Over the years I’ve been exposed to a lot of theory about the creative process and about the drive to perform. The theories, exercises, and practices that resonate are most often the simplest. They are also the ones that affirm something in the heart or soul, making appeals for a reception and response from an audience. These simple theories, exercises, and practices fear and revere feedback because it’s all taken to heart.
So we’re going to look at a simple exercise that you can readily engage whenever and however, as needed. Its primary purpose is to keep you honest, open, and vulnerable, so that you’re unshakably strong whenever you face an audition, fight through a rough rehearsal, hit the road for a stretch of one-night gigs, hit the studio for a long grueling session, or hit the stage of a venue thick with hecklers.
A Simple Question
It starts with a simple question that may require some time to truthfully answer. Then, once you have the answer, it requires setting aside time to connect or reconnect with the source of your truthful response. The simple question is: who do I sing for? That is the question you need to answer.
To get there, it will likely require some soul searching and may engage a few other questions to help you dig deeper. Questions like: Why do I like this song? Why am I drawn to this style or genre? Why am I turned off by this type of song or subject or artist or genre?
I remember when I first encountered a variation on this question. It was posed by an acting coach who had prompted us to do a little soul searching and get more focused and become more passionate in our pursuit of a truthful, powerful performance. I initially resisted because I was in a group of 15 actors and felt way too vulnerable. I was afraid they’d laugh or think my response was stupid or pitiful in some way. But I was also a bit resistant to the exercise because I honestly had no clue about for whom I performed.
A Guiding Handful
You may discover, as I did, that there may be a guiding handful of people that you feel are present each time you’re called to write or sing a song or to play that first big showcase or sold-out gig. One of the things to bear in mind is anyone that you most strongly wish to hear and see you perform is in some way a part of what drives you.
What Drives You
By honestly answering this simple question, you have a tool that helps to keep you grounded as a performer, singer, songwriter, and artist. You can at times imagine them in your audience so that there is always a sense of feeling connected, of genuinely communicating, and of being appreciated. So, when you face a rough house on the road, you don’t feel as rattled, shaken, or disappointed because you have a better sense of what drives you to perform, create, and relate.
Surprise + Strength
There are singers I know that have had their faith strengthened or even challenged by this simple exercise. Others have been surprised by what they’ve learned, like it’s a family member that’s passed on or a favorite teacher they’ve lost touch with. One of the most interesting was a person that discovered they are singing for someone they remembered making them feel welcome when their family moved in the middle of the school year. She said that the memory of how that welcoming classmate now compels her to make her audience feel at home.
This exercise will also stir ideas for new songs to write, new songs to add to your set, and it might trigger changes in style. It could also trigger the desire to experiment more as a performer with movement, harmonies, or even your image. It provides a tool to make you feel more connected, engaged, alive, and purposeful.
The Power Of Emotional Appeal
The business by nature is an emotional one. This exercise will appeal to the emotions from a posture of comfort, encouragement, and personal power. In the coming weeks we’ll provide more simple exercises to help strengthen your confidence, sense of focus, value, and drive for singing success.