Bethany Blanton

Rooted in Country: Van Plating Shares How Brandi Carlile Helped Her Find Her Voice

Singer-songwriter Van Plating recently released the ethereal new song "The Way Down" and is gearing up to release a new album this year. But getting to the place where she was ready to create music again took some time, soul-searching and a little help from Brandi Carlile.

"If I had to pick one country song, just one, that knocked me down, kicked my ass, ripped me open and taught me to fly again after a long time with my artist wings clipped, mangled, and tied HARD down to my back, it would have to be 'Wherever Is Your Heart' by Brandi Carlile. No contest," Plating tells Wide Open Country. "I'd had a life as an indie rocker with my own band in my twenties, quit touring and performing to have a family and had taken a job leading worship at our local church where I was fairly settled and years down the line I started to feel that tug to write again. I had all sorts of complexes around whether that was ok, whether I was still capable, whether it was wrong or selfish to want more than the beautiful life I already had. Afterall, I had a job and family I loved. But I couldn't keep shutting myself off."

Plating says she began singing Brandi Carlile songs to feel more comfortable with her voice.

"In March 2018, with shaking hands and a trembling heart, I sat down at the sanctuary piano to see if I still had it. Or if I had anything, for that matter. A few months went by and I was writing an album, for whom I knew not, nor for why, other than I just needed to do it. I hit some hiccups with finding the right producer to work with initially, so I thought, 'Why not work on my voice a bit while I was still writing/deciding on next steps?' That's when things got really real for me on my creative journey," Plating continues. "I set up some virtual voice coachings with someone who came highly recommended and he immediately picked up on the facts that I was very closed off to taking risks vocally, and had been holding back for a very long time (oh, a decade at least). So, he handed me five Brandi Carlile songs to listen through and then picked the one I thought I couldn't sing to be the song we worked on together."

Plating pushed herself to sing the vocally-challenging, "Wherever Is Your Heart."

"I was so messed up in the head from years of constant critique over my voice that I could no longer sing over my vocal break. My muscles wouldn't do it. I'd programmed myself to switch from chest to head voice without ever belting or singing out past a mezzo forte, (that's medium-loud for layfolks). Then Bradley said, 'Okay, you don't think you can do 'Wherever Is Your Heart?' I said, 'nope' with an emphatic nod of my head. And he said, 'Great! Let's do that one.' I was terrified," Plating says. "With what felt like a mythical level of effort, and a few warbly tries, I was able to get a huge sustained sound out on that wild belted chorus. I had to keep my brain thinking, forcing my throat to open and my diaphragm to cooperate the whole time. It took an insane amount of focus and then out of nowhere I heard myself like, I was out of my body, and I couldn't believe what was coming out of my face. I got in the car after that Skype session and thought to myself, 'I'm gonna lose my job over this.'"

Going outside of her comfort zone shifted something within Plating and taught her to embrace her vulnerability.

"Loud, expressive, passionate singing wasn't the m.o. where I worked at the time, and I knew even then that if I were to continue down this path, some big things would have to crack, crumble and change. Mainly though, I'd have to be ok with being vulnerable and do the due diligence to what was inside me, waiting to come out. Brandi Carlile's work has been with me every step of the way. That song taught me to sing again. Her lyric writing taught me to be open and raw again, come what may, and through that song I've gone from a scared mom who just wants the chance to write music again to an artist who knows who she is and doesn't apologize for how she's made anymore," Plating says.  "Music is powerful. I'm grateful for Brandi and I hope I get to work with her one day. I hope I get to tell her how much she helped me find my voice."

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