Somehow I’ve ended up in a recording studio singing on a track for the Restless project - a song I have co-written with composer Quinta and rapper JPDL based on a poem I wrote after walking 110 miles of the South West Coast Path. I'm not sure how this has happened. I have definitely agreed to it - everything is necessarily very consensual in my work, focussing as it does on telling stories about my lived experience of childhood sexual abuse. My work is about voice and visibility for survivors so, much as I would like someone else to sing the song, I know that it needs to be my voice with all its authenticity and vulnerability.
The thing is I can’t sing. Or at least I believe I can’t sing - to the point where I sometimes mouth the words of Happy Birthday.... My voice gets stuck in my throat - it closes up and I start to panic. It's hard to sing if you’re not relaxed, your body needs to be open and my body is rarely relaxed or open. Such is the impact of abuse.
I didn’t sing at all - not in the shower or anywhere - from around the age of 8 - two people laughed while I was singing (not necessarily at me - they could have been sharing a joke about anything) and that was enough to stop me for the next 20 years. Having my son changed things - baby him found my voice soothing and it became less about me or being good at it and all about being a mum. The other thing that shifted things was living on hippy camps and road protest sites where singing was a connection with spirit and community and cause. It became less important what sounds I was making and more important to just join my voice with others. The first time I went to an actual singing workshop I just sat and cried throughout. I discovered I didn’t really breathe properly and have had to learn to release my diaphragm and let breath into my body.
I’ve been having singing lessons with my friend and singing coach Maya Love. She’s been brilliant - patiently helping me to approach it technically and overcome the emotional blocks. We explore what’s happening in my body when I sing and how to manage that. How the tightness in my throat mirrors the tightness in my pelvis - how both need to open together - the reason we focus on breathing when we give birth. As the lessons progress I start to be able to experiment, fuck up and work with the material in a way that was unthinkable when we started.
In the space of a few weeks I’ve gone from being unable to sing on my own in front of Maya to a recording studio where I not only have to sing but I have to sing well enough for it not to feel like a vanity project. We’ve booked 2 days in the studio mindful that its my first time - I’ve broken it down as half a day getting to know the sound engineer and the equipment, half a day for crying, half a day to drink tea and smoke anxious fags, half a day to get my voice out in the room, and half a day trying to record something - that’s too many half days I know…
Anyway - I’m here - everyone is being super kind, bringing their own incredible skills to the table and holding the belief that I can do it. Meanwhile my husband is sending me Beyonce gifs and I have cocktails in the fridge “just in case”. I’m utterly mortified but giving it my best shot trusting my team, trusting the equipment and letting my voice and all its perfect imperfections out into the world.
welcome to my blog
I'll be posting my personal reflections on creating work as an artist and survivor of childhood sexual abuse, my work with the wider sector and interesting developments in arts and mental health.