Sunday, November 19. I woke up that morning about an hour before my 6:30 alarm. Feeling a combination of nerves, anticipation, fright… generally very alert. Today is the day! The day I will record my first EP.
I’ve been planning this for over a month. I’m as prepared as I know how to be – the songs have been written for years in most cases, the arrangements have been practiced, the thought and effort have been applied. I’ve been so excited, I haven’t been able to quit telling people about it. I’m recording a Christmas EP! I say whenever one of you asks me how I’m doing or what’s new. And today it’s really happening.
For better or for worse.
(If anyone’s wondering what a Christmas EP is: EP stands for “Extended Play,” referring to a vinyl record that is longer than a single, but shorter than a full LP; in modern shorthand, it usually refers to a collection of five songs, traditionally distributed on CD. I assume that most people, like me, have very few remaining places to play a CD, so my EP is digital. You can download it right to your phone, tablet or computer).
Having arranged to meet at 2pm with Noel, my engineer who will be doing the actual recording, I have a few things to do before then. Like a church service, where I am on staff as the stage manager and have various stage managerial tasks to accomplish. Then editing and distributing the podcast of this morning’s sermon, then lunch.
I arrive at Epiphany Space, which is where the piano is, and where I’m meeting Noel. After an hour or so of setting mics and testing levels, it’s time. Time to sit down and play the five songs I’ve been preparing for this moment. I’m nervous I will mess up, but also confident that what I’m really trying to do here is share an experience with people who are not in my immediate vicinity.
I love live music, but it poses a difficulty in that you must be physically present in order to hear it. Once you hear it, the music has the potential to move you – emotionally and spiritually. Isn’t that a wonderful experience to share? And yet if I only perform live, it limits the effect my singing and songwriting can have.
As I take a deep breath against the anxiety and irrational thoughts that have been skipping through my head all morning, I coach myself with the knowledge that this is not about me and trying to sound perfect. This is about you, the people I love and wish I could sing to personally. It’s about sharing these songs with you when I’m not physically present.
So I play. I play each song three or four times, skipping a beat here or missing a note there. It isn’t perfect, and at first that’s difficult to ignore. But then as I persevere with fear and trembling, something unaccountable happens. I’m no longer thinking about the notes or the words or the rhythm, or whether I’m singing into the mic or not. I’m not thinking at all. I’m seeing.
Your faces. The people I’ve been telling this news for the past weeks, the people who have urged me to go for it when I felt completely overwhelmed with the prospect of recording. People who have encouraged me and shared stories of how my music has touched your life.
And suddenly it’s not a recording session. It’s a shared experience, and even though none of you are there I am seeing you anyway.
This Christmas EP is not a performance, it’s a gift.
It’s for you.
Thank you for being a gift to me.