What a singer can do when they are sick or emotional

This is a 2 part kind of blog. I haven’t posted in a while but my song writing partner and I are still chipping away at our album. Slow going but the music is still wonderful. Really magical stuff coming out of the studio. You can take a listen at https://www.jamendo.com/artist/496626/twin-flames

Anyway. We are also still playing out a lot in our live band Fiasco. Recently everyone came down with bad congestion and I thought maybe I would post here about what we did to overcome it. We had shows both nights on several weekends in a row. There are 3 of us in the band but only 2 of us sing. Probably the biggest thing I would suggest is sleep sleep sleep. I still find its the only thing that helps my voice. That and not talking. Steaming or long showers help. Cough drops like Ricola and tons and tons of water. So much water that you get sick of it. You have to drink water to thin all the mucus. Unfortunately coughing is one of the worst things you can do for your vocal chords because whats happening when you cough is that your vocals chords are banging together. So its better to try to cough carefully, a little at a time. Try not to dry out and become dehydrated and then get trapped in coughing fits. We also found that ginger brandy or sambooca helps at shows.

A great concoction that my band mate gave me was garlic, honey and cayenne pepper. Kind of mixed up in a paste that you eat. This really worked well to clear sinuses and feels really good too.

Musically, there were a few things we did. We tried to add some instrumental songs, we tried to take turns singing lead to give each other a break and we also stayed away from our songs that have really high notes or challenging runs. Since my role in the band is to do a lot of the singing, I stayed away from doing softer sweeter ballads that my voice couldn’t handle and kind of used the raspy voice I was dealing with to do more rock n roll. You could also try allowing band members to take longer solos. People get sick. Sometimes there is very little you can do about it. But when I’m sick I try to limit talking as much as possible. I try to save my voice for that night, and during rehearsals, I only mark where the words and changes are and sing very quietly always on a microphone.

On the other topic, sometimes life situations can get really challenging. Dealing with a cold is one thing, but what do you do if you are dealing with an emotional time? Its easy to just give up and want to quit. But I’m telling you, if you do that, you will be even more emotional because you will now also have to deal with the fact that you gave in and gave up. You will keep coming back to the fact that you did not work through whatever it was you were going through. Yes, sometimes if there is band drama and someone has to quit or be fired then it just has to happen. But if you are dealing with outside emotions, it can be hard to come to the studio or rehearsal while leaving that stuff at home. Leaving your emotions at home is perfect for being an accountant but as a musician, its sometimes helpful to bring these things to the studio. Especially if you are writing. Recently, that’s what been going on for me. But the best way I found to think about it for your singing career, is like fuel. If you have never tried to sing in front of a mic while angry or crying, I encourage you to try it. It will be very hard! But you might be surprised at how cool it can sound. Sure it might suck, but you don’t have to perform only when everything is hunky dory. If you believe in your music and the people you are working with, then trust that. Whenever I have to perform out and I feel like I just cant do it then I listen to the band. I focus on that. I trust my band mates. So I focus on the sound of the guitar and the beat of the drum. I let that lift me up. You shouldn’t approach being a vocalist as “you are the most important part” because you aren’t. Your audience might think that, especially if you are considered the front person. They may always think that. But you cant have a good show if its all about you. Of course you can cancel on really bad days. But the people you work with musically are there to support each other. I’m just saying I hate it when singers feel like the whole show or session has to be cancelled because they aren’t having a good day. Use the not so good days! Use your emotions! I kind of think of it like respect for the music. I HATE having to cancel. I will if I absolutely have to, but honestly I love the challenge. It’s like going to war!

Why this blog contains things other than music

Rest assured this is a blog about music, and singing, and songwriting and performing. But it contains things about life too because thats what drives creativity. You have to connect to yourself if you are going to connect to others. Life has been hard lately, loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, loss of direction. But these things fuel every part of music. Im creative in other ways, as Im sure you are too. But I focus on music because thats what I do. Do not attempt to make life toooooo smoooooth. Because what will you have to write about? Im not saying you need to create false drama, you just need to live in every emotion you have. And then use it. If you are sad, then be there in it. If you are overjoyed, then be in it. Others may say that you are too sensitive, or that you wear your heart on your sleeve. They may ask you, “why are you crying because of a sunset?” or “why are you so quick to laugh, how was that even funny?” or “you are too emotional!” or tease you in some other way. Just own it. Ask them “Why are you not crying?” “why are you not laughing? ” and then smugly grin at yourself.

Back on Concerta

So here I am my second day back on Concerta. I cant really say that anyone would notice a difference. But I did say that I would let you know what its like being on the meds. It’s simply calm, quiet, purposeful, and like the pendulum has narrowed its swing a little. I noticed the last 2 conversations I had in a noisy place, I was able to concentrate. I was able to listen to the person I was actually talking to. Rather than the other conversations going on. What I notice right away is how the small tasks in daily life are not as monumental as they seem when I’m not on meds. Think of looking into a garage belonging to a hoarder. Thats what daily life looks like to me when I’m not on meds. “Where do I start”, I scream. I fret over so many things and so give up and do nothing. I find something to tune it out. But when I can focus, then these daily tasks are not as threatening. I see the benefit of doing one thing at a time. When not on meds its like all of it has to happen now! I know it has to be chemical. This is not a placebo. Because Ive tried every approach before I knew I had ADHD and none of it worked. For a placebo to work, you have to have faith in it. And I had faith in every diagnosis. Yes I must be bipolar, yes I must be a hypochondriac, yes I must have panic disorder. Each time I thought it was the answer. But those meds never worked. This does.

tracking in the studio

so here i am in the studio listening to an amazing sax player lay tracks on some songs and im blown away by his talent but also thinking about how others might not know what this is like. its interesting because there are probably these ideas or notions of glamor in the studio. Yes its fun. But tracking vocals is so hard for me. And sitting in on a tracking session has its boring moments. Its alot of , “can you rewind that?” “Can I do that like umpteen more times?” “hey can we take a break?” “Oh dang the software froze hold on.” “how does that part go again.” “maybe we need to change that chord?” “this isnt working, lets try again tomorrow.” etc etc etc.

It IS work. its hard work. Typically, i don’t like sitting in on tracking sessions. its just that, sitting, and sitting and waiting. Usually I like just coming in on the day that I have to sing. But this is our album so I wanted to be here. But if you know you are going into a tracking session as a vocalist you need to be ready
1. know your part
2. Make sure you tell the engineer what kind of vocal day you are having, good or bad. post pone if you cant sing that day.
3. Its not party time. Yes you can have fun, but you have to treat it like work.
4. if you need something in order to make the vocal better, say so!
(i have to have low lights, and I have trouble with others in the room staring at me other than my husband or my producer) Its not being a diva, its whatever you need to get a good vocal
5. be upbeat and patient.

6. be flexible and try to bring only good energy! Remember why you are doing this! because you love it.

What its like to have ADHD

I thought I would blog about this because I’ve never had a chance to, and if you get something out of it, Cool. First of all, it took me forever, or almost forever, to find out that the reason life always seemed harder for me than others, was the fact that I had ADHD. I always knew there was something different about the way I went through life, but I had no idea it would be this.
School was really hard. Since the 4th grade I always had to sit at a desk alone because I was always distracted, I could never stop fidgeting or talking. I was the kid who’s report cards alway said, ” cant pay attention” “Won’t apply herself” “Struggles with staying still” “Disruptive”

I am still that way everyday as you don’t outgrow ADHD, you have it forever. In middle school and high school I was always told I was stupid, bad, lazy or just “not applying myself” That is probably the toughest part, because inside, you feel like you are smart. You know that you are smart. But you can’t explain why everything is so hard. The other frustrating part is people around you think you are “faking something” for attention. When really all you want to do is blend in and do good in school! Why would anyone want this kind of attention? It feels horrible. Like getting beat up by your teachers and peers everyday.

I searched for so long to figure out why I was different. From the time I was about 16 until I was diagnosed at 42, I never stopped looking for the reason. Once I found out without a doubt, that it was ADHD, I went through the five stages of grief. I was elated to finally know, but also dealt with denial, anger, sadness, regret, etc. The stage that has been the most difficult to let go of has been anger. “Why did I not know sooner? I could have done so much better in school, work, relationships, everything. If only I had known.”
But what I really want to do is to try to explain what it feels like to have it. Many do not believe its a real thing. Honestly, if it weren’t a real thing, then what had I been searching for? I wasn’t depressed, I wasn’t hallucinating, I didn’t have a personality disorder, it was just…. something.
So I’ll see if I can describe it.
Ever since I can remember I’ve always been this way. Its kind of like tumbling around in a washing machine. Or like standing in a store where they sell televisions and all the televisions are surrounding you, all playing different channels at different volumes. And you are trying SO hard to focus on only one of those televisions. Thats how my environment looks to me. My senses are also one of my biggest distractions. Every thing for me is slightly heightened, I taste, feel, hear and see much more detailed than I think other people do. Certain fabrics or textures of foods or sounds or lights can be really overwhelming. Sometimes to the point of where I have to get out of that situation quickly or Im just gonna lose it. I also have a lot of trouble keeping track of “things” this is probably why Im not a pack rat. I don’t like “stuff” because I tend to lose stuff. Ive gone through 15 debit cards in 8 years. I misplace, everything! Trying to keep track of things is a big source of anxiety for me. Its not being irresponsible. Its actually my brain not allowing me to pay attention to what I am doing. So I will frequently do or say things without hearing myself or knowing what I am doing or saying. It feels sometimes like I am not inside my own brain. Or like chaos or static is in my brain, its something I deal with constantly. One of the other things I do that sucks is I have a terrible memory. I have to use photo albums to remember family trips, or things we did or people we knew. I just cant sit around and recall stories. Because of constant distraction, I miss things in life. Its as if I were never there. The Hyper part of ADHD is a little different feeling. What the inside of my head feels like is kind of like one of those little rev up cars. You pull it back to wind it up. Although, nobody ever lets the little car go. It just stays wound up all the time. So I’m also very fidgety. I wiggle my leg up and down, bite my finger nails, sing to myself, tap my pencil, or make humming and groaning sounds. Anything to keep my brain occupied. Its not the same as being bored. Imagine if being bored were really painful. Thats what its like. My brain has always felt as though it were sort of starving for something. Because ADD and ADHD has to do with a lack of chemical stimulant in the brain, the brain has a hard time focusing on anything. So it just darts around looking for something to engage itself.

Listening to other people talk is really challenging, one reason I did not do well in school. I feel like people talk really slow and fill in what they are saying with a bunch of nonsense chit chat. I have no patience for that so I tend to talk over people and constantly interrupt them. This makes it hard to make and keep friends.
I bump into walls, I trip over things, I cut people off in the grocery store, I stand in front of people without noticing they are there. Its not that I don’t care. Its that I just am not always physically “here” Im off in ten thousand other thoughts all at the same time, that I honestly can not control. It’s not for lack of trying to be in the moment. Or for not trying to pay attention. My thoughts are coming and going all at once 24/7. It is not something I can actually curb. Its happening all the time. You can imagine how exhausting it is. Like a lot of ADHD people, by the end of the day, I am completely wiped out. I fall asleep in less than 5 minutes. Even when I’m asleep and dreaming, like a lot of ADHD people, I have very active, vivid dreams. I talk in my sleep, laugh, cry, scream…. in my sleep.
One more thing that really takes over your life when you have ADHD is the concept of time, or maybe the lack of the concept. Time does not really exist the same way for someone with an attention deficit. Sometimes time speeds up and sometimes it slows way down. I know what you are thinking, yes we all feel times flies when we are having fun and is creeping along when we are doing something boring. But its not really like. Its more that people with ADHD don’t understand how long things really take. What I think I can do in 5 minutes, actually takes an hour. On the other hand, if I have to wait in line for 5 minutes, its so painful, that I usually give up and leave the line. People with ADHD really have a hard time waiting their turn. It sounds spoiled and selfish but trying to have patience is like having a very bad itch you can’t scratch or a tic that you have to let out. ADHD, especially the hyper part, makes it really tough to hold still. and unlike a spoiled child that just wants to “go first” ADDer’s would rather just forget the whole thing and leave.
The other big factor with time is the hyper focus state. Anything the ADHD people find really enjoyable they can suddenly become lost in. It sounds selfish and made up but its true. Hyper focus takes over your whole body. When I get into a hyper focus state I actually forget eating or using the bathroom without even realizing it. Ive gone hours upon hours without eating or drinking or taking a break because I was hyper focused on something I really wanted to do. When ADDers hyper focus, they will swear that only a few minutes have passed by, but its usually hours. I used to think something was wrong with my clock or that someone was tricking me.
ADD or ADHD is only a part of me. But it has made me who I am. Its with me all the time, because its just the way my brain works. There are really wonderful things about it, but it can be frustrating too. Ill follow up with another blog to try and explain what it feels like to use medication.

 

A Boat Without a Sail

2016 was tough. I came to find out it was tough for a lot of people. For myself and my family we lost people that year. Loved ones in the matter of a couple of months. Some tragically, some probably expected. I also had to put my 12 year old dog down, whom I had since a puppy. I also had my only son move away to go to college. And in turn, had an eight year old at home now, suddenly as an only child. (My oldest daughter had moved out a couple of years before). To add to that, I had to leave my good paying job I’d had for 8 years, which made it hard to pay bills. And so started seeing my house, car, my credit slip away. I was worried, but never really terrified. My doctor, the only doctor that could prescribe my ADHD meds, also left. Lots of things kind of came plummeting down. I can honestly say it was the first time that I felt I had no plan in life. No direction. I didn’t know what to do, what to be, where to go, how to stay. It felt much like being in a boat with no sail. I even googled countless articles. Asking Google, What do I do now? Google said nothing.

This went on for 5 or 6 months. Just having no answers. It was a strange feeling. Kind of like being a little kid and not knowing anything about the world. It was scary. So gradually I decided not to try to figure it out. I just decided to get through each day. Do mundane things. Pay a bill when I could, do the housework, play a board game with my daughter. Sort of wait to see if something sprouted up. Not that I was trying to be a couch potato. I was waiting, but I was alert. Then little things started happening that I didn’t consciously ask for. Music opportunities started happening. Small at first, and then a little bit bigger as time went on. Until I finally realized. There was NO WAY I could have worked on music as deeply as I am now with all of those other life things going on. Its like stuff sort of had to get out of the way to make it possible. I was still grieving about loved ones that had left, and still am. But it was more like an era was ending. And this dream, this dream of making music the center of everything could maybe happen now.? I had to go through the endings of things to make room for beginnings.

Being married to your Band

Yes you have heard it before. Being in a band is like being married to all of your members. Its absolutely true. I’ve been in 4 bands throughout my life. Not all at the same time but this has been true in all of them. Some band “marriages” are better than others. But in any case, its always an intense relationship. You spend countless hours with these people. (if you are doing it right) Sometimes more than you spend with your own family. You come to know the gross habits, their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses. And they will come to know yours. Juggling a lot of personalities can be tough. Especially when your goal is to create. Others on the outside will have a hard time understanding. They may get jealous. They may wonder why your band members lives come up in conversation. Its not quite the same as the relationship you have with co-workers in an office. Music is so much from the gut. And sometimes the only way to tap into it is to spill those guts, to each other, to your band mates. Because a lot of the time good songwriting comes from tragedy, or heartbreak. And so, naturally your band mates are going to know a lot about you, and you will know a lot about them. I think this is the part thats not always mentioned in blogs about, “being in a band is like being in a marriage” Songwriting requires sharing personal stories. And so you become very close to these people. That might be the toughest part for your non music family, like your spouse and children, to understand. But its part of the job. My advice is to keep enough personal stories that only your family at home knows. So that they can feel special too. But let them know why you have to share some very personal stuff with your band family…… because it makes good music.

What I always thought

I thought I would reach this great place, an end that would be the beginning of the rest of my life.

1. like once I fell in love
2. then as soon as I graduated high school
3. then it was when I buy my first car
4. or when I get married
5. then it was when I buy my first house

then it still wasn’t there….I kept wondering, when am I going to arrive?

Then it was… well… I thought maybe its when I have a baby? Yeah thats it! That will be a family, but as soon as each thing happened there was always this feeling of nope, this isn’t it yet.

6.Maybe its graduating from college?
7. and finally getting a career.

But each time I got to the new goal, there was always something else to shoot for. A line to cross. I kept wondering, what am I doing wrong? aren’t I supposed to be finally starting life now?
Although I was happy I kept thinking there was something that defines you as an adult. Ok. You are here welcome to the club.

Then I found a lot of other people that felt the same way. Like always obsessed with getting somewhere; but we’re here. Its only right here. There is no other place. But don’t feel discouraged or sad about that, feel good. Because it means you’ve already arrived. You did a long time ago.

People are always talking to you when you are young about growing up; that its the best. So it feels like there is some kind of prize at the end.

But the prize was always here. I didn’t realize I was already living. We are breathing and awake, that’s all it is.