My Biggest Musical Influence Is Tone Deaf

I grew up singing–at church, at school, for people who couldn't feed themselves–and I didn't really have much of a choice in the matter. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for it; it was good practice. But I still loathed it. I would do my duty then exit stage as quickly as possible. Fast forward a few years and the anonymity of a college choir made public performance a bit more palatable. It's much more difficult to be ashamed of ones voice when you know it is hidden behind thirty others much more pleasant than yours.

Yes, you heard me right, Mr "I'm going to ask people to buy a recording of me singing" doesn't actually like his own voice."

It's not exactly what one would call "robust," which makes crooning a bit difficult. But I'm learning to block that out. Being self conscious about it only adds bad notes to bad tone. When people say they like it, I just say thank you and change the subject. I have worked hard to find niches to fit it into, taking cues from odd singers doing well (Jack White, Bob Dylan, etc). But I'd have to say, the biggest contribution anyone has made to my music is a friend from Oregon.

And I'm pretty sure he's tone deaf.

I say this because he loved to pop off whatever lyrics were running through his mind at the time, which around Jr High was The Barenaked Ladies. Out of nowhere, even in the middle of a crowd, he would rattle off lyrics, apparently unaware of a minor detail called the major scale. Thankfully he had good rhythm, so the more monotone rap-like sections of BNL lent themselves well to his particular gifting.

I always enjoyed his singing, but it took me a long time to figure out why. To this day, I still hear his voice from time to time, mimicking whatever is coming out of the speakers, passionate and unaware.

And I smile.

I smile because he always had what I've been looking for; he really doesn't care whether people like how he sounds or not, he just loves singing long and loud. And I carry that with me. I don't fear mistakes (as much) when I play live, in fact some mistakes have become memorable opportunities. I fight to be a better musician, a better guitarist, a better singer, but at the end of the day I just get up there and enjoy it. Otherwise, as I so often tell my guitar students, what's the point?