It’s so difficult being a professional singer sometimes. People think we just walk around tra-la-la-ing all day long. Au contraire, mon frère.
We work, learn songs, work out our bodies, practice instruments, warm up our voices, take care of our voices… and much more.
Everyone thinks our lives are so exciting, what with gigs here and there…such fun!
And to some extent, our lives are ridiculously amazing; we get to do the thing we love more than chocolate lots more often than most people.
But with that comes a tremendously sobering philosophical realization: anything you’ve done for thousands of hours can feel like…(wait for it)… a job.
Sad, but true. And, like any other occupation, those who do it for a long time can sometimes get bored, frustrated or burned out.
I remember after a particularly challenging 10-hour day singing sessions in various recording studios in New York City, I got in a taxi to go home and boy, I was pooped.
The driver had songs from his native Pakistan playing in the cab, but even though I enjoy Pakistani music, my ears literally could not handle one more note. I (impatiently) asked him to please shut off the music. He quickly complied, and when I left the cab, I quickly descended into a very dark place.
What the actual you-know-what? Shutting off music I liked because I couldn’t take it? I needed some help STAT. So here’s what I did:
1. I laughed
That’s right. I made laughing my number one priority. (Yes, I know this has nothing to do with singing. Uhhh, wait, that’s not true, is it? See, laughing has everything to do with breathing and releasing, which has a ton to do with singing!)
Laughter will be much better medicine if it gets to take hold of you for a good, solid chunk of time.
For me, that meant lots of Monty Python, Mel Brooks and episodes of South Park. Clearly, laughter is very personal so it’s dealer’s choice; go on and find the funny for yourself. You’ll be surprised how therapeutic and cathartic those big, deep belly laughs can be.
And keep it going for a while; don’t just have a quick chortle and move on with your day. Laughter will be much better medicine if it gets to take hold of you for a good, solid chunk of time.
2. I listened to/learned new music
I really expanded my musical horizons after that cab incident. I remember listening to A Tribe Called Quest, Jill Scott, Ofra Haza, Salif Keita, Dan Penn, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Joao Gilberto and daughter Bebel…
I found lots of great music that was not in my wheelhouse at all. But I didn’t wait for said music to knock on my door.
I took recommendations; I lived in NYC so I went to concerts and clubs that played lots of Brazilian and/or African music and hung out; I traveled to different cities (like Nashville, where I now live) and discovered – and met – some truly iconic artists. Seek and ye shall find; some of what I found profoundly changed my life.
Yes, it was a time and financial commitment…and yes, it was worth every penny.
3. I became a self-care champ
Yoga, meditation, biking, healthy eating, socializing, songwriting…I made sure to zero in on what felt good to me in the here and now and not overwork or overstress myself.
I wasn’t perfect, believe me (never was, never will be) but I really tried my hardest to stop and smell the roses, even if they were in those crappy bouquets sitting in buckets of water outside the bodega on my corner.
I continued doing my sessions, but I was mindful to always decompress as soon as I had the spare time. Once my batteries recharged, I could continue singing my sessions in joy and gratitude.
So remember that being in a rut isn’t the worst place to be; you can learn a lot about who you are and what you’re made of!
Jaime was a Musical Director, coaching voice and performance for Disney and wrote “Working With Your Voice: The Career Guide to Becoming a Professional Singer” (Alfred Publishing). As a session singer, she ‘jingled’ for Coke, Pillsbury, Folgers, Chevrolet, and hundreds more. She’s sung on thousands of live gigs (covers and original music) and toured for years with Leon Russell and Sam Moore. Jaime sang BGVs live and digitally with George Strait, Barbra Streisand, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Webb, Miley & Billy Ray Cyrus, Johnny Mathis, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Willie Nelson and others. She performed off-Broadway in “Search: Paul Clayton”, toured nationally with “Old Jews Telling Jokes” and presently coaches students in voice, performance, beginner guitar/piano, studio singing, songwriting and auditioning in NY, CT, LA, Nashville and virtually. For bookings: www.workingwithyourvoice.com