It all began two years ago after a sudden, blindsiding breakup that shattered me into a thousand pieces and made just want to go to sleep and never wake up again. In an effort to find a more positive channel for that energy, I had the desperate desire to “Run away and join the circus” as they say. Join up with a touring band or some touring play. Something to get me away from my life, out of my mind and out of this city whose every inch was supersaturated with associations and memories. On a whim, I looked at jobs on Carnival Cruises. There was an opening for an “Ensemble Guitarist” to play with the house rock band. I culled together whatever crappy videos I could find of me playing guitar live with bands and cobbled together a demo. I submitted all my materials and the website said I should hear back within 90 days. 90 days cam and went so I assumed that was the end of it.
Then months later, I had a response. For round 2 they wanted me to video myself play guitar to the backing tracks they sent me for “Le Freak,” “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” I did so and submitted those along with an automated video interview where I just recorded answers to questions on my webcam. More months went by. I got another email now wanting me to take the “sight reading” portion of the interview. Gulp. I don’t sight read. Or really read music much at all. I can read music very slowly but I learn everything by ear. If I hear something I can generally play it very quickly. Well luckily for me, this “sight reading” test, wasn’t really “sight reading.” I downloaded the music I was supposed to “sight read” but then could take as long as I wanted with it. I’d heard that there wasn’t really much sight reading in this position so I hoped I could still do the job despite that not really being a skill I had. The emails also said there was no deadline and that you could do the interview at your convenience. Well, apparently there was a silent, invisible “within reason” appended to that because when I finally got back to tackling this beast many months later, my application had expired and I was told there was no way to resume it. I’d have to start from scratch again.
I was little disappointed in myself for procrastinating so badly, but decided it was actually for the best, as now I could watch for the “Acoustic Soloist” position instead which would pay more and would mean that I had my own cabin instead of sharing with someone else. And I’d be a solo acoustic act, which would be fun. Eventually that position opened up so I went to putting my solo acoustic demo together from the videos I had online, though they weren’t really appropriate as they were generally me solo in my room doing songs and not live performances with an audience which is more what they wanted, but I hoped my talent would shine through. By the time I went to submit, the position had closed again.
So again, I went to checking the listings periodically again. The next appropriate position that opened up was “Rock Band Vocalist.” A male and a female singer front a 4 piece cover band (the one I initially would have been playing guitar for had I got that position). So once again, I went to putting together demo as quickly as possible and submitted. And again, many months went by before I received an email inviting me to the second round, once again consisting of an automated recorded webcam interview, as well as 4 backing tracks I was supposed to sing along with and record via video. You can see those videos here if you like. When I was initially learning and practicing the songs, I noted how they were all fairly challenging. I figured they did that thinking “Well if someone can handle these four, they can handle the rest of the set.” One Saturday, I tried to record them but after learning and practicing all day, I was pretty vocally fatigued after the first tune, so I decided to put it off to another day so I can learn them more thoroughly first and then just record them in one day later hopefully. Strangely I also find that I can sing much better, higher, and longer live with a band, but in this solo recording at home scenario, I get all in my head and everything seems more difficult somehow and notes that I could normally hit with ease, seem shaky. I took a couple of voice lessons on a whim after a friend randomly posted recommending Megan Sherrod. I’d been singing professionally for 30 years but I knew I had some bad habits and no matter how long you’ve been doing something, you can always learn and better your craft. Megan was awesome, and I felt like a total newbie tearing everything back down to basics like I was re-learning to walk. I only got to take two lessons before I completed my audition, as I really wanted to get it done.
I uploaded the videos and all the rest of the video interview, and figured, like every other step, I’d probably not hear anything for months. 15 hours later I had a contract offer via email. I was in shock. Now it was real. Two years later, here was this opportunity to “Run away and join the circus.” I immediate set in motion trying to get all my affairs in order. There was much to do. Firstly, I had the rare animal that is a steady acting gig. I was the Lead Actor/Director/Stage Manager for the Suicide Prevention program at Fort Hood every Wednesday. As an actor this is like a minor lottery win. I play in 8 bands, 6 of which are fairly active and had gigs on the calendar. I have directors and theatre troupes who contact me directly to offer me cool roles and opportunities. I have an agent who submits me for film, commercial, and television work. I did ask Carnival is there was perhaps a later contract I might take so I could fulfill all the various things I had on the calendar through the end of the year, but they couldn’t offer me anything specific, just keep me in the “talent pool” for future contracts that might come up, so I figured I better take the “bird in the hand.” I set things in motion and sent several difficult emails. As a freelancer, I’ve spent years growing roots, expanding my network, building a professional reputation, and now I’d be leaving that all behind (at least temporarily). I feared losing my momentum. That there would be nothing for me when I came back as the world would have moved on and forgotten about me. I hated leaving people high and dry as I take pride in my work ethic and professionalism and when I make a commitment, I take that very seriously. But I felt like I had to take this opportunity for so many reasons.
Firstly it was just an amazing opportunity. I’d be making a very nice living as a singer. Doing one of the things I love, for an actual good, steady paycheck. That’s like a major lottery win. This would be chance to finally knock a huge chunk off my credit card debt that’s been looming over me for as long as I can remember. Yes, I’ve been lucky enough to make a “living” through my various and many irons in many different fires without a day job for many years now, but not enough to hammer that debt down. I feel I need a spiritual reboot. I’d be living on a ship (vocalists also get their own single cabins I found out, much to my surprise and extreme happiness), with no food expenses (one of my biggest expenses). No constant hustling and wondering where my next audition, gig, job would come from. I could just turn off my mind, sing to packed houses 6 nights a week, eat for free, see ports of call, continue my health goals with the aid of the gym on board, and hopefully meet all kinds of new people. I’d be pushed outside my comfort zone and routines in a way that I think will be good for me. And who knows what opportunities could come my way during this adventure? It just seemed like something I could not say “No” to. Something that I need and will indeed help me grow and heal and come out of it a much deeper, better, more textured and layered person.
Also, when I really analyzed all the things I was leaving behind, as much as I love them and have great gratitude for them, none of them were anything I should be basing life decisions upon. Most of them will most likely never be anything more than they are now. That’s not an insult, that’s just their nature. Of course, they could lead to other things, but in and of themselves, they most likely will not ever grow in any way. The money hasn’t changed. The venues haven’t really changed. And like pretty much everything in life, they all had their own set of cons along with the pros. I tend to be a very nostalgic, sentimental creature of habit, so it was definitely hard to let go of all these things, even temporarily. But when I really took a hard look at everything, I knew I had to go on this journey.
It’s exciting, it’s scary, it’s likely the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m trying to just be present, grateful, and to just focus on all the positives, which are numerous. I will miss you all, I will miss my bands, I will miss acting, I will miss nature, I am almost depressed by the fact that I will literally miss all the good weather. I will leave just before it’s gets cool and come back just when it’s getting hot again and that really hurts me. I don’t know what the future holds. So I will try to simply enjoy my present and let go of the pain of the past and the fears about the future. I will use my time to read, sing, play guitar, meditate, and find other ways to better myself. There’s a Learning Center on the ship where you can learn languages or study other things. I will have internet to some degree though it may be painfully slow at times and I do have to pay (a discounted rate) for it, so I won’t be completely off the grid or anything.
My apologies to anyone I disappointed or had to bail on. Hopefully you all know me well enough to know that is not my way and this is truly an exceptional circumstance. And there is never a “good” time. There’s never a period where I just have nothing on the calendar for 6 months. I’m still in shock. There is still much to do (Medical exam, dental exam) before I go to Florida for a month for rehearsals 6 days a week before shipping out on the Carnival ship “Liberty”, sailing from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas which will be my home for six months. I’ve collected a ton of names who want me to send postcards (if you would like one, add your name and address here). I don’t think it will seem real until I’m there. I’m a believer in surrendering to the universe and letting it take you where it will. And this process has demonstrated that for me. Out of the 3 positions I applied for, I think I ended up with possibly the best one. I’ve never sung 6 nights a week so I’m hoping my voice holds up. I’m studying better habits and routines for voice health.
As Buckaroo Banzai says, “No matter where you go, there you are.” I don’t know where I’m going, but here I come.