Ep. 10 Connor Smith (DCapella, Disney, Session Singer)

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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.

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MENTIONS:

SINGING LESSONS:

  1. Publishing is a tough game unless you have an enormous library of published music.
  2. The session singer world is definitely split between readers and non-readers who sing by ear, but are definitely quick (to learn parts).
  3. Not every session singer can sight read, but it opens up more doors if you do.
  4. You’ve got to be on your toes to sing with people you might not know very well and sing music you’ve never heard before. The people signing your check want it to go quick.
  5. You have to be good at what you do.
  6. If you’re new to the session singer world, you’re starting at the bottom of the call list.
  7. A good demo reel is under two minutes long and shows off your voice, your strong suites, genres you can sing in and the different colors of your voice.
  8. If you want to do voice over and demo work, it’s crucial in this day and age to have your own home studio setup. It can be very very simple.
  9. Ask questions, be aware and observant. Watch the other people’s process.
  10. Dreams and passions are so crucial to our own well being, our spirit, and our quality of life.

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Special thanks to Connor for joining us this week!

Ep. 9 Carol Hatchett (Tina Turner, Sheila E., Bette Midler)

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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.

MENTIONS:

SINGING LESSONS:

  1. You’re going to have to decide what you want and then do the work.
  2. Surround yourself with great people.
  3. When you work with the greats pay attention and take notes.
  4. Stay classy and remember what your purpose and point is.
  5. You have to be skilled at what you do and know the ins and outs of what you do. Understand the work and the reality that goes behind it.
  6. Sometimes you have to decide who you are and what you can live with.
  7. You have to love yourself way more than your desire to book a gig.
  8. Don’t get into this business thinking you’re going to climb to the top. There is no arrival. It’s a business of ups and downs and you have to find yourself in those ups and downs.
  9. Just because an opportunity is there and shiny doesn’t mean it’s gold.
  10. You have to be tough and pliable all at the same time.

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Thanks for listening!

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Special thanks to Carol for joining us this week!

Ep. 8 Kacee Clanton (Joe Cocker, Big Brother & the Holding Co., Luis Miguel)

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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.

MENTIONS:

SINGING LESSONS:

  1. It’s okay to make mistakes. Sometimes it’s just about taking one step back.
  2. As a support singer, be on time, know your material, carry your own bags, and fly under the radar.
  3. Job offers involve good chemistry with others. You can be the best in the building, but it’s really about being the fun hang who has the chops.
  4. Stay out of other people’s issues with each other.
  5. Stop comparing yourself to others.
  6. Outside of your comfort zone is where discovery happens.
  7. Being really good and being really great are two very different approaches.
  8. You have to treat yourself lovely!

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Special thanks to Kacee for joining me on the podcast this week!

Ep. 7 Jay Jackson (Parks & Recreation, Scandal, Dexter)

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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.

MENTIONS:

SINGING LESSONS:

  1. When creative inspiration hits always be ready to write it down or document it right away. Don’t ignore it.
  2. Remain curious about everything you’re doing.
  3. If you’re interested in being a promoter or talent booker get to know the quality acts in your town by going to jam sessions and live shows.
  4. Figure out which restaurants in your city don’t currently offer live music. Approach them and suggest a they start small with a quality duo.
  5. If a venue isn’t going to do much to advertise they’ll need to give a room at least three to six months to grow.
  6. If you can find quality acts that bring in an audience you can grow a room.
  7. Realistically, live music should be seen as entertainment for a restaurant’s current clientele. The band is not there to save a flagging business!

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Thanks for listening!

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Special thanks to Jay for joining me on the podcast this week!

Ep. 6 Melanie Taylor (Aerosmith, Bette Midler, Barry Manilow) Part 2

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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. 

MENTIONS:

SINGING LESSONS:

  1. Don’t pigeonhole yourself. You never know what’s going to show up for you when you’re in a different season.
  2. When you’re 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.
  3. The work you do is your investment in your craft.  What you put into it you will get out of it.
  4. Watch yourself in the mirror when you’re singing.
  5. Figure out a way to open up and have ease in your body that will make your song and performance richer.
  6. You have to be a well-rounded person. Cultivate your interests and be interested in life – travel, books, museums, culture, etc.
  7. Don’t be afraid to be more of who you are.

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Thanks for listening!

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Special thanks to Melanie for joining me on the podcast this week!

Ep. 6 Melanie Taylor (Aerosmith, Bette Midler, Donna Summer) Part 1

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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.

MENTIONS:

SINGING LESSONS:

  1. Decide what kind of learner you are — aural, visual, kinetic — to help develop a creative process for yourself.
  2. Be mindful of things that work for you (during your learning process) that might not work for others.
  3. Give yourself uninterrupted time to learn new material.
  4. When you’re going over new material jot down questions you have and make sure to get them answered for your own clarity. Having them answered clears the way for learning and absorbing the material.
  5. Glance at your material just before bed to help reinforce what you’ve just learned.
  6. Be gentle, but be focused.
  7. Know the logistics of whatever gig you’re on — location, dress code, meals — if you don’t know, ask.
  8. Do your best to over prepare and to be a strong link in the performance chain.

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Thanks for listening!

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Special thanks to Melanie for joining me on the podcast this week!

Ep. 5 April Kelly (How to Lead Your Own Wedding Band)

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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.

MENTIONS:

SINGING LESSONS:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Make a promo video that delivers your message.
  6. You need to have a wide range of music you perform from jazz standards to oldies to top 40 hits.
  7. Invest in a PA system.
  8. Reach out to someone who has a successful wedding band and ask to shadow them for a day.
  9. If you are looking to be a working singer, you have to be professional. You can’t escape that part.
  10. At your gig, put out business cards.
  11. 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.
  12. Your great voice won’t matter if you do business poorly.
  13. Make sure you have a two pronged approach: you have your business together and you have your voice in great shape.
  14. The end result of a professional approach are referrals.

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Thanks for listening!

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Special thanks to April for joining me on the podcast this week!

Ep. 4 Windy Wagner (Joe Walsh, K.D. Lang, Selena Gomez)

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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.

MENTIONS:

SINGING LESSONS:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. We have to be willing to be vulnerable to hearing the not so great things in addition to the great things.
  7. You have to be flexible. Be able to receive criticism and fix things (pitch, tone, enunciation, etc.) on the spot.
  8. What’s great for working for yourself is that you can choose who you work for.
  9. Always keep in mind that you’re providing a service.
  10. 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.
  11. Don’t give up.  If you give up, you will never know what might have happened!

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Special thanks to Windy for joining me this week!

Ep. 3 Kitten Kuroi (Elvis Costello, Englebert Humperdinck, Natasha Bedingfield)

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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.

MENTIONS:

SINGING LESSONS:

  1. 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.
  2. No matter your age, there is no expiration date on doing what you love. Keep finding opportunities to do it.
  3. Keep saying yes to the things you really want to do.
  4. When you’re a singer, it’s not just a job you do, it’s a part of you.
  5. Passion and talent are timeless and will always find an audience to resonate with.
  6. Don’t give up.  Just keep going!

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Special thanks to Kitten Kuroi for joining me this week!

Ep. 2 Erica Canales (The Killers, Gwen Stefani, Grace Potter)

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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.

MENTIONS:

SINGING LESSONS:

  1. 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.
  2. Whether you are on or off the road, find a daily ritual to keep yourself centered.
  3. Nothing is more restorative for your voice than sleep. Get rest when you need it.
  4. 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.
  5. Everything happens in the time it takes to happen. Do the work, get good at what you do, and develop your craft.
  6. Limit the comparisons (to other musician’s careers). We all have our own journey.
  7. It’s the vibe, the money or the hang. You want a gig to have at least two of those three virtues. 😉
  8. 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.

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Thanks for listening!

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Special thanks to Erica Canales for joining me this week!