Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Why Sing? ...

So here I am at the latest toll booth on my singing journey and hell if I can find enough answers to this conundrum to raise the gate.

It's taken a long, long time for me to get to this place of recording, of really letting loose in the booth and "letting my style happen," as Dave says. Of course, I'm singing others' songs, but their style is my style. There are only so many styles to go around.

But even though I'm singing others' songs, there's still a level of me in all of them. When Brian and I were working on "Makin' Whoopee," he commented on one of Michelle Pfeiffer's phrases: "She sounds like Bob Dylan." And he was right: there was a mumbled quality to it. It made us laugh. "A lot of shoes!" I sang, in the style of "How does it feel?", with that extra bit of Dylan exaggeration everyone puts on his voice when they mimic him.

I've started posting the songs on the blog and the comments have been really heartwarming. And I've started sharing copies of the songs on CD with a few friends and the comments knock me out. Today, English Teacher Dave wrote, "Next stop for Betty Ku--'I'm Terry Gross and this is Fresh Air.' " Wow. Me on NPR? That'll be the day.

Yesterday, I sent this link to Iva and wrote, in part, "The latest weird thing about this whole singing journey is that I feel narcissistic when I share it with people, but then I think, 'Well, isn't that the point?' Ego is funny that way."

Then tonight, I caught a clip of an Elton John concert on TV and thought, "Well, he's OK with performing for thousands of people."

So what's my damage? Humility? There was a time when I could chalk my hesitancy up to fear of not being good enough, but that fear has a way of evaporating in the presence of people listening to my voice and offering comments like, "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?! Christ on toast, that is FANTASTIC. You have a stunningly beautiful voice. Wow." (Thanks, Stac.) "Christ on toast." I love that.

But really, what's up with this reluctance? Is it fear that people will say, "Well, who the hell does she think she is, calling all this attention to herself?" Hmm. Yes, actually, I think that's it.

To which the answer seems to be, "Um, she's someone who loves to sing, and others like to listen to her. Why should she stay silent?"

I don't sing for fame and fortune. Clearly. And money is a poor motivator anyway. I sing because I love to sing. I sing because it makes me feel alive. I sing for the expression. I sing because it makes me happy. So maybe that's enough.

I started this whole recording process for Dave, really. I wanted to give him a song for his 50th birthday. And then, once I heard what Brian and I created, I was hooked. We didn't get together again to record for nearly four years, but now that we're back at it, it's like a drug.

But what accounts for the difference between people who sing or play an instrument in their homes, for themselves, and those who join a band or pursue a recording career? I'd be curious to know the motivations of musicians who became famous. I suspect Springsteen didn't originally set out to make millions.

I'm three degrees of separation from Bruce. Maybe Dave can ask Eddie to ask him.

Then again, maybe Dave can just ask Eddie. Eddie knows a few things about fame, being the lead singer of Pearl Jam.

Then again, maybe I should just ask Dave. Dave's in a band. It's local but he loves it. And "local" is my level.


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