For every artist who continues to follow their passion, there are perhaps hundreds or thousands who abandon their passion, either through disappointment, the feeling that there’s no time for it, or the decision that following passion has little value in a world focused on practicality. In this special interview with Royal City Studios, Guelph singer Lori Weitzel talks with RCS freelance writer/artist Xristopher Bland about when she discovered her passion for singing, the false starts and disappointments, giving up music, what kept her going, and starting over at age 40 with a renewed confidence that landed her a spot with the Guelph cover band Vinyl Revivyl. She also chats about what she’s learned about priorities and the healing power of music and offers solid advice and guidance to anyone thinking about giving up music (or any passion).
What originally drew you toward singing as a child and what was the moment when you knew you wanted to keep on singing?
“I was asked to sing in church as early as six years old. I became annoyed and complained that the other children didn’t have to sing in church. It was an extremely small church with only five or so families in the congregation. So, I’m sure the talent pool was limited. When they finally asked another boy to sing instead, I became jealous… and that’s when I knew I wanted to sing anywhere for anyone who would let me.”
Were you nervous the first time you sang in front of people?
“I was terrified the first time I sang in church. I was sitting with my family in the pew, waiting to be called up to the front, and I remember looking down at my arms, which were all blotchy, and asking my mom if I was going to die!
The first time performing as an adult at age 40, I was quite nervous. I didn’t move around on stage and just tried to sing as technically accurate as possible and not forget the words. Thankfully, it was a very small group at a local Legion, and I had the other musicians with me. It also helped that my mom was in the audience, grinning from ear to ear.”
Do you still get nervous and, if so, what do you do to manage it?
“I don’t really get nervous anymore but rather excited. I remember people telling me that, once I sing the first song, the nerves will go away and it was true. It’s like I get this ‘just go for it’ mentality where I just jump off the cliff and forge ahead, trusting that I won’t faint and, even if I do, the boys will catch me and the show will go on. Then I picture the audience in their underwear, and I relax. Rehearsing, practicing, and performing all help build confidence, and when your confidence is solid, your nerves will settle. Receiving positive feedback is a huge boost for confidence too.”
What is your most memorable experience in music so far?
“My most memorable performance was at my daughter’s wedding. I sang ‘In My Daughter’s Eyes’ by Martina McBride. I knew my daughter would cry, maybe her sisters and a few guests, but what I didn’t foresee was all of the other guests and even the stoic, tough-guy groom wiping their eyes. My 70-year-old father had his face in his hands the entire time. That’s the power of music—and love! I have to give credit to Martina for the incredible sentimentality of that song. That’s where song choice plays an important role.”
When you returned to singing at age 40, you answered an ad for a backup singer for a local country band called Touch of Gold. Can you chat a bit more about your struggles with that audition and what you learned that can benefit any band?
“That bumbled audition was the worst experience for me. I answered the ad on a whim when I found myself starting over at age forty after a breakup. I was bored, so I thought why not? What’s the worst that can happen? I grew up listening to classic country music and I knew all the songs. When singing along to the radio, I always sang along to the harmony, as opposed to the melody. I just naturally picked out the harmony and even added harmony where there was none… But, at the audition, I couldn’t remember any of those old songs and I couldn’t find the harmony to save my life!
[The leader of the band] kept asking if I knew this song and I’d say, ‘Oh, yeah. I love that one!’ He’d start playing and singing and I’d falter. He’d ask if I knew another one and I was even more confident that I knew it. With each attempt, I failed more and more. I started using humour to get through the awkward experience. I was about to give up when he finally asked, ‘How about Country Roads by John Denver?’ I thought, if I blow this one, I’ll just run away. That song was drummed into my head over the years and I finally nailed it. I thought it was already too late, so I thanked him and apologized for wasting his time and he said ‘Oh, no. You’re hired. There’s more to forming a band than technical accuracy. Songs can be learned with practice, but you have talent and a winning personality. Musicians have to get along well if they’re going to be in a band together.’”
As you continued your pursuit of joining a band, you practiced weekly with a Kitchener blues and classic rock band called the Zoneians before they disbanded. Why didn’t they ever perform?
“The Zoneians disbanding was very disappointing. We had worked so hard and we were so close to being ready to perform. We talked about getting our photo taken, what to wear for the photo, location, etc., and making flyers to post and take around to local music venues. I felt like I had paid my dues in a dingy basement with second-hand smoke and dealing with the antics of boys. I felt that it would all soon be worth it and was becoming extremely excited. I got a call from the band leader out of the blue one day saying he just didn’t want to do it anymore but that I was welcome to continue on with the others if I wanted their contact info. I thought this would be poor etiquette. So, I declined. I was busy with a new relationship at that time. So, I stopped pursuing music for a few years. I told myself it wasn’t meant to be, at least, not now.”
Some ten years later after your relationship ended, you got involved with Taboo Music in Guelph to pursue music again and write original songs. What was that experience like?
“I knew it was time to pursue music again. I answered an ad on Kijiji for a singer and was welcomed with open arms at a home in Guelph where the couple, Rob and Crystal, transformed their basement into a studio and welcomed musicians of all levels and backgrounds to come together and create. Since I was starting over, these people quickly became family. For the songwriting process, the musicians would noodle around on their instruments until they came up with a progression and then asked me and Crystal to write lyrics. I’d been writing poems since I was four, so I figured I might be able to adapt something. For the first song I collaborated on, I wrote about the relationship I had just ended, since it was what I thought about most. Any type of writing is very therapeutic. Many other songs were adapted from poems written as early as my teen years. After that, Crystal and I would sing a melody we had in our heads for the musicians, describing what genre we had in mind, how we thought the instrumental part would sound, and where to put the breaks and solos, etc. These talented musicians would say, ‘Oh, you mean like this?’ and one of them would start playing and the others would follow. Suddenly, a song was born!”
How did you meet the members of Vinyl Revivyl?
“Once I realized the musicians at Taboo Music Studio were not interested in performing, I knew I wanted to pursue another music project. I had plenty of time on my hands and longed to perform again. I checked ads on Kijiji frequently and went on several auditions, but nothing ever panned out until I saw Vinyl Revivyl’s ad on Bandmix. The first thing I noticed was the spelling of Revivyl. I thought it was clever and I liked the logo. I read all about them, viewed their videos, and listened to their audio samples. I discovered I couldn’t reply to their ad without joining Bandmix for a fee. So I wrote to them on their website. Remembering what I learned from that bumbled audition from decades earlier, I showed up at an audition full of confidence and personality and proceeded to win them over! I was also well-prepared with memorized lyrics and plenty of songs perfected thanks to my friends at Taboo Music Studio. The boys from Vinyl Revivyl didn’t stand a chance. They were putty in my hands!”
What are your favorite songs to play with Vinyl Revivyl?
“It’s hard to choose favourites since I love almost every genre of music and we have a wide variety of songs in our repertoire. My favourite songs to sing lead vocals tend to be more classic rock songs where I get to belt it out—songs like ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’ by Joan Jett and ‘Working for the Weekend’ by Loverboy.
My favourite songs to sing harmony with are ‘Wagon Wheel’ by Darius Rucker and ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ by Chris Stapleton because they show how well [Mike Relf] and I blend vocally together. My favourite song from a performance standpoint has to be ‘Steal My Kisses’ by Ben Harper. We incorporate lots of fun antics throughout the song. One of our newest songs, ‘Funk #49’ by James Gang, is also becoming a favourite for the same reasons. We stretch it out so that each member can do a solo or two!”
What has been your favorite gig with Vinyl Revivyl?
“My favourite gig with Vinyl Revivyl would have to be The Goofie Newfie in Fergus. Although there were many challenges getting set up and started, once we began, that crowd was infectious! They came right up to us while dancing and singing along, albeit there was little room, and interacted with us all night. They were full of compliments and hugs at the end of the performance. I immediately wanted to return for another show in spite of the difficulty with setting up and the tight space.”
How did you hear about Royal City Studios?
“I’d noticed Royal City Studios on Facebook and thought, ‘What a lovely, expensive-looking studio it seems to be.’ We already had a rehearsal space at a music school. So, I wasn’t even dreaming about rehearsing there. I noticed Mike was following Royal City Studios on Facebook. So, I was curious to see if he would mention anything. Sure enough, a few months later, Mike presented us with all of his research about the studio and we all agreed to strike a deal while the studio was offering.”
What was your first impression when you walked into Royal City Studios?
“I thought I had gone to heaven when I first walked into RCS. I almost thought I might not belong here. It’s too fancy! But I’ve learned to quickly dismiss those fleeting, negative thoughts. The first thing I was impressed with was the concierge. Of course, I was impressed with the package deal we got with all the extra perks, etc., but I’m still discovering more things to love about the place. I just realized a few weeks ago that there is a little kitchenette area with a fridge and everything! We love that you can use anything you might need while you’re there. The musicians must love the setup, making it so much easier for them without all the lugging of equipment.”
Will you be doing any recording in Royal City Studios’ recording studio?
“We’ll be recording there, as I believe part of our membership package includes six hours of recording time. I believe there will be a photoshoot at some point too.”
Many musicians struggle to find the time for music, or feel they don’t have time. How do you make time?
“I am very fortunate to have extra time for my favourite hobbies as I am an empty nester and work slightly less than 40 hours per week. I could work more but I’ve learned that quality time for me is just as, if not more, important than money. I live a modest lifestyle and find I have everything I need. I honestly don’t know how other musicians balance work, kids, spouses, households, and hobbies. I have heard them say that you have to truly love the art and be dedicated to creation, performance, and above all, LOVE doing it! If it’s a passion, it’s easy to find the time.”
What advice would you give to someone out there who may be thinking about giving up on music?
“My advice to someone who’s about to give up music would be to take some time to search within yourself, really dig down deep, and make sure it’s what YOU want. Make a pros and cons list if you have to. If you’re giving up for others, it’s probably not the right reason. Sure, you’d have more time to spend with family or rest more or work more but at what cost to your spirit? If you truly no longer find joy in it and there is no passion for it, or you don’t find healing from it, then maybe that’s the right choice. I personally don’t see how completely giving up music is even possible. You might not be performing or even jamming but it’s everywhere around us to enjoy on the radio or elsewhere. An occasional night out with the girls at a karaoke bar kept me going when I wasn’t part of any band or project. You never know how life can change. So maybe keep music in your life in some small way to feed your soul. I guess there’s a reason I didn’t succeed at having music as a hobby all those years. It wasn’t the right time for me until now.”
What is music’s ultimate payoff for you?
“There are many payoffs for me: fellowship with a bunch of great guys every week where we have more fun than people should be allowed to have; having a creative outlet where I can bounce ideas around and express myself through music; performing for the public and having people come together with a common passion for the art. Probably the biggest payoff is the healing properties of music and singing. If you’re experiencing depression or loneliness, turn to music. Sometimes I’m not feeling well or I’m having pain and I think about missing a rehearsal. But I’ve learned that all that melts away as soon as I start singing and I’m always glad I went.”
Vinyl Revivyl is a Guelph cover band playing classic rock, blues, country, and Top 40 hits from the ‘60s to today. Performing at pubs, bars, corporate events, charity events, and private parties, Vinyl Revivyl loves to play and have a good time. The band consists of Mike Relf (vocals, bass, keys), Tim Leblanc (guitar), Phil Moura (guitar, bass), Lori Weitzel (vocals), and Ed Moura (drums). To book Vinyl Revivyl, contact the band on their website.
For more about Royal City Studios, visit RCS online, or watch the studio walkthrough video on YouTube.
To book your own rehearsal studio time online, or for more about the RCS recording studio, click here.