Music On Mondays (10-27-14)—Breaking yourself of singing with your eyes closed

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

I have been collecting music since I was 11. My wise old grandmother gave me a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder for my birthday. She did not like it, though, when I was up at 3:00 in the morning recording songs off the radio. Forty-eight years later and I’m still up at 3:00 in the morning listening to music….

It should be no surprise, then, that music brings back memories. In fact, I define many events in my life by what music was playing at the time.

Even some friends are remembered whenever certain songs come on. For example, my first kiss was in the living room of my wise old grandmother’s house with “Hey Jude” by The Beatles playing on the radio.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My first live rock ‘n’ roll concert occurred in Corpus Christi, Texas, when I went to see The Byrds and Dr. John. That also happens to be the first, last, and only time that I smoked a joint. Nasty stuff…. Because of that, every time I listen to “Eight Miles High” by The Byrds, I’m transported back in time to the Coliseum in Corpus Christi.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My first college roommate, with whom I got along disastrously and moved out after one semester, will always be remembered when “Stairway To Heaven” by Led Zeppelin is playing. He played that song endlessly, starting at 6:00 a.m. and ending at midnight. Never was I so happy as when either of us had to go to class. Such a sad time is remembered by such a great song.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My first concert in Houston was at The Summit—Paul McCartney & Wings for their “Wings Over America” Tour. As usual with Paul McCartney—still—the concert was long and I had to get back to College Station for classes the next morning. I decided to leave during the clapping for an encore. However, the encore came as I was walking to the exit, and it was a song with which I was not familiar: “Soily.” “Soily” was the B side of the single “Maybe I’m Amazed” but I had quit collecting 45 singles by that time and did not know about the song. Here is the live version from the “Wings Over America” album:

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My last concert before graduating from Texas A&M University was Chicago and Jackson Browne. Three friends and I drove 90 miles from College Station to Houston listening to Chicago and Jackson Browne. I was unfamiliar with Jackson Browne but I liked what I was hearing. I asked who it was, and Richard Scruggs said, “Jackson Browne.” To which I responded, “Jackson who?” Richard’s still a good friend courtesy of Facebook, and whenever I listen to Jackson Browne, all I have to do is post on Facebook “Jackson who?” and Richard understands that I’m thinking of him. Here is “The Pretender,” title track from his classic 1976 album of the same name.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

While Jim and I were dating, I regularly sent him postcards and letters with snippets of songs by The Beatles. The song that most reminds me of my husband of 20½ years (our wedding anniversary is October 30!) is The Beatles’ “In My Life.”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

For the past six months, Julian Rey Saenz worked with me at Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos. He plays the guitar and sings, although he sings with his eyes closed. He claims that he doesn’t, but I now have proof from a performance a few days ago:

Julian Rey Saenz

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There is more where that came from, including a 6:47 video which has eyes open for only 0:13. Julian, you can do better!

I used to sing with my eyes closed, too, when I was with a Beatles cover band in College Station in the mid-1980s…. Until a Houston friend, Bill Bammel, came to one of my performances with his video camera. He pointed it out to me, and told me how to break myself: Practice singing in front of a mirror because it’s virtually impossible to be in front of a mirror with your eyes closed. Thus you’ll sing and subconsciously keep your eyes open to watch yourself. Do it enough, and it becomes a habit that carries over to performances.

Julian Rey SaenzThe whole purpose of singing with your eyes open, especially in small, intimate settings, is to make eye contact with your audience, some of whom often are sitting just feet away from you. The more eye contact you make, the better the tips, and the more performances you’ll find yourself doing because people like eye contact in those small settings.

Practice makes perfect. Yes, tips and invitations to perform increased when I started singing with my eyes open. It worked for me, and I think it can work for Julian. Nonetheless….

I’m pretty sure Julian knows the guitar chords and words to every Beatles song ever, including some of the alternate stuff that showed up on the three Anthology CDs of the late 1990s. It won’t be a Beatles song by which I remember Julian, though. Instead, it will be a song by The White Stripes, a group that Julian introduced me to. Here’s my favorite:

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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29 thoughts on “Music On Mondays (10-27-14)—Breaking yourself of singing with your eyes closed

    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I couldn’t find any videos with him singing with his eyes closed. However, it is okay to close your eyes for a few moments, but not for the whole song! Your eyes should be open for much longer than they are closed, unless you’re Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles.

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      1. babso2you

        I saw Boz Scaggs years ago (something like 30) and as he performed on stage from a stool, he played with his head to the side and his eyes closed. He opened them when he spoke to the audience between songs.

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        1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

          That would explain it. Most people, including Julian, me, and Boz, sing with their eyes closed. I don’t know what it is, but the only young people who don’t do it seem to be those with classical voice training. I had classical training, but it was in piano and violin, not voice. Voice I simply took up on my own, similar to what Julian has done, and what many rock/pop stars do.

          Another way you can tell who has had vocal training is to listen to their diction and pronunciation, especially with phrases such as “want you.” If it comes out “wan jew” or “wan chew,” no vocal training. If you can actually hear the t, vocal training somewhere.

          The worst diction I’ve ever heard is AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheep.” It sounds like they are saying “dirty deeds dunderchee.” Those ending consonants are the bane of singers everywhere, but classical vocalists understand how to sing them.

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  1. Hollis Hildebrand-Mills

    Russel Ray, among the many things I want to ask/say to you on this: We have a reel to reel. We have it hooked up. And at one time I heard a 20 minute long Eight Miles High. I have been trying to get a copy of it. Do you know where I could get it? It was on the radio.Many years ago, I think it is cool you saw Dr John. I saw Dylan in 1966. And others. But Dylan, I have seen three times. but the Blonde on Blonde one (’66) was the best. Anyway if you know anything about that extended version of Eight Miles High, I would appreciate it……..

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