You may have noticed that I’m wearing face art at most MoeTar shows. I’m usually sporting some variation of war paint on my cheeks or drawn designs around my eyes. It’s not Lady Gaga extreme but it’s part of my MoeTar stage look that’s different from my heading-to-the-grocery-store look.
There is more to the color on my face than just show aesthetics. The paint, which I’m usually applying with my fingers just minutes before a show, helps to bring out the warrior in me who I need to show up when singing with MoeTar on stage.
When I’m practicing our music on my own at home it is usually a nerd-tastic activity (I use the word nerd lovingly by the way). I have to be very methodical and diligent to learn the complex parts in our music. I usually practice in small bursts to take in the information most efficiently. I feel like I’m studying for the S.A.T. when trying to memorize the lyrics to some of our songs. Once I own the part then I move onto the task of interpreting the lyrics. I need to develop my own close relationship with them so there’s passion and purpose present with every word. I think of these songs as poetry, almost like I’m delivering a sermon that I want to do justice. Then the band rehearses the songs together at Lebofsky’s studio (I call him Lebofsk by the way - you can too, it’s incredibly fun to say). For me our rehearsals are all about making sure we can gel together when making this music. It’s one thing to learn a melody line alone in my living room and another thing completely to own it while others are playing crazy ass parts all around me.
Most of my time spent on MoeTar isn’t even music related; it’s website building, email list generating, connecting with other musicians and fans, designing new merch, booking shows and rehearsals, publicizing shows… I could go on but I think the picture has been painted. This isn’t a complaint. I love the music business work that I get to do for MoeTar, it’s satisfying in its own way. The music business is very different from making the music, but that can be left for a different article.
My point in sharing all of this is that a lot goes into being in MoeTar for me. After all of the preparation and work is done and I finally get to stand up on a stage and be the front woman of MoeTar, I want to shed all of those other aspects of myself and fast. From the second I step on the stage I want to be grounded, passionate, deep inside the lyrics, no thoughts flying by as to what my part is or where to breathe or how to sing it. I want to be all heart and no head. Something about the paint on my face helps me to get centered, helps me to remember the warrior that I cultivated in my early years of music.
Music saved my life during my teen years. At 15 I landed myself in Alcoholic Anonymous with countless hours of individual therapy and group counseling to deal with heavy drug and alcohol issues. My abusive using was only a few years in the making but I was in some dangerous territory and knew that if I didn’t make some big changes that jail and death were waiting for me right around the corner. When I finally made the choice to try to turn things around, music was my fallback. When I wasn’t in a 12 step meeting or counseling session I was singing in every group I could get into, listening to countless hours of new music, reading music biographies, practicing non-stop and learning how to live a different way through music. Singing and music culture became the heart of my identity and where I could unleash all of my crazy adolescent pent up rage and energy. I put music on a pedestal and worshiped at it’s feet.
During that time I was extremely vulnerable, I needed to be in order to look at what I was running away from with the substance abuse, face it head on and finally start to deal with it on a real level (I’m not sharing that part of my story publicly just yet. Not sure I ever will). I also needed to know that I was strong, a warrior who was able to kick some serious ass in order to take on my demons. When everything crumbled around me, music is what lifted me back up. In the absence of religion or believing in God, there was music. When I opened my mouth to sing I felt strong, like I could melt away my own pain. That was my new drug. I could move others with my voice. I wanted to make people feel the way that I felt when I listened to Nina Simone, Kathleen Hana, Ella Fitzgerald, Siouxsie Sioux, Joni Mitchell, Whitney Houston and so many of the women that moved me to tears, or to scream along with them, or dance. I wanted to be a vessel for music, to learn everything I could about it technically so I could deliver it deeply to people with ease. I know that I tortured some poor kids back in high school who I used to sing with - the ones who were just doing it for fun. I would get so upset when they wouldn’t take it seriously enough for me. I gave a lot of speeches. Sorry bout that!
Now my life isn’t as dramatic as it was in those early years (THANK The Muse for that!), but I remember my story and where I came from. The warrior isn’t on my sleeve all the time anymore, but the paint on my face is what helps to draw that energy out of me. It’s a physical reminder to shed all other things going on in my life and just be the musical superhero that I wanted to be at 16 when I get on the stage today.