Or, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, keep at it.’
Two years ago I set myself a modest goal. Despite the fact that I had been in and out of agencies since I was two years old and had my first major professional acting job at eleven, I had never played a ‘proper’ music gig before. The kind that I had heard so much about, the kind I had seen some of my friends do, go to a bar or a venue and sing for complete strangers. Maybe even getting paid for it! So I set myself a humble goal for 2012: to play one show a month for a year. Twelve shows in total. It didn’t seem like a difficult task, and I gave it the best go I could.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it; the end of 2012 rolled around and between my full time study and my casual retail job (herein known as MMJ or ‘money-making-job’, you know, the one that actual gives you a regular pay check, unlike performance!) I just hadn’t found the time to do it. I did something like nine shows that year, but I was inspired, and I had just started collaborating with the fabulous Mr. Ron, a pianist.
What I did learn that first year, however, was that the only way to improve your skills is to practise them. Which is why in 2013, I, a twenty-one-year-old novice of the live music scene, decided to challenge myself to do fifteen gigs. One year and fifteen chances to test my live performance skills in front of completely different crowds. Fifteen chances to work on new material, to test my pre-song banter, to improve my improvisation skills.
Throughout 2013, I studied full-time, I started two different internships, and I was still working a MMJ.
And by December, I had performed thirty shows.
I’m sure to someone who has been gigging since they were knee-high to a mic stand would scoff at this number, but for me, a girl with no ‘in’ to the music biz, no connections, no leads, no hints, and at times, no idea what she’s doing…it felt pretty damn impressive. And it taught me that if you don’t know how to do something that is exactly why you should do it. Over and over and over again. I played thirty shows last year, which means when I walk into a bar or venue or private function now, I have a much better idea of what I’m doing than a year ago. I had fantastic audiences, terrible audiences, times when old drunk men were swearing at me from the back of the bar, times when old drunk men started singing my lyrics along with me, times when costumes malfunctioned, times when I was so sick I couldn’t stand and I still made it through my set, and times when it felt pretty fantastic to be doing what I do.
Now it’s 2014, I’m not making myself a quota of performances. But if 2013 taught me anything, it’s that I can’t hold myself back anymore. So, with no experience in anything particularly tech-savvy, I bought a domain name and built a website.
Because the only way I’m going to improve is by trying. Over and over and over again.
And really, why not?
Welcome to http://www.ilanacharnelle.com. I hope you enjoy your stay.
Yours & c.,