“If I don’t know what I’m trying to say then how will anyone else?”
If you ask a painter, photographer, film maker etc. more often than not they would describe their work as capturing a “moment in time”. The musician on the other hand deals with a canvas that is constantly changing because every time a song is performed the context is completely different. In my case, the room is different, the piano is different, the audience is different etc. With a singer this is magnified by the fact that the human body is never the same from one moment to the next.
The real challenge for the performing artist then becomes “how do I internally recreate the context that makes this piece emotionally engaging to the point where the audience “gets” what I’m trying to say?
Looking at great artists they all seem to have the ability to “reconnect” with the source of their inspiration. For the rest of us it can be illusive and mysterious.
Here’s a tip that has worked quite well for me when recording vocals: take a moment to put yourself in character. Create a visual image of where and when that first moment of inspiration took place. Where was it? What was I feeling? Who was in the room? Was it warm or cold? etc. etc.
This may sound a bit strange but if you think about it there is little difference between actors and musicians. We both try to communicate to an audience. The actor uses the body, the surroundings, props etc. The musician uses their instrument.
Let’s say you are playing in a restaurant while people are eating a meal or having a drink. If you, the performer, are just going through the motions chances are the audience won’t pay attention. BUT, if you are in the moment, focusing your attention on the image that makes this song special to you I would put money on the table that at least SOME of the people in the room will get the message regardless of their reaction.
This exercise is valid if your audience is 1 or 1,000,000.
The point here is to train yourself to access that place inside yourself that makes your music special to YOU!
You most likely have spent 100’s if not 1000’s of hours practicing your instrument. Treat this like a skill not hocus pocus. With enough effort it is possible to improve your skills. I’m sure you will be amazed at the results.