RED Hearts: Open Mic Advice

RED Hearts are guest posts on I Heart Daily from the authors of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today. Today’s RED Hearts post is from Zulay Regalado, 23, in Miami, FL who writes about how to win an open mic night:

Singing has always been a passion that I’ve held dear to myself -- and my shower. That’s about it. If you’re like me, you cringe at the thought of standing, let alone singing, within sight of more people than you can count on both hands. Should you share my affliction, here’s a fun way, I swear, to soothe your nerves this summer: open mic nights.

Facing your fear and putting yourself out there will feel like the greatest accomplishment of your life. Basically because the idea terrified me, I decided to make good use of my summer without schoolwork and found a few venues close to home that cater to amateur performers -- open mic nights can feature anything from poetry and monologue readings to comedy to your own rendition of your favorite Adele song. My first time on the mic, I imagined all 30 bodies in the room walking out in unison while I sat on a dark stage in shame. But the image melted away the second I closed my eyes and began to sing “Misery” by Pink and Steven Tyler. I knew I was hooked.

By then I realized it didn't even matter to me if I'd scared away the entire audience (I didn't, not a one). I was having a blast and sharing my love of music with others. I'm convinced it's the bonding going on in that room -- the very human experience of risking and surviving public humiliation -- that has even led to me make a few musician friends who want to feature me on their demo albums!

If it's your first time on the mic, here are some tips to help shake the stage fright:

Choose a piece that makes you happy and comfortable: What's your go-to in real life? What do you read or sing or listen to when no one's watching and you want to cheer yourself up? That same magic will work on an audience. For me, beyond the rare Pink and Steven Tyler collaboration, I'm happiest with Adele (and have realized you don't need to be the British queen of soul herself to kill it on stage).

Invite some friends! Nothing like having some familiar faces front row cheering you on. Feel out your crowd and engage them as much as possible. Open mic crowds are generally a no-judge zone, so don't worry about acting silly or throwing in some quirky one-liners before you perform. If you're feeling extra fearless, take requests.

While I may not be fearlessly selling out arenas all over town just yet, I’m slowly expanding my social network and developing better conversational skills. Most important, I’ve learned to never let my nerves keep me from doing what makes me happy. Who knows, maybe you’ll see me on American Idol someday. Just remember to vote for me

RED Hearts guest poster Zulay Regalado is an author of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today, which is out in paperback.