I’ve been working with Asian Pop Super Group BLUSH for the past year. Very recently their manager, Jon called and asked me if I could write them a vocal arrangement of Aretha Franklin’s RESPECT for the ONE.org agit8 protest song movement. I said, without hesitation…YES! Of course it had to be done
yesterday in three days; written, learned, recorded, video shot and then sent to London for the agit8 launch at The Tate Modern. Long story short, we did it (“we” meaning; myself, Blush, Michael Perfitt, Tim Young, the wonderful Mervyn Warren, Jon and Stacey Niermann, DJ Quaye and Henson Recording Studios’ Faryal Ganjehei, Jaime Sickora, Bill Rahko & Derrick Stockwell). I’m quite proud of getting the word “RESPECT” in there in 4 of their languages for their core fans. I had to fight really sell it to the girls, but in the end, it really worked and I feel the fans will be pleased. Anyway…here it is – RESPECT VIDEO. The One.org people cut out the cool vibey intro we did, which is a shame, but not surprising. We had a blast, very little sleep and in the middle of it all we all had tea with Quincy Jones at his house. Quincy’s currently their executive producer and he wanted to hear the arrangement. At this stage, I had only just written it and taught it to the girls so it wasn’t recorded yet. Therefore, we had to be presented live. (What are ya gonna do?) Quincy told me he “loved it!” and went on to say that he’d never heard that song done that way, which was nice. Before he’d heard the arrangement, Quincy had already enlisted the help of his long time collaborator Mervyn Warren. Quincy then insisted that Mervyn and I work together to fine tune. Mervyn was lovely, gracious and made some killer “fine-tuning” suggestions to the arrangement. All in all, it was wonderful.
Blush are such a sweet group of girls and soooo hard working, I love working with them. I can’t wait to see what they accomplish in the future. Here’s a pic of all of us at their show earlier this year in Chinatown for Chinese New Year.
The new project I’ve been talking about for what feels like FOREVER, is cooked, baked and basted. It’s called The Amber and it consists of yours truly, Florence Hartigan and Ryland Shelton. We’re a three part harmony driven group doing original material. I have dreamt of being part of a group like this for as long as I can remember, so it goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway)…YYYYEEEEAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!
We’ve done two offical shows, but also a random appearance at an Italian Cultural evening at Pasadena City College and a song or two at a house concert in Janurary. Other than that we’ve been in rehearsals and writing/recording mode. The three of us haven’t been together very long, only since last August or September, however Flo and I have been working on this project since 2011. A few singers have come and gone, a few recordings have been created and chucked out and many songs written and left on the cutting room floor. That said, we persevered, and the above is a shot from our first show at the House of Blues. It was a really great first show.
Shortly after HOB we played a show at the top of Mt Baldy for a set of teaser shows to help promote The Big Horn Music Festival that’s happening up there early September, (we’ll be a part of that too!). This was a lot of fun, we met some lovely people and played alongside some amazing talent. For the first time in my career I rode a chair lift to the gig. It was majestic! All our gear was taken by truck at the foot of the mountain and then, all musicians rode to the top to play. It was so nice to have 30 mins, after dealing with LA traffic to sit on a moving chair whilst taking in the mountain air, only to disembark and then play music. I may not say it enough, but I LOVE MY JOB!
As someone who willing spends the majority of their day supporting the careers of other artists, it’s very nice to be back in the saddle myself. It feels good. If you’d like, you can hear a sample of what we’re cooking up here – THE AMBER and please, like us on Facebook. We have a show coming up in downtown LA July 28th with my good friend George Sarah, and then there will be the Big Horn Festival in Mt Baldy, plus a few dates in Palm Springs…more details on all that to come. Until then, thank you so much for your time and support!
I’ve been trying to keep quiet about this, but I can’t any longer. I’ve been hard at work on a book for the past year with Kuk Harrell and it’s almost finished. I can’t get into the nitty gritty, but let’s just say if you’re a vocalist who has any interest in singing in the studio, you’ll want to read it. That’s all I’ll say for now. (Here’s a selfie from one of our writing/brainstorming sessions.) Who’s Kuk Harrell you ask? Read more here: Kuk Harrell
You may or may not remember me blowing up Mark Webber’s spot when we worked together on his voice for Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Mark had to learn to sing in 5 mins (well not literally, but in the world of learning to master an instrument and knowing how long that actually takes, that’s pretty much what it boiled down to) and…well, he did! He has a new film called The End Of Love, which he not only stars in, but wrote and directed. As someone who recently became a mother and struggled with the adjustment of balancing life in a new way I can say it’s poignant, raw and expertly created. Mark is not only a first class actor, but he is a craftsman…a true creative, (he’s also a sweetheart of a guy!). You can see the trailer here…THE END OF LOVE. I’d love you to go and see it. Please support this artist! Buy it here on iTunes.
Beyonce blows my mind. Did you see her sing the US National Anthem at the Presidential Inauguration? Amazing. Now, I believe singers, especially R&B singers of her calibre, tend overdo the anthem and sing all over it. But no, she restrained herself and demonstrated solid technique, passion and true professionalism. Watch it here
Notice how she used mostly head voice and held out notes. It’s more of a classical approach than she usually brings, because she can completely belt in that range in her chest voice. I only caught a few runs and they were tastefully done. I like it when I see varying degrees of style and taste in singers, especially when they have the clout to do whatever they want. It’s cool.
I read something about her lip-synching the anthem, here. I don’t believe it. I might believe she sang to herself for support, singers do that all the time, but you can see her throat and her jaw responding to the vibrato, you can’t fake that! Let me just say, there is no way! That was live. She’s an amazing singer. Wonderful.
Congratulations President Obama and well done Beyonce!
Side note: Jason Wu needs FULL METAL props for dressing The First Lady. She looked amazing! I love the jacket she wore with the leather gloves. It reminded me of a demure Trinity from The Matrix. Completely bad ass.
1/25/13 addendum: After the week long assault of press pertaining to whether or not Beyonce lip-synched….seriously? I mean…seriously? You can hear and see the connection with her voice to the mic. At the beginning, where it is hard to hear her, you can hear her voice in the distance. It’s a live sound echo thing….big space, outdoors…etc. Listen for where she says “stripes” and kind of trips on the “p” then takes a breath. It’s live. Now can we move on with our lives….please.
Ok, over the holiday season I caught up on The Voice Season 3. I liked it. I thought The final 4 worthy candidates and agreed more or less with the judges this time around. Terry McDermott blew my mind. OMG. He was flawless. I loved Nicholas David…I thought he was stylistically spot on and authentic. I loved that these two contestants reflected what is cool about the show, neither of them were 18 and they weren’t necessarily oil paintings, yet their voices and their talent were the sole reason they were there.
Now, let me say that Trevin Hunt, who is UNBELIEVABLE, has a long and lovely career ahead of him. But why didn’t he beat out the others? Christina summed this up really nicely. At one point in the competition, down to the final four or three, she commented on Terry McDermott’s performance and more importantly his work ethic. Christina said to the audience something like, *you guys see the lights and the glitz, but you don’t see what happens behind the scenes. It’s the work ethic that counts. Terry has sung 3 times tonight, not to mention all day long.* (I’m not quoting, but it’s pretty close). She’s right. Around the same time (episode wise) Trevin Hunt performed The Greatest Love of All. It wasn’t his best work and if you were listening at all you’d have heard that he barely had a voice. This doesn’t mean he can’t sing…the guy is crazy talented, but he wasn’t prepared for how “often” he would need to sing during the competition. Whereas the final 3 were prepared for that, they had experience. The reason why Terry, Nicolas and Cassidy could go the distance is because they had experience “singing all the time”! It matters.
When practicing, I believe, most of you imagine yourself auditioning or on stage. Few of you imagine yourselves rehearsing for 3 hours everyday or sitting in a corner with headphones on learning lyrics to 3 songs that you’ll have to sing on national television tomorrow. Right? In these kinds of competitions, and well, in the life of a true working artists, you have to be ready to go at all times and be as good as you are. Stamina. It matters.
So, pace yourself…it might look like this; start singing a little in the morning, then check in in the afternoon, then again in the evening. Do mild vocal warm ups and then later on in the day do more stamina, endurance warm ups. Choose songs to sing that are easy to moderate – to difficult. Space them out through the day. If you feel fatigued and/or like you’re losing your voice, stop. Have a rest for a day and ease in the next day. Be smart.
Good luck and may the voice be with you.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! Thanks for reading. My New Year’s resolution? To blog once a week…at least. Hold me to it…ok? Sorry I sucked at it in 2012….here’s to looking ahead!
All my love for a wonderful 2013!!!!
Chris Mann, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing earlier this year, is finally releasing his CD. You may remember him from The Voice season II. I’ve had a little “sneaky peak” via his manager and I have to say, it’s breathtaking! Pure voice, pure spirit. LOVE IT. If you’re at all interested in hearing a sample or per-ordering it, you can do so here – iTunes.
I rarely talk about my clients and our work together on my blog, and I really try to keep the obvious promo stuff to Facebook and Twitter. However, get ready for a good ole’ fashion brag. Miss Alexandra was brought to me about 4 years ago by her manager at the time, with a cool character to her voice and a whole gut full of passion. Alexandra was a self taught singer who had found herself fronting a band and was trying to navigate all the things that come with that; Singing over a mess of loud amps, working with a drummer who didn’t have much finesse or sensitivity to a vocalist, and the classic problem, songs in all the wrong keys for her voice. Suffice it to say, Alexandra would loose her voice on a regular basis.
After an introductory lesson, I sat her down and said, in no uncertain terms, that the work needed to be done would be frustrating, and more often than not she would feel like she couldn’t sing at all. To really drive the “tough love” home I added that I couldn’t give her a time frame as to when things would improve. I must say that at this point in my introductory lessons, I’ve seen grown men cry! Alexandra just said, “Are you available next week?”.
Well, here we are, 2012. She released a 7″ vinyl EP (glitter vinyl thank you very much!) which was funded entirely by her kickstarter.com campaign. Also, just this week she performed on GoodDayLA (which you can watch here – Alexandra Starlight Good Day LA). Last night she was at DimMak Studios in Hollywood performing a Miles Davis tribute show for The Miles Davis House. Then she was in my studio for a lesson this afternoon and tonight she’s in Ventura performing a show. Her voice sounds strong, full of character, she knows who she is and where she is headed.
I’m proud and impressed with Alexandra because she fully trusted the process, rolled up her sleeves and did the work. I don’t always get the satisfaction of seeing a client work right through the tough stuff. Honestly, on average many quit before they get to the finish line. Alexandra is DOING THE WORK and reaping the benefits!!! Go Alexandra Starlight!