I just returned from Early Country Music Week at Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, WV, which I would rate as a life-changing experience. The camp is mainly run by the esteemed singer Ginny Hawker, who has love pouring out of her with the force of a fire hose. The way that she and the other instructors would take such deep joy in the progress of their students, the way that people who watch from the shadows are welcomed into the sunlight, the way they revere those who have gone before, made me really think that they have the core musical goals of joy and connection at the center of their being. A lot of the world is set up to be competitive--including the music industry. Spaces that focus on sharing and collaboration rather than personal accomplishments are precious indeed.
"Don't spend your life beating up on yourself about pitch," said Ginny, in her singing class aptly named Do You Believe Me? Her co-leader Courtney Granger shared that if he can't connect emotionally to at least one line of the song, he won't sing it. They encourage you to "scratch" the place in yourself that feels the pain or joy the writer was experiencing when they wrote it. Both of them are known to cry during performances.
Having never had any vocal training or voice lessons, I was somewhat surprised to discover that I do almost all of my singing from my "head voice," a grave sin as far as early country singing goes. To sing in this style I have to bring the key several steps down - for instance Rose of My Heart, which I normally sing in Eb, I bring down to Bb. It's almost like discovering that I carry around with me an whole separate instrument that I can now try to learn how to play (a video is below to hear the difference).
I was touched by the overwhelming response to my last post about leaving my job and trying to set the right sort of intentions as a musician. Magically, getting those concerns off of my chest really liberated my spirit, and I feel much less burdened for this journey that I'm on.