I never intended to write a four part series about my private songwriting lesson with legendary singer-songwriter-guitarist Melissa Etheridge, but here we are.
I got so much out of my two hours with the rock icon last month that I’m still reflecting on it all.
In fact, friends claim that I mention Melissa in some way or other every fifteen minutes.
They’ve timed me. 🙂
One more session with her and I’ll be writing an entire book about all I’ve learned.
Anyway, in this episode I want to share what she taught me about singing, performing and becoming an overnight success.
Before we go there, I have to share a funny moment I had with her.
After Melissa showed me her book collection, guitar collection, and jigsaw puzzle she was working on, she walked me to a piano that her manager had given to her.
She played a few notes and asked me if I played.
“No,” I said. “I wanted a guitar when I was a kid. My father heard me and bought me an accordion. He didn’t want to hear rock, he wanted to hear polkas.”
“Parents!” Melissa said.
And from there we went into her home studio.
In my previous blog posts I shared what she taught me about writing songs. Her insights were revealing and inspiring. (See PS at end of this post for links.)
I told Melissa that one of the biggest fascinations for me was her singing.
I still remember her solo acoustic gig on Unplugged TV back in 1995.*
It shook me to the core.
Her explosive performance sent out ripples through time, and are still hitting my nerve endings today.
I want to sing like that, I thought. And I told Melissa so.
Of course, she asked me to sing for her.
And I (gulp) did.
It was actually easy to perform for her because she was entirely nonjudgmental.
She was patient, present, and eager.
But I was a nervous schoolboy compared to the powerhouse singing that Melissa does naturally.
So I asked her for any tips she could give me.
She told me about watching Ed Sullivan’s TV show and seeing house rockers, like Janice Joplin and Tom Jones.
“It was their joy in taking a song and belting it out,” Melissa explained. “Barbara Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Neil Diamond. I watched them perform. I always went with my feeling. I wanted to stand up and you know, SING.”
She went on to talk about where the power of a stirring performer comes from.
“Robert Plant’s singing like Janice Joplin,” Melissa said. “Janice Joplin’s singing like Memphis Minnie and Betsy Smith, and she’s singing like a black woman. All this rock and roll, and this popular music, comes from the slave era. It comes from this pain of I’m going to overcome this.”
“It comes from this pain of I’m going to overcome this.”
At this point Melissa pointed out that she heard a limiting belief in me.
She said that I thought I was too old to perform music and rock the world.
She reminded me that many people start entire new careers in their seventies. (I turn 63 today.)
“There’s an infinite stream of energy that can become whatever we want,” she told me. “And it’s up to us and the story we tell inside.
“So you’ve gotta believe it first,” she stressed. “You’ve gotta believe it first.”
I started to understand that much of Melissa’s on stage power comes from a decision.
She consciously intends to be electrifying.
“You’re gonna draw up this power, and you’re going to project it,” she said. “And be willing to let that energy come through you. I have an agreement, and I made it a long time ago, with the Universe, that I would be a conduit.”
Melissa explained that we are all energy and we project a vibrational field.
“It’s possible to gather this energy and let it go through us,” she continued. “But to do that, we’ve gotta have a clean channel. If you ever hear of anybody touring that lost their voice, it’s because they’re eating late at night, they’re doing all this stuff that’s going to come up and burn their voice.”
She went on to focus on the songs.
“What material are you working with?” she asked. “Are you singing, tonight I feel so weak. Then act what you are getting across. Be present for what you’re singing. If you’re singing a slow song, everybody’s got a hunger, then think about it, live it, have it be alive in you when you’re singing it.”
Melissa then focused on my new song, the one we were working on together, and a line from it.
“If you are singing, I’ve got a message from the Great Something, and I found it through my struggles and strifes, then put that intention in you as you’re singing. Think, I want to tell this story, and I want you to be moved by it because I want you to know the joy I’m having.”
Melissa explained that she first started singing when she was ten years old. She was in choirs in churches. The teacher would put her in the back because “I had such a weird voice.”
Weird voice? Melissa??
“In sixth grade I wrote a song, a protest song,” she continued. “And I sang that in a talent show that became a variety show around my hometown. We played at old folks’ homes, schools and prisons. And so I slowly started singing for people.
“I got in a band when I was in junior high, like eighth grade,” she continued. “A professional band that had grown guys and me. And we would have gigs on the weekends, at the officer’s club and these places. And so I sang other people’s songs. And that really helped me.”
At this point Melissa is explaining her decades of singing experience, and singing snippets to me as she continues.
You have to imagine my delight in being in her studio and witnessing this.
“First I sang Tammy Wynette, Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman, and then Stand by your man. I learned to sing from your gut; to when you start with the energy, when you get up, I’m singing from here, and then I would sing the guy’s songs.
“I would sing Roberta Flack. I remember the first time, ever I saw your face is the song, but it was the first time that I sang a song in my band, where usually people are dancing and talking and they’re not paying any attention to the band, we’re just there for their pleasure, that actually people would stop, look at me and then applaud.
“And then I realized that oh, a song grows. I’m telling a story. And I would captivate, I would see people paying attention and want to take that energy and keep it. So I had years and years and years and years and more years of singing in front of people.
That’s often what it takes to succeed:
Years, and years, and years, and years and more years.
“When I finally got out to California, I played for five years in the bars, with drunk people,” she continued. “When I finally got my record deal at the end of the 80’s, I would have 100 people in the bar that came to hear me and liked my original songs.”
Melissa summed up her story by saying, “You just get on the path, you just do it, and that’s your intention, and then you let The Great Something bring you the stuff.”
“You just get on the path, you just do it, and that’s your intention, and then you let The Great Something bring you the stuff.” – Melissa Etheridge
I was in awe of all the lifetime experience it took Melissa to get noticed, get a deal, and explode on the scene.
As with virtually every “overnight success” (including my own, as an author), it actually didn’t happen overnight.
Once again, I could continue with all I learned from this loving legend of rock.
But right now I have a new album to record.
I’m dedicating my new album to Melissa.
There may even be a song on it called “Melissa Said,” which will be a tribute to her. I’m currently drafting it using, of course, everything I’ve learned from her. I am forever grateful to her, and want her to know it.
I’m obviously still on fire from sitting with Melissa, so somebody bring me some water!
PS – Here are links to my previous posts about my private lesson with Melissa Etheridge:
Note: In case you are curious, samples of my five singer-songwriter albums are here:
* Brace yourself. Watch Melissa Etheridge on Unplugged TV 1995 here:
Elsie Lincoln Benedict – the forgotten wonder woman of self-help who I wrote about here on my February 15, 2015 blog post – taught me something profound.
I was reading her 1921 book, How to Unlock Your Subconscious Mind (sometimes called Mental Analysis: How to Unlock Your Subconscious Mind) when I came across this insight in the final chapter:
“Whatever your conscious mind affirms, visualizes and suggests to the subconscious, the subconscious will build into your life.”
For you and I today, that’s probably not news. But in 1921, it was a breakthrough new concept.
It basically said that you could choose what you want with your conscious mind, and with intention and imagery, you could get it into the subconscious, where it would take seed and begin to grow.
Why is this so important?
Because Elsie said something else right before revealing that concept that was even more insightful, and something so profound that I had to reread it a few times.
Elsie wrote –
“This newest, hitherto unpublished and most far-reaching of all the discoveries concerning the laws of human life is that every human being GETS his supreme subconscious wish.”
In short, there is a type of prime directive in your subconscious mind.
It is the secret guiding desire for your life.
You may not know what it is, but your subconscious is attracting into your life everything to make it real.
What you are getting right now is a match to the secret desire of your subconscious – your “supreme subconscious wish.”
In my own work, I talk a lot about counter-intentions.
A counter-intention is a hidden belief in contrast to what you consciously say you want.
You might consciously say you want a new job, but unconsciously believe you won’t get one due to the economy (or some other excuse/reason/belief), and your unconscious, being more powerful, will make the counter-intention come true.
Elsie would probably agree but her deeper insight is that the subconscious has one major intention and it will allow nothing to come about to contradict it.
Elsie explains –
“Let us repeat: Your supreme subconscious wish dictates your life. It permits nothing seriously to interfere with its materialization. It is automatic, implacable. What you want most of all, as a condition in your life, it will get for you.”
Now think about this.
If your conscious intent is to attract more money – for yourself or others or causes you believe in – but your secret subconscious wish is to avoid money so you consider yourself “spiritual,” then your subconscious mind will make sure that you get your chief hidden intention — and stay broke.
Your subconscious secret desire will win.
It’s the same scenario with anything you can name.
Want a relationship but secretly want to stay alone because it feels safer?
Then nothing you do will work because the secret intent of your subconscious will control the outcome. You will be alone but “safe.”
Want better health but secretly want to stay ill so you can avoid taking actions and risks in the world?
Then your overriding subconscious desire will make sure you stay ill. You will be sick but “risk free.”
Elsie goes on to explain that your secret desire is for a feeling or condition, not anything specific. She says –
“Our supreme subconscious wish is never for any specific thing or person but for a condition, a certain avenue of self-expression.”
Elsie’s insight, offered in 1921, is a mind opener.
Here’s why –
First, realizing you have a secret subconscious “prime directive” helps explain why you are attracting what you have in your life: your subconscious insists on it.
Second, realizing you can change your subconscious secret desire to something else – with your conscious mind affirming and visualizing a new outcome – is enlightening and empowering.
Once again, Elsie has rocked my world.
I trust you see the power of these insights from our dear woman of the 1920s.
But here’s a suggestion –
You can sit and reflect on what your subconscious might want for you, which will help explain what you are attracting into your life.
You can then use your conscious mind to offer new instructions to your subconscious, reprogramming it to help you attract more of what you consciously prefer.
Elsie was pointing the way to the hidden operations in our mind, long before positive psychology and neuroscience came into play.
Thank you, Elsie.
I love you.
PS – Unraveling your own beliefs can be tricky, since you are the one wrapped up inside of them. The fastest way to expand your mind is with the help of your own Miracles Coach. Check out Miracles Coaching.
You can achieve great things when someone believes in you.
I know this first hand.
Daniel Barret, my music producer, coauthor of The Remembering Process, and friend, urged me to create an album of all saxophone music before I felt ready to do so.
I even argued with him about it.
“You have a two year old son,” I began. “Getting me to record sax music right now is like my offering to train your son for the Olympics. He’s not ready. I’m not ready.”
But Daniel persisted.
“You have a supernatural connection to the sax,” he said. “Every time I hear you play, I feel the power of it.”
Keep in mind that I had heard a baritone saxophone for the first time last January, when Thomas van der Brook came into the studio to add his bari sax to a track on my Reflection album.
I loved it.
I decided right then to buy a sax and learn how to play.
I did, too.
But that was only months ago.
I had a couple lessons to learn how to put the sax together, watched some YouTube videos on how to play the sax, bought 17 books on the sax, and a DVD course, and just kept trying.
Every week or so, I’d record my playing and send it to Daniel.
I was simply sharing.
But he used it as evidence.
He felt I was ready to record.
After a few months – and with Daniel’s polite but persistent encouragement – I took the jump.
I realized I had been arguing for my limitations.
Enough of that.
I agreed to create an album of all sax music.
That was a HUGE, BOLD, and SCARY move.
I didn’t feel confident.
I didn’t feel ready.
Yet I knew that one of the best ways to learn something is to simply dive in and create a project out of it. Recording an album of sax music would put me in a situation where I had to learn how to play, and fast.
I also knew that as soon as I stated an intention, and invited inspiration, that the Universe would rush in to help me.
And so the adventure began.
It helped that sax great Mindi Abair heard me play (during a Skype sax lesson with her) and said, “You have real talent.”
It helped that I went in the studio with Mathew Dixon and added some bari sax to the first track of our album, Invoking Divinity, which came out hauntingly beautiful.
But that wasn’t a whole album of sax music.
I still remember the first day in the studio with Daniel.
As he set up the mike, and I put together the mouthpiece and reed on my baritone sax, he looked at me and said, “On one level this is an insane thing to do, but let’s do it and see what occurs.”
I played the baritone, tenor, and alto saxophones.
Daniel mixed the music and added some tasty sounds.
I wrote and recorded some hypnotic odes, or prayers.
We ended up with ten tracks – the first five with the poems at an audible level, and the second five with the prayers at a subliminal, or below conscious, level.
I decided to call the album Afflatus, which means, “sudden Divine inspiration.”
And the album is done.
The miracle is complete.
When Mark Hallman, who mastered the album, heard it, he said, “This is the best music you’ve recorded yet. A masterpiece.”
When Mathew Dixon, my partner on several albums, heard it, he said, “It sounds fantastic! I just finished listening and it sounds incredible!”
I’m about as proud as any musician could be.
I’ll be selling the album in 2015 but I’ll be giving it away — yes, you read it right: giving it away for free — in December, as part of my birthday/end of year sale. (I’ll give you details later, of course.)
But I wanted to share this adventure with you today for the lesson it reveals.
It all started with someone who believed in me more than I believed in myself.
With encouragement, you can achieve virtually anything you can conceive.
What’s your dream?
I believe in you.
Go for it!
PS — If you want someone who believes in you, check out Miracles Coaching.
Later this year I’ll be releasing a new book titled, The Secret Prayer.
It will reveal a three-step formula for attracting miracles through right prayer.
Prayer is a way to activate the Law of Attraction by requesting an intention and inviting inspiration.
In researching, I’m reading really old books, such as Prayer: The Forgotten Secret, from 1906, and really new books, such as Healing Words by Larry Dossey and Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson.
From what I can see, prayer has been around since the beginning of time.
But as we all know, they don’t always seem to work.
So what’s the secret to having a prayer deliver?
Let’s look at incorrect prayer first:
First, I don’t think most people actually believe their prayers. They pray without any real belief that anyone is listening or anything will happen. They simply “toss” one to the sky, like a stranded person on an island throwing a note in a bottle into the ocean. They hope someone picks it up. Then they hope someone acts on their plea.
Second, desperation is the other problem. Most prayers are just begging. People pray for help, solutions, miracles, healing, money and more. But when they pray, it’s often because they don’t see a way out and are pleading for intervention.
Third, most people don’t take action. This is a common thing in the world of metaphysics. People think their praying is action, when it’s really an action, but not the entire blueprint to results.
Again, prayer is a way to activate the Law of Attraction by requesting an intention and inviting inspiration.
So what’s the right way to pray?
“When you put yourself into the state of the wish fulfilled and think from it, you are praying, and in a way your reasoning mind does not know, your wish will become a fact in your world. You can be the man or woman you want to be, when you know how to pray.” – Neville, The Right Way to Pray, 1967 lecture, http://realneville.com/txt/the_secret_of_prayer.htm
First, begin with a spirit of gratitude.
To me, this is the core issue. If we all felt more gratitude for what we have, even the things we complain about, we’d shift our focus, our mind, our thoughts, our energies, our spirit, our direction, our action, and more. Gratitude for the now is the number one way to begin any prayer. When you sincerely do it and feel it, you can stop with this step, too. It’s that powerful.
Second, requesting rather than begging is wiser.
After all, we don’t know the big picture or the whole story. Begging for a certain outcome is an ego trip; it’s pretending we know it all. We don’t. We barely know a tiny percentage of what is happening in our personal world at any one time. A wiser approach is to make a request but acknowledge that something better may be more appropriate. End requests with the phrase, “This or something better.” This step requires faith.
Third, acting on the insights, inspiration, intuition.
We co-create results. The Higher Power (God, Divine, Universe, etc) works through you, not for you. When you see an opportunity, seize it. When you receive an inspiration, act on it. You are the missing ingredient in most results from prayer. The famous joke about the man who prayed to win the lottery but was reminded to buy a ticket, is good to remember.
“Prayer is the effort to bring the human soul into tune with the Infinite.” – W. J. Dawson, Prayer: The Forgotten Secret
My book will explore all this and more when it comes out later in the year. For now, I wanted to give you a crash course in prayer.
If you really want your prayers answered, then follow a proven formula:
1. Be grateful.
2. Detached request.
3. Inspired Action.
Try it today and note the difference.
PS – If you have other pointers or stories about prayers that work, please let me know with a comment below. Thank you.
PPS – If you want to explore prayers and music, be sure to check out my latest album http://www.InvokingDivinity.com
I have a question for you…
I would like to send you my latest album, titled Reflection, which is a breakthrough in self-help healing music.
It’s music to soothe, heal, stir and awaken.
Every track is original, and every track conveys a powerful message about life, love, miracles, faith, and more.
It’s all designed to raise your vibration so you can better attract higher levels of consciousness and manifestations.
It works beautifully with the Law of Attraction because it helps program your mind to attract what you want and prefer.
For example –
The song “Love” could be the anthem for a whole generation. It is unforgettable. It will help you love and attract love. When you feel love, you merge with the higher attraction law of the Universe.
The song “Fidem” lets you know the truth about worry. The message is freeing. (“Fidem” means faith.)
The song “Lakshmi” is a powerful song of homage to the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity. It can help you attract more abundance. (She is a secret in my own success.)
The title track song, “Reflection,” reminds you that the whole world is a mirror — of you. (This song has the potential to trigger an awakening in you.)
The song “Remember” is a beautiful, yet haunting message of how to change your life with a brand new process. (It is way cool.) It was inspired by “The Remembering Process” book (coming in April).
The song “Do” is a pep talk to get you moving. It could help you overcome procrastination and fire you up for the day or a work out. The word ‘action’ is in the phrase ‘law of attraction.’
The song “Believe” lets you know what to do when no one seems to believe in you or your dreams. We live in a belief driven universe, so this song is timely and powerful.
I could go on and list every track and the story behind each, but you get the idea.
This new album is a-maz-ing.
I got my band back together — Daniel Barrett, Glenn Fukunaga, and Rock and Rock Hall of Fame drummer Joe Vitale (yes, he has the same name as me) — and we created this new album of ten tracks just for you.
It’s self-help healing music at its best.
It’s music that transforms.
And I want to send it to you.
The album on CD – complete with a beautiful printed book revealing all of the lyrics and including photos of me and the band – is at the printer right now.
It will be a limited edition collectible, because I am only printing a small quantity of 1,000 to offer to my readers and friends (like you).
It will sell to others for $21.95 but when you go and pre-order it right now, you can have it for only $9.95 (plus shipping, of course).
That’s well over half off.
That’s only a dollar a song.
For less than ten bucks, you can change your life through sound *and* get a collectible new album and booklet, too.
Plus I will include a surprise gift when we ship the new album to you in April.
(You will love it.)
May I send it to you?
Just go see http://www.reflectioncd.com
PS – This offer will last until May 1st, 2014. Please go order one or more albums (think of your family and friends) right now while it’s on your mind at — http://www.ReflectionCD.com