My 9 year old daughter has the opposite temperament as mine. She is quiet and shy. She told me yesterday that the kids at school make fun of her because she is so quiet. They badger her to "talk louder" when she reads aloud in class. We weren't able to talk at length yesterday but tonight I will begin giving her voice lessons. While I will work with her on physically projecting her voice, I realize that the biggest and greatest lesson is for her to find HER voice. The one inside - the one that gives her a sense of her own power and strength.
I'm not going to continue down this path, but this is a huge struggle for women - and IMHO most minorities in general. Society tells you that you should look a certain way, act a certain way - and if you don't fit in that mold then you should act like you don't exist. . . . but that's an entirely different blog.
As an artist, the first struggle is the hardest - how to find your voice inside. For me, most of the struggle was accepting the way that I am. I am a very strong woman. I am opinionated. I am outspoken. I challenge every idea that is presented to me. I am driven towards achieving goals. I'm not Type A . . . but close. I grew up in a suppressive environment - the small societies that I lived in promoted a woman's quietness and submissiveness. If you are a strong-willed woman, you understand that to try and fit in this society is virtually impossible. You are always on the outside. Always struggling to fit in. And never fitting in.
When I came to terms with who I was as a person, I started writing songs. It may sound cliche or even textbook, but it is true. Songs suddenly started pouring out of me when I began to accept myself for who I was - and stopped trying to be what I thought the society around me wanted me to be. It is a struggle that I still have - and will always have. Childhood scars leave lifetime impressions. But they are only scars - not open wounds. They are part of my skin and I know how to deal with them.
As an artist, I still struggle with criticism. One critic doesn't like my vocal aspirates ("Say-hay goodbye" from "In the Matter of Me and You" is an example). One critic just didn't like my voice. It wasn't as good as Trisha Yearwood or Faith Hill. One critic didn't think my voice was nuanced enough on one album. . . . I take all of these criticisms in. It would be really nice to not read it, but guess what? I'm my own promoter, agent and publicist. That means that I have to read every line and copy and paste the good stuff on my promotional materials. I can't ignore it - I wear the Businesswoman hat as well as the Musician hat. Both are important to my success.
What I CAN do is what I talked about in my blog "Do What You Love Revisited". I can tune out the criticisms and listen to the music inside of me. I have a unique voice. I play fiddle the way I do - I'm not a flashy jazz/swing player. I like my voice. I like my fiddle playing. I like my songs. THAT is all part of finding your own voice - accepting yourself for who you are. No one else can be you. At the end of your life, YOU are the only one who can answer for what your life was like. WHY in the hell would you LIVE your life listening to other people tell you what your life (or your music) should be?
If we did not listen to that voice inside, there would be no Bill Monroe, no Lefty Frizzell, no Willie Nelson and no Loretta Lynn. Connie Smith, Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette all had such great voices. But I would have missed Loretta. She had a simpler voice - not as polished - but THINK of how much great music we would have missed without her. Same goes for Merle Haggard, Charlie Pride, Marty Robbins, and George Jones. But what great soul and songs we would have missed without Lefty?
The funny thing about critics is that most of them are followers. If someone starts a BIG bandwagon with your name on it, those critics are going to jump on and start yelling for ya. So why let them try to lead in the first place?
Do what you love - that music inside of you that speaks only to you. And what I believe you will find is that it speaks to everyone else.
And my daughter? I will tell her to find a way to speak her very quiet voice out loud. So that she is still true to what is quiet inside, but is loud enough that those around her can hear it.