It’s taken some time to come to terms with it, but it seems that I’ve always been a much better singer in my head that in real life. I was kicked out of choir in junior high because the teacher said that I was tone deaf. This was no problem with me, as it allowed me to take two periods of art class, my favorite at the time.

Later on in high school, I decided to go out for choir again, and under another teacher I actually found that it was something I really enjoyed. My last two years of school, I even took part in swing choir (along with full choir), wearing the goofball cumberbund, bow-tie, and all. Yes, it was all very cheesy and I’m sure that if I saw videos of myself from those days I would cringe, but my teacher was pretty open-minded and let my overzealous friends and I actually choose a lot of the songs we’d sing. We picked semi-obscure songs created from William Blake poems and to this day I can rattle of lines like “Tyger, tyger, burning bright / In the forests of the night / What immortal hand or eye / dare frame thy fearful symmetry” in the same melody we sang them in roughly 13 years ago to date.

In college, I gave up on choir because everything got much more serious than I wanted to be, but I found myself drawn to and imitating singers like David Gahan and Morrissey in my spare time (away from the ears of anyone near). On the drives to and from college (5 hours each way), I’d sing myself hoarse while alternately simply having fun letting loose and trying to keep myself awake on the long stretches of road.

Post-college, the first band that I was in didn’t force the issue too much. Our first release was largely instrumental and lyrics were both buried in the mix and/or filtered heavily, turning them into what was basically another textural element rather than something most people would consider a full-on vocal recording. Our following EP had one vocal outburst from myself, and despite lots of practice and many, many takes, it’s still something that I was never quite happy with. A couple friends who heard the song stated that they preferred the instrumental tracks on that short release, solidifying the view in my head that my vocals somehow killed the momentum of the title track.

All of the above said, the past two weeks or so have been spent recording vocals. It’s the vague musical project that has been in the works for over a year now, and quite a leap given my somewhat uneasy past experiences with my own voice. With every single song there’s now an acclimation period, where I literally have to waste at least ten takes just getting used to the sound of my own voice in the mix, and usually many, many more after I re-listen to recordings with fresh ears and hear even more things that bother me. Instead of masking everything in filters or burying them in the mix, vocals have become a focus of tracks instead of a quiet textural element. It’s a heck of a lot of fun, but a bit frightening as well.

It’s all sort of a new experience, even though I’ve been through some of it before. Standing in a room with my computer and/or one other person knowing I have as long as I need to get it right is completely different than standing out in the middle of a big empty studio space while five people stand behind glass and give pointers and the clock ticks on a four hundred dollar day. In some ways, though, that ability to endlessly re-record has forced me to become an even more harsh critic of myself as I rediscover the limitations in my (admittingly not so great in the first place) vocals and then try to play on what strong points there are.

At several points during the process, I simply wondered if the whole vocal thing should simply be scrapped and songs should be taken back to instrumental form, but at some point along the way a breakthrough or two happened and now vocal tracks simply feel “right.” I’d get laughed right out of the room at an American Idol audition, but I guess time will tell whether these things sound as good to everyone else as they do to me.