Watching Miss Taylor Swift open the Grammys on Sunday night brought back a lot of memories. Memories such as walking the red carpet with her at the ACM awards before her superstardom days. Back when I thought my name would be much bigger than hers because I was fresh off “American Idol” and was a little naïve about what it actually took to grab the attention of a major label. Back when we were both “on the brink.”
Swift went on to achieve huge success with her music career and I, well, went on to start a little family and live more of a quiet life.
Sometimes, when I watch shows like the Grammys and see fellow artists perform that I actually knew, talked with, took pictures with and even sang with — Swift, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood — it opens up a tiny place in my heart that longs for that life again.
I was lucky enough to get a small taste of “making it” in my teen years. Because I was so young, it was all very magical for me. Making music, being on the road, performing to thousands of people was exhilarating. It’s a rush.
But when I honestly asked myself if everything that came with living that kind of fast-paced, ever-changing rocky lifestyle made me happy I would have to say no.
When I was in high school, I thought singing was everything. I remember thinking one day, “What is one thing I have that I would be the most disappointed if it were taken away?” The answer came easy.
It was my voice.
I believed my voice made me who I was. It defined me. It opened doors — set me apart. I was extremely confident and thought in my mind that I really, truly could do anything with my talent.
The more I sang, the more I wanted to sing, but not for the right reasons. I was singing because I loved it, but I was always singing for someone else. I was singing to earn a place in honor choir in high school — which I didn’t, until my senior year. I sang to earn a place on “American Idol,” again, which I didn’t earn right away — I was called back by the judges to be Simon’s “wildcard” pick two months after I was cut. And then finally, I sang to try and earn enough votes to make me Season 2’s winner, which I wasn't. I placed in the top 6 before being eliminated.
After the show, I stopped singing. I stopped singing for other people because I was so afraid of being judged. I hated the thought of trying to prove myself, and I hated that I didn’t have the self-confidence I once did. My spirit was broken, and most heartbreakingly, I stopped singing for myself.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I found my voice again. It was at the point where I was guided down a much different path than the one I had originally started down. I found out I was expecting my first son just months after my first album hit the stores.
And at the time when I was trying so hard to be someone I thought I had always wanted to be, I discovered an indescribable joy in becoming a mother. Suddenly, singing became joyful to me again. Losing myself in raising a family has opened a part of my heart that has freed my soul of any feelings of jealousy, bitterness, fear or desperation. How funny it is that at the time when I let go of everything I knew, I discovered who I really was.
Now, I sing because I’m happy. It comes from such an emotional place. It’s directly connected to who I am, and something I don’t ever want to change. I couldn’t untangle that part from myself any easier than I could untangle my spirit from my body.
So as the Grammys wrapped up and the final performers took the stage, singing their songs and accepting their awards, I couldn’t help but wonder: Are they happy, too? Regardless of whether or not they are recognized for their talents, are they singing because they love singing? Are they singing for themselves? Or are they trying to win the approval of their peers?
I will never sing at the Grammys. I probably won’t win any big awards for my music. But regardless of how many people are listening, I still sing. I sing for my husband, my boys — a tough crowd that usually tells me to stop! — and even on stage once in a while. I sing now because I want to.
I sing for me.
Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.