music

If I Were on Carpool Karaoke

Unlike most guests, I obviously wouldn’t have a successful discography to sing along to as James Corden and I drove around downtown Los Angeles, thus making the call from The Late Late Show rather surprising. Had they heard my music turned up to a volume that blocked out my voice, thus leading me (and possibly them) to believe I sounded exactly like the artist actually singing? Had they caught me on one of those days when I forgot there were other people on the freeway and I thrust my body around behind the steering wheel, wobbling my car between the dotted lines? Had they somehow managed to get their hands on old family videos where my sister and I wrote songs while we were out on the lake fishing, our most prominent hit being, “My Butt is Sore”?

Why did they want me here? I would wonder to myself as I stood on the sidewalk outside CBS studios, and then I’d open the passenger’s side door of a silver SUV and James Corden would say, “I just really need some help getting to work.”

Once I was in the car, he would ask if he could turn on some music and I’d nod. In a perfect world, he’d play “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston first. It’s my ultimate jam, my #1 song requested at every wedding I’ve ever attended, and the true key to receiving my trust for this musical journey we were about to embark on.

We would jam our faces off and I’d probably ruin any hairstyle the team at CBS had given me before we left. I’d also undoubtedly be sweating by the end, and I’d zone out for a few minutes post-Whitney, wondering if I’d worn a post-Whitney worthy, sweat disguising t-shirt. What am I even wearing? I’d ask myself. Am I wearing anything?! I’d look down at my body, ensuring it was in fact clothed, and when James saw the wave of panic followed by an immediate wave of relief wash over me, he’d ask if I was okay.

“Oh yeah,” I’d say, “I’m fine, I was just making sure I was wearing clothes.”

Not knowing what to do with this response, he’d smile politely, make a turn to shorten our originally planned route, and turn the radio back up.

The second song would be another well-known anthem or perhaps a legendary ballad. Something everyone should know in the hopes of distracting the audience that I—someone nobody knows—am in the passenger’s seat, rather than the likes of Bruno Mars, Adele, or Harry Styles.

I’d do my best to sing along, keeping my volume a few notches below James, who actually can sing. About halfway through the song, I’d start to worry I was getting carsick, and even if I wasn’t, I would worry that I might become carsick. And since I still wasn’t used to the fact that I wasn’t alone in my car making deliveries for work, but was instead sitting alongside James Corden being recorded by 6 different cameras, I’d zone out on this thought for a while. Am I going to puke? I’d wonder. Or am I only making myself think I’m going to puke. Did Harry Styles think he was going to puke? I bet Bruno Mars NEVER pukes. You can’t get vomit on silk. The dry cleaning bill would be outrageous.  

“Do you mind if we play a little game?” James would say once we were finished with the third song. “Sure!” I’d reply enthusiastically, my posture growing worse and worse as I got more comfortable.

James would propose a speed round of song identification in which a snippet of a popular song would play and the first person to guess it would receive a point. I would nod politely at the rules, camouflaging the competitive side of myself that was screaming WE MUST WIN THIS OR OUR LIFE MEANS NOTHING.

By the fourth round of the game, we’d be tied, and my heart would be pounding. Again, I’d completely lose sight of the fact that I was being recorded for television and focus only on the game…and this incredibly slow driver that will not get out of the way!

“EXCUSE ME,” I would say to the navy blue Prius in front of us as my LA traffic demons rose to the surface, “WE HAVE PLACES TO BE.”

James would smile, remaining professional, and I’d start to come back to him, only to have the Prius turn on their reverse lights IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET!

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” I’d yell. “GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER!”

I’d then return to James, having completely blacked out until the Prius was out of the way, unaware of anything that might have come out of my mouth.

“Shall we continue?” I’d say sweetly.

“We shall,” he’d say, and then I’d mysteriously win the game.

On the final lap of our drive, I would get quiet as I started to overthink everything that may have happened during the car ride. Was I funny? Was I crazy? Should I have just stayed in my car? Do they regret inviting me on this show? Do I regret coming? Where even are we?

Just then, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding would come on. It’s another one of my favorites. A wave of calm would wash over me as James and I sang along, and soon I’d be consumed by the song, rolling the window down and holding my hand out to feel the outlandishly hot air characteristic of a Los Angeles autumn.

As we pulled back onto the CBS lot, we’d be whistling to the end of the song. (Him more than me, I’ve never been quite able to whistle correctly.) And as the song came to a close, I’d realize why musicians—and other celebrities if you count the Apple Music extension of the series—sign up to do this. It’s the same reason why (most) people that sit in traffic don’t kill each other. It’s the same reason why, in this fictional story, the CBS producers recruit me: Music can bring out the best in people, and can bring even the strangest of stranger together.

So as Otis Redding faded out and James Corden put the car in park, I’d smile, knowing that yes, while I was probably a crazy person sure set the gif-ing Internet on fire, I was also just a person, sitting alongside another person who appreciates music. And even though there were a bunch of cameras on us and I had sweat under my arms and was still a little nervous I was secretly carsick, we had shared a moment. An experience that no one could ever take away. And that’s really what music is all about.

 


 

Also check out: If I Were on the Bachelor, If I Were on Dancing with the Stars

A Late September Adventure (Day 5 & 6: Boulder, Morrison & Home Again)

Day 5

Since we had fully committed ourselves to Boulder rather than Denver at this point, Allison and I woke up Wednesday morning and didn’t even think twice about where we wanted to eat breakfast.

Referring to this list this time, we decided on The Buff, mostly because I was hypnotized by the Pecan Caramel Quesadilla sampler.

Spoiler alert: it was everything I hoped it would be.

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For our entrees, Allison ordered the Saddlebags which are pancakes stuffed with bacon, and I ordered the Granola Pancakes which, if I’m honest, I felt like I was expecting too much of after the crunchy granola French toast from Syrup in Denver. It’s not that they were bad, they just…weren’t the granola French toast from Syrup, you know?

Allison and I had kind of a tight schedule to fit today. Our primary reason for coming to Denver in the first place was to see two of our favorite artists, Needtobreathe and Gavin Degraw, join forces at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre for what was sure to be the concert of a lifetime. We’d planned our trip around the concert, scheduling it to be somewhat of a grand finale.

The concert was at 7:00 on Wednesday night in Morrison, which was 20 minutes from our hotel, but after a recommendation from a friend we decided to visit the Rocky Mountain National Park, which was north of Boulder, just under 2 hours from our hotel. As we ate our breakfast at 11:30 in Boulder, we knew we had enough time, we just didn’t have enough time for anything to go wrong.

Misleading Spoiler Alert: Nothing went wrong.

We arrived at Rocky Mountain National park around 1:00. The cost for a day’s (or hour’s) entrance was $20, but trust me when I say that it is worth EVERY PENNY.

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Allison and I pulled off the road at a couple of spots, taking pictures and making an uncontrollable amount of audible “OH MY GOSH’s.” The sky was absolutely perfect, the fields and trees were a living breathing kind of green, and every once in a while a burst of a breeze would blow right through you, forcing you to close your eyes and take a long, deep breath. It was one of those places that I don’t think you could ever feel like you spent enough time in. You become instantly attached to every inch of it, wishing there was some way you could keep it with you, to remind you how perfect the world can be at the times when it seems farthest from it.

Just before 7 o’clock, we pulled into the parking lot for the concert. We had plans of eating before we went, but ran a little short on time, so as we waited in line alongside the massive red rocks, we started brainstorming on what we hoped would be offered inside. And while it never would have crossed my mind in one million years, as is turned out, bratwurst was exactly what I was craving. Allison and I both ordered a beer and a bratwurst with cheese, chili, onions and peppers and my stomach all but applauded in thanks.

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For the concert, the opening act was The New Respects, who kind of gave me a Jackson 5 vibe. They were very upbeat and melodic and made you want to dance right alongside them. The second act was The Lone Bellow. They ended up replacing Gavin Degraw due to unforeseen circumstances and had a Lumineers/Civil Wars sound. After their first few songs, the lead singer took the mic and addressed the crowd, saying, “I was at a bar in Denver last night, and I met the most beautiful soul. He was singing at an open mic night and I’ve never seen someone exude so much light when they perform.” He said he talked to the man afterwards and learned that at the age of about 60, the man had already beat cancer twice and was currently fighting another disease. But even amongst all of his struggle, the man said that when he sang, he felt no pain.

“So I thought,” the lead singer continued, “why don’t we bring him out to sing with us?”

The man then walked on stage with a wide smile spread across her face. I, of course, instantly started crying. And as the four of them started singing “Angel from Montgomery” by Bonnie Raitt, the tears kept on coming. The lead singer had been right about the man’s ability to exude light when he sang and as I watched them all sing together, I got that feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was witnessing something really special.

Next was Needtobreathe, who is not only my favorite band, but my favorite live artist of all time. This was my 5th time seeing them and Allison’s first, which I think is what made the performance my favorite of theirs by far. We danced, we laughed, we cried, we stood speechless, and to top it all off, we did so in by far the coolest venue I’ve ever been to. If you’re ever in the Denver area, please do yourself a favor and see a show at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. And if you’re ever in the Denver area—or anywhere else really—at the same time as Needtobreathe, please do yourself a favor and see them live. It will change your life.



 

Day 6

Our last day in Colorado came with an early wakeup call. It wasn’t our earliest, but it was by far our hardest. We packed our bags and gathered the last of our belongings from our hotel room. We checked out, returned our rental car and took a shuttle to the airport. There was mild conversation, but it all had an invisible weight brought on by the prospect of leaving.

In a couple hours, I’d be on a flight back to California and Allison would be headed back to Oregon. We didn’t know when we’d see each other again, and we were well aware we’d be going back to a friendship that mostly exists through texts, emails and phone calls squeezed in between our very busy and very different schedules.

Our gates were right next to each other and our flights were leaving one minute apart, so once we got through security, we sat side by side in a pair of chairs directly between the two doors we’d soon be walking through. We watched the screens update our flight information and we listened to the intercom announce the arrivals and departures of surrounding planes. We fantasized about getting on a different plane. Making this vacation last a little longer. Avoiding responsibilities for even just a day or two more. But then a woman’s voice came on the speaker and announced it was time for us both to board. We stood from our seats and gave each other a hug, both of us feeling the separation anxiety starting to set in quick.

I walked up to the counter and scanned my ticket with the agent, then walked down the jet bridge alone. I waited in line behind a man with a giant carry on suitcase and then took my window seat near the back of the plane and plugged in my headphones. As the rest of the passengers continued to board, I got a text from Allison.

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I looked out the window of my plane, over at the series of windows on the neighboring plane, wondering where my best friend was sitting, feeling weird that after almost a whole week of being together 24/7, we weren’t sitting together. Then, as my eyes grazed the middle of the plane, I saw something.

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I smiled. It was moments like these that made me feel confident in the upcoming days and months we’d spend apart. Because even when things got tough, we’d always be there for each other to shine a little light and help each other out. So as my plane backed out onto the runway, I leaned back in my seat, sad this trip was over, but optimistic and excited about the many adventures to come.