You Should Probably Just Do That Thing: My First Open Mic
What’s your thing? You know, that thing you’ve been wanting to do for forever, but just haven’t had the gall to make it happen yet. Maybe it’s travel. Maybe it’s opening up an Etsy shop. Maybe it’s a canoe trip, or a multi-day hike, or hosting some sort of a event. There are lots of things. Oh, yes. LOTS of things just waiting for you to break out of your routine and make them happen. I know you have at least one. Mine was getting up at open mic.
Okay, okay, there have been and still are a multitude of dreams and goals filling up my bucket list, but this particular one has been weighing on my mind heavily for the last 3 years. When we moved to our sweet little island 3 years ago, I found out about the various open mic nights, and decided that I would get up and play. It’s not that I’m an amazing guitar player, goodness no. I’ve been fiddling with the old guit-box since high-school, when I realized that I just wanted a life full of music, and someone to play me guitar, and rather than hang off some dude, I figured I would learn to play. I started getting serious about teaching myself guitar when I was attending VIU 8 years ago (really?! 8 years?!), and have kept it up as much as possible when my little one care around. I love to be able to offer her the experience of seeing someone make music and sing from their soul, right here at home, over and over. I want to instill in her the love and need for filling her soul up with music that my instrument-hoarding mama raised me to have. And, jamming with a 2-year-old is pretty awesome.
So, back to open mic. Last week, my good friend Jess picked me up with the goal of getting me to go up on stage and get this goal checked off my list. Of course, me being me, I chickened out and called it my “recon mission”. You know, get a feel for what’s going on, and how it all happens. It was successful, if you think about it that way.
Then, last night we tried again. I practiced a few songs I felt fairly confident with, and brought my music notes with me when Jess picked me up. The nerves, people. Ugh. Every time I’ve thought about doing this hugely up front and noticeable thing, I would get all shaky and my stomach would do flip-flops. But, I was going to do it. Funk it, it had to be done. I got up the courage to go chat with the dude running the mic, and explained I was too chicken for 3 years, but I was just going to do it. I’m thankful he was so encouraging. He told me I totally should, and came to sit and chat with me before I went on, explaining what would help me sound better (have fun, sing strong, and most importantly, sing into the mic as closely as possible), and that it took him about 8 times of getting up before he could get over how loud and different everything sounded when you’re on the mic. It definitely helped me feel more confident, having that support.
So I went up.
My First Open Mic Experience
Now, here’s some fun things about me and my awkwardness. When I speak in public, even to a small classroom of peers (preschoolers is a whole other ball game that I totally rock), my voice gets really high. Like, really high. Squeaky. Off-key. It’s almost like my throat closes up and I’m fighting my body to squeeze out some sort of sounds which are not at all close to the way I can belt it out when I’m home alone, singing my little heart out to myself. Now, let’s add to this the way that my whole body shakes, especially my knobby little fingers, and you’ve got a recipe for an awful performance. But, funk it, this was going to happen. So, I started singing and playing, and completely messed up and startled myself with my uber-high voice the first couple words, and decided to take a breath and start again. I think it helped that, before I started playing, I explained that this was my first time, and the bar was super supportive, clapping and cheering. Phewph.
So I carried on. I sang that first song, CCR’s Bad Moon, with all the squeaky, high-pitched, off-key power I had in me. It reminded me very much of another instance of playing through discomfort that I’ve had before, when I serenaded my mama on her death bed (that feels so weird to say, but that’s what it was), and a room full of somber friends and family on the last day my mama would ever hear me play. That was a different kind of nerves, and the tears and choke-hold in my throat were the reason for my high, off-key vocals that day, but funk it, I played on. Sometimes you just have to do what you need to do, even if it doesn’t come out the way you wish it would. Play through the nerves. Play through the tears. Just get up there and freaking play out your heart.
When I finished my first song I whispered an apologetic “I’m sorry” into the mic before carrying on to my second song choice, a Doris Day song that I know from Cake’s cover of it, Perhaps. Okay, this wasn’t so bad. I was getting more relaxed, my fingers were starting to steady and remember how to play, and my voice was starting to come down to a more manageable pitch. I kept going. A little Johnny Cash, Ring of Fire, then I finished off with John Mellencamp’s Jack and Diane, and by this point I was able to really let myself play and comfortable feel the music. It felt amazing to let go like that.
When I got down, I was pleasantly shocked by the kind words, cheers, handshakes, and congratulations from some of the other musicians and pub patrons. One of them even said to keep singing because he liked my high voice, had I ever heard of so-and-so with the high voice who sang with so-and-so? (I’m not a good listener when I’m coming down from a nervous experience like that.) Others congratulated me on having the courage to get up there and play open mic for the first time. It’s not easy.
All in all, it was a fantastic experience, and I’m so glad I did it. I’m thankful for my friend, Jess, who pushed me to finally make my goal happen. I’m thankful to the open mic facilitator for being so supportive and helpful in getting me up there, and still coming to sit and chat afterwards, even though I murdered that first song (and maybe parts of the others to a lesser degree). I’m thankful to the awesome people in the pub, for not booing, and for clapping and cheering enthusiastically when I mentioned it was my first time, and after all my songs. I’m thankful to everyone afterward who made a point of saying such positive words about what I’d done, making me feel like I didn’t have to slink out of the bar and into a hole from embarrassment.
So, my message to you is this. Whatever it is that you’ve been wanting to do, but have been putting off because of feeling unsure – selling that house to travel the world, starting up a new business, offering a class or program, getting up at open mic – whatever it is, you should just do it. Don’t let your nerves or what others might think about it hold you back. You might totally mess it up your first try, like I did, but at least you tried. And, like I’ve written about before, it’s better to be a loser than a spectator (I highly suggest you go read my little blurb and more importantly listen to this awesome song by one of my favourite hilarious bands of all time).
Now, get out there, people. Live your dreams, make a mess, and feel proud of yourself for trying. Who knows? Maybe you’ll rock it and wonder why it took you so long.
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What’s your “open mic” goal? Tell me in the comments, and maybe I can help give you the push you need to do that thing you want to do.
Thanks for reading, awesome people. Until next time!