When I was a kid growing up with 2 older sisters, I wasn’t allowed to sing along to the radio songs that we listened to commuting home with our parents from San Francisco. “Jeff-“was my nickname,”DON’T SING.” or “Jeff, No singing.” and it was a deep supression for me as I found solitude in singing from an early age. I remember wanting to be a singer from perhaps age 8, trying to lip synch with popular songs, watching Solid Gold and Soul Train. But for some reason, my sisters hated my singing. I have never been allowed to sing more than a chorus around them, less I ruin the song so I’ve had to just sneak a few well tuned verses which satisfy the exhale of a held breath around a ridiculous sibling rivalry that still exists. In my adult years, I’ve “made” my sisters come watch me sing, so they have been aware for sometime now that it’s a serious part of my art. When I was 12 my dad bought me a karaoke machine. That was the best gift ever. Growing up in a town full of Filipinos I was raised informally by a group of karaoke gorillas who always had show and talent shows with their newest Multi sound tracks of the latest pop songs on minus one casette with the horribly translated English lyrics. Somehow, I managed to sing throughout my child years. I started performing at talent shows at age 12, and did perhaps 2 or 3 more solos in high school. I took classes and audtioned here and there but never really focused entirely on it until after undergrad. My first job as a topless dancer was meant to be prep for my future career on stage. I started taking voice and music lessons and performing with band workshops at Blue Bear in SF. While I was a little Brit pop mod girl I always wanted to sing for ethereal pop bands and would write some emo lyrics but it never went anywhere..I didn’t even perform or want to perform very much at that time of my life, but I was still singing with people and their guitars in dormroom parties.
Everytime I feel like someone is reluctant to let me on their stage, someone makes a face because i have raised my hand enthusiastic to fill an open mic slot, every time someone makes a questionable gesture of approval or disrespect and Listen, I’m just trying to tell you something: YOU SUCK- vibe it reminds me of my sisters and how my singing has not been entirely validated.
I can honestly say presently that I am PUTTING MYSELF OUT THERE. I am trying to sing at least twice a week on stage in LA with a live band. I have achieved that much this week. I have to just keep up my live improvisational skills and my musianship will come around! I haven’t had the ability to practice with a piano player because they charge $40/hr, so these days I am just going up with a chart that I’ve not recently rehearsed with any musicians or heard and usually it is the first time I am performing it, and it is in a venue filled with at least 20-50 people. It is NERVE WRACKING for me. There are some great singers at all of the open mic places I’ve been going to. But I may have exhausted my little map of them all because, remember I tried to dine and ditch at one of them, so I think I’m not too welcome there anymore and last night…..
I was so crushed out on this Jazz Club manager. mexican alt boy with tatoos and a nice stocky body. A motorcyle rider perhaps. I don’t know. Someone who visibily looked like they exercise is such a plus after being bound to somone who doesn’t. He never conversed with me or gave me a chance, but he DID give me his phone number and he DID talk to me briefly once. he then decided, I guess that he wasn’t interested.
His touch and flirtations were completely intoxicating. I was so enjoying feeling that way about someone again. It would have been nice if I could fulfilled at least SOME of my fantasy. I had made it SUCH a big deal all over Facebook and another website made it a Q&A on the blog for this film called The Line! Should I wait for a while if I really really like someone and not FUCK them right away? was the question. I swore up and down that me and this manager guy would be dating soon or at least go on A DATE. but it never happened.
the night I asked him for his number, he was touching my shoulder and my back everytime he interacted with me as my server. Calling me honey and sweetie. my favorite endearments. He was extremely sexy to me. A new Mexican to replace my old one, except one with a cool job…My God, I craved it. Everytime he touched me I wanted to just devour him right there in the restaurant. Which is why when he gave me his number I thought for sure we’d be fucking in only a matter of days. But nothing like that happened. He gave me his number on accident I suppose. I used to do that. I would give someone my number and then give them the run around rejection instead of rejecting them right off. I don’t think I ever did that after high school tho! I guess sometimes, perhaps you aren’t sure. Or one slight thing can ruin a first impression and you turn around the other way RUNNING. I’ve done that once. I idealized this guy to the point where when I met him finally he was reality was sooo disapointing I was embarassed I even pursued it. I couldn’t explain it to him. It was strange.
His name was Angel and I was indeed hoping he would be that, but he like the other Mexican guy from Radio Shack that I bought my phone from were both unattainable for some reason. Radioshack said he had a girlfriend. I saw him today. He is still so cute. The problem with pouncing on all these local retail boys is that if you live in town, you still have to run across them again after they reject you. I didn’t feel so rejected by him though. He’s nice to me. All you can do is hit on someone and see if they hit back. And if not, then no harm usually. I did really really like Angel though. I was so into the heat of the way he touched my back and kind of whispered in my ear…”Do you have another card? this one’s been rejected, honey.” LOL>>>
I said,”Are you in a relationship? Can I get your number?” NO ambiguity there, right? I’m not trying to promote myself as an artist, since he was the booking person at the Jazz Club I was singing at…I dreamed of marrying him and owning a club with him. Hilarious.
I sang and he barely paid attention. I talked to him on the phone and he really seemed not as interested as he was when he was talking to me the night I asked for his number. That was only a week ago. Just the excitement of that pursuit kept me going high on just that: a touch of my back and a kiss on my cheek. Talks of going out on Sunday..I CAN’T WAIT TO FUCK THE SHIT OUT OF YOU. I drooled.
I’m not sure what happened.
I decided I would go back to the Jazz Club and practice another jazz standard with D’s band. I’m not sure if she resented me because I was not finnancially able to tip her band that I used to sing with or what. She, like so many other smiling church goin Black women I meet in LA smiled and pretended to like me, but inside her thoughts were different. She was in charge of the open mic list, the upcoming showcases which featured a singer who sang 6 songs with the band and some publicity. The key would be for each singer to bring at least 10 people. This was the name of the game in LA. You MUST have a following of at least 10. I am still working on 3. I am friendly and meeting lots of people going out alone to these places. This is how I felt brave enough to ask Angel for his phone number. When I see someone I like, I usually go after them and just ask them out. It’s straight forward and cut to the chase. Male or female. I’m in your face and seeing if there is ANY chance…usually.
I guess she never liked my voice or me or something. I had asked her for a showcase slot and she smiled and said,”We can talk about that.” I’d seen her offer a January showcase to another male singer who I’d befriended last week. he was decent but nothing spectacular. He was supportive and was one of the many people that I’ve met just waiting for a chance on stage with others doing the same thing as me. it’s been pretty neat to have this comraderie, but sometimes it’s hard to see what is real and what is fake. people in LA will say to your face one thing but really think another constantly. Everyone in the room got a chance to sing 2 songs that night, including the seemingly homeless guy with an on pitch but not too pleasant voice. There were 2 of those singers. perfect knowlege of musicality and tone but no style and not an intersting voice.
Me, I am PASSION. i am tipsy from my glass of wine and the marijuana cookie half I’ve just digested. i feel rejected from the club owner as he makes it very clear to me that he is not interested in me. But he does his job, and serves me a meal. And again this week, as he serves me, he is flirtatious and touchy and I am lustful all over again. Does he touch all his customers like that? Is he just an amazing flirt? Am I just lonely, horny and frustrated by a service employee USING his flirtation to hustle me? It’s my turn to sing. “I Got you under my skin…I got you deep in the heart of me..” so true. All these songs were so romantic and I was soo romanticizing an affair and beyond with this man. “I said to myself this affair never should go so well. But why should I try to resist when darling I know so well, cuz i got you, under my skin…”
It wasn’t perfect. But it wasn’t horrible. People were encouraging as they usually are at these things. He didn’t pay much attention. Too bad. I love serenading my lovers. i think it is the most romantic thing. In my previous art life I was an asianprincess karaoke cowgirl on a rockng horse and I would serenade people to Patsy Cline tunes and croon them to love me while they sat on my horse Dakota. Although I have busted the cowgirl routine in 2009 at Whoreapalooza and other events, it’s not the main thing I’ve been working on perfecting. Jazz and soul singer performing has been much of my focus. Trying to work with musicians and sing without rehearsal and memorize all lyrics and chord changes. It’s been so so hard to have the guts to do it. But i’ve done it. I’ve forced myself to be brave. Sometimes, it’s taken some Henessey, but most of the times I am ready to be in front of the crowd of people confident as if I’ve sung it a thousand times.
After I do it, I feel great. I’m buzzed and I walk down the street singing and make it to my car slowly so the Hennessey can settle into a workable sobriety.. A cop rolls by me as I am singing Tyrone into the deserted 1am Santa Monica Boulevard. I look like a bordello girl with my corset and 7″ Rick James boots. I see him do a U turn and he rolls by me slowly. “I’m a singer.” I say, sort of proud that I could even volunteer that type of story and that it wasn’t a story.”Just came from singing at this club down there..” I said before he asked anything. Friendly. I’m going to go with friendly.
“I had to come back around and check out your shoes,” the cop said. He was kind of handsome. I was kind of drunk.
“yes, do you like them?” I said smiling trying to avoid any further questioning or anything unfriendly. How funny. Do I look like a streetwalker, officer Trick?
Singing to me is a deep breath exercise, a deep release and healing movement that connects my heart and my soul. At it’s best it hits 5 out of 7 of your chakras and can take you to a place as high and intense as an orgasm. At it’s minimum for me, it’s a pleasant way to distract myself while dealing with all the complexities of life. It’s a form of self pleasure. Musical masturbation. It connects my brain through my writings and helps me meditate into a state of introspection, bliss, happiness and other emotion. It has been my therapy and healing tool through trauma and my best friend’s death. It’s why Tori Amos and Sarah McLaughlan’s music and I have such a deep relationship… Hearing a singer hit a sweet run or sweet note is the best thing for those studying their instruments by watching live music. I’ve been trying to just up the anty and throw myself out there full time in this. I am not making as much money as I was in the past so it’s been very very difficult. 2 drink minimums can be challenging. Having the prestage first time song performance jitters and needed a $10 drink is sometimes a challenge as well. TWICE I’ve missed my chance on stage because I was in the car or the bathroom practicing my songs. you don’t even get a chance to really practice before you go on. you have to stay on deck, and in the restaurant or bar waiting for the moment when the MC gives you the mic and the band and you better rock out. Last Tuesday i sang Erykah Badu’s Tyrone for the first time ever with a band. I’m not sure if the guy who runs it likes me or not. He alwasy greets me and then runs away. I have to chase after him to confirm my time on stage. He is flirtatious with all the singers who go on his stage. But even though I know that you aren’t supposed to fuck with the musicians, because they are always trouble, singers ALWAYS do and it gets them into trouble. But I guess all you can do is live it, try it, fuck it. and then recover and keep singing your songs..
the closing song was supposed to be me. There had already been a host of amazing jazz musicians that had come and gone. Some of the singers were great and others were so so. One great Asian man Marvin Gaye who was sooo soulful and jazzy scattastic. I was truly impressed with how Gaye he was!
I sang “My Funny Valentine”. I sang it out because I had so much anxiety and emotion over the little lust infatuation affair of my Angel that I belted it out. After I was done, D the organizer sang it right after me in the same key as if to show me, THIS is how you sing that song. She never gave me a showcase slot. I talked to the really good jazz pianist who was friends with the Asian Marvin Gaye. All of them said to me, keep practicing. Listen to more Ella Fitzgerald. I guess it must have been horrible. But not that bad. Surely better than the acoustic guitar bad Blue brothers duo or the homeless guy?
I have been practicing acoustic songs with a Turkish guitarist. He is always reminding me of my tone and pitch problems. This is why consistent rehearsal with musicians is so essential. Musicians don’t want to work with you unless you are good and have your shit together. I have auditioned for a few pro cover bands and they have so far not been impressed with me. Some of the singers who have come before me though have been super duper American Idol impressive so it is a bit discouraging for me to even think I have a chance for the same role..
My stint at that Jazz club is over for now, I think. Perhaps I will go back there in 6 months when I have 10 friends who come to shows and I can sing the jazz standard the way it is supposed to be sung. maybe then my Angel will grace me with his Halo juice and not get on his cell phone in front of me and show that he is making plans so don’t try to stalk him by staying late after the club closes. but in thinking about her and his unspoken messages, and that they worked together; I felt it best to not return for a while, if not again.
I AM A SOUL SINGER. I sing from my soul. The words that come out are the way that I can process some of my experience, my pain, my love and loss. I NEED to sing, like I NEED to dance and write. It is an essential element of my art that I’ve been seriously studying between running non profits and getting Masters Degrees for the last 10 years. But the latter said, I’ve ALWAYS put other things BEFORE it. And I’ve always pushed to have the spare time and MONEY required to pay rehearsal musicians or to buy software to make a band in a box or to pay vocal coaches to teach you new things. I think I am starting to experience the tip of the grind in LA and I am trying to stay motivated and not be too discouraged by all of their fake bullshit or snubbing me out. What if people DON’T like you at all? What is you are horribly off key and people flinch when you sing? What if you forget the words? It’s all part of the club. I sang the back up vocals for Single Ladies with the band and an amazing lead vocalist last Tuesday. That was so much fun. I hope I did it justice. I jumped up to the guitarist microphone and took it from him. He obviously wasn’t going to sing the background vocals to Single Ladies being a dude and all. After the Funny Valentine fiasco (which was at a different club), I wondered whether this singer thought I was out of line, or I was ruining this amazing singer’s song. I tried to grab the mic and do it again on a different song, but the organizer of that night grabbed it back from me. AFter the Funny Valentine fiasco, I remember him grabbing the mic from me more clearly. Was he trying to tell me I suck? Don’t sing? I did have a lot of fun both nights. I LOVE to sing. But you have to do better than that if you are going to make it as a singer in LA. Having fun is for karaoke bars. This is about skilled music making.
Singing has always been therapeutic. It’s been my way to survive pain. It comes naturally to me to sing the blues of old country western crooners or the neo soul licks of Erykah, Ledisi, Aretha. to sing it out. how else to ignore someone that you have a crush on in a crowded bar that he manages? I saw it ending before it began, but I hoped at least I would get some good sex out of it first!