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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Don't Dis the Backing Singer!

I'm a little miffed at all this talk about people being 'only' backing singers. The judges say it on 'The Voice' all the time. Comments like 'She's not just a backing singer any more'. Excuse me, 'just'? Not many of us would be categorised purely as 'backing singer' anyway - all the singers I know who sing back-up, are also amazing lead singers and that's certainly the case with all those 'backing singers' from the current season of The Voice. In fact, you could argue that the skills required to be 'just a backing vocalist' belong on a list way longer than those for being 'just a singer'! 

L to R: More than just backing singers: Jo Elms,
Amanda Easton and Sarina Jennings. (Chris Fields on Drums)
The most obvious one is having a great ear for harmony - I know plenty of fab lead singers who can't put their hand up for that one. As a backing singer, you're part of the band rather than the front of it - that comes with responsibilities. You can't let loose and sing wherever you want and expect the band to follow you. You have to be able to blend. You may need to change tack at a moment's notice if the lead singer decides to stray from the regular song path (you get good at reading lips). You can't upstage the 'talent'! I learnt that one the hard way. My very first bv job was for a well known Sydney Diva who saw me getting too animated on stage and literally, publicly, slapped me down for pulling focus.

There are countless occasions where backing singers carry the show, whether it be for an ageing artist who doesn't have the range they used to, or a pop starlet who is more tits than talent. As a 'back-up singer', I see it as my duty to do just that. It's our job to back up the lead artist so they look their best. 

All of this doesn't sound easy, does it? 'Only' a backing singer? I think not! Sheryl Crowe, Mariah Carey and Luther Vandross all started their award-winning careers as backing vocalists. And where would Gladys be without her Pips? What would Bee Gees be without all the Gees? And the Beach Boys would be a lonely guy standing on the sand without the other voices...So, don't dis the backing singer!