Writer's Round Open-Mic Night
When I introduce myself to people, I usually lead with, "Hi, I'm Christine. I'm an actor and video editor." I never quite own that I'm a musician or singer-songwriter. Sure, singing and playing ukulele has always been more of a hobby for me, but after releasing my first EP, Mangos, in 2021, it's becoming a bit harder to deny this part of who I am. And since losing my mom and starting this rediscovery of who I am, I've decided it's time to fully embrace this part of myself and give this musician thing a real try!
One reason I never truly feel like a singer-songwriter is because I don't perform live. The actor and video editor in me, who loves multiple takes and editing around mistakes, loves to film a singing video or release finished songs to Spotify, but performing live is where I drew the line. I can't magically fix or control what happens live. Well, as you all know, this blog is all about new experiences and learning to live in the moment more, so I knew it was time to work on this hiccup to fully embrace myself as a singer-songwriter.
That leads us to how I performed at my first open-mic night in over 7-ish years. Writer's Round LA is a Nashville-styled open-mic night founded and formerly hosted by Greg Gilman of the band, Greg in Good Company. Every Wednesday, rounds of 3 performers at a time, who are randomly drawn out of a hat, perform 2 original songs. The goal is to play your music, support other local musicians and singer-songwriters, and build a welcoming, fun community of talented people. I first heard about Writer's Round from my friend Jung, a super talented guitarist and songwriter. After going a few times just to listen and support him, I knew one of these days I had to put my name in that hat.
However, this proved more difficult than I thought, because one thing was holding me back...fear. I had been brave enough to put my name in the hat once last year, but after not getting picked I didn't try again for a while. "Hey, I put my name in the hat. No one can say I didn't try!" I told myself every excuse in the book for why I didn't go back. "I don't have the money to Uber over there and buy a drink to support the venue." "I'm grieving, I don't have to do anything that's too taxing." "I'm too tired from work, it'll always be there." "I need more time to practice." "I'm not going to get picked anyway." Some excuses were valid, but a lot were just fear talking. Fear that I'd mess up and embarrass myself, fear I wouldn't play or sing perfectly.
Where did all this fear come from? Well, over 7 years ago I performed at some open mic nights in college. Looking back now, I realized they actually went pretty well, but for years I could only focus on what I did wrong. At one open mic night, I kept accidentally hitting the mic that was for my ukulele while I was strumming. I heard some snickers and saw some reactions from the audience that made me feel embarrassed and like a noob. I'm pretty sure this was my first time playing live, so I was a noob! Back then, I didn't know how to let myself be a beginner, and I expected perfection on my first try.
I tried again and performed at a talent show, and felt like I got even worse. My voice didn't sound like I wanted it to, I kept messing up the chords, and I skipped one whole verse in the song. I was getting more and more frustrated with my inability to play it "the right way", so I gave up and just ended the song early. Later my family told me they didn't even notice I was struggling, and that it sounded good, but I didn't believe them and beat myself up about it for years. That's why I stopped performing live and started relying on my editing skills to get my music out there. I didn't want to feel embarrassed like that again, so I told myself, "I just can't perform live."
"At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success.” — Michael Law
I carried that fear and debilitating perfectionism for years, and you know what? I got real tired of it! I didn't want to stay on the sidelines forever, supporting my fellow musician friends who were brave enough to actually take the stage. Plus, I'm not that college girl anymore. I'm not even the woman I was before my mom died anymore, so I knew if there was ever a time to let go of that fear, it was now!
Still on the new-year-new-me high, I was determined more than ever to perform at Writer's Round! So I decided, no matter what, rain or shine, I was going that first Wednesday of 2024. If doing this blog has taught me anything, it's that putting myself out there is always worth it. Imagine if I was too afraid of failing that I never started to crochet, or I was too afraid to go on these solo self-love dates. I would've missed out on all these great experiences and definitely wouldn't have a blog about it! It was time to let go of the fear of failure and just go up there and have fun! If the fate of the hat chose me, of course.
Gregg picked the first round of performers... I didn't hear my name.
Fear: See! It just isn't meant to be. You can't say you didn't try. Let's just forget the whole thing...
Me: Ugh, shut up! He's picking at least a 2nd round, maybe I'll get picked in that one. We got this. You practiced. You're prepared! If you mess up, shake it off and keep going.
After the first round of performers, there was a featured round. These are scheduled performances by Writer's Round regulars. Jung played as a featured performer one of the other times I went. Not going to lie, I was getting a bit angsty at this point. I didn't want it to be like last time when I put my name in the hat and lost momentum when I didn't get picked, so I prayed. "Please God, let me get picked tonight. I'm ready... plus I bought these sweet potato fries to support the venue, and I can't do this every week. I'm trying to save money! Lol ok, Your will be done. Amen!"
I kid you not, it felt like a scene from a sports movie or something watching the names get called for round two. Two names had already been called and the last performer was rustling the papers, heightening my anticipation. "It's going to be you." Not sure if my subconscious, gut feeling or God said this, but they were right because moments later, I heard them call my name. I thought, "Omg way to be dramatic about it with them calling me last lol, but thanks God!"
I did it! I went up there and started off round two with my song, Cajon Cutie. The nerves were still there, so I started off a bit shaky, but I made it through. After the two other performers performed it was time for my second song, Growing Pains. My nerves calmed a bit more for this song, and honestly, I heard myself and I sounded good! I wasn't perfect. The mic had some feedback moments and my fingers slipped on some of the chords, but I got through each song and a bit of witty banter with the audience and fellow performers. I had an absolute blast! (Can you tell from this picture? lol) I was so proud of myself! Not only did I sucker punch fear in the face and reject perfectionism, I stopped believing the lie that I couldn't do live performances. I didn't have to play or sing my songs perfectly, I just needed to shake off the mistakes and keep going.
I just needed to share my talent and have fun!
Motivational Tip: Don't let fear or perfectionism stop you from pursuing your dream or goal. Perfection doesn't exist. Allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes because it's not about doing something perfectly, it's about being brave enough to try.
If you'd like to check out my music, I have a music tab on this website with all my songs! And you can stream it on Spotify, Apple Music etc.
For more info on Writer's Round: https://writersround.org/
Photography Credit: Mary-Alex (Citrus Fruit Snaps)