My voice coaching studio is a place where clients from all walks of life are invited to enter into their full voice, whatever that means to them. In the course of our work together, I encourage them to be playful, embodied, tender, wild and frequently LOUD.
When clients really cut loose and make big sounds, they frequently suggest that the police could be at the door any minute. The police! The fact that full expression could be considered illegal tells me just how vocally suppressed most of us are.
One of the conundrums many clients face is where and how to practice their newfound vocal freedom. Even singing songs in a normal tone can be problematic in an apartment, condo or townhouse setting. The shower offers great acoustics, but many people feel self-conscious about making any noise in there if family members are around.
That leaves one place where people feel free to cut loose – the car.
I’ve been enjoying James Corden’s car pool karaoke segments on the Late, Late Show. Corden invites famous musicians to go for a ride with him through LA. As they drive around, they sing along to the musician’s big hits and do a little chatting. His segment with Paul McCartney took place in Paul’s old neighborhood with stops at his childhood home and the neighborhood pub where the locals were treated to a surprise concert.
When these segments first started coming out, I was skeptical. What could be interesting about watching people singing in a car? After watching a few of them, I was hooked.
Corden has tapped into a powerful shared experience. Who among us hasn’t cranked up the car stereo to sing along with an artist we admire? To witness someone doing that familiar activity in the actual presenceof the artist takes it to another level.
Corden’s child-like enthusiasm, wide open heart and beautiful singing voice are also keys to making it work. He’s a wonderful stand-in for each of us – blending awe and admiration with playful collaboration. He is a complete enthusiast — the antithesis of Hollywood cool and slick. He fully surrenders to the experience, expressing puppy-like joy one minute and sweet tears the next.
I’ve wondered for years where people will go to sing when we give up the habit of driving alone in our cars so much. Our planet can’t handle the amount of emissions we’re asking it to bear and cars are a big contributor to the problem.
I hope by the time we end up with more shared transportation, we will have gotten over our shyness of singing in public. What would it be like to have busloads of harmonizing humans making their way through our streets? Will we have subway cars designated for certain kinds of singing? Will we go to work singing in the Motown car and return home in the camp song car? What will the free improvisation car sound like on a rainy afternoon? These public spaces could come to life in a joyful way.
I do hope we get less timid about singing in public. In the meantime, we can ride – and sing –along with James Corden and his lucky passengers.