The other day my friend brought over a woman who can play bass and sing. She wanted to hear my music and see if she’d be interested in being in a band with me. I played a couple popular songs that she knew words to so I could hear her sing, and I had to admit that she was technically better than me. However, while I may never have a world class voice, I do believe I have one that fits my music. Actually, let me clarify that: I have one that fits the ACOUSTIC stuff I’ve been doing. As for the hard rock, edgier stuff, I believe I can and WILL get there with practice.
Apparently, she didn’t agree. She spoke to my friend after practice and this is her verdict: she is used to being a “front woman” and, while she liked the songs, was not “sold” on the vocals. He asked me if I’d be willing to “trade” duties to her.
I said, “Trade as in share, or give her total lead? Because if it’s the latter, then no.”
He started saying things like how more people would be into the band if I had her sing all the time. (SIDE NOTE: I have to admit: it takes a lot of nerve to come to a practice where it’s someone else’s idea and suggest YOU take over.) That’s like saying, “If you wore Tommy Hilfiger, you’d have more friends.” It isn’t important to have a TON of friends, but the right kind. I think the same is true of a band: I’d rather have 5 fans that were fanatical about my music (even IF I am the lead singer) than 50 casual ones.
He also said he thought I was doing this for the love of the music and not for an ego trip. I said, “Yeah, I am, and I love singing…it is a goal of mine to get better at it…and that’s not going to happen by handing over 100% of the vocal duties and singing backup maybe 10-20% of the time.”
Then he even had the nerve to say, “Well, I think you’d be hard pressed to find people who would think your voice could carry a band.” Really? Then how is it I was in three bands already? And in two of those three, I was the lead singer…with NO objections from the other band mates? And when those bands broke up, it wasn’t because they SUDDENLY realized my vocals sucked.
Then he said one of the most classic hated lines I have ever heard regarding this topic: “When it comes to vocals, you’re either born with that talent or you’re not.”
Oh PLEASE! So I guess Sarah Brightman was already belting out great tunes when she was born? NO! She took lessons. That is the most ignorant idea to hold on to. Why is it people get so bent out of shape if you take VOCAL lessons, but not if you take guitar or drum lessons? The voice is an instrument like anything else. Just because it is inside your body doesn’t mean you automatically have control of it, and it doesn’t mean that it can’t get better even if you “suck” now.
I HAVE played music out with my voice before. At my last gig, I got a HUGE response…and believe me, you can tell when people are applauding to be polite versus really enjoying your material. Not only that, but several people came up to me after the set and told me they enjoyed my stuff. Now these were total strangers…people with no emotional ties to me. If they hadn’t liked any aspect of the music, they would have had no problem in being blunt with me. But did any of them say “I like the songs, but you need a singer?” No.
MANY of my favorite bands (from any era but especially from the ’90’s) have obtained a following with people whose voices weren’t “the best.”
*Jimi Hendrix (HATED his own voice)
Some people might be tempted to say, “Well yeah Joey Ramone sucked, but his voice had identity…personality.” When I PRACTICED more, mine did too. Or at least it was getting there until my previous bands fell apart. With practice I can reach that goal.
I’d also like to point out that this is the same friend who told me I need to have more confidence in myself. Okay, so then why are you trying to undermine my confidence in thinking my voice can and will get better? “Be confident in yourself…except your singing.” He couldn’t even explain why he had such a hard-on over this particular person being my bassist over anyone else. I mean, what does HE care who plays bass for me? Why does it matter so much that it be this young woman in particular?
Another comment he made was, “If she had come to me and said I wanted to play guitar in Steve’s band, then I would have told her no because that is YOUR department.” Oh, I didn’t realize we were in a corporate structure here where doing one means I can’t do the other. Again, I must have a SOMEWHAT good voice or else I’d get thrown off stage.
In all fairness, there are a handful of songs that I don’t care who sings them. So I said, “Go back to her and say there’s probably a good share I would hand over. I’m not going to say it is as high as 50%, but it could be.” So far there has been no answer.
And you know something? I don’t really care if there is. Sink or sail, this is my ship. I’ll go down in it how I please.
As far as I’m concerned, the search for drummer AND bassist is still on.