The last time I posted was back in February, right before I ended my career as a civil engineer. A lot has happened since then! One of which was a promise to post on here pretty often. But let’s not get caught up in the details. Hands down one of the most memorable events these past several months happened tonight, or I should say Friday night, as it’s now 2:23am Saturday.
A friend I met through the music scene, Dhevhan Keith, posted about a Singer/Songwriter contest, which he was an organizer for. It was being held at Lola’s Grill, which was previously Champions Bar. First off, I gotta say Jed and the staff there really changed the atmosphere of that place. I walk in and see large head shots of famous local celebrities and musicians covering almost every wall. Rap Replinger, Andy Bumatai, John Cruz, Brother Noland, and so on. A stage sits to the left of the front door and you immediately know, they mean business when it comes to live music. I will definitely be back. Now back to the competition.
I see Dhevhan’s post on Facebook and think, “don’t think, sign up right now.” Well I didn’t sign up like I had just told myself to do, because let’s be honest, I was scared. It was always in the back of my mind after that, until a couple weeks later my other friend Amanda Frazier posted it on her Facebook page and mention that she’d be one of the judges. If I’m going to play an original for a bunch of strangers, I’d love it if she was one of the ears in attendance because I respect and admire her a lot as a musician and songwriter. She won a Na Hoku Hanohano award back in 2014! Anyway, 5 minutes after seeing her post, I was signed up and regretting it with every scared bone in my body.
Maybe I’m being dramatic, but my emotions ran the gamut this week in anticipation of stepping on stage tonight. It’s been a long time since I was this nervous to play music in front of people. In an explanation to a friend a few days ago, I tried to make sense of my nervousness to her. Basically I’ve been playing covers my whole life, and after the initial fear of performing music in front of people for the first few years, a feeling of pure enjoyment took over. Gigs have just been fun, plain and simple. But playing tried and true covers for people is easy if you do a half decent interpretation, if not a carbon copy, of these already popular songs. People love to hear these songs and are pleasantly surprised if you can do them well enough. I explained that I’m a ‘nobody’, in the most positive sense of the word, as far as the songwriting music scene here goes. That could actually be a blessing since there isn’t any hype or expectation based on my previous works for anyone to lean on while listening to me. Virgin ears to my music.
BUT THOSE EMOTIONS THO!!! My hands were sweating all night while listening to the other artists perform their music. On a few occasions I said to myself, “thank goodness I’m not going after them!” I managed to do a well timed buzz using the Heineken on draft and making small talk with people next to me, to mitigate the bad nerves and coax the confident nerves out. Dhevhan called my name to play, and any confident nerves that were curious enough to poke their heads out immediately shot back into their shells. I set up my guitar and pulled up a chair, because well, I’m lazy, and standing is hard. I dropped my iPad on the stand in front of me which acted like a mini lectern to hide behind in addition to my guitar. Also, a side note, I totally almost misused the word ‘podium’ in place of ‘lectern’. I was allowed one warm up song before my original piece, and only up until I finished tuning my guitar on stage, did I settle on A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton to warm up with. Why? I dunno, I thought maybe it would get the attention of at least one person before I tried the original song. But apparently I didn’t need to get anyone’s attention because there was a sizable cheering section in there for me by chance. A friend happened to be there with her coworkers and coerced them into cheering for me. I specifically didn’t tell anyone about this so I could kind of just fade into the background and get an honest reaction from people. But in the end I can’t say the cheering didn’t yank some confident nerves back out, so thanks cheerleaders. Vanessa Carlton: done. That was the easy part of the night.
I hit that home button on my iPad and swiped that bad boy on, revealing song lyrics and chord annotations for my song. I had a moment of panic when I read the first verse because I thought, “wait those aren’t the right lyrics!” Then, “Shane, you’re an idiot, get your sh*t together, the words are fine.” I explained to the audience that I wrote this song right before I turned in my resignation letter and put that Civil Engineering life behind me. Too scared to say anything else, I went back into my hiding spot behind the mic and strummed the first chord: C. Then I blacked out. Not really, but I basically closed my eyes the whole song because I was so terrified, only opening them to check in on those lyrics. You know, to make sure they were doing okay there on my iPad. My song was short and sweet and it felt like it was over as soon as it started. My obnoxious friends and her coworkers spammed the airwaves with “hana hou!” so I busted out a Taylor Swift cover for them and scurried off the stage.
Remember how I wrote about closing my eyes the whole time? I walked over to Amanda and her bass player Ernie, who by the way is freaking awesome and I’m always stoked to see and share a good bear hug with the man. Their first critique was that I need to open my eyes when I sing. So I heard them, and knew they were absolutely 100% right, but my irrational fears had closed my eyes and I’d just have to work on it next time. And guess what? I didn’t explode, the world didn’t end in a ball of fire, Donald Trump didn’t become the president, cat’s didn’t befriend dogs, and I was still alive!
I’ve played this song for a few friends. Some of which were songwriters, some just fans of music, and some just fans of me. But it’s different playing it for strangers, and I’m so relieved that my first time playing an original for strangers was in front of the crowd that was there tonight. Before I went on, one of my best friends texted me that this is what I wanted, and the nerves are just telling me that I’m growing and progressing. He also said he was proud of me, which was just what I needed to hear.
So in light of not spontaneously combusting into a supernova and imploding into a blackhole, I think this is definitely what I want to be doing right now. Writing songs, and playing them for complete strangers, with the occasional familiar pair of ears listening in.
Cheers to the future and more music!