was a college student, I was the social butterfly, and that was a rip, but kind of tiresome. When I met my now-husband, I was a senior, and I think I finally settled a little, and that was the foundation for our relationship. No longer the "life of the party" at every moment, but just real, honest-to-goodness this-is-me, take-it-for-what-it's-worth.

Two weeks to go!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Girls Like Us

I have been steeping myself in music biographies and songwriting books lately.

When I drop off my oldest at weekly art class, and my other two want to browse Barnes and Noble, I take advantage with a pile of free books.

I am beginning to write poems in a steno notebook that I hope will turn into songs someday.

I've also been checking out lots of books from the library.

Recently finished Girls Like Us which is about three female singers from the 70's: Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and Carole King. Fascinating time in music history.

They were successful, sure, but I find their cavalier attitude about sex sad. They thought they had the freedom to just start and stop relationships, but ultimately I would think that it would get old and empty pretty fast. I have been married 17 years and it hasn't gotten old. Sure, we have to work at keeping the flame alive, but it's wonderful to have a stable relationship with a great guy.

I told my mother-in-law that I am shocked how pervasive drug use was then, and she said, it's really worse now. Maybe more accepted, even.

I must be living in a bubble, because I don't see this. And then I realized that growing up in hard-drinking, hard-smoking Philippines is so different now that I live in my Utah neighborhood.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Great Pretenders

Had a two-hour "pretend" performance at practice last night. Was starving when I got there, but singing made me forget. (I can't eat before I sing, or I have a hard time singing)

It's coming together, though awkward pretending that there really is an audience. I wish now I hadn't said some of my jokey banter, I might have to be circumspect the next little while so that they don't get stale with my band mates.

I wonder if very many people will come to our August first performance billed for "family and friends". Whoever shows up, I'll give it my best.

L rocked to "Rocking in the Free World" which made me wonder aloud if they really needed a lead singer. L said he plays guitar better when he doesn't have to sing. D said, if we didn't need a lead singer, we wouldn't have advertised for one. Turns out his son-in-law was their last singer, and he is invited to our upcoming concert. A little nerve-wracking for me; I hope we impress him.

We will see how this concert goes, and then we'll regroup and consider other venues.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


They'll probably fire me
over commments I made
in the heat of the moment.

I practice my songs,
but something feels wrong.
Here I am waiting for the fall.

I love singing
and performing.
But this band thing
sometimes is too much.

Like a minefield
I can dodge most
but I'm sure I'll hit
something eventually.

It's more work
than I counted on
to sing with four others.

I'm glad I joined
if only to say I could do it
but at what price?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Four Weeks To Go

Last night, I realized, wow, these guys are really going out on a limb for me.

So I have been singing with them for about three months now. My voice is improving, and I am putting more expression into my songs. But occasionally I have to sneak a look at prompts and lyrics from my little purple book. I know the lyrics on a lot of songs, but for some reason, when I don't have them handy, my brain freezes.

Am I really cut up for this job?

Yes! Must think yes!

My band has performed before with the former lead singer, but they seem very nervous about our August first performance. I feel like I have much to prove, but I gotta think positive. At the very least, I want to have fun and make it fun for our audience.

Four weeks to go!

Almost had a blow-up about song choices. I told the group by email I don't want to perform certain songs because of the message. B disagreed and it became this argument about censoring songs. He said, they are just silly songs, the message doesn't really matter.

I didn't debate further, but for the record, I don't feel right about singing songs that are out-of-character. To me songs reflect who I am, and when the message is out of sync, I don't feel good at all. To B's credit, he was very polite about disagreeing with me, and I really appreciate that.

E-mail is my Waterloo.

Note to self: do not push send unless you absolutely are sure you will not regret it in the morning!!

I gave the band my songlist suggestion last night. The songs in question were not listed, but no one put up a fuss. My hope is that we have enough songs we agree on that the other songs will be a moot point.

For now, peace reigns.

Friday, June 12, 2009

My Little Notebook

I went to band practice last night with a little notebook of lyrics. Sang most of the songs without looking, but it made me feel better having it open in front of me on a music stand. We perform in under two months. Will I be ready?

Yes, yes! (Gotta think positive)

I can't wait to play for a live audience. I feel a little hemmed in by all the cords and mike stands and walls. I want to look people in the eyes and give them my musical message.

D asked if he could recruit this organist to play in our band, and the consensus was 1) I am going to learn some keyboards on some songs and 2) let's not add one more band member right now because there will some learning curve again.

Which means I have to learn the keyboards on some songs. A challenge I feel both excited and scared about! I will focus on the vocals right now but plan to ease into it soon.

Other highlights:

-Tried Should I Stay or Should I Go. Mmm. Needs a lot of work on lyrics. I will probably suggest to wait on this after our August first performance.

-I screamed at my son's soccer game prior to band practice, and I think it added a certain "bite" to my voice which seemed to please the others.

-I have a cheat sheet on It Makes No Difference lyrics, just some key phrases, and my brain kicked in to supply the rest. I am so relieved! R says he thinks that's the best I've performed the song.

-We kicked around some band names. We came up with one that a Maine band already has. So I have asked for more suggestions today by email.

-I love All Your Love (I Miss Loving). Cool, cool exotic opening.

-Nailed I love rock n roll; my owws sounded rock-ish and I did them at the right time!

Friday, June 5, 2009

On Being a Rebel and Thief

Last night at band practice, I moved the keyboard out of the way and that made a load of difference. I had been playing the keyboard for Lean on Me, but now that we are doing it in a cool rock-beat, I don't need it. For now anyway, even though R is saying that it would be fun if I could improvise chords when L is doing his solos. (I would love to do this, but I will have to learn how to do chords, etc. or maybe even just find some music sheets for our songs. I am not like L who can transpose chords in 60 seconds.)

(I love our rock version of Lean on Me. It is...well, rebellious and fun!)

So I had more leg room to perform, and that was fun. It was like playing a live audience except I was not as interactive and well, the audience was a wall. :-)

Anyway, a great evening. Collapsed in laughter a few times, like when we played Runaway more like Walkaway and really dragged the song. Or when L began waving his arms like a conductor when I did my acapella part of Lean on Me.

Tried All My Loving Eric Clapton-style and it turned out cool. I like Eric Clapton songs. They are well-suited for my voice.

L mentioned a phrase, and I said, "Hey, that would make a good band name." And three of the four actually said, "I actually do, too." B said it was probably taken already. And he's right. By a defunct band group who posted last on their Myspace in 2007. So as much as the name appeals, maybe it is not available...wouldn't want to steal the idea. Which is too bad, because 3 of 4 agreeing on a band name seems next to impossible with this group. I didn't push discussion of the band name, though, since it is not life or death right now. But I know sometime we have to resolve this.

Especially by August first, which is good to go as our first band performance in public (not theirs, but the band with me as singer). R is finally convinced that we are ready to perform for a small group.

I told him I needed to know the playlist because I have a hard time remembering 20 songs. And he said, eventually I will have to learn that many for a 2-hour performance.

How do singers do this? Remember all these songs and perform them live, that is. I will have to do a google-search of techniques.

Other highlights:

Played Sunshine of Your Love faster. Much easier to phrase in this faster tempo.

Sang I Can't Tell You Why slower. Nearly fell asleep some parts, but definitely nicer tempo to sing this love song to.

We talked a lot about songs, and kind of did a creative give and take. I love being able to take part in this creative process, of my idea turning to the reality of a song. I am learning how to be a team player, and they give my ideas a chance.

PS When my oldest recently had Author's Day at her school, a famous Utah author said she would be a singer on a rock band if she weren't an author. Okay, so I am not published yet, but I am an author and I am living my (belatedly-discovered) dream of being a singer on a rock band.

Sometimes when I am singing a song and it is going well, I think, I can't believe I have this privilege.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Need a New Name

Arrived at practice Thursday to the band singing Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix. Made me second-guess why they have me do their other lead songs, when L can sing pretty well. And man-songs at that.

Sigh. Is there no end to my insecurities?

Got over this soon after we started singing. Some highlights:

-Rearranged Lean on Me. What a riot that was. Started out acapella for first verse, then did the rest in a rock beat. Much better than our previous ballad attempts. I love being able to experiment.

L is the most open to experimenting. D is always open to anything I suggest. R is usually skeptical. B is supportive so long as he likes the song.

-We keep pushing our practice time to an hour past scheduled. Last week, we went through 18 songs. It is hard to stick to two hours when we are doing well.

-Sang Should I Stay or Should I Go. Surprise pick by L. Decided we need to practice outside of band practice time. I am excited to try this next time.

-I love rock n roll is hard to maintain at slower pace. I like this song a lot, but it is WORK.

We need a new band name. A chance for me to leave an imprint on our band. I love thinking up clever names, though nothing has come to me yet. I have been thinking of names that don't necessarily reflect that we have a female singer.

Our band plays classic rock. Any suggestions?

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.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Baring My Soul

Thursday night, I went to practice late and frazzled. Thank goodness for my husband who has been very supportive about getting me to band practice, even if it means he has to be the only parent taking our kids to 4-H horse practices while I take kids to soccer and church activities before I zip to practice.

If you are reading this, dear, thank you!!

Sang Stand By Me for the second time and shocked the band and me. I don't know if it's just that I've been singing consistently for weeks now, but my voice sounded deeper and richer. Went better than the first practice, when I was so nervous and not really cutting loose.

I cut loose so much that I did the growls for I love Rock n Roll. I also harmonized the chorus of It Makes No Difference. That was fun. I love experimenting. I also feel more confident about my singing and trying new things.

I read a book recently written by the Five Browns (the five siblings who play piano together) called Life Between the Keys and loved this quote from Desirae Brown:

I know what I like in a performer. Some people in the industry call it the "x factor" or "that special something". I think it's generosity. Great performers open up to an audience and bare their soul. These special artists aren't thinking of what the audience is thinking of them. They are completely lost in the moment, in a memory, in a sound, in a feeling. Seeing such a performer is so satisfying because you walk away feeling what they were feeling.
I felt like that on Thursday. I felt like I gave my all, and resisted the urge to "hide" behind demureness. And when I was done, I felt so exhausted, so tired I felt like crawling to the car. (I didn't.) I thought I would sleep good, but I was still so keyed up I couldn't sleep even though I had an early start the next day driving at 5 a.m. to go to a writer's conference.

I hope I can give my all not just as a performer, but as a novelist as well.

Monday, April 20, 2009

One Of the Boys?

I arrived at practice Thursday to the band playing 867-5309 (Jenny). I'd heard that song on the radio the other day and I thought it was a fun song, but obviously male-specific.

Took turns picking songs to sing.They like my rendition of House of the Rising Sun. "When you put yourself into your song, when you cut loose, it's great," R said.

I love What I like about you, but was the last song of our "gig" songs picked. This time I hit all the Heys, and that helped the band stay on rhythm. Band seemed pleasantly surprised to hear me sing I wanna be sedated and What's so funny. L said I wanna be sedated sounds good with my voice. They had me sing an original composition of L's, Bad Drivers, and that was fun.

I'm feeling like "one of the boys".

As I left, they picked up again on 867-5309, and I couldn't help but wonder if they miss that all-guy jamming atmosphere. I mean they seem to be having fun, but I'm sure it's different.

New things this week:

I will be learning the harmonica (or 'harp' in rock lingo). I got one, but it's in the wrong key (C). I need one in A for What I like about you. I didn't know this about harps!

I dusted off my guitar from years ago and was excited to be able to play Michael Buble's Home and recognize the chords.

I play the piano with more confidence nowadays. For example, I am trying some Elton John songs on the piano that I hadn't even cracked open before.

My husband says I am "music-obsessed" nowadays.I think the difference is, this band validation makes me play/sing/try with more confidence.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I was wrong.

When I started practising with the band, I told them I wouldn't like:

What's so funny
by Elvis Costello


I Wanna Be Sedated by Ramones

Now why did I do that? I googled the songs last night. Wow, I can see why R really likes them.

I will surprise them at tonight's practice and offer to sing them. With these new songs that I'd never in a million years would have listened to, let alone learn, I feel like I am visiting a different universe.

PS I also didn't know that when The Clash sings Should I Stay or Should I Go, they sing back-up in Spanish for part of it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Karaoke Vs. Live Band

Karaoke has no politics. Karaoke doesn't involve e-mails that you bite your nails over wondering if you are crossing the line between bossy and assertive (about playlist choices). With karaoke, I can pick my songs. I can sing what I want. I don't have to worry about what four other people think.

Make that four strangers.

The weirdest thing about jumping in as lead singer for a band that has been rocking together for three years is I am the upstart and they know each other and I haven't the foggiest clue who they are.

Well, I'm getting bits and pieces here and there:

L is getting married in June. He's played guitar since 1977. R is single. B is divorced, has a son and loves to snowboard. D is a grandpa and played for a band back when.

It's like a girl trying to break into a boy's club. They have their secret language, they work together (literally), they know what makes the others tick.

Karaoke is easier. The music is constant and unchanging. No surprises.

But singing with a live, it's just amazing. This past Friday, I practiced for a couple of hours, and I could have gone on and on. The energy, the feeling of people making music together, is just fabulous. When I put myself in my song, and really internalize it, and then at the end, realizing I had been a part of creating art, wow! And I feel like I am growing in confidence with my singing voice; even at church I can hear myself sing.

It's like "You sing with a band, Jewel, you have permission to sing it out."

Sometimes, however, I am racked with self-doubt. I tried the piano piece for "Lean on Me" and I flubbed the notes. And there are moments when I think of myself as "lead singer" a voice says: Who do you think you are??


My voice is a revelation to me, does that sound full of myself? What I mean is...I am reveling in my God-given voice, the range my voice was designed for. Not reaching for soprano. But low, Joan Jett bite, with a bit of folk edge to it that I'd never been aware of before.

And after some songs, the guys say, "Great vocals," or "Good practice!"

That's how live band trumps karaoke.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Our band voted, and these are the songs we have decided on to practice the next few weeks and perform for our next gig (possibly late May):

I love rock n roll - Joan Jett
Lean on Me - Bill Withers
Ican't tell you why - Eagles
Sunshine of your love - Cream
All day and all of the night - Kinks
What I like about you - Romantics
Runaway - Del Shannon
House of the rising sun - Bob Dylan

I'm glad they put this to a vote so everyone feels involved. And relieved...all the songs I voted for are on the list.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I'm no green girl, but...

Since I've started singing with the band, I have been listening to more classic rock music and looking at lyrics, so I can make suggestions for our playlist.

I'm no green girl, but zoinks, have I actually been listening to that music? Some of the songs are quite sexual in nature, and I've had to stop mid-karaoke so my kids (and I) don't have to listen to them. An example: Rolling Stones' Satisfaction.

My husband said, "Does that surprise you?"

Thankfully, before I signed up to be the singer for this band, I told the guys upfront that I would not sing anything overtly sexual/crude/pro-alcohol-or-drugs in nature so I didn't have to cover my kids' ears.

*overtly* Even the subtle ones are disturbing.

I wonder if songs from the man's point of view have this issue more than ones from the woman's point of view. Before you put a hex on me, understand that I am not making a generalization on how men are, just seems that some of the rock songs I've come across are from the male point of view and some lyrics can be really frat-party material.

I 'll have to check out some from both camps and compare.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

First Official Practice

I had my first practice as an official member of our band in the middle of the day today. How weird was that, not running to Wal-Mart to shop or run an errand for my family, but rather to go to someone's basement for a couple of hours to sing with a band.

The easy thing about being a vocalist is I don't have any extra instruments to carry. But the other guys, they haul all this stuff. I especially feel sorry for D, because he has such a huge drum set. Not that he's miserable.

This is the set-up: There's a microphone in the middle for me. R stands to my right, B behind him, R to my left and D behind him. They have a nice-sounding system. I'm so used to my karaoke microphone that makes my voice sound tinny, theirs makes my voice sound rich. Today I "ate" the mike and that gave me more volume.

They recorded our songs today and gave me a CD from our last jam session. (Wow, did I just write 'jam session'?) I think the song that came off the best was Sunshine of Your Love. These guys can really play, and it's fun to pick them out in the recordings.

Today, I discovered that I prefer the Bob Dylan folk-version of House of the Rising Sun. The band practiced a couple of my favorites, Lean on Me and I love Rock and Roll and I really appreciated that even though the songs are not their usual fare, the band made a special effort to learn them.

Halfway through, I just had to turn around to and tell them how much fun I was having.

They have songs they want to play that I don't think will be a good fit for my voice, and sadly, I don't know if we'll get to any Sheryl Crow soon, but I understand. Like R said, he leans toward more of the rock standards. I agree; I think the more consistent we are on our song picks, the better it would be for the audience's experience. It would not do to have Cream one moment and Debbie Gibson the next. Unless we amp up the Gibson song, throw in a couple of growly "Owws" and add drums or something.

Growling is not for the timid. I have some work to do in this area. Joan Jett is a hard act to follow. I did the bongos for Horse with no Name and by next time I will have learned the keyboard part for Lean on Me. If I don't take away anything else from this, I would be stretching myself musically.

R commented that when he set up the time he didn't even think to check if I could do it during the day. They could because they have the day off. So I explained to a quiet room that I am a stay at home mom with school-age children which I defended by saying I was also a freelance writer, so my time was flexible...and I felt foolish because in essence I am a housewife with a lot of free time to take up hobbies like being the lead singer of a rock band and writing.

Phooey. I'm going to focus on the joy and not overanalyze this amazing experience.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Jimi Who?

I grew up on Henry Mancini, Carpenters, and Burt Bacharach. In high school, I watched a lot of MTV so I could carry on an intelligent discussion with my friends at school the next day. In college, I indulged in Latin music and classical music depending on my date for the weekend.

My senior year, my boyfriend-now-husband introduced me to classic rock from the 60's and 70's. He took me fishing and played Doobie Brothers on their boat. We spent a lot of time listening to his long-playing records while he cooked Hamburger Helper for me in his apartment. Because I always associated his music with good food and company, the music began to grow on me.

But he didn't get to Jimi Hendrix. I have a play list of standards that my band, who had a male lead singer previously, would like me to learn and it includes a couple of his songs.

Three words: Are they serious?

L said, "Sometimes, it's neat to hear a female cover male rock songs."

I watched Jimi on You Tube and felt my heart sinking to my toes. I couldn't possibly cover that, could I? Of course, I didn't think I'd ever be posting about my adventures as the lead singer for a band.

Friday, March 13, 2009

My Rock Band Audition

Last night, I went and sang with a local rock band that was looking for a lead singer. And they said they found one.



It’s not like they have aspiring lead-singers banging on their door. And they don’t even get paid for their gigs. Yet. But they have been playing together for three years, having discovered this mutual interest at work. And I might not be a connoisseur of rock music but they can play mean guitar and drums.

There are four men on the band, the lead guitarist, rhythm guitarist, bass guitarist, and drummer. They hold day jobs and look like your average suburban neighbor. They play mostly hard rock from the 60s and 70s. Our playlist last night included:

House of the rising sun – Bob Dylan
Sunshine of your love – Cream
Horse with no name – America
Knockin on heaven’s door – Bob Dylan
Stand by me – Ben King
What I like about you – The Romantics
I can’t tell you why – Eagles

Singing with a real band was a rush. Having a live guitarist play heart-pounding opening riffs of rock songs and me “owning” the songs… there’s nothing like it.

This is crazy. I’m already juggling so many balls. This will require some sacrifice on my family’s part. And, if I am not careful, this can derail my fiction-writing and personal life.

But part of me knows this is an opportunity that may never come again. If I were to do it, I would only do it under my own terms, with a scaled-back gig line-up. And if the band thinks they’ll need more from me, then I will walk away from this. Because some things are just more important.

I told the band I would have to think about it and talk to my husband about it. My husband says ultimately, it is my decision. He’s not crazy about the idea, but I know when push comes to shove, he will come through with his support. He always has. Even if he has to fake it for a while.

I never thought I’d be facing this decision this late in my life (I am 37). Who would have guessed?

Friday, March 6, 2009

How It All Began

I went to the local music store to buy some sheet music for my daughter. On the way in, a flyer on the bulletin board caught my eye. It said:

Wanted: lead singer for a rock band. Man or woman okay, basement band, 40+ year old members, we don't drink or do drugs.

Now I am not under the delusion that I am American Idol material. No one has ever come up to me and encouraged me to go on to Nashville or Hollywood or Broadway. But I do sing in public and I am not above hamming it up to entertain an audience. (And no, Lance, I'm afraid you'll just have to imagine the hippo song as I burned all evidence LOL.)

I passed the flyer. Once. Twice. And then I thought, what the heck, and punched the numbers into my phone. To my relief I got a machine and left a message.

Later in the evening, I got a call during my daughter's basketball game from a guy who said I had left a message about the rock band? I about dropped the phone and sneaked out to the hallway; I couldn't have anybody overhear this conversation!

This guy "Tom" explained that they meet once a week, sometimes they have gigs, they once did the county fair.He wanted to know what kind of songs I like to sing. I told him three I could think of, even singing part of one. I waited for him to say, Hallelujah, you are the lead singer we have been looking for. He didn't, but he nicely said, "Well, why don't you try it out? See if you like it?" He asked me to email him some songs that I like to sing and maybe they could learn it.

I asked what gender the rest of the band are, and he said they are all men. As I digested this in silence, he assured me, "But we aren't weirdos." Great! What a relief to know.

So I told him I'll email him some songs and go from there. I giggled all the way back to my daughter's basketball game wondering what my husband would think of it.

I have a sweet wonderful husband. He didn't say, "No, you shouldn't even try out." In fact he said, sure I could go try it for one night. Find out what this would entail. And then we'll talk. He is concerned about the time involved and cutting into family time. And he is concerned about the fact that it would mean me hanging out with a bunch of men once a week.

I told him I shared his concerns. I don't know why I'm even considering this when there are so many things on my plate right now. As for the "men" thing, I told him I suppose it'd be like if he decided to scrapbook with women once a week. Well, maybe not. But it's a real issue, I know.

He also said, "What if they reject you? You take rejection hard..." Well, I told him, I've done things before and risked rejection. I might be sad at first, humiliated potentially, but I might just laugh about it afterwards. And it'll make for good essay fodder.

I just want to say, never mind because I may not be able to commit to it past that one night. But I think I just might do it. Why not? What have I got to lose other than a bruised ego? To be a rock star for a night. That would be so sweet.