Singer-songwriter Caroline Jones, from New York City, has trained with Andy Anselmo, and has been managed by Tommy Mottola. Caroline returned to Buffalo and spoke recently at the Community Music School right here in midtown Buffalo. I’d like to tell you about some of her insights that she shared with a mostly under-21 Buffalo crowd. I love that she is already giving back to the community by encouraging young adults to take a musical path. I believe it is so important to encourage music and arts at as early an age as possible.
Caroline started out by having everybody introduce themselves, whether they sing or play musical instruments, and what time of day they are inspired to sing or play. Love those icebreakers!
At the start Caroline encouraged the audience to come up and perform. First up was a couple of brave singer-songwriters. Both played the guitar and sang their own songs. Bravo! Loved the positive smile and feedback Caroline gave to every single performer that came up throughout the day. One singer started explaining her story via fast-talking, so Caroline patiently and enthusiastically slowed her down and had her restart her story at an easy to understand pace. The next few performers sang their covers a capella (without musical instrument accompaniment). Caroline thought that covers from Disney movies seemed to be very popular these days, and that they are just great for learning how to write songs.
Why is right now the best time to be an artist?
Caroline believes “recent technological advancement has provided artists with tools and opportunities for exposure to engage with listeners. For the first time since the advent of the music industry, artists have the freedom to share their creative expression unfiltered by the economic incentive that has stifled and controlled creativity for the last half century. It is a very exciting and unprecedented time calling for pioneers in all creative and spiritual fields. We have the opportunity to truly change and heal the world.”
What can I do about stage fright?
Caroline said that stage fright happens a lot. Even when the audience is small, like some club settings, performers can sometimes be even more nervous than with huge arenas. Whether you are a singer or a musician, 10 to 15 minutes before you perform, practice slow deep breathing and warm up. (Good advice for all here, whether you are performing at open mic night at the Sportsmen’s Tavern, or opening at Buffalo Rocks the Harbor in downtown Buffalo.)
Caroline went on to say that at the Strasberg school they have you practice deep breathing for six months. Breathe with your diaphragm, and not your chest. She suggests developing a “yoga or meditation practice, or long walks while deep breathing only through your nostrils.” Getting experience helps a lot – the more you play the more you get used to how to handle stage freight, so perform in public often.
Caroline stresses that when we perform, not to identify with our anxiety by saying “I am afraid” or “I am nervous”. She continues, “These statements are incredibly limiting, judgmental and destructive. Be the presence for, and observer of, your anxious energy; acknowledge it while realizing that you are much more than the fear you are feeling in this moment”. (I admire her thoughts on this critical topic. Turning the negative into the positive. Great visualization!) Finally, singing the national anthem in public is great practice, especially for other types of songs in other types of venues. (I know the Buffalo Bisons baseball club just had open auditions for their upcoming season. Why not take advantage of this opportunity to sing the national anthem at Coca Cola Field? You have nothing to lose.)
What is your dream?
Do what you love. When you do, you will be guided by positive surprises, and not by fear. Get into, find and embrace your passion. Singing inspiring songs inspire others to sing. Music brings love and joy. Wayne Dyer wrote “Everything that exists right now was once imagined”. We play music to feel life. When you go out to see music, observe and reflect every detail of the performance. (Great concept here, noting every detail of how the great ones do things, and also observe how NOT to do things). Learn to play by ear if you can, but also there are many written languages in music. Learn them so you can play others’ music, and so that you can write music and others can play your music.
Caroline sings us a beautiful song she wrote about Sunshine
In-between lessons, Caroline played the guitar, used virtuoso fingering on the banjo, and sang her own songs with a voice that has incredible range. I especially loved her song about sunshine, which she said she was performing for the first time in public. Great lyrics talked about eternal optimism, and how you can visualize sunshine when it is raining. How when you feel bad, you turn it into feeling good.
Caroline’s new model for singer-songwriters
Caroline said she could have signed with two different labels, but felt the art would not be her own. So without a label, she is going grassroots, to make her music as available and authentic as possible. Ours is the do-it-all-yourself generation, so you can write and record your own songs, and book your own tours and performances. She has released four albums, and has a website. Caroline doesn’t use Facebook, but her albums are digitally distributed through a service called Tunecore, which distributes her records to iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and eMusic.
Buffalo Rising reader, do you have any tips for Buffalo’s young performing artist?