The Blues Experiment, Part II

I woke up this mornin’ . . .

. . .with a pretty good headache.  An hour later, filled with Concerta and Excedrin, I sat down to ponder what to do for my class today.  We had an assigned reading, but today is the day before Easter break, so I was sure students’ minds would be elsewhere, as mine was.  Being all full of stimulants, I decided to make my singing debut in class today, as part of my plan for next week.

I have never played the guitar for an audience, and neither have I sang and played guitar for an audience.  My performances were always with the rock band in college (keyboards with occasional backing vocals, usually consisting of “Aaaah” or “Oooh.”), or classical piano or trumpet in high school.  I sang a solo in church once in 5th grade and muffed that up pretty well.

I gathered up all my stuff (acoustic guitar, laptop with backing tracks) and headed to work.  I had conferences all morning with the class at noon.  I sneaked into my office suite with my guitar so no one would notice.  I didn’t want to say that I was going to sing today because I wasn’t sure I was going to go through with it.  During breaks in the conferences, I listened to the song on headphones.  But I still wasn’t sure if I was going to go through with it.  I tuned my guitar as quietly as possible with my door shut so no one would hear it.

Ten minutes before class my hands were shaking. I did some diaphragmatic breathing and calmed down and headed out to class.  I met my office neighbor in the hall who said “Where are you off to?” meaning why did I have a guitar with me.  It was in the case so I said very  noncommittally, “to teach” and marched down the hall.  I still wasn’t sure if I was going through with it.  I still had a backup story (well, I’m headed out to play with a friend after class, so I’ve got to carry this with me . . . .)  I tried to hide the guitar behind the instructor’s station when I walked in, but a student spotted it and said, “Are we getting a lesson by song today?”  I smiled and said “maybe.”  That was the truth; I was still wavering.

We did our reading discussion.  I was distracted and disorganized.   I told myself that at 12:30 I was going to either do it or not.  At 12:25 I still wasn’t sure.

When my watch said 12:29, there was a lull in the conversation, an obvious stopping point.  I said this is it and explained that I was doing a workshop with elementary kids next week about blues and poetry and I needed to practice singing.  I also explained that this was an historic moment:  I had never done this before.

I set up my laptop and hit play for the backing track.  It turns out the plug for the room’s PA doesn’t work.  So I just used my laptop’s tinny speakers and started the backing loop.  I started to plink along on the guitar and after the first turnaround, I started to sing . . .

It was pinched and forced at first, but eventually I loosened up.  I got through the whole song but was too nervous to try the guitar solo section.

Oh, and I recorded it.  It has all sorts of problems.  My guitar’s a little out of tune.  I messed up the lyric on the second verse, then missed a chord change.  But I got through it, and they applauded.  They teased me about putting it on YouTube, but I don’t know if they were serious.  I figured I would beat them to the punch and put the recording out myself.

So, world, here’s my guitar/singing debut.  If you have some stray dogs to scare off, I recommend playing this:

Music guitar

The Blues Experiment, Part I

Oh what a mess I created!

I’ve been working on being more present in the world and less closed off.  I love music and playing the guitar.  Some of my fondest memories from college were playing rock bands.  I played keyboards and sang in a prog-rock cover band and summers played in a classic rock cover band.

Since then, I have never played in public. Only in basements with friends.  I’ve switched instruments too, and taught myself guitar over the last fifteen years or so.  I would love to be able to play and sing in public, but the prospect terrifies me.

AND SO, a friend got me hooked up to do a poetry workshop later next week in an elementary school.  When he asked me, my first thought was no way.  Elementary kids are out of my comfort zone.  With my own son being autistic, I don’t have much practice relating to that age of kids (though I did do a summer as a camp counsellor for five to seven year olds, but that was twenty years ago).  But my friend asked me at our poetry group meeting, and said meeting takes place at Szot’s Bar, and I was on my second beverage, so I said sure!

I’ve been racking my brain for a couple of weeks trying to figure out what to do.  Everything I imagine saying or doing comes out aimed at college students; they’ve been my audience for the last seventeen years.  Suddenly, I had a vision: I imagined plopping down and playing the guitar for them, and that would get some attention.  And then the connections sprang: I could do poetry and the blues as the workshop!  AND THEN, I got the bright idea to not only play, but sing.

These things are way outside my comfort zone.  I have never played guitar for an audience, just with friends in the basement.  I have not sung for an audience since college, and then only as little backup lines.  But I want to get over it.  The idea of performing excites me.  We’ll see.

I went back and forth a couple of times (you can do this/you’re awful and this is a bad idea).  What made me decide for sure yesterday was my six-year-old son.  He kept looking at me funny when I was singing, and then suddenly improvised his own blues song, “Baby, baby, baby, cry, cry, cry, la, la, la . . .  blues.”  Then he got overwhelmed and insisted I stop.  When I didn’t listen, he stole my iPod and made this picture for me:

He even took the picture. Despite all this resistance, it brought out his creative side, so I’m going forward. GAHHHH!