I love to sing.
I sing when I’m happy. I sing when I’m bored. I sing when someone produces a birthday cake. I sing in the shower and along with my car radio.
But when I do, it’s usually a half-baked attempt, with no real effort put into remembering all the words or even hitting the right notes.
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Recently, though, when the Canadian Idol auditions rolled into Ottawa, I decided to put my pipes to the test and toss my hat into the ring for the press version of the contest, called Media Idol.
Days before, I was psyched. But when I arrived for the audition at the Chateau Laurier, I thought I was going to be sick.
When you’re about to do something you know is going to be embarrassing, there’s no point in doing it halfway. So I sang. Loudly. I tried to remember what my music teachers through the years had said about singing from the belly and tried not to think about what my face must have looked like. The way I looked at it, if I was going down, I was going to go down in flames.
Fortunately, Canadian Idol judge Sass Jordan was very understanding. She even offered to look in the other direction as I sang. But when I looked at her, I could see her mouthing the words along with me.
I chose O Canada — one of the few songs on the short song list Idol provided that I knew all the words to and likely wouldn’t forget under duress. By some miracle, I eeked out the words without accidentally throwing in a line from the Star Spangled Banner.
“You did it!” said Jordan afterwards, hugging me. “You pulled it off!”
Still shaking, I sat down and drank half a bottle of water someone handed me.
“You were fighting the nerves,” she said. “But you were in tune. It was lovely and fun to watch.”
Many people think singing is only about technique, said Jordan. “But to me, it’s about heart and soul. You can have people who aren’t particularly skilled singers, but they have so much intent and emotion that it shines through.”
I looked to my colleague, photographer David Gonczol, who had accompanied me to the audition, for a less sugar-coated opinion.
“You were OK,” he said. “The way you were talking about yourself, I thought it would have sounded like a coyote howling.”
I’ll tell you one thing — it’s easier to sit on the couch and critique the show’s contestants than to be up there, microphone clutched between two sweaty palms while the camera captures your humiliation.
I have to admit that despite the nausea, the sweating, the dry mouth and an eye twitch that took hours to fade, I loved the rush. Given the opportunity, I’d belt it out all over again. After all, where else can an exclusive shower singer get a moment in the spotlight?