How does it feel to sing? Very, very open.
The way I sing demands that I open up both physically and emotionally. And that’s a wonderful feeling, but also a scary one.
Physically there are hundreds of tiny adjustments that I’ve learnt over the years. Thankfully I don’t think about most of them any more. I just think about singing, and as if by magic my back straightens, my chest opens, the back of my neck relaxes and the crown of my head lifts. And I feel very aware of the air inside me, of the natural reflexes of breathing working freely and powerfully. Through all the years I’ve been trying to learn to sing the challenge has always been to achieve precise coordination of muscles most people never need to be aware of, without letting tension creep in. It’s fascinating, because that’s almost impossible to achieve if you try to make it happen. So it’s often a question of finding the right images or feelings that spontaneously put the body in the right state to be a vocal instrument. And then set my voice free to do what it knows best.
It’s strangly similar to meditation- you have to let go of wanting a particular sound, and just observe what comes. Because every time I try to control the tone quality, or the volume, or whatever, I end up losing some of the richness, of the individuality of my voice. If I’m worried about a high note it’s natural to want to control it, but if I do that my voice tenses up and it won’t come out as well as it would if I trusted my voice and let it make its own adjustments. Like being in a relationship – it’s scary, but there’s no substitute for just letting my voice be itself.
And that’s where the emotions come in. The sort of music I sing is generally very emotional, and I’ve always found words and music a very potent combination. So standing up to sing in front of people means sharing something of who I really am, what I feel, what I believe.
Am I mad to want to do this for a living?