A few weeks ago, I stood up on a stage in front of a bunch of people I’d only known for a short while and sang my heart out for four minutes straight. I didn’t have any music. I didn’t have any idea where it was going. I didn’t prepare. I just did it. I opened my mouth and I sang. First one note. Then the next. Making it all up. Improvising.
It was awesome.
But rewind a few days and you would have seen me sweating bullets. I was just sure I was going to do something stupid, that I wasn’t good enough, that there was no way I could stand up and improv something halfway good, much less impressive.
What changed in the time between that moment and the moment I stepped up on stage and sang? I had a total shift in perspective, courtesy of one of my improv buddies. He was explaining how singing can be such a beautiful, vulnerable act — but we tend to get caught up in this expectation that we need to impress. Another improviser did all kinds of cool stuff on stage. I liked it, but to my surprise, our improv teacher Rhiannon was less taken with it, saying to the singer,
“Don’t impress me. Take me to heaven.”
Think about the musical performances you’ve seen that have really amazed you, touched you to your core. It probably wasn’t the most technically accomplished ones. Those are great, but they feed the mind more than the heart and soul.
The performances that stick with us aren’t those that impress us — but rather, those that take us to heaven.
At first glance, that sounds huge. After all, what if you don’t even think you can be impressive? If you can’t manage that, then how can you possibly take someone to heaven?
The truth is, these are totally different things. Taking someone to heaven isn’t about your vocal technique or range. It’s not about perfectly mimicking someone else’s perfect way. (Although I will confess that I’d love to be and sound like Bobby McFerrin!)
So what it is about?
It’s about you.
Yes, you, flaws, hiccups, mistakes, misconceptions, misunderstandings and all. The version of yourself you don’t really like to show to the world, the one that has that weird habit of blaming their parents for things, the one with the regrettable ex’s or the deep down fear that actually, they’re just not good enough. But it’s exactly that you — the whole you — that takes us to heaven when you sing.
The “perfect” you might be able to impress, given enough time and practice. But that will never be able to touch our souls.
And believe me, I get how that sounds. But ask yourself for a minute, what would happen if you allowed mistakes to creep into your singing? Could you laugh at them? Could you allow them to take you to places you hadn’t considered before? Could you actually enjoy how liberating making mistakes is?
What if you just trusted and surrendered? Then you could learn the big secret: that there’s always something to be said and sung. Even if you don’t know what it’s going to be. All you have to do is trust that you’ll recognize it and be a vessel to give it a voice.
If you surrender, the music will come to you. And you’ll be giving us an incredibly precious gift — yourself.
Music becomes truly beautiful when you have the guts to be vulnerable. Every single person listening to you will hear it and recognize it, because guess what? They have their fears and flaws too. It’s comforting and connecting to know that you’re not the only one feeling this way.
Just peel away your fears and insecurities, your doubt and angst and voila! There’s the true you, the one who’s voice we’re desperate to hear. Here’s a clip of me going for it. Believe me. I’m sweating bullets all over again sharing this vulnerable moment with you. But it’s true – it’s a darn true version of my musical me. Enjoy!
You don’t need anyone’s permission or approval. You don’t need to live up to anybody’s expectations. You’re breathing. You’re alive. There’s your reason to be. And that’s all you need to sing.
Bottom line: You can do anything.
No one is more in your way than your scared you. So give us (and yourself) the gift of dropping that person, and going for everything. You’ll take yourself to heaven — and us along with you!