You Need to Sing With Your Own Voice Chris.
Despite the overwhelming positive feedback on our latest "controversial" post, "10 Reasons Why Your Version Of Danger & Play and Bold & Determined Suck (Why Many New Bloggers Won't Be Successful)", not surprisingly - there was some criticism for my message.
* Some of it was fair (the discussion was insulting at times, not done in my usual 'feel good' tone).
* Some of it was not (I was paid by Mike & Victor to discourage copycat/competitors, I am a bitter and frustrated madman and finally I showed my true colors).
And Some was misguided (how can I tell people to not write on similar topics?, no one is 100% unique).
I'll address the third one because perhaps my overall message got lost in the "rant".
Origin of This Story (2007)
I am combining 3 different not-necessarily-chronological stories/themes in my life into 1 story for simplicity and to convey my message. There is also a book that I've read by Felix Dennis, (yes, I'm actually reading a book and not just one of those yummy summaries) that conveyed a similar message via a nearly identical set of circumstances.
The story actually unfolded over about a 2-year period, some of the details/quotes are changed (or I don't actually remember), but all the characters, general story and conclusions are what happened.
note: please don't start guessing 'who this person' is in the comments section, her description may/may not be representative.
It was June 27th 2007.
I was in Los Angeles, one year removed from winning the most competitive (amateur/college) inline hockey tournament in the country, I was visiting my former team who was playing in the same 12-week national competition that we won the year before.
Uninspired by their slightly above-average play (the team only had 3 or 4 returning players, none were starters), me and some of the former players (including two girls that we knew from the prior summer), decided to take a few days ourselves.
After partying hard in Hollywood on Saturday night, although penniless and most of us still supported by our parents, we decided to have brunch at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills.
Hockey was an afterthought for most of us.
My career was over and I went out a winner (for the first time in my life at the national level), so we sat around talking about what we had been doing with our new lives -
- Mark, (Admin) on our forum had just finished his MBA at Penn State.
- Jason, was getting ready to get his own place in Fort Myers.
- Greg, had taken over his father's shipping (as in boats, not mail) business.
- Erik (still an active player on the team), had another year of college hockey and was looking to play in the NHL.
(Erik was drafted and played in the NHL for 3 years)
Me, however, was proudly announcing that I had joined the "Seduction Community".
I was hooked and a walking talking pickup expert.
Much to the irritation of the guys and the amusement of the 2 girls, I was reading aloud full pages of "Double Your Dating" by David DeAngelo at brunch.
(I literally had the eBook printed and carefully secure in a hard blue binder)
The guys, although probably at least somewhat curious, wanted me to shut up and put my silly eBook back in my backpack.
The girls were more intrigued and demanded me to show "my moves" in action.
After we paid the check, terrified but motivated by the girls, I decided to try some of the "game" that I learned from David D.
There was a short seemingly cute girl with long jet black hair (I wore my contacts in those days) at the concierge who was either checking in or out of the hotel.
(Los Angeles based celebrities often go to local 5-star hotels to get away from their mansions and 'de-stress')
I walked up to her (from the perfect angle!) and started my best cocky-funny rookie effort.
To my surprise (still somewhat to this day), the girl was very receptive.
I told her I was 'Mario Lopez', since I looked like a juiced version of A.C. Slater at the time.
She "hooked" and was playfully saying that I wasn't Mario Lopez, although she later told me that she wasn't entirely sure.
In what normal non-socially retarded people call "flirting", I hung in there (with Sidney, an extremely pretty girl by my side for 'social value') and asked her if she was an exotic dancer since she told me she was off to Vegas for a show.
With a big smile, she replied, "something like that..."
The innocent conversation went on for another 2 or 3 minutes when I decided to excuse myself and walk back to the table because I ran out of "material".
Once I got back to the table, to my confusion, everyone couldn't believe what they just saw.
They informed me that I had just been hitting on an A-List celebrity. I didn't even know it. The woman clearly liked me too.
(ironically, this is the 'highest-profile' person I ever met during the 'pickup era', and it was before I even moved to LA)
Once I placed the name with the face (someone had a new smart phone at the time), I ran after her like my life would be over if I didn't.
I caught her just before she got in her limo that was headed to LAX.
I didn't know what to say, I don't even remember what I said, but she called me "funny" and asked me what I was doing that weekend.
Oddly quick on my feet for an aspiring pickup artist, I remembered all the seduction material I read and pretended that I had really cool things to do and that she might not get the opportunity to see me.
She gave me a phone number, told me to come to Las Vegas with my friends and we would get backstage passes to her weekend concert.
Long story short, most of us at the brunch went to the concert at the MGM Grand and I became friends with this celebrity.
She was part of why I dropped out of Law School and moved to Los Angeles just over a year later.
Fast Forward About 5 Months... (Still 2007)
Though mostly via email, she and I kept in touch for the 17-18 months between when we met and I left Law School in San Diego for Los Angeles.
She mostly discussed her mixed-feelings about her life, often her less-than-ideal marriage, child that she was pregnant with, but also volunteered some help and insight for my life.
I treasure(d) those emails and I'm glad I saved them because Google randomly cancelled my old @NYC email address.
But I also remember the 0-14 days periods of waiting for her replies.
I literally couldn't eat, sleep or think. I lost a bunch of weight during this period, but ironically it made me look better.
When I would see her reply in my inbox, it was literally like a shot of heroin to a junky 48 hours in withdrawal.
For a period of 3.5 months, for reasons I'm still not quite sure of, we started talking on the phone on a semi-weekly basis. Sometimes for extended periods of time.
One such time, half-jokingly, I told her that I thought I could be a good singer.
She bluntly told me, "Sing."
I wasn't prepared to hear this.
The adrenaline rush I got was like I was on stage in front of 120,000 people.
Maybe it was all the drugs I was hooked on (in 2007 I had a vicious Oxycodone habit, I was stealing pills from my own Father and even altering quantities on his prescriptions), but I mustered up the courage to do so.
(she vehemently opposed me using hardcore drugs once she found out and even stopped talking to me at points)
I put a single earphone from my 2nd generation iPod in my ear and fast forwarded to 1:39 in this song -
and courageously belted out my best Chris Cornell impression...
But it's on the table
The fires cooking
And they're farming babies
The slaves are all working
And it's on the table
Their mouth are all choking
But I'm going hungry
I'm going hungry
I'm going hungry...
To my surprise, she didn't laugh like she usually did at my genuine attempts to make her smile.
She told me, "That was pretty good, you sound like him."
She then told me to lay on my back, on the hard floor, and sing parts of the song again.
I did, slightly more confident but still petrified that I was trying to seriously sing "Hunger Strike" to an internationally known superstar.
This was way harder, but I gave it my best effort which she slightly lowered her praise for and told me "Not bad."
She even suggested that I join her in the studio one day to see how it sounded.
Our conversation ended about 30 minutes later and I felt the best (natural?) high I felt in years.
The Studio (2009)
Because of her pregnancy, post-pregnancy period where she refused to be seen, never-ending tour schedule and her other residence in Paris, it would be well over a year (2009) later before I ever got to joined her in the studio, something that I slowly began to think probably would never happen.
But sure enough, one day in early 2009, we walked into a surprisingly dumpy warehouse-looking building somewhere North of Hollywood.
Without virtually any preparation and time-crunched for her own time slot, she sent me straight to the recording room and the sound crew gave me headphones and a 45 second tutorial on how everything worked.
Before I knew it the red light was on and the microphone was live.
I reverted to the same "Hunger Strike" piece I sang to her a year earlier, starting earlier in the song than I had previously.
Three times in a row, I couldn't get through 20 seconds without stopping to try to get Chris Cornell's tone, pace and rhythm in my head. I wasn't used to listening to an instrumental version of the song without the lyrics.
I finally did and got through the first few minutes of the song. I was pretty happy with my performance.
She oddly wasn't and told me to do it again and told me -
You aren't being yourself.
I didn't really know what she meant.
I sang it to her just like I did from the floor of my Naples' Florida bedroom.
So I started again.
I was going to "be myself" this time.
I got through the first 2 minutes of the song when she told me to stop.
At least this time she had a smile on her face.
We changed places and she told me, "Good job. I'll talk to you about your singing later."
I was quite pleased with myself.
Right before everyone's very eyes I was becoming a rockstar.
Chris Cornell would be proud. I was going to revive the entire alternative rock, grunge scene that died after so many of their Rockstars did.
We changed places and she went in the recording room and I went to the tech room.
~90 Minutes Later...
I stood in one of the audiorooms enthralled by watching her sing. She was so perfect, even when she apparently fucked up.
The crew called a timeout and decided to take a 15 minute break.
After arguing with some overweight slob that was constantly being critical of her, she came back in the tech room where I was.
I wanted to hear what she was going to say about my performance and she got right to the point -
You aren't being yourself like I asked you to.
You are trying to be Chris Cornell.
You are acting.
That is not your voice.
You need to use your own voice Chris.
We can try again after we are done.
Although visibly upset by the argument she got into with what looked like a producer, it was the first time she ever criticized me (or said anything less than completely flattering and positive about me).
I wasn't ready for that and I literally wanted to cry.
(remember - this is early 2009, I was very much still very insecure, although I think this moment would shake anyone up)
I hung around the studio drinking Pepsi Max for the next 3 hours waiting for the chance to redeem myself.
The chance arrived and I thought I knew what she meant by "use your own voice".
We started again and I vowed to use my own voice.
The instrumental came on and I started singing.
What I heard and what everyone else heard was terrible.
It was a timid combination of myself, Chris Cornell and the guy at the end of those All State insurance commercials.
It was not a voice of a rookie that seemingly lacked training, but simply a terrible voice of someone too scared to really sing or embrace the voice he did/didn't have. A voice that couldn't even be improved by all the sophisticated editing software that Hollywood could offer.
It was awful and I knew it.
Embarrassed and deflated I walked into the tech room hoping to stuff my face with whatever sushi and under carbonated Pepsi that was left.
My Rockstar career had just ended.
Aware of my brutal performance, she came over to comfort me.
She said that she was proud of me for trying to use my own voice, she would get me voice lessons if I wanted them but told me -
You need to sing with your own voice Chris.
You sound like Chris Cornell, but YOU can't sing [right now].
but again that she admired my courage and that "this stuff" isn't easy.
Though it was like a knife in the chest to hear her say it, I knew it was true.
My real effort sucked and I need serious practice if I ever wanted to really do this.
Thankfully, she called me 48 hours later and further comforted me about the incident and injected some much needed relief into my very fragile, volatile self-esteem. I took a raincheck on the voice lessons and told her that I wanted to "practice" my own voice in the meantime.
She said she understood and told me she wanted to introduce me to a friend of hers (an older lady, don't get the wrong impression) who needed to get back into shape.
Thankfully, this nice gesture and further generally positive unrelated phone conversations allowed me to not relive my "music studio" incident. I've never told anyone the actual details of what happened.
I never asked her for those voice lessons, instead I went searching for my "own voice" in the world.
A year later, probably in early 2010, all that is "Good Looking Loser" was realized.
(I started the blog over 2 years later)
I finally realized what she meant.
Due to the trauma and humiliation in front of [one of] the most successful female musicians in history, the "use your own voice" lesson didn't start to make sense until several months after.
In fact, it would be about a year until I really understood what she was trying to tell me.
For YOU to be REALLY good at something, it has to be YOUR own creation.
Influences are one thing, but ultimately for your product (of any kind) will truly prosper - it has to be YOUR VOICE singing from YOUR HEART.
I did a hell of a Chris Cornell impression (in my opinion) but it still sucked because it had no real heart.
At best, I could be a lead singer for a band that covered Temple of the Dog, Soundgarden or Audioslave songs.
(wishful thinking... haha)
Even a 'good' imitation of something can only go so far in the creative world.
It's not that you can't have some "success" with a good imitation, it's that you will never truly speak from your heart or be truly proud of yourself. It's not you.
And That puts a proverbial 'ceiling' on how much REAL success you can have and be proud of.
The primary point of the "10 Reasons Why Your Version Of Danger & Play and Bold & Determined Suck (Why Many New Bloggers Won't Be Successful)", is to USE YOUR OWN VOICE.
I didn't use that title because the other needed to be said too.
It might be years until you understand how to "sing with your own voice" or what "Be Yourself" means. Let alone really do it.
I didn't know what it meant in my 20's and certainly didn't do it.
I don't have much advice other than "try".
Try and you will eventually find out who you really are.
The Amazing Part (Added After Post)
The most amazing part of my friendship with her runs much deeper than even this story.
Back when I was in 6th or 7th grade (1995), when my parents split up for the second time, I was at my Mom's condo like I would be on most Saturday nights.
It was 3 am (so technically Sunday morning) and I couldn't sleep as usual.
I was watching late-night VH1 (once called 'MTV Insomnia Theatre') and her music video came on television. It was her first MAJOR hit song.
I remember staring at the television for the duration of the video at how popular and beautiful she was but how distant whatever world she lived in was.
It was hard enough for me to make genuine friends with my middle school classmates. Even some of my best friends didn't even invite me to their Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. I hated not being popular and overlooked by women. I was terrified that rest of my life would be like that.
(I'm not Jewish - but I think you know that)
12 years later...
I would be standing in her living room.