Cheap Shots & Loose Lines
For as long as I can remember I have been listening to music and singing. Music was such an important part of our family. My father played the accordion and the saxophone and my Mother had been educated in vocal music for many years. As young children, our bedtime rituals included singing. We all had our favorites selected from my Mother's repertoire. I usually requested the folk songs and, in some strange twist of fate, one of my favorites was the plaintive ballad of Barbara Allen. It would be a good many years before I found my own voice. My parents had a vast collection of records from 50's, 60's and 70's. For years I was fascinated by their music. I listened to and absorbed my Mother's amazing variety of songs. She had the gift of perfect pitch and a range of four octaves. She also had a lot of sense and her advice when I discovered I could also sing was "Make an additional career for yourself. The world is full of supremely talented vocalists who are not working and caterwauling showoffs who are fully backed and gainfully employed." When I was nine years old my family moved to Mesa, Arizona which is where I grew up. The music went with us and I kept humming along but nothing was coming out, because I really didn't know I could sing yet. I just knew that music was an integral part of me. I got involved in the high school choir and learned to play the violin. One day when I was about 14, I heard my Mom singing Cher's hit, "Half Breed," in the kitchen. It had always fascinated me the way she could use her voice and I asked her how she made the vocals sound that way. I remember she said, "That's called 'belting.' I've been listening to you sing your choir numbers. Your voice is strong, Bambi, (her nickname for me); I think you can do it now." She said to reach inside myself and push gently with the diaphragm in order to control the power of my voice. I tried and it was so easy for me! All those years of listening, absorbing and imagining just poured out of me that day in the kitchen with my Mom. I can still remember her smiling and nodding her head. She had always known, she said, and now I did too. I had discovered my own gift and I began to use it, first in small ways doing solos and entering school talent contests. Soon people were asking me to sing and I was loving it, but I hadn't yet discovered my true passion. In Arizona country music reigns. There are other venues, of course, in the theatres, a few jazz clubs and an occasional opera but here, in cowboy territory, country is king and it captured my heart in a way nothing else ever has. A big part of it is the lyrics. Country lyrics are as important or sometimes more important than the music itself. The words may be humorous, uplifting, patriotic or, sometimes, heart wrenching, but they always reach the listener because they're talking about us - Americans - and our everyday lives. Truth is, they get a lot of us through our everyday lives. I took hold of country and it took hold of me. It was my own thing, not my Mom's music or my Dad's although they had already learned to love it. I started singing in my spare time as a solo artist and also with a couple of bands doing bar gigs and private parties, still keeping my day job and pursuing my education. The 80's and 90's were the times of Karaoke and Contests and I plunged in enthusiastically with the support of my new husband and, of course, my old family. I was very visibly pregnant with our son when I entered a competition and took first place at a local contest in Mesa Arizona. The prize was an expense paid trip to Nashville and recording time - a dream come true. Unfortunately, I was put on bed rest for the last part of my pregnancy and was forced to forfeit my prize to the 2nd place winner. It didn't matter because I knew that nurturing the baby growing within me was the most important thing I would ever do in my life. He was then, he still is my greatest gift. Two years after the birth of our son, our marriage ended in divorce when I was 25. Being a parent and advancing my career as the safety director for Tri-City Mechanical, required nearly all of my efforts. Late night singing with a band was out because our son needed me. I sang for my son, as my parents had for me, but a different kind of music. Country music, the sound of America, would be the music of our son's childhood. As sure as the child I rocked to sleep was my own flesh and blood, Country music was a part of me now and I would never be without it. As my son became older and I was more financially secure I began singing again with a band and sang at some larger venues. Country Thunder in Phoenix, Arizona, Competition with KNIX radio before a Martina McBride concert, private parties, and weddings. I also entered several Karaoke Competitions and other singing competitions. Nothing spectacular just floating along, keeping my voice limber and my heart light with the music I loved. Chad quietly entered my life in the late 90's and we decided to make it permanent in 2002. We moved from Arizona to Chad's home state of Nebraska, which I have learned to love the same way I love Arizona. Soon after we arrived I joined forces with the best group of country players ever. I have been singing with the "Riata" band for five years now. In May of 2007 I entered a local competition in Sioux City IA called Siouxland Idol. After eight grueling weeks of competition I finally was awarded first place. I nearly died from excitement. The prize was a trip to Nashville. I nearly died from excitement. I took my own songs and my darling husband, Chad, to Nashville where I recorded my own album project with my originals and 5 other songs from different artists. The album is called "Cheap Shots and Loose Lines." When it takes off, I promise I won't die from excitement. I am proud of this album. Like all country music, the lyrics in my original songs are intensely meaningful to me. I hope those words and the music will touch you too.