I came to solo performing quite late in life. I did not do the whole teenage band thing. I was in the school choir but didn’t sing at all outside of that – my mum says I didn’t even sing around the house! For various reasons I avoided being too visible when I was younger – I was paranoid about attracting the ‘wrong’ kind of attention; and having moved to the Caribbean from the UK at 12, I often felt like the odd one out which I didn’t enjoy.
After returning to the UK in my 20s, I started accompanying singers on keyboard at open mics, then I was encouraged to sing as well. Insecurity about my voice led me to take singing lessons, and I gradually gained more confidence about being more visible (and audible!).
So at this point I have been a member of a harmony group (Camden Soul – happy days!), and have also led my own band (which was a wonderful learning experience), and I can say that gigging is now one of my favourite things to do! There’s nothing like the buzz of performing music you love, and seeing other people enjoying the music along with you.
It may vary depending on where you live, but in general there are several options for singing live, and you can choose the level you’re comfortable with, for example:
Private karaoke – where you and some friends can hire a room and sing your heart out with only each other as the audience
Singing workshops – a good way to get used to singing in front of others before taking it out into the big wide world
Choirs – also good for getting used to performing in a more private setting. Some choirs also go out gigging.
Public karaoke – run by restaurants, pubs and bars. You would normally put your name on a list, and they often have a song list for you to peruse before you sing. Most use backing tracks but there are some with live musicians
Open mics – if you have never sung in public before it’s a good idea to check a few out before committing to sing. There are various levels, from the beginner-friendly to those for more experienced singers –some allow backing tracks, some you have to provide your own accompaniment, some have live musicians
Showcases – these are often invitation-only, and claim to have music industry managers in the audience, who are waiting to sign up their next star. I would advise you to do some research about these, depending on your musical goals
Jams – I would say these are for more experienced singers and musicians as they are not as structured as open mics, and tend to involve solos and improvisation. You would need to know how to communicate with the musicians during the performance, which takes some getting used to
Competitions – these are for serious singers and would normally offer prizes like a recording package, or an opening slot for a well-known singer
I have not listed any particular open mics etc here as they may change; however you can find these opportunities by searching online for ‘karaoke nights’ or ‘live music nights’, checking for flyers or posters in restaurants, bars and pubs, or asking friends!
No matter what level you are at, I would encourage you to seek out these opportunities to get out! And if you have any other suggestions or advice please post it here or contact me directly.