The Best/Worst/But Mostly Best Of Times
My week last week contained multitudes: FANTASTIC heights, growing pains, flat-out bad luck and warm fuzzy feelings. It was truly the best of times, the worst of times, and at once the best and the worst.
Case in point: The amazing opportunity I had last Tuesday to perform “White Walls” with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I had more time to prepare myself mentally for this appearance and had stuck the landing of GMFA, so I should have felt strong and ready. But a couple things slipped me up along the way.
First, I averted a near catastrophe when I woke up spontaneously at 5:35am to find that my carefully-set alarms for 4:15am had decided not to function. Good thing I woke up, but I definitely was not catching my 6:00am flight. Rushing to the airport with a very sleepy boyfriend in tow, I was able to reschedule and be on time for my 12:45 call in Burbank, but I was so jarred that I couldn’t calm down enough to sleep on the flight as planned. (Lesson learned: keep melatonin on deck at all times.)
So with a mild layer of delirium, I went into rehearsal and blocking – in a real LA network television studio. Egads. Despite being slightly intimidated and out of my element, it was fun: I’m always grateful to spend moments with the wonder-duo, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, AKA the homies Ben and Ry, especially after GEEKING OUT on their appearance in the VMAs. I thought they brought a poise and enthusiasm too seldom shown in celebrity culture, not to mention my girl Mary Lambert’s PHENOMENAL performance/duet with Jennifer-Freaking-Hudson. It was also cool to hang with Schoolboy Q – this was only our second time performing together but we definitely goofed off and had fun.
Then to makeup, where I was greeted by the amazing Nina Nguyen, a stylist at Gold Comb Salon and – as luck would have it – my roommate. She very generously flew down to do my hair and makeup, and as I know relatively NOTHING about makeup application or hair styling, she is truly my patron saint of glamour. She did all my makeup and hair for the “White Walls” video, as you will see oh so shortly…
After nervously eating all of the fruit and vegetable hospitality platter in the dressing room and shooting the breeze with Owour and Greg – Seattle’s swaggiest brass duo – it was time. We assembled in the studio hallway, marched smartly towards the stage like a special ops team, and before I knew it, my hand was wrapped around my hip, the veil was lifted, and I was staring and smiling into the darkness of a studio audience and a dozen camera lenses.
And then, right as the beat dropped, the wackness happened: my in-ear monitors started to fall out. I’m a bouncy girl, so this wasn’t the first time, but it was definitely the first time my monitors had fallen out on national television – and with no functional hand to pop them back in. Crisis management streamed through my head as I opened my mouth to warble my first hook; because nearly all of the audio was through the in-ears, I kind of had to guesstimate my way through the song with the brass to guide me. The three minute performance felt like an eternity as I freaked out in my head, my limp hand clutching for the dangling in-ears, alternating between a spunky show-must-go-on adrenaline that propelled me forward and believing my showing to be an utter catastrophe. I felt hollow as I walked off-stage, both Q and I commiserating and kinda mortified that our in-ears fell out. I was convinced I had effed up majorly; even watching the playback was excruciating. I was pitchy, my dress fit weird, my hand looked ridiculous. FML.
It took me a 4-hour plane ride and a long conversation about not much in particular with an awesome 7 year old girl flying solo that I was able to process and reflect. And I wrote the following as a reminder to myself:
It’s natural & expected to be your own worst critic. It’s safe. If you’re your own worst critic, nobody else can be. And many of us choose to assume that wretched role for fear of what would happen otherwise. And also, respectfully, f* that. It is a waste of energy to fight for that ignoble position. I am learning how to be my own best critic, because criticism is essential for growth, and being self defeating is regression.
While my performance was far from perfect, it was – would have to be – good enough for me to keep my chin up and be proud despite the faltering. It didn’t hurt that I was deluged with positive feedback from complete strangers via Twitter and FB. Everything in perspective. I counted my blessings (last count: HELLA!) and treated myself to my girl Janae’s karaoke birthday party when I got off the plane. We sang “Don’t Speak” and “Only Girl in the World”.
And then, for the most part, my week was amazing. My band The Flavr Blue was ramping up for our biggest show yet – opening the Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival, Seattle’s quintessential end-of-summer gathering. Given that our first show ever was in December, this was a moment of accomplishment and anticipation for us, claiming a local premiere stage as our own. And with huge thanks to Barbara at One Reel, not twelve hours after Jay Leno aired, we were performing and being interviewed on Seattle’s King 5 New Day Northwest.
(Our section starts at 1:15.)
The fact that I could appear on TV twice in a half-day – both in ways that were milestones and significant to me – is one I cherish. In addition to our appearance on that show, we performed live on KJR 95.7 for the Bob Rivers Morning Show the next morning, got an awesome write-up in The Stranger from Seattle’s favorite off-the-cuff philosopher Charles Mudede, and more. Another huge treat was having my mom come up from the SF Bay Area to hang out with me, which due to my schedule bouncing between press and rehearsal ended up being more of a shlep than a vacay. But if anyone could handle the freight-train-like pacing, it would be my mother, whose life journey, business savvy and work ethic is my biggest inspiration.
My gorgeous mom with the Flavr Blue feature in The Stranger. Whee!
It was also great to have her around when THE WORST went down: my backpack which held, among other things, my laptop AND the dress I wore on the Tonight Show were stolen out of my car by some break-in thieves. Short of someone in my life dying, my computer was like the worst thing that could be lost. Farewell to the countless documents with song and poem fragments, my iTunes library, my impressive screenshot collection… and over a thousand dollars of my own lost in hardware. While it was a huge bummer and step back, it was a mere dip in what I knew could be nothing less than a remarkable week. The best – what had happened, what was to come – superseded the worst.
Bumbershoot itself was amazing. There were a fair share of hijinks and technical difficulties of our own – our first song cut out right when I was wailing my first high note of the show – but nothing could shake my determination to have a great time. The crowd swelled and gave a ton of love, and we did our damndest to kick off Bumbershoot with everyone dancing. I think we did alright!
It’s taken me nearly all week to recover from the last, but this is what I work for: everything happening all at once. It’s never convenient, but the extraordinary rarely is. I embrace the enormity, am grateful for the swell, and seek ways to find center and grounding and solid footing when the unexpected inevitably hits. Bring it on.