Lately, I'm experiencing an internal struggle: to 'singer/songwriter' or not to 'singer/songwriter'. It's difficult to break away from the paradigm you know, and it's frustrating to feel unable to tap into the authentic performer I really am. I've always emulated performers I admire in an attempt to connect with my own 'musical personality' but I think this album is proving to me that I'm not quite there yet.
I received some advice yesterday that was particularly helpful because it gave me a tangible way to tackle this problem: play each song 10 different ways. It doesn't matter if the performance is 'good' as long as it's different from the last attempt. At first, I felt stuck in my usual rut, but I think the challenge of needing to come up with 10 different approaches allowed me to experiment more.
- The usual way. I played the song as I usually would....(it took me some time to get the ball rolling).
- Way too much tremolo! Played with the Princeton and upped the intensity quite a bit. The tone was too wonky for the song, but it was good to play around with the amp's controls.
- Working the overdrive. Automatically gave me some grit (which I need)
- Pick + heels. Yes, as in high heels. PJ Harvey always wears heels, so why not? Plus, I love shoes. But most importantly, the pick gave me the intentionality I was missing in earlier performances. It really helped me dig in and I definitely felt a difference in my attitude.
- Delay-delay-delay (plus pick). I love my carbon copy analog delay. It makes everything more fun. I continued to dig in with the pick.
- Pick technique (sort of). Instead of just strumming like an indie musician wannabe, I approached the song with some of my limited pick techniques so as to not play like a sloppy mess.
- Acoustic with pick. Sat down and tried my hand at the acoustic, but still keeping in mind the attitude I was tapping into from earlier performances.
- Sing it like you mean it. Still emulating, but I thought: 'how would PJ sing the song?' and that's what I did.
- Re-phrasing. It's a take away from attempt number 8, but I had some ideas how to rephrase the vocal, which allowed me to 'dig in' from a vocal performance stand point.
- No capo. I tend to capo when I'm trying to find the key that really fits my vocal range the best. Since I'm enjoying singing deeper and stronger (from the chest), I removed the capo and dropped the song a full step. Might just keep it that way...
End result? I've got the inkling of a new attitude. I think I need more practice and commitment to myself (this kind of shift doesn't happen overnight) but it's a good first step.
I recommend trying out the approach if you face a similar conundrum. Your 10 steps can be whatever you want - just make every performance different.