Dan Callaway Studio

for people who break into song in real life

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What If Your Brain Became Your Singing Bestie? (🧠 = 🎵BFF)

How many teachers or well meaning actory friends have advised you to turn off all that mental chatter and just focus on, I dunno, an imaginary scene partner?

I’m not gonna tell you to do that. If you find a way to do it, let me know, though it sounds boring. Unabated mental yammering has kept my noggin entertained for over forty years.

In this video, you’ll find out about tools and gardening references that’ll help you

  • watch your thoughts like Jason Bourne clocks a crowded street peppered with secret snipers
  • slow your roll like someone just hit play on the Barry White Spotify radio and handed you a nice glass of Trader Joe’s vino
  • Understand how welcoming that pesky friend in is sometimes the quickest way to help them find the door
  • learn the counterintuitive, annoyingly simple way to poke your way out of almost any pickle
  • level up to black belt in one trait that’ll help you speed up your progress (also annoyingly simple)
  • practice the one body move that’ll smear icing on all this cake

All this and a stretchy reference to THE MUSIC MAN to boot. 🎺

What My Three-Year-Old Does a Lot Better Than I Do

Noah just turned 3. Wha?

Like every human who experiences time, I’m a mix of where-did-the-minutes-go? and dang-this-day-is-longer-than-a-slow-tempo-Les-Miz.

I get to watch him figure stuff out, hear him say, “Daddy, the ceiling fan is like a propeller!” and notice how every sleeping emotion giant inside me gets jabbed awake by his sweet being.

He’s my soul mirror. He sparks deep-buried memories– “I was captivated by Cinderella when I was 3.” or “Oh I remember, that fascination with volcanoes.” 

He also inherited my intense emos. When he hurts over anything–from a snatched toy to a skinned knee–I can feel his cry in the middle of my stomach. 

And it makes me effing anxious.

These are sensations I muffle in the bottom of the clothes hamper while saying things like, “Suck it up. No time to hurt.”

And now these raw feels stampede through Noah’s prefrontal cortex like a herd of auditioners who just found out the sign-in table got moved, and I get to say hello to their hungry, eager faces again.

When I hold Noah mid-wail, my guts swarm like a poked hornets’ nest. I feel his tears and snot seep through my shirt, and the wise part of me knows he just needs a hug. 

Can you imagine if I spoke to him the way I spoke to me?

You might rightfully roll your eyes when your well-meaning pal says in her best breathy therapist voice, “Would you speak that way to your best friend?” 

Of course I wouldn’t. I’m not a b to my bestie. If you’re like me, you struggle to turn this love and care toward yourself, too.

You prolly absorbed a message somewheres that says, “The only way to grow is through brutal ass kickery. Humans are jacked up souls in need of Thomas Hobbesian constraint.”

I still hit rewind and play on that Fisher Price tape recorder.

Sometimes, though, I find the wisdom to press pause and question the message. 

You might remember the tale of the benevolent music director that showed me you could go from A to B with laughs and joy. Ego Dan is still giving that leadership style the side-eye.

What A to B are you wishing you could take the first-class Acela train to? 

If you could plug anything into Google Maps and ask Gracie (our name for GPS–Grace Patricia Smith) to cue you, where would you go?

I would love to know. Email me or share a comment, and tell me about it!

How-to vocal, what-the life stuff, or you just wanna know how I make irresistible salad dressing.

Whyyyyy, Dan? Why todaaaaay? (audition cut in my 20s)

Because I want to know what you need.

And I want to fa-lap-ball-change some tasty, nourishing morsels up in this blog space that’ll make you all Super Mario after that shroom. 

When you contact me me to say, “This helped!” I’m Luigi with the fire flower–I’m throwing fuego-balls at all those doom turtles coming at you, and I’m getting you to the next level.

Now I’m belting this: 

There’s only one yoooooooo, and folks need to hear the story only yoooooo can sing. (And I can help you with that [u] vowel.)

It’s scientifically true. 👆One you, and yes, I will help you sing [u] in multiple styles.

Remember to give my life a purpose, and click here to email me with your Acela train dream destination.

Or ask me “What is a train? I’ve been watching Facebook Live theatre for over a year.” I wanna help.

And if you’re still wondering, “Dan, how exactly DO I talk to myself and be kind to me without feeling like I’m carrying a dog-eared copy of The Secret in my messenger bag, I made you a video for that, and and I’ll post that on Thursday, so come back and see me then.

1 Truth Bomb for You from the Ninth Circle of Hell (Seventh Grade)

In seventh grade I did the world’s worst Clint Eastwood walk imitation toward the front doors of Mt. Airy Junior High School. My acid stomach rumbled, and I knew I’d be asking my first period teacher for the usual emergency bathroom hall pass. 

My belly was always roiling in junior high. I’d transferred from the county school to the little city system. The city middle schoolers cussed a lot more than the county kids. Before I knew it, rumors about the new kid bounced like rogue dodgeballs around the beige cinder block halls.

Bullies shoved Moist Towelettes in my ears at lunch time, and kid gangs who summered by the country club pool said things I couldn’t track. But I did understand the cackling after the punchlines. 

I’m sure you know a twelve-year-old can feel a lot of pain and fear, and that is why I hurt when I hear about anyone any age being bullied. And I’m grateful there was no internet in 1990. 

My dad taught me how to throw a punch to defend myself against one particular redneck roughneck who took me into Dante’s deepest circle on the daily.

Picture this hell-scape set in the chain-linked grassy patch next to the school buses where this kid kept picking fights. Prepubescent Dan didn’t want none of that. Dad was trying to school me: Plant my feet, make contact, follow through. 

I said through my tear-streaked face, “But Deddy, If I punch him, that’ll hurt him.” “I know son! That’s the point!” (And I wondered why I could never get all beast about football. I’m a lovah not a fightah.)

And here I am. I made it! And when life throws me some booll-shit, I can always say, “Come for me, bish. I made it through seventh grade with As and Bs.”

You and I both know now that nobody gets out of junior high unscathed, bullies and bullied alike. 

And now get ready. You’re fixing to reap the benefits of the cold hard truths I grabbed like the last strawberry shortcake ice cream bar in the junior high war of emotional attrition.

Knowing you can take a punch is more important than throwing one. 

Fast forward to my twenties. Uh oh. I was on a date in New York, and I managed to hail a cab on Houston Street on an about-to-rain, windy night. My date wore heels, and I’m sure I was being a drama tool (because…my twenties), so she was over it, and her feet were at anguish level red zone. 

Every cab was full, so this taxi’s available light shone like a beacon in the humid, horn-saturated air. As the cab pulled over, three jaywalking bros about six beers into a weeknight bender piled in the back seat from the street side. 

I’d been accessing some deep anger in acting class in those days, so my interior trailer park dawg was pulling at his rusty chain. When my date and her feet wailed in despair at the taxi thieves, I observed myself shout, “Get the f*ck out! This is our cab!” 

Oh what did you just do, Dan? 

One of the loaded bros rolled out of the back and squared up at me on the sidewalk. I looked straight into his eyes, and I said to myself, “Self, you are about to get punched.” 

He looked at me for a protracted three seconds, and then he said, “Naw, man.” He stepped back and waved his pissed posse along. No punch.

I got in the cab with a little yeah-that’s-right in my sit-down. My date was not as impressed. What? I got the cab! 

I wondered at this incident. Did an imposing guardian angel materialize over my right shoulder? Did I shape-shift into a reptile beast? Am I just that intimidating? 🔔

It was probably the Steve-Buschemi-from-Mr.-Deeds crazy eyes I had also been refining in acting class.

The point–I found myself in a scary place, and I realized I was willing to take a hit. 

And while I do not recommend my actions of that evening to you, I did find a freedom that night that my twelve-year-old self on the patchy grass behind Mount Airy Junior High School lacked. Both versions of me were scared, but I knew between sheer stupidity and stage combat training, I was going to make it home from Houston Street.

That’s us–artists, singers. We make ourselves available to take emotional hits all the time.

We do it when we invest ourselves into the stories we sing. We do it when we stand in front of table people and open our guts gates and show the parts of us that got the shit bullied out of them in middle school. And we take the hits when the role we imagined playing a gajillion times goes in another direction.

I’m here to tell you I haven’t found another way. When I do find the success-popularity-and-ice-cream path through artistic risk, you will be the first to know.

But what’s most important for you is this–

You are resilient. Remember the thing you came back from that you thought was gonna end you?

You are flexible. Remember the duck-and-dive improv you pulled off as you yes-anded your way through that outa-the-blue shock? 

You are strong. Snot and tears poured out your face, and you did the thing anyway. 

You are smart. You’re reading this. You are a ninja of compassion, beauty, and connection. 

And when you do show up willing to take the hit, remember the other two things I always tell my students and myself: It’s just crying. And you will get up.

Now go get yourself a fro yo. 🍦💙

If you’re currently in the getting up process, please know that if my ruminating Enneagram 4 self can cry, snot, dust off, and keep walking, I know you can, too.
You👏Got👏 This👏.

This One Point of Focus Made Singing a Ton Easier for Me

Join me for this quick breathing breakdown where you’ll learn about

  • the one focus that made breath management beaucoup easier for me
  • how to get this into your body without wanting to run screaming from your practice room
  • a phobia I didn’t even know was a thing

In case you missed it

This is how to stop wasting time beating the doodoo outa you

Or the time I talked about cereal in therapy.

I have a cereal addiction.

My Noom app, in all its quirky make-you-feel-cozy-about-tracking-calories supportiveness judges me for it. Noom says there are no bad foods, and I whole-grain-heartedly agree. But I know they’re giving me David from Schitt’s Creek side-eye when I log my Life Cereal with Ghirardelli semi sweet chocolate chips and half almond milk half moo cow 2%.

I remember back in my 20s sitting cross-legged, sock feet, pillow hugged to belly, on my analyst’s West End Avenue sofa. I’d finally stopped panic-lying about why I was in therapy, so one day I mustered the courage to blurt, “I think I have a problem with cereal.”

Dr. K leaned back in his Danish leather chair, gave his grey beard a rub, (Oh Dr. K–many things you said make sense now.) and asked me to elaborate.

“Well, you see, I eat several bowls of cereal at night. And I think it might be a problem. I mean, it’s not like I’m eating cake or anything.”

Dr. K replied in his measured baritone, “It’s exactly like you’re eating cake. You’re ingesting simple carbohydrates that give your body a dopamine surge.”

I tried to absorb this. But I was more Corn Pops than Raisin Bran–my emotional sugar armor created an impermeable milk-of-wisdom barrier.

And my cereal desire has gone unabated. It’s a tricky dance partner, and most nights I’m pretty good at doing one foxtrot over to the pantry. If I return for a follow up waltz, I notice what I’m doing and check in with my actual physical stomach to see if he’s hungry.

My brain then says, “But I’m MOUTH hungry!” or “This goes in the cereal stomach! It’s separate!” Or, “We need a carb hug inside!”

All this meditation on serial cereal consumption got me thinking about vocal technique.

You too? Of course. 🎵

I’ve been cultivating my cereal relationship for a good 38 years now. This is what we do with our habits, our things that we do.

My career coach, Barbara Deutsch, used to tell me to say, “Oh, there’s that thing I do” whenever I saw I was about to sell out on myself. Problem was, I wasn’t conscious enough to recognize the sabotage gremlin when it emerged from the desert junk yard of my self concept.

I thought, “What good is that gonna do, Barbara? Just notice something?…No! hand me that cricket bat with the scratched-off decals, and I’m gonna beat the shit out of this old habit and burn it along with all those bald tires over there. It’s the only way!!”

Barbara was teaching me about being the witness. She was introducing me to that mysterious, ordinary, immortal diamond real me that notices when my body is doing unloving things.

In the cereal evening hour, the wise me observes, “You had a tiring day. You want some sweetened baked wheat squares covered in a mixture of plant based liquid extracted from almonds and fluid that’s meant to addict calves to their mommies’ udders. I understand.”

Vocal technique = same.

Here’s what I mean. You’re singing, and your abdominals lock. Singing feels vulnerable. There’s that thing you do.

You’re belting along invested in your story, and your jaw tightens. Expression and vibration in your throat feels emotional. There’s that thing you do.

You judge the resonance you hear in your head and say, “I sound like that person I swore I would never sound like.” We go high stakes with singing — we tell ourselves stories about jobs, recognition, acceptance, competition, love. There’s that thing you do.

There was a terrific music director I worked with who always smiled, always joked, and always got precisely what he wanted. 

He would say, “You always get there, you just have to decide how you’re going to take the trip.”

I had never seen an in-charge-of-the-show person have so much fun. And honestly I was worried. I mean, we have to get READY!

And we were ready. He was right. We got there. And there was no drama making the drama.

It’s the same in how you’re growing in your vocal technique and life. If you can meet it with curiosity rather than a cricket bat, things gently and joyfully change.

I invite you to give some air time to your gentle witness. It’s the part of you that can see yourself the same way you see your friend who struggles with the eating disorder or your sibling who fights anxiety. You meet them with compassion and encouragement when they are in their dark days.

What if you met yourself with those same soft eyes, open ears, and huggy arms?

We all pick up the bludgeon method of self-ass-kickery at some point on the road. Let’s leave the splintered cricket bat in the Mad Max wasteland and take a walk by the cool stream. The water’s flowing like your breath, and we all need to hydrate anyway.

Soon, you’ll be like our one-year-old who knows whats up when you’re near a beautiful stream. 👇

Something about hearing a one-year-old say “Amazing!” that reminds you what amazing is all about.

You’ll also notice his left arm is drenched where he tried to become one with the stream.

What’s going on for you right now? What is the thing you do singing or just living that you’d love to have a little more freedom around?

I’d love to hear from you. Email me or share a comment about one of the things you’d like to gently witness on out the door. 🚪byeeeee.

And remember–there is only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can share.

This Simple Tool Will Free You Up Before You Sing a Note

You’re mystified by breath support for singing? You think it’s arduous and boring? You just want to open your mouth and sing “24601”?

I’m with you. Breath is the first thing we forget to meditate into when we sing, and you and I both know that sounds don’t happen without it.

Let’s make conscious besties with this miracle we forget to notice every day, and let’s get the actual location of your diaphragm established.

You’re Trucking Along a Perfect Trajectory, and This is How I Know.

Can you believe Melissa and I are knocking on the door of our eighth anniversary? How was that eight years ago? Google Photo keeps reminding us of things that happened in 2013, and we’re both like, wow, look at all we didn’t know then. Right?

I didn’t know how brilliant I was being when I sat down on Melissa’s corner couch in Highland Park, showed her a picture of the Claddagh rings I’d bought on my iPhone, and said I thought getting married would be the best idea. Has this happened to you? You look back, and you’re like, I had no clue I was being that effing smart.

This year, I invite you to picture our lil home in Greensboro where we’ve locked arms in the pandemic toddler parenting trenches. We’re grateful that we’ve had jobs and enough sanity to keep the undies washed and the boys loved. Aaaand, here’s where I need to tell you what a bad-AHSS my wife is.

She listens. Like, seriously, she is interested in what’s going on in my mind and heart, and when I tell her about it, she meets me with understanding. We know this is a big deal.

She supports and trusts. Yesterday a friend sent me a job posting in a certain city very far from a beach, and I said, “You don’t wanna live there, do you?” And my ocean-loving wife said, “I want to live wherever we can be together.” I mean, come on, right?

We all had COVID in December, and we’re lucky that we came through. But Melissa’s been long hauling with tough symptoms. Her laser-like stubbornness has been this eff-you-COVID-I’m-gonna-take-care-of-my-boys engine. If I were feeling half as rough as she does, I’d be man-cold crying on the couch.

This year has been a time when old hurts have come up—you know, the ones you thought you checked off and are like, seriously, that again? And she’s been here in it with me.

So, she’s my official hero these days. See? Sometimes you don’t know how smart you are.

Which is the very reason why I’m humblebragging to you about my choice in life partner.

Because you are getting it right. If you think you are getting it wrong now, you are getting it right.

You know how I know? Because my choose-your-own-adventure blunders sent me careening into my dear friends’ back yard where I met Melissa. My choices were blind reactions to fear, pain, and wookin pa nub in ALL the wrong places.

You know I’m not suggesting you fling yourself onto life’s highway of dehydration and skinned knees in order to eventually find your true purpose—that interstate has a way of exiting you off at some interesting Shell stations already.

What I am saying is this: If lately the mean part of your brain has said, “I’m shitting the bed on this,” take it from a man who encounters toddler dookie on the daily–there’s soap and water for that.

Take a brisk walk sans-earbuds, listen to some birds doing whistle tones, and ask your in-your-heart-and-body self, “Am I doing the best I can do?”

If you hear a gentle yes, keep walking and go buy an ice cream.

If you get a nudge about a change that could bring satisfaction or relief, then go get that ice cream, and do a little something about that nudge.

A one-degree trajectory change makes the difference between your plane flying to London or Paris. Both are incredible cities, but you might not be feeling pain au chocolat this year.

Here’s the takeaway– God’s got it, and you’re going to come through.

I had no idea when I rolled up to hipster church in Pasadena in 2006 that I would meet ride-or-dies who’d save my life when it crumbled six years later and then introduce me to my wife and the mother of our scrumptious boys. You don’t know these things when you’re doot-da-dooing along.

If one of those nudges on your walk was to get your singular voice making sounds again, that’s what I (and Zoom) are here for!

Email me, and we’ll get you making free, joyful, genuine noises like a kid on the beach with a melt-down-your-wrist soft serve and your don’t-care belly out.

Because there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story that only you can share.


Grandmother grew tulips, and I learned
They were for outside admiring when I picked
A bouquet of them for her. When the days turned
Warmer, these red and yellow bells in strict
Rows played music inside my stomach. They looked
Like gelato on a stem, if I had known
What that was–like God had gleefully cooked
A pan of custard for a rainbow ice cream cone
Display. I still think they should be edible.
Have you ever felt that? Something so fully
Joy and carbonation that the only credible
Action was just to eat it? Just me?
“Look what I brung, Grandmother!” “Brought brought brought!”
It wasn’t just grammar, but springtime and pound cake you taught. 🌷

Carrot Ends and Parsley Stems = Stock Money

I keep a freezer bag where we put onion skins, garlic peels, the woody parts of asparagus, bell pepper cores, celery stubs, anything that might contribute to good stock.

When the bag fills, time to get out the Instant Pot or just the pot. Either works.

Here’s my bag. And here’s the end of a roast chicken.

Put that in an Instant Pot or a big ole pot of any kind. Add water, salt, bay leaf, and anything else you want your stock to taste like.

For the Instant Pot, High Pressure for an hour and a half. For your regular pot, bring to boil and simmer for a long time until it tastes like you want it to taste.

Pour it out, and you’ve got veggie/chicken/bone broth gold.

And you can use it for all kinds of things. This day, I used it for a rice and beans bowl riff. Using what you got. Another pro tip, broth makes you fuller, so you’ll feel all cozy and ready for your afternoon.

leftover rice, beans, crushed tomato, chicken stock, cumin and salt, roast chicken, cilantro, some sour cream, and avocado.

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