Circle Back or Singing as a Spiritual Practice.
Several years ago, I was playing a show in a nice venue in Montana. At the time, it was one of the nicer stages I had ever performed on. When we rolled in at about 2 in the afternoon, there was a man sitting at the bar who had obviously been drinking. He wanted to give me a massage. I was really uneasy until the bartender told me that he was a wonderful massage therapist and that he was here drinking today because his brother had died that morning. After hearing those parts of his story, and watching him give my boyfriend Jakob a massage that he was raving about, I let him give me a shoulder massage at the bar. It was a turning point for me. I don’t know if it was just his intensity or what, but it felt like his hands reached deeper into my body and pulled more tension from me then I could ever have consciously known was there. He told me as he worked my muscles, that I had to be free if I wanted to make the people feel free. It was the moment that concept came into my awareness as a singer, and I have been circling back to it for the past several years, finding ways to be more free both in my mind and in my body.
Singing is my spiritual practice. Studying singing has made me a better person. It is a humbling, unfolding study of your depths and a search for simplicity.
It is also all just muscles. We all have more or less the same equipment. We can all learn to let our voices resonate without tension, which is the foundation of the kind of singing that sends a chill down your spine.
My biggest leaps in performance seem to come from a deeper understanding and implementation of something really basic.
That being said:
I found a new level of release this week, just by adding a facial massage and tongue stretch to my warm up routine. (Do that! No really, don’t skip it!)
My advice for singers of every level: You are a singer. I am a singer. It is amazing how hard that can be to say. Say it. Then find a way to release tension. Repeat.