What if you had to choose between embracing your true self and having the career you spent years building? Los Angeles-based performer, studio vocalist, arranger and composer, Connor Smith answers this question, discusses getting work as a session singer in Los Angeles, and what it means to have his compositions published.
As a touring artist and vocal director, Connor has performed throughout all of the United States and is regularly seen in live shows at the Disneyland Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood. In 2016, Connor traveled to Beijing, China, winning the Hope International Music Festival. As an in-demand Los Angeles session singer, Connor’s voice can be heard on film scores, television shows, albums, Disney Recordings®, live production shows and more. An avid a cappella vocalist, Connor was selected to be an original member of “DCappella”, Disney’s critically-acclaimed a cappella group, with the group’s debut album being released via Walt Disney Records.
How do you go from majoring in communications to touring the world as a one of Bette Midler’s Harlettes? Carol Hatchett chats about what she learned working with the likes of Bette Midler, Tina Turner and Sheila E., what compelled her to move from Chicago to Los Angeles, and golden wisdom she gives to her own students.
How do you go from working a day job as a legal assistant to spending almost two decades playing Janis Joplin on broadway? Kacee Clanton answers this question and more, revealing how she ended up on a Broadway stage, what she learned working with Joe Cocker, how she’s overcome stage fright, and techniques she uses to help her singing students to dig deeper in their own work.
Jay Jackson is a seasoned performer and as a singer has shared bills with Nancy Wilson, Poncho Sanchez and Sheila E. Jay has enjoyed a rich and varied career first working as a cook in the Navy, then as a television news reporter for 22 years which led to an accidental career as an actor where he was first cast as a tv reporter on Dexter. He’s gone on to play the hilarious Perd Hapley on Parks and Recreation, Scandal and most recently Good Girls. Jay also discusses the ups and downs of being a live talent booker on the music scene in Los Angeles.
In part two of this interview with Melanie Taylor she discusses her work with Donna Summer, what she’s learned working with Barry Manilow, her thoughts on cultivating interests outside of singing, and her advice on singing as a business.
She is a seasoned performer who in her extensive career has worked with the likes of Aerosmith, Barry Manilow, Bette Midler, The Righteous Brothers, Connie Stevens, Donna Summer, John Mayer, Joe Walsh and many more. Melanie shares what she’s learned along the way, how she helps young artists develop their creative process, and insights on what it takes to be a serious performer.
yourself. You never know what’s going to show up for you when you’re in a
singing you’re telling a story. You have to know who you’re speaking to or who
you’re singing about, why you’re singing to them, where you are, what you’re
doing and not doing, and know how the story is going to play out. These things
will completely change how we hear your song and the meaning behind it.
The work you do
is your investment in your craft. What
you put into it you will get out of it.
Watch yourself in
the mirror when you’re singing.
Figure out a way
to open up and have ease in your body that will make your song and performance
You have to be a
well-rounded person. Cultivate your interests and be interested in life –
travel, books, museums, culture, etc.
Melanie Taylor is a seasoned performer who in her extensive career has worked with the likes of Aerosmith, Barry Manilow, Bette Midler, The Righteous Brothers, Connie Stevens, Donna Summer, John Mayer, Joe Walsh and many more. Melanie shares what she’s learned along the way, how she helps young artists develop their creative process, and insights on what it takes to be a serious performer.
Are you a singer who’s decided you’re tired of being on the road? Are you looking for ways to sustain yourself as a professional singer in your own home town? Then this is the episode for you! Meet April Kelly who discusses her experiences being a touring recording artist with a record contract and singles on the Billboard charts to becoming the leader of her own successful New Jersey based wedding band, Band of Gold, for the past twenty plus years. You’ll get advice on how to determine whether being the leader of a wedding band is for you, how to be an effective band leader, how to choose the right band mates and much more.
When you’re booking a wedding gig ask the couple what they’re looking for and how they envision their day. Be honest with yourself and the couple about whether or not your band is the right fit for that particular gig.
Have your agreement in writing so that everyone knows what to expect. It can be a simple one page document that outlines details for the day or even an email confirmation. It will create peace of mind for the couple and for you as a band leader.
As a leader you are responsible for the happiness of the band. Make sure you know ahead of time about pay, meals, parking, load-in, sound, electrical outlets, etc. All of these things will keep the experience smooth for you and the band on the day of the event.
When trying to decide what to charge for your service, you have to consider what all of your expenses will be. The location of the wedding also makes a difference. It’s a good idea to ask around to see what other couples spent or what other band leaders charged.
Make a promo video that delivers your message.
You need to have a wide range of music you perform from jazz standards to oldies to top 40 hits.
Invest in a PA system.
Reach out to someone who has a successful wedding band and ask to shadow them for a day.
If you are looking to be a working singer, you have to be professional. You can’t escape that part.
At your gig, put out business cards.
When you perform at a couple’s reception you have one opportunity to do it right. Decide if you’re a person who wants that pressure.
Your great voice won’t matter if you do business poorly.
Make sure you have a two pronged approach: you have your business together and you have your voice in great shape.
The end result of a professional approach are referrals.
Have you ever met a singer with an incredible career and
wondered how they did it? The road to a singing career can be full of twists
and turns, and every journey is vastly different. Meet Windy Wagner, who early
on even with a full time day job, always sang.
She had a band, wrote songs and even had a record deal, but like many
singers, reached the point where she had to take the leap and make singing her
full time career.
Just 18 months after leaving her full time job, Windy was
working with the likes of Barbara Streisand and David Foster just to name a few. Windy has gone on to tour as a background
singer for K.D. Lang and Joe Walsh of the Eagles. She is one of the most in
demand session singers, vocal contractors, vocal arrangers and songwriters in
Los Angeles with her work appearing in tv shows (Glee, Pretty Little Liars),
commercials (Barbie, Lexus, Macy’s), and films (Legally Blonde, Pitch Perfect). She shares how she built her successful
singing career, discusses her ‘Art of Pop Vocal Production’ workshop, and her
advice on creating thriving singing career.
Keep your reel updated and send it to your clients, colleagues, and friends to keep yourself top of mind. Do this when you have a new video or song as well.
Be observant when you step into a new professional situation. Take the temperature of the room, figure out who’s in charge, and gauge the vibe. Every job, live gig, session, room has a temperature you have to take.
Do what you can to set yourself up so that you have as few financial obligations as possible while you’re pursuing your singing career.
Take the steps toward what you want and follow through. There is a big difference between being a great singer and having a career. The through line amongst the career singers is that they follow up and follow through.
Take a workshop to sharpen you skills and gain new ones. It’s also a great way to build your singer community and get in the room with someone who might someday hire you!
We have to be willing to be vulnerable to hearing the not so great things in addition to the great things.
You have to be flexible. Be able to receive criticism and fix things (pitch, tone, enunciation, etc.) on the spot.
What’s great for working for yourself is that you can choose who you work for.
Always keep in mind that you’re providing a service.
Have a small network of singers you can rely on to step in for you if need be. You want them to be reliable, take care of their voices, show up on time, and have a flexible attitude.
Don’t give up. If you give up, you will never know what might have happened!
Singer, songwriter and vegan chef Kitten Kuroi is simply an inspiration when it comes to staying open and saying yes to life. Listen to how Kitten went from “Facebook star” to touring the world with artists like Elvis Costello, Engelbert Humperdinck, Natasha Bedingfield, and also how she took a chance and decided to take a spur of the moment artist’s trip to Ireland where she had many unexpected, but life changing experiences.
Stay open to possibilities and remain curious. Look for what resonates with you even a little bit and explore it. Those seemingly little decisions lay the foundation for larger opportunities to come into your life.
No matter your age, there is no expiration date on doing what you love. Keep finding opportunities to do it.
Keep saying yes to the things you really want to do.
When you’re a singer, it’s not just a job you do, it’s a part of you.
Passion and talent are timeless and will always find an audience to resonate with.
Erica Canales, singer, songwriter and vocal coach shares how she went from having singer burnout to touring with The Killers and working on projects for Gwen Stefani and Grace Potter. She also gives her insights on touring as a background singer, what makes a gig worth taking, and the healthy mindset of a “support” singer.
If you’re considering being a background singer, have an honest conversation with yourself about whether or not being a support musician is truly for you.
Whether you are on or off the road, find a daily ritual to keep yourself centered.
Nothing is more restorative for your voice than sleep. Get rest when you need it.
Determine what it means for you to make your own mark in the world. It’s going to come up a lot, but you’re going to have to define for YOU what success in your career means.
Everything happens in the time it takes to happen. Do the work, get good at what you do, and develop your craft.
Limit the comparisons (to other musician’s careers). We all have our own journey.
It’s the vibe, the money or the hang. You want a gig to have at least two of those three virtues. 😉
When you’re on the road the two hours you spend performing on stage is not the work. The real work is the other twenty-two hours you spend with the other people you’re on the road with. That’s the work.