I learned a very important lesson this past week about staying true to yourself. Here’s what happened. I was attending an open call audition for singers. As is usually the case, the ratio of female to male performers was about 8 to 1. In the weeks leading up to the audition, I began preparing 3 performance pieces that showcased various qualities of my voice. This also serves to cover your bases if someone else performs a song that you were planning, better than you do.
As each performer was called up to the stage, it was becoming obvious that most female performers had chosen pop ballads. If you haven’t done it before, listening to 2+ hours of ballads can be awfully depressing – so when I was called to the stage, I felt it was my responsibility to liven things up a bit.
In my cadre, I had a Broadway pop song, a rock song, and a stage piece from Les Miserables, and I could run off any one of them at a moments notice. So as I walked to the stage, I turned to the audience and asked,”Do you want to hear a rock song, or another ballad?” The younger members of the audience let out a resounding “ROCK SONG!” cheer, and the older participants voiced their opinion for a ballad. In my opinion, the room needed a rock song, so off I went.
I chose to sing “You Know My Name”, a very powerful rock song by Chris Cornell, and the theme from the 2006 James Bond installment “Casino Royale”. This song is very broad in its tone and is sung mostly in the high tenor range. It is well within my range, but rock, which ironically I have the most experience performing, is not suited to the natural timbre of my voice. Yes, I can sing it, but I am not built for it.
You see, if voices were cars – rock singers are the amped up 4X4’s that race the Baja 1000 – they’re built for speed, endurance and lots of bumps and rolls. My voice however, is a luxury touring sedan the likes of a Lexus LS430 – built for a quiet and smooth ride where 80 MPH feels like your going 30 on cruise control. I know this, and have always known this, and am not ashamed of it… it’s just the natural quality of my voice. But I chose to ignore that because of how I was feeling, and what I thought the audience wanted.
So there I go. Blasting through a rock song, giving it all I’ve got. Putting a throaty growl and tough guy inflection in to every line of the song. All went well enough and I was confident I was in for a call back – then the auditions were over, and performers were being called into another room to deliver the news. One by one, in they go, and out they come. Some with smiles on their faces, and others without. Then it was my turn.
The shows producer has seen me perform before, and heard studio recordings of my voice. After telling me I would be back – I was given the riot act. He validated what I have always known, and told me what I know I should have done; which was to sing what is natural to me, and not let the environment or audience influence my choice of song. “I don’t think you’re a rock singer, and you shouldn’t be singing that stuff even though you can,” he said. He went on to remind me that I have a quality and tone to my voice that “wows” people, and that I should always stay true to that.
Maybe I was overconfident. Maybe I was cocky. Maybe I was plain stupid. What I did, by allowing my emotion and the environment to dictate my performance, could have lost me the opportunity. And this was a great reminder for me, to accept who I am, and what I have to offer that is TRUE, and to just be myself without worrying about what anyone else wants or thinks.
Question: When have you allowed others to influence your work?
This post first published on May 4, 2009.