3 on Thursday – 4/13/23

This week’s newsletter is brought to you by: 

  • My First-Ever Livestream Performance and Q&A for Patrons. This Sunday evening at 7pm CST (replay will be available if you can’t make it). We will laugh. We will cry. We will work through technical difficulties. Sign up here ==>
  • And by Do You Want to Host a House Concert? It’s a question I’m beginning to ask people. If interested, email my manager Heidi ==>

Hi folks, 

I hope you’ve been having a good week! Here’s what’s in this week’s 3 on Thursday:

  1. A Trick for Singing in Tune (with stage fright)
  2. Forgiveness_MIX6: New Secret Song for Patrons 
  3. On Songwriting: Let People Put You in a Box

All right, let’s get to it. 

1 of 3

A Trick for Singing In Tune (with stage fright)

Lessons Learned Touring

I thought after years of singing in front of people I wouldn’t get nervous anymore. Unfortunately, that never happened. But I learned a big difference between a pro and an amateur is that a pro knows how to control their nerves. And sometimes controlling your nerves is simpler than you might think.

Here’s a trick I use all the time, especially on the first song. The first song is the hardest to perform. So much adrenaline. If you’re like me, you wish the audience was waiting for you to lift a car over your head rather than sing them a song. And sometimes you only get one song. You’re the soloist in church or you’re singing the national anthem.

So try this.

Change the key a half-step higher. If you’re a terribly nervous type, go a whole step. Why? Most people sing sharp because they’re excited. All that blood pumping causes them to overshoot the notes, especially the higher melody notes.

Here’s a video of me doing this very trick on the Current radio station in St. Paul, Minnesota. The song I’m playing, “Making All Things New,” is in the key of C, but I’m performing it in C# (capo on the first fret).

Honestly, if you compare any live recording of me with the studio version, you’ll find the key fluctuates. I’m not that great of a singer. I’m not trying to sound modest. It’s a fact. Yes, I can sing and I know I have a “sound.” But that’s different than being technically good. I know my limits. So I adjust the key for however I’m feeling. If I’ve got a cold, I’ll lower the key. If I’m overly excited, I’ll raise the key.

Beyond embarrassing myself, I adjust the key so people hear the song. I hope you’ll remember that for when you sing your song. You’re inviting people into a moment. Cut anything within your control that could potentially take them out of that moment. Fight for the song and the moment. Don’t make it about you wanting people to think you’re a good singer. Trust me, if you do what I’m telling you, they’ll think you’re a good singer anyway.


P.S. A word of warning. If you do decide to adjust the key, you’ll still need to keep the song within your vocal range. Having adrenaline doesn’t mean you’ll be able to sing higher notes than you normally can. I like to give myself a note or two of wiggle room on the top and bottom ends of my vocal range. 

2 of 3


New Secret Song for Patrons

Listen here ==>

I cut my teeth on the people closest to me   I make them bleed and somehow they still never leave  /  They say the ones we love, we hurt the most  /  And if we never do, we were never close  /  But once in a while  /  I push too far  /  I make you wish your heart was hard  /  Now all of this dust  /  and all of what’s left  /  is me on my knees  /  asking  /  forgiveness.

3 of 3

Let People Put You in a Box

On Songwriting

I know you don’t want to be put in a box. It feels limiting. And if you let people put you in a box with a certain label, they won’t understand the breadth of what you offer, right? You’re not just the catchy pop lyricist; you also write heartfelt ballads. You’re not just a jazz guitarist; you’re a composer who scores music for commercials.

Well, here’s the thing: People are busy. Crazy busy. It doesn’t mean they don’t care. It just means they can’t deal with too much information. If you allow them to put you in a box, it means two very great things: one, they’ll remember you, and two, they’ll have an entry point to go deeper.

There’s this restaurant down the street. It’s the “hot chicken” place. The first time I went there, guess what I was in the mood for? Yeah, hot chicken. But guess what I found out? They have an amazing craft beer selection. I went there for the obvious reason, because I’d put them in a box. But after getting me in the door, I was pleasantly surprised by their broader offerings. Instead of spending ten dollars, I spent fifteen.

Do you see what I’m getting at?

Let people put you in a box. If you do, they’ll remember you. After that you can surprise and delight them with your other offerings. 

Ok, that’s it for this week. Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the above. Hit reply and it goes straight to me. 



P.S. You might be interested: 

  1. Birthday Cameo
  2. 1:1 Songwriting Mentorship