The Gnarliest Mic

Yesterday I was helping a student prepare for an upcoming performance. On the stage where we were rehearsing there were 4 or 5 different mics in stands she could sing through. They were all nice, clean brand new mics in good condition.

All but one, that is—an old SM57 that was all dented up, sort of grimey, and looked like it had seen better days.

“Which mic should I use?” she asked me.

The way I look at it, much of being a good performer is about defying expectations. That’s how you keep your audience on their toes. And it’s also how you keep things fun and interesting for yourself.

I pointed to the gnarly mic. “How about that one,” I said.

“This one?” she asked, puzzled. “It’s all beat up and destroyed.”

“Yeah,” I said. “That’s the one that probably sounds best,” I said.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because people keep using it,” I replied.

She laughed. Who knows? That funky mic has the life and spirit of a probably thousand or more shows, artists, and songs in it. Maybe she could tap into that power.

Think of it like an old beat up pair of jeans. They somehow contain the life you’ve lived. Your experiences, your attitudes, your soul are embodied in every rip, hole, and dangling wisp of thread.

I saw a twinkle of recognition in her eyes. She picked the gnarly mic and delivered a blistering performance. We were both smiling afterwards.

Train yourself to see the beauty in the other choice. The less obvious choice. Everyone would go for one of the nice mics. And everyone would look the same. Sound the same. It’s the safe choice. And great art is never safe.