Years ago, I found myself nervously making my debut at an open mic evening in a Chislehurst pub. If you're not careful, you could find yourself in a similar situation.
I hadn’t meant to do it. I’d been playing the guitar since my teens but in my forties, I decided I’d try to figure out if my singing was as dreadful as I feared. Perhaps I wanted to find a teacher who would confirm my suspicions, so I could focus solely on playing. The rejection I faced when denied entry into the school choir at the age of nine had left me scarred. I had been told I couldn't sing.
Luckily, I found an encouraging vocal coach who insisted I had enough about me to carry a tune. After several lessons he encouraged me to perform in public. He assured me there was nothing to fear and that applause was a reward for the hours spent practicing. I was terrified. What if there was no applause? What if there was abuse…, or missiles? Then my wife informed about an open mic evening she had seen advertised. Suddenly, it became my fate.
I needn’t have worried. There are few environments as supportive as an open mic night. Local pubs around Bromley, Orpington and Kent host these evenings to liven up the weeknights and boost business. The audience, mainly composed of fellow performers and their supporters, embraces the unwritten rule of applauding each other. Even if a song doesn't resonate with everyone, the crowd politely listens and shows appreciation when performance concludes. Before too long, I began to recognise familiar faces. Many of the players collaborate, often spontaneously.
Unfortunately, I no longer have much time to perform at open mics. I find fulfilment in teaching the next generation of guitarists, singer-songwriters, and accompanists. There's a certain thrill in composing your own tune, performing it for others, and receiving applause for your efforts. It's easy to dream of playing for larger crowds, like Wembley Stadium, for example.
In a few months, I could have you up on that stage. I can show you how to arrange chords to write verses and choruses.
However, I can't teach you how to sing. For that, you'll need to find someone else.
There’s a postscript to this story. My former singing teacher left the country. Not because of me – we became great friends - but because he now teaches in Dubai. This summer he’s marrying a fantastic woman who’s a brilliant cellist. He asked me if I can bring a guitar along to entertain a crowd over the wedding weekend. I can’t believe he wants to hear me singing again but it’s a genuine honour.
I love spending time with musicians and fellow guitar enthusiasts. I would be delighted to help you join the club. So, if you're interested in turning your midlife crisis into a musical one and need someone to guide you in getting started, don't hesitate to get in touch today!