The Recording Session

One final breath to shake off the jitters that accumulated over the duration of the long ride here on the proletariat chariot and the frantic vision-impaired struggle to find the right door. One final breath to remind myself I’m confident and this isn’t a big deal, to just have fun. “I’m Meryl Streep, bitch!” are the last words I say to myself before I push the doorbell of the house. The house that belongs to the strange man with a recording studio in his basement who I met on Kijiji and have never actually seen in real life. My nerves about singing for real human beings may be the least of my troubles… I mean this could easily end with my being raped/murdered. Good thing I brought my… No… Forgot my pepper spray. My real last words to myself before the door opens are “Fuck.”

“SD” answers the door and I immediately feel confident that this friendly looking man does not in fact have any malicious intentions involving my being violated or dismembered. I guess I will live to sing again after all! Pleasant “Nice to finally meet you!” introductions are exchanged and SD leads me to his basement. My palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy (honestly, Eminem really nailed this description of nerves) as I cautiously make my way deeper into the bowels of the house. The toys scattered on the floor to one side of the room put me at ease – this guy has kids. For whatever reason, that makes me relax a little bit. The other side of the room is where I find the recording studio.

A large desk space with multiple screens, various cords, big speakers, and other contraptions rests in a corner. In another corner, a make-shift sound booth has been constructed with a professional looking microphone stand and listening gear. This seems legit! …For recording an underground RnB album anyways… I sit at the desk with SD and he explains the project we’re working on and what he wants from me. I’m excited. This guy Cadence is working on an album and for this particular track, a love song (think Nelly and Kelly Rowland’s “Dilemma” or Eminem and Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie”, but not as good), they want me to add accompanying vocal harmonies and a chorus and verse.

SD plays what they have recorded for the track already and I listen closely. He hands me the lyrics for the chorus and tells me we will start by recording this part of the song. We sing the chorus together a couple of times without recording so I can get a feel for the tempo and how it‘s supposed to sound. I’m anxious. Not at all relaxed. While I’m on pitch, I sound flat, dead, scared. “How do you feel right now?” he asks me. “NERVOUS!” I reply and we both laugh, easing my tension a little bit. He tells me not to be nervous, just have fun and relax! Easier said than done, but I agree, take a breath, and try to chill out. It’s time to start recording.

SD positions me at the mic, lyrics in hand, headphones covering my ears. This is cool, like something out of “The Glee Project”, which is definitely the standard that should be used when measuring cool-ness. It takes a few attempts, several more deep breaths, and a bit of bouncing around on my toes to be able to relax into it and sing with some life and passion! On my last go at it I’m feeling pretty comfortable and I can see SD nodding his head in satisfaction and he shoots his thumbs into the air. I’m sounding pretty good! It’s smooth, on pitch, confident, and has some more life to it. He plays it back and it is so strange and interesting and exciting to hear myself sing on a track! The final task for the night is to record harmonies to a few of the lines we just finished. By now I’m comfortable and excited and it doesn’t take long at all to get a cut we are happy with.

SD’s phone rings, taking us both by surprise. It’s my sister (I gave her his number as a precaution) and I can hear her sounding concerned and panicked on the line as she says, “This is Sarah, I think my sister is in your basement.” It figures that the one time I mass text my loved ones that if they don’t hear from me for a while I’m probably no longer alive that my phone would die rendering me un-contactable. I assure my sister that I’m still intact and that no, she does not need to call the cops. It’s getting late anyways so SD and I decide this is a good time to end our first recording session together. With the “will I or won’t I be savagely attacked” concerns laid to rest and a new level of comfort and confidence with singing and recording achieved, I’m sure our next studio session will be far easier, less riddled with anxiety, and more exciting and empowering. That OR this really is an elaborate plot that will eventually lead to my tragic and violent demise. I’ll take my chances.

The Audition

She left her apartment far earlier than necessary, not wanting to be late or rushed on top of nervous. When she reached her destination, Ottawa Little Theatre, she found all the doors to be locked. While doing laps around the building, attempting to find a secret or hidden door, she realized her dress was on backwards and tried to turn it around while standing in the street. After almost ripping it, she decided to wait until she was let into the building to fix her outfit. She probably looked strange struggling against her clothing alone in downtown Ottawa.

During her third lap, she met an open stage-entrance door and cautiously crept through a hallway and made her way into the theatre. “Are you here to audition?” a kind woman asked. “Yes!” she said confidently even though she was considering sprinting in the other direction. She was given an information card to fill out and a piece of paper outlining the context for each of the scenes that had been selected for cold script readings. She read through this and provided her sheet music to the accompanying piano player as others began to file in and do the same. She took a seat next to some friendly looking faces and asked, “Do you audition often?” From there, pleasant conversations took place and she began to feel more comfortable and at ease.

Eventually, all auditioning hopefuls were asked to wait outside the theatre as each person would be called in to sing individually before performing lines from chosen scenes. And so began the agony that was waiting to hear her name called, waiting for her turn to take the stage with nothing but her own voice and a panel of theatre professionals to try to impress. This period of waiting provided great opportunity for people-watching and meaningless-but-welcome conversation with strangers. The waiting area often sounded like a haunted mansion with all of the vocal drills taking place and echoing off of the walls. She wondered if she should be warming up as well, but then remembered she had warmed up earlier when she sang to her apartment audience – her puppy and dish rack. There was a small group of Rachel Berry-esque frienemies, hard core theatre people, taking turns bragging about their various triumphs while simultaneously being self-deprecating and faking excitement and admiration for each other. There were several lone-wolf, phantom of the opera types pacing around alone or sitting quietly by themselves. Were they really nervous? Or composed and confident? Hard to tell. There was a high-strung young woman with her stage-mom sidekick who was not so subtly eyeing her daughter’s competition. And then there was her. She sat with a few other girls who were more on her “I’m just gonna wing this shit” level, taking all of this in as part of her musical theatre audition experience.

“Samantha?” Oh shit. Here we go. “Good luck!” and “Break a leg!” chased her into the theatre and onto the stage. She smiled, more from awkward nerves than confidence, as she walked up to the piano. She sang a few lines quietly to the piano player to set the tempo and then sang a few scales with some theatre man, voice and hands shaky, stomach in heart. The piano player began the song and she was off! She should have warmed up. She should have learned how to warm up. Listening to songs from Glee doesn’t, it turns out, count as practice for a nerve-wracking situation such as a musical theatre production audition. Anyways, she sang. She sang nervously and without much conviction but at least she was singing and at least she was on key. The director cut her off after a verse and chorus as he warned everyone he would have to do. He provided no feedback, no words of encouragement, and displayed no signs of displeasure. He simply and kindly stated that she should grab the script marked “G” and read lines with a couple of gentlemen. The cold reading was fun! The writing was amusing and clever and she did a great job delivering the comedy and performing the lines. “Thank you,” the director said. And it was over.

She knew, of course, she wouldn’t get a part in the production. That wasn’t the point at all! She was happy and proud of herself for venturing out of her comfort zone and for putting herself through the audition process. Maybe after some improv classes and vocal training she would return to give it more of an effort. Yes. She would probably go on to snag the lead role in a future production, be discovered, and eventually she would star alongside Hugh Jackman in a record-breaking, box office hit re-make of the Sound of Music. In the meantime though, her dog and dish rack eagerly await her next apartment performance.