The Measure of Success
A couple years ago I was in an independent rock band. There were 4 of us in the band, I played guitar and sang, there was another vocalist/guitarist, a bass player and a drummer. I had always liked bands that had two members that would sing lead but in our case, we each sang about half the songs and I felt like it took away from your live show having it split evenly. Neither one of us was going to stop singing though and in my case my voice couldn’t handle anything more. I would sing six or seven songs in a show and my voice would be shot. My throat would be raw by the last song and then the crowd would want an encore of their favorite song, Plutonium Girl. It was a great feeling having people chant the name of the song to hear it again, but I also knew that there was a good chance I might not be able to make it through the whole thing. Sometimes my throat would ache for days afterwards.
Well eventually the band fell apart and I struck out on my own. I liked the idea of being solo so that I could do things as I wanted to but I had this nagging fear about whether or not my voice was up to the challenge of carrying a show by myself. About a year after the band split up I had my first solo gig. I had spent most of that year working on writing and recording songs. The date was drawing close and I was more than a little worried. During the months leading up to the show I had been to see the doctor about my problem. They tested me for all sorts of allergies which yielded nothing and then finally sent me to a specialist. The specialist noticed a slight weakness in one of my vocal cords which was causing the other cord to have to work extra hard. So after years of wondering what my problem was, I finally had an answer. Now I just needed to know how to solve it. They sent me to speech therapist who worked with me on using my voice properly to cause less strain.
Finally the date of the show arrived. It was at a venue that my band had played at a couple years previous and I liked playing there so I was excited. I had 14 songs on my setlist. Certainly not a marathon for normal singers but I wasn’t a normal singer. It was about double the amount of songs I had ever done in a show. The opening act was a female pop/folk singer that was pretty good and she played for about 30 minutes and then it was my turn.
I hadn’t played a show in over a year and I had never played a show by myself. I was nervous and it showed. I made several mistakes and rushed a lot of the songs. Overall it was one of the worst performances I had ever done. A close second would be the last show that my band played. But you know what? My voice held. I sang every song and afterwards my throat felt fine and the next day it still felt fine.
I may have made a lot of mistakes, been completely nervous, and didn’t even sell one cd but I was able to sing the entire show. Before going into the show I felt like if after all my rehearsing and the speech therapy if I still couldn’t perform, then I was probably gonna have to give up on the idea of ever being a solo artist. But I did it! You don’t always get the chance to measure success by having everything work out perfectly. Sometimes you need to consider something a success even if only one aspect of it comes together as it’s meant to. I had one critical question heading into that night: Can I actually do this? The answer was clear, that yes I can. Mistakes and nervousness can be corrected by more practice and experience. For me the measure of success was my voice and it came through superbly.