Repeating Yourself

Repeating Yourself


It’s 1995 or ‘96, and someone, I’m still not sure who, has shelled out $750 for a voice lesson with Warren Barigian. He’s from California, the guy who got Meat Loaf singing again, has worked with countless rock and opera stars. Bonnie Raitt. Jackson Browne. This better be good. That’s a lot of money.

We’re in a hotel suite in Austin. He comes in, walks around me a couple of times, pokes me in my chest with his finger, lightly. I let out a yelp. He’s definitely hit some sort of a nerve. He tells me I’m holding a lot of old stress in my body. Thanks.

He sits down, says, “Pick a line from any song and sing it ten different ways.”
No problem. I choose the opening lines from an old standard.

“Skylark, have you anything to say to me…”

I get three passes in before he stops me.
“You’re repeating yourself. I said different. Try it again.”

I start in once more, after a couple of attempts, it’s the same thing, “You’re repeating yourself. Try harder.”

Three more times we do this dance before he stops me.

“Look, you’re still repeating yourself. Stop worrying about the notes and just sing.
Every time you repeat yourself you’re cutting off your creativity.”

Then he turns around and walks out of the room. The lesson was over.

No matter what you’re doing, act like there’s no tomorrow, as if this is the first time, and the last time.

When you sing, sing that moment.
The details will take care of themselves.

My voice is less than perfect. It is what it is. But the way I sing, and how I bring myself to it, will never be quite the same.

That is a well-spent $750.

© 2015 Darden Smith