I really do sing. Promise.

I didn’t join my first band until I was 30. I’d always loved music and sang at every opportunity I got but the band thing always seemed way too cool for me. I didn’t play any instruments (still don’t) and could never get passed the “I like to sing,” stage of conversations with fellow rock-lovers to lead into, “Do you need a singer?”

Which, if you’ve never had the experience of telling people that you’re good at singing, you should try it sometime. Even if you’re not good at singing, you should try it. Because whoever you tell will expect you to be bad at singing. Here’s about how that conversation will go:

me: I like to sing.

other person: Oh, yeah, me too. Who doesn’t?

me: Right, yeah. I used to sing in choirs and stuff.

other person: Oh, ok, cool. Where are we headed for lunch?

Singing is one of those things that everyone “knows” how to do. Everyone can sing. We’re all physically capable of it. The thing about people who like to tell other people that they’re good at singing, is that they’re usually not. That good at it, that is. I don’t know why this is but I’m gonna guess it’s a case of their parents being overly supportive and telling their kids that they’re amazing at whatever-it-is their kid is interested in–in this case, singing.

I saw a lot of this during the one year I was in high school choir. I knew so many kids in that choir (mostly upperclassmen) who were so self-confident about their vocal chords that they’d belt out a song in the hallways, trying to impress everyone within hearing range. Generally, it had the opposite effect. Or those same kids would stride onto center stage to sing solos at the choral concerts and beam proudly at the audience during every flat note and missed beat. Those kids are the reason I could only handle a year of high school choir.

I met a special case of mistaken-singing-expertise in a community choir in my teenage years. We were a traveling choir and carpooled to farther-away venues. On one particular extra long commute to a concert I found myself sitting a row behind a girl who felt the need to serenade the entire van-full (it was, like, a 10-passenger van) with a song that no one else knew. And she sang all 6 (six!!) verses of it. A few of the older ladies tried to gently get her stop after the first or second verse (“Oh, that was lovely dear!”), y’know, give her a graceful exit, but she was having none of it. She bulldozed through that song and shot nasty looks at anyone who dared to speak during her uninvited solo.

To be fair, the song was pretty. To be honest, her voice was weak. And by about the 3rd verse I had the chorus memorized and started singing along with a made-up harmony. She gave me nasty looks for that as well. I looked calmly back and kept right on singing that chorus. When we finally got to the concert hall that girl bolted from the van and speed-walked into the venue. I don’t know if she was embarrassed or angry or what. All I knew was if that was the kind of person who went around telling people they were good at singing, I didn’t want to be that. And if that was the way to show people you were good at singing, I didn’t want to be that, either.

So if I can’t tell people I’m good at singing, and I can’t show people, how was I ever going to get into a band?

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