The week leading to this session was a busy one. There was not one day in the previous week where I didn’t have multiple things going on. So when I sat down to put pen to paper, the session was less than 24 hours away. That wasn’t a problem, really; however, it wasn’t ideal either. It’s pretty obvious that having to dress up as superheros all week had my mind trapped in “super power” mode. I wrote until my eyes watered from fatigue. And at realizing I had written 2 songs to the same track, both super power themed, I called it a night.
Session Day: I worked, then opened vacation bible school, after which I headed to the studio. I changed from my Hulk costume and grabbed my notebook and phone full of voice notes I had sang with a tired and weak voice the night before to help me remember melodies I feared I may have been too tired to commit to memory. When I walked into the booth, James, my engineer, came in behind me to adjust the height of the microphone. When it was perfect, he headed back to the board.
On his way there, I read over my lyrics and tried to remember what I had planned to execute. Somewhere between the scratches and small writing, I zoned out and begin to reminisce…
In 2007, I went with a dear friend of mine to his high school class reunion. He was from a small town where you could find houses along dirt roads and neighborhood stores that gave “credit” for purchases until payday. I didn’t think that anything amazing could come as a result of this road trip. However, during that weekend, I learned that two producers who were on the brink of a major placement had also made the trip with another of the classmates.
After learning from my friend that I was a songwriter, the producers and I exchanged information with hopes of working together in the future. Looking back, it was a miracle they would even want to work with me. The songs my friend played for them were recorded with equipment stolen from the trash of the music school at my university on a four track device. Probably the worst songs I’ve ever written. Weeks passed, when I got an email from one of them asking me write to a track. That week wasn’t much unlike this week.
Realizing I had my first real songwriting opportunity, I dragged my sinus infected body into a friend’s home studio and sang my idea. No autotune, no fancy equipment. Just years of vocal training to perfect stacks of notes and prayers of keeping control of the nasal sound that was prevalent in my delivery. I had to transform. They loved the song. That song led to another and those to an amazing working relationship.
Years later, now as good friends, one of the producers, H, short for H20, started calling me “Super J”. He said that I didn’t talk the way I sang and that my laid back demeanor was almost polar opposite of my music persona. He explained that I was different when I stepped in to the booth just like when SuperMan stepped into a booth and came out a hero. It was like I… transformed. We laughed at his description and I accepted the nickname. …
I snapped out of haze of memories and adjusted my headphones. My body was heavy from the week’s activities. My voice was worn out. James’ voice came through the headphones asking, “Ready?”. Outside of the booth, the answer was “No.” I would have rather been in the bed or watching “A Different World” on Netflix. I had a million justifications for a “no”. But I had stepped into the booth. And so with confidence I answered him, “Yes!”. It was time to be Super J again.
Every time I missed a note, I quickly said “Again!” as I tried to nail it. James swiftly restarted in the same place so as not to hinder my determination for perfect execution. Sometimes I feel as though he can sense my drive. It’s as though the tone evident in my voice as I insist on trying again demands his respect and cooperation. That same drive, I think, also makes him subconsciously make jokes to help me maintain a light demeanor as I push past anything that could hold me back from trying.
Though this song has absolutely nothing to do with what I was going through in my own life, I had somehow written a melody that afforded me the opportunity to belt out that I could and would transform. I joined that with the memory of H’s description of how I’m not the same person when I am in front of the microphone. With all my might, I sang until the last note was complete.
When that note was done, I sat on the floor as I listened to the final in-booth playback. I could feel the weight of my weary body anchoring me to the floor. My eyes closed. I leaned against a stool as I listened to my own voice declare that I am capable of change.
Not always without hesitation, I believe we all have places in our minds and hearts where we are different. Places where we find we must overcome obstacles and beat impossible odds just as “superheros” do. Places where we tap into unbelievable energy and strength. Places where we are motivated by the fact that only we can do what must be done. Places where we… transform.