So I was watching the last season of The Voice, made mention of that on my Facebook page, when my lovely sister-in-law, Dionne, made a surprising comment: she and my brother, Kelly, were also watching and in their discussions about the merits of the show they decided I should audition, they both felt I’d be a good fit for the program’s format. I knew Dionne enjoyed my singing, but I didn’t know she felt I was national-level talent – I was a little stunned and more than a little touched; I also promised her that if The Voice ever held a casting call in or around Dallas, I would go audition.
At the time I made the promise, I knew the auditions were being held solely in New York and Los Angeles, with video submissions filling in the blanks, so I wasn’t too worried I’d have to make good – imagine my surprise when The Voice website announced regional try-outs, with Dallas front and center as an audition location.
I almost didn’t sign up. I didn’t feel ready: I haven’t lost the weight, I still can’t play my ukulele, and I still don’t have my prescription sunglasses (and YES, my future success depends on a pair of sunglasses – shut up). But a promise is a promise – I reminded myself that if you want to be a writer, you must write; actors must act; dancers must dance; and if I want to be a singer, then I must sing. The Voice is a singing competition, I am a singer – I should give the audition a try. I registered for an Artist Account, and in a few weeks the date and location of the Dallas tryout was announced: July 28th and 29th at the Irving Convention Center. I got my Artist Pass with my registration number and call time the weekend prior, then prepared for my date with destiny.
Since I’m discussing the process of the audition instead of prepping for my trip to Los Angeles, my date with destiny didn’t go as I’d envisioned it in my mind. In retrospect, I have to admit I did almost every little thing wrong for this audition. How bad did I eff this up? Let me count the ways.
Mistake #1: Made Friday Night Plans.
I’m still looking for a day job – they’re out there, I see them advertised almost daily, I just haven’t found the right one and the right one hasn’t found me. While I’m waiting for lightning to strike, I need income, so I’m contracting as a wine instructor with Premier Wines. I had my first class in a long while this past Friday night, and it was great – wonderful hosts, lovely guests, everyone had a pleasant time, and I enjoyed myself. The problem was the next morning – I’d spent three hours projecting to be heard over the din of a dozen wine-drinkers, plus serenaded a female guest for tips for my wine pourer: the result was my voice was fatigued and I sounded a little gravelly; worse, I was unable to make the transition between my chest and head registers without tripping over the break between the two – I had a yodel. This shouldn’t have been an issue, the song I had chosen to perform was well within my chest register up to and including the show-stopping high note – it still shook my confidence. A portion of my vocal range, a piece of my singing arsenal, was not at my disposal – suddenly, I was second-guessing everything: my song choice, my audition time, even my decision to audition at all, and for the first time in a long time, I had a bad case of the jitters. My day was off to a bad start.
Moral: Take the night before off – rest the voice and get as good a night’s sleep as possible.
Mistake #2: An Afternoon Call Time.
I’m not a morning person, I’m almost always late getting to where I need to be before lunch, so I thought it prudent to pick an afternoon call time – no chance of oversleeping, plenty of time to get to where I needed to be, and I’d be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when I arrived at my audition. I knew The Voice was popular, but since the auditioning process had only been announced on the website, I assumed only the hard-corpse types would know about the date and that would help keep the attendance at a manageable level. I’d be able to show up an hour ahead of my 2pm call time, and all would be awesome.
Dear Barbara, was THAT a stupid assumption.
When I hit the exit to the Irving Convention Center, the cars were backed up to the frontage road; when I swung around to the opposite entrance, the parking areas were packed, and cars were parked in the empty lot across from the site, with parents and significant others dropping off contestants as near to the center as possible, double- and sometimes triple-parking to do so. Not wanting to spend all my advance time looking for legal parking spaces and not trusting the illegal parking spaces, I drove up Las Colinas Drive to the first general purpose parking garage I could find – on the corner of Las Colinas and O’Connor, a good 15 minute hike back to the convention center.
I don’t know what it says about me and I don’t care – if I want to feel my most confident, I need two things: I need to be wearing black, and I need to be wearing a suit or sports coat. While this may present an air of authority in an interview or audition, this is not the best attire for a quarter-mile walk, especially if it’s 1:15 in the afternoon in late July – I was sweating like a hooker in church by the time I joined the HUNDREDS of people lined up outside. Another hour would go by before I managed to get inside to the air conditioning – I was literally drenched in sweat. Thankfully, so was everyone else, so we were all equally offensive – I was damn glad I’d showered, deodorized and slapped on cologne before I left.
As I listened to the conversations around me, I learned that people drove in from Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Missouri to make this audition – I’d only needed to drive in 30 minutes from Mesquite, yet still couldn’t be bothered to show up before lunch.
Moral: Pick the earliest audition call time – you won’t look like you’re lacking in ambition, and if you end up waiting an hour outside you won’t be lined up in 100 degree weather.
Mistake #3: Underestimated the Wait.
I knew it was going to be a long afternoon, knew the audition was going to take at least a couple of hours, so I had a good breakfast around 9:30AM, then hydrated with iced tea laced with B vitamins on the drive to Irving. I had not planned on a 15 minute hike, an hour standing in the blazing heat of a late July afternoon, or an over 3 hour wait once I got inside and verified by the audition staff. By the time I finally got herded from the holding pen to the staging area up on the 3rd floor, I was dehydrated and shaky from low-blood sugar – add that to the now damp clothes, clammy skin, and nasty case of nerves I never expected, I felt like hammered doggie-doo.
Moral: Whatever your expectation of the wait, double it – then take water and trail mix just in case.
Mistake #4: Song Choice.
I’d done my research and knew the initial audition was a cappella only, no accompaniment at all, so the focus was solely on your voice. I spent a good month fretting over what song I should sing – wanted to give a good showing of my range, wanted to stay out of my head voice so I wouldn’t get pigeon-holed in that register, wanted to show my articulation and ability to modulate my projection, and so on. I finally settled on the classic Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, originally a Broadway show tune, later made famous by The Platters, an absolutely gorgeous song that covered all the bases I was worried about.
Dumb f-ing choice.
In all my fretting, I was ignoring everything I’d learned performing with my band over the last year: it’s not about the song, it’s not about the quality of the technique, and it’s not even about getting it all correct – it’s all about making the emotional connection. If you sing from your heart and feel the music, if you try to express to your audience all the emotion of the song your experiencing, THAT is when the mysterious X Factor that separates the good from the great manifests, THAT is when the magic happens.
I’ve been singing Smoke Gets In Your Eyes for over half my life, but it had been over a year since I’d performed it in front of an audience – I was worried about getting the song right instead of making the song meaningful; and while I did eventually audition with surprisingly good technique considering my physical state, that X Factor I knew I was capable of delivering didn’t get delivered. I was just another better-than-average karaoke singer, not a Rock Star.
Moral: Even if it is not the best showcase of your range or technique, sing a song that comes straight from your heart – if you don’t feel it, you won’t bring it.
So, long story short: should have taken the night before off, resting my voice; should have expected 4500 people to show; should have auditioned first thing in the morning when the judges were fresh and the outside temperature bearable; should have prepared for a very, VERY long day, packing snacks and water; and should have performed my absolute favorite song with all the heart-felt longing I could muster instead of a technically impressive song with no soul.
Long story short: I was totally unprepared. I didn’t deserve to make the cut.
Saturday was my first audition in 25 years and my first ever for a national show – I’m glad I did it, I’ve got it under my belt, I now know what to expect. I also know what I need to improve upon and prepare for if I decide to do this again next year.