Last night my husband and I proved that with great love, a die-hard 11 year old manager/fan/daughter to tell you that you sound great, a supportive group of friends and a couple of beers, anything is possible. What was more specifically possible for us was to get up in front of a roomful of people to sing and play five songs at our local bar, JoeyG’s.
It’s never too late: a love story
I don’t know if everyone locked their bedroom door when they were little, grabbed their hair brush for a microphone and put on some seriously amazing performances in front of the mirror, but I certainly did. I have always wanted to sing. It’s one of those deep, dark little fantasies you have that seems so silly you don’t even feel right saying it out loud, but there it is. The problem was I didn’t appear to have much ability in the area of actual musical instruments. Playing piano was a chore. And for some strange reason, I don’t think I ever really sang while I played. Maybe I wasn’t good enough to do two things at once, or maybe it just didn’t occur to me.
Then I met and married my husband. Marriage is supposed to make women unhappier than it does men; this is what the statistics tell you. I am quite happy to call myself an outlier. Maybe I would have pursued my rather circuitous route to last night without my husband, but I doubt it. My husband says yes. And then he says yes some more. And sometimes even when he says no at first, eventually, he says yes. “Do you think I should learn to play the fiddle?” Yes. “Will you buy me a mandolin?” Yes. “I think I’d like to try the guitar.” Yes. “Will you play with me?” Yes. “Do I sound alright?” Yes. “Will you play at open mike night with me?” Yes. Never underestimate the power of someone who loves you and says yes.
Logistics and complications
Thank god in heaven that I did not actually do this when I was young, because it is terrifying in a way that is well-buffered by almost forty years of ego-bruising experiences and a solid, tenured job behind you. At this point in my life, I have neither need nor aspiration to do this for a living, and I am comfortable enough in my own skin to take some risks. As a friend said after we finished playing, “You jumped off the cliff!”, which is an easier thing to do at our age.
Singing in a bar with microphones and people and a stage and lights is very different from singing in your own living room. You have to play loud and sing loud. It’s hard not to stare into the big, scary eye of the microphone in front of you. It’s really nothing like your hairbrush when you were little; it has a mind of its own. We screwed up. Repeated verses. Had people applaud in the middle of a song that wasn’t over. My acoustic guitar could barely be heard. I had to keep reminding myself that if I turned my head to look at my husband, no one would be able to hear me singing.
The best audience ever
We screwed up from time to time, and the 20 minutes we played went by in a kind of blur. But there were moments. There was the crystalline pleasure of hearing my own voice singing “Angel from Montgomery,” one of my all-time favorite songs. There was looking over at my husband next to me, happily be-bopping along on his bass guitar. There was our daughter flitting around in a kind of ecstasy because she’s not old enough yet to think her parents are uncool or embarrassing. And there was looking out into the audience and seeing the 10-month-old daughter of one our friends bouncing up and down in her mother’s lap to our final song. There were all the friends who were just along for the ride, happy to provide us with hugs and gentle reviews and smiles. There was the comfort of never having to do that for the very first time ever again. And finally, there was the sheer giddiness of knowing you’ve done something you thought you might never get to do, and that you did it together.