If you go to any musicians’ or singers’ LinkedIn threads, or community singers’ forums, you will always find when there is a discussion about what singers take to keep going, the mention of a ubiquitous throat lozenge, Fisherman’s Friends. Strange little flat oval tablets that are so strong they singe the hair off your nostrils when you breathe out and cauterise your throat so that you can carry on singing.
I was addicted to these, famously so, to the point where students and participants at my expression courses and retreats would find bigger and bigger boxes of these potent little things to give me. I used to suck them all the time. In fact, if I didn’t have them, I would feel quite a bit of mental discomfort, feel that my throat would clog up and get a bit raspy. I would have to clear my throat a lot, and generally singing wasn’t as enjoyable. In fact, when it comes down to it, I really felt that I needed these things to keep singing.
Then about 14 years ago, a very good friend gave me what I thought was some very strange advice… and that was just to try giving up gluten and dairy in my diet. Well, the first thing that happened was that I gained at least another half an octave of vocal range. Of course there was a bit of ‘letting go’ that had to happen as I had some smaller addictions (not as bad as the Fisherman’s Friends) like French baguettes, butter, and Brie cheese… preferably all together, in equal quantities.
Along the way, lots of other lifestyle choices opened up to me that I also had never considered – like not drinking alcohol any more, or smoking anything. This was all a very natural evolution. I started to feel more balanced and natural and found my own rhythmical way of living that actually supported my body and my music.
Along the way, I also took off 45kg of weight. I can barely lift 20kg nowadays – just imagine having a 45kg sack strapped to your back and carrying that on stage every time you had to sing and perform. So you could say that I have chosen to let go of a lot of stuff, so to speak, and the effect has been quite extraordinary. I am 64 now and I was singing at a festival recently, and really, really enjoying the feeling and sound of my voice. It felt effortless, unlimited; it felt like it could reach any note wherever I wanted to go, almost angelic in its quality, but with a strength and clarity. I was deeply appreciative of how it felt, and the journey that had got me there.
And guess what? I also realised that I had kicked the habit of Fisherman’s Friends, and that the best friend for my voice was simply me being truly me.
By Chris James, Singer/Musician/Voice teacher, McLeans Ridges, NSW, Australia
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