[from left to right: Cindy, me, and Betty in 2010]
Yesterday I found out that a friend of mine, Betty, committed suicide. She and I started hanging out more recently as we would talk about our struggles and battles over dinner. I remember always rooting for her, because she was amazing. She was smart, creative, and beautiful, inside and out. I am so sad I will not be able to grow our friendship to a deeper level, as it was headed there. She had this bass-driven talking voice that commanded my attention. She was a pretty tomboy with extraordinary amounts of talent. (I mean, not many people major in Math and Art at Berkeley!) I drove through the capillaries of the greater Los Angeles in a daze yesterday. She’s gone. And I get to live still. How can I pay my respects to her?
After a silent drive down the 405 back to my home on the west side, I decided that I’d dedicate the title track of the album, “A Better Part of Me” to Betty and her loved ones. I wrote that song while struggling with my own bout of depression. I dedicate the rest of the album to all the others who are hurting, and need some camaraderie. I want to bring my listeners more reasons to self-love.
We all have our personal challenges in overcoming life’s challenges and finding our voices, and currently, my path is pushing me to find my voice. To find a way to thread all the different, and unique vibes I create with each song into one album.
The sultry “Just as Good” is the one that declares”If you want the mountains, the curves of my hips are just as good”, and it needs to sit next to “From my Lips”, a TC-Helicon Voice LIve Touch-inspired tune that sings about inviting somebody to travel the distance between the lips and the heart. Meanwhile, I have 3 different working versions of a new song idea “Windmill”. The idea of being a strong and resilient structure, like the windmill, fascinates me. I have one version that is vocals and piano, then a heavy electronic version. And to complicate things my mind wrote an alternate chorus last night.
I am staying in on Friday night, digging deep, making family trees of all the artists that I grew up with, from Portishead to Imogen Heap to Nina Simone to Joni Mitchell. Who am I? Who influences me? I am looking at paintings and fashion, noting all the things that stand out to me. I continue scribbling random notes of wisdom that I garner off the internet.
There are so many uncertainties, but I thank God for the one certainty I have: I am writing this album for the parts of us that hope, and fight, and understand our unique beauty. I am writing the album for that voice that knows how to silence the negative ones. We can be fighters, and we can get through life’s terrible moments to find better ones.
I pray that Betty feels more peace tonight, and that I can write her a song that will reach the heavens, and make her feel alright. I pray that Betty knows we love her.
“MORE THAN REAL”: THE STORY BEHIND THE SONG
This is the solo and live performance of “More Than Real”, a single that will be included in my upcoming kickstarter album.
I remember writing this song in the hotel room as I was staying in the Marriot during the filming of the first season of NBC’s The Voice. Out of 70K auditionees, around 70 of us were chosen. I had gone through phases of auditions, and got to the top rung, where the judges Christina Aguilera etc would ultimately not swivel around to choose me for a team.
I am not usually one to join these reality tv show competitions. Trust me, if I could have a puppy every time somebody told me to audition for American Idol or Reality Singing Show #1,223,456, I would have a house packed of cute, furry dogs. Lots of them.
But oh were they so good at convincing me that they wanted me just the way I was. Come sing original songs. I was intrigued. My management company at the time encouraged me, and I ran into the ring of fire.
I met some incredible artists that I am still friends with to this day. Josh Hand, Sonia Rao, Kasi Jones, Steve Means, Orlando Napier, Justin Hopkins, etc… I am so grateful to have heard all of them sing live. I remember feeling so inspired by Javier Colon. He sat at the grand piano playing “Angel” by Sarah Mclachlan and I basically died on the spot. First of all, what a man for covering the queen of making people cry for shelter dogs in that freaking commercial! (what’s up with dogs in this blog post? Perhaps it’s my undying craving to buy a boston terrier and name her Flojo?)
Back to the point… the producers started to ask me to change myself to fit TV more. I was too artsy, they said. Too liberal with my interpretations of my material. Too mid-tempo. Could I do a top 40 tempo? Could I not play piano? A pretty girl doesn’t need to play an instrument. Could you do the asian accent? We heard you do that imitation of your mom with the other contestants. Can you do that on national tv?
By the end of the shenanigans, I couldn’t remember where the floor was, nor the ceiling. TV wants something packaged, easy to understand, yet outrageous and intriguing. I’m Connie, the chic who likes changing into sweatpants the minute I arrive home; intriguing enough for ya? I was trying to please others by chasing an image of myself that was more than real. On the other spectrum, I did pat myself on the back for refusing to do the asian accent on national tv. I resisted the race-focused story and wanted to focus on my triumph over anorexia. They didn’t like that. Hence, there was less motivation to air my story and performance.
Note: if you want to get air time, do what they say. They didn’t air my show, and I giggle every time I see that a top youtube search with my name is “connie lim the voice”. Yea. Video’s not there. They didn’t air my story. I haven’t even seen my performance. It was “Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt. It’s a blessing in disguise, I tell myself. This too-artsy-artist is going to make it on her own terms.
Additional Note: if you bring your piano with you to a reality tv show experience, you’ll likely come up with a song or two. Here is mine, “More Than Real”.