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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

20 Feet from Heartbreak

Hi there,

I know I'm not the only singer who went to see '20 Feet From Stardom' and felt the way I did - I sat in the cinema staring at the final credits rolling by, gulping back tears and trying to recover from the blow to the solar plexus the film served me. 

The lump in my throat was partly for the singer who received no credit for a No.1 hit she recorded that was released under someone else's name. Years after, she happened to hear the song on the radio - she was cleaning someone else's house to make a living at the time. The tears were partly for some of the most devastatingly talented singers I've ever heard and their disillusionment in the industry they loved that at times treated them so roughly. So many home truths, so much heartbreaking reality. 

Of course the tears were also for me. The documentary introduced us to singers who dreamt of being artists in their own right only to find after years of playing the support role for established acts, their dreams had passed them by. I spent years as a backing singer working with well known artists: Wendy Matthews, Richard Clapton, Powderfinger, and many more. Did all that work for others mean I didn't pour my heart fully into my own career? It sure was fun being on the road with some of the names I grew up with, appearing on TV, performing to full theatres and in auditoriums. Surely those experiences helped hone my own artistry too? 

I'll never know what would have happened if I'd taken a different path but I've decided not to dwell on what might have been but to see that glass, ideally with bubbly contents, as being half full. In the words of the diva with one of the most heartbreaking stories of all, je ne regrette rien! 

See you next time,

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Do You Play Too Loud?

Hi there,

It's not very inspiring, when you're pouring your heart, soul and voice into a song and mid way through an impassioned top A, someone shakes a finger in front of your face. They are gesturing to you to 'turn it down!' and it's difficult to re-enter the emotional zone once the parade has been rained on.

But do we, as musos or singers, have to have our volume up to the Spinal Tap setting to feel the vibe? I think it depends - the mood of the band should match the room or at least the intended atmosphere of the occasion. Do people want to have conversations over cocktails? If everyone has fingers in their ears, I might get an inkling we need to turn it down. Or do our audience want to lose their inhibitions - and possibly control of their limbs - on a dance floor? If people want to cut loose and the music is too soft they will feel uncomfortable, even if they don't know why. Either way, much as we may not like it, it's not all about us! If we as bands don't fit the brief we've been booked for, venues will stop hiring us and maybe even come to the conclusion that 'live music just doesn't work'.

One of those dreaded emails about volume levels came around from management at a certain venue where I do a regular gig. It asked all bands to keep it down. Of course I grumbled, the guitarist grouched and the drummer groaned. But then we did as we were told and the guitarist took along his acoustic instead of electric, the drummer carried in his cajon instead of the usual small kit and I got to take my head voice and falsetto for a nice night out. We started the gig with pursed lips but then, a few songs in, we found ourselves enjoying playing together in this different, lighter mode, hearing each nuance. The audience loved it and we got booked again. Maybe we'll save our cover of 'Like My Love Pump' for another occasion then...
See you next time,