Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 00:05
It’s Marisa Lee here, and I’m so excited to be sharing today’s interview round episode with you. In these episodes, our brilliant lineup of guests will include healthcare practitioners, voice educators, and other professionals who will share their stories, knowledge, and experiences within their specialized fields to empower you to live your best life. Whether you’re a member of the voice, community, or beyond your voice is your unique gift. It’s time now to share your gift with others develop a positive mindset and become the best and most authentic version of yourself to create greater impact. Ultimately, you can take charge, it’s time for you to live your best life. It’s time now for a voice and beyond. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 01:15
This week on a voice and beyond, we are very honored to have Lyndia Johnson as our special guest on the show. This is part one of a two-part interview with Lyndia, who is known in the music industry as MzLyndia. MzLyndia is not your average singing teacher and vocal coach from touring with major artists to collaborating with music producers. She has spotlighted the need for vocal artist development in the music industry for over 25 years. Her celebrated abilities as a vocal coach and in artist development are highly respected, and she has served on the Board of Governors for the National Academy of Recording Arts and is a vocal consultant and clinician for music cares, and was one of the original architects of the Grammys vocal camp. Her relationship with the Recording Academy has been a long recognized and well-respected collaboration. In this interview, we delve into MzLyndia’s own vocal journey. And she shares with us that her career success as a well-established opera singer was based on a unique combination of years of operatic study and growing up being influenced by the voices of Aretha Gladys, Etta James and Mahalia Jackson. Lyndia at later transitioned her career to become a highly sought-after vocal coach amongst pop, r&b, gospel, and music theater artists who desire to brand and transform their voices. MzLyndia also offers a service which is uniquely intended for music producers and recording artists. In the recording studio, MzLyndia tells us that her role as vocal coach is not only to solve any vocal issues but to work alongside the record producer to ensure that the producer can capture the best tone tambor and vocal delivery possible, all while avoiding costly delays. According to MzLyndia, this gives the producer the freedom to create a highly marketable and vocally attractive finished product that can then be sustainable for touring. This is a most fascinating interview with Lyndia Johnson, one of the music industry’s most acclaimed vocal coaches. Remember, this is part one of a two part interview and part two will be released next week. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 04:45
Welcome to A Voice and Beyond MzLyndia or I should introduce you formally it’s Lyndia Johnson but in the industry, you are so well known as MzLyndia and that’s what we’re going to cord you. How are you?
I’m wonderful. Thank you for having me.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 05:07
Oh, I feel really privileged. I feel that I am in front of like music industry royalty. Yeah, I do. I know your story. We’ve spent time together with hung out. And just knowing the work that you’ve done, I hope listeners sit down and listen up because you are in for a treat with this episode, honestly, as someone who’s been in the singing voice industry for many years, I appreciate the work that you’re doing, MzLyndia, because not only are you teach in academia, but you walk the walk, and you talk the talk, you have been in the industry at that grassroots level, working with all kinds of industry professionals, and you know, what’s going on in the real world and not just academia. And so you bring something to our industry that is really needed.
Thank you. Thank you very much for saying that. Absolutely. Thank you.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 06:23
I know and you’re really humble. And I, you know, just a minute or so you’ve been a singing teacher, vocal coach in the music industry, and in colleges and universities around the US for about 25 years. From touring artists to collaborating with music producers and label executives. You are known as MzLyndia, you have served on the Board of Governors for the National National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and have been the direct vocal consultant for the Grammy Awards for around 20 years now. Yeah, what an incredible career.
It’s been it’s been a journey, it really has been a journey. And it’s been, you know, I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. It didn’t start, you know, like most journeys, it didn’t start, you know, where I’m at now, it began in my humble beginnings in my Baptist church choir, and I was, you know, raised by a single mom. And so, you know, I didn’t, we didn’t have a lot of money. So I didn’t, you know, have a formal music education. So whatever I got I got from the church. And it really is education, particularly in the African-American church tradition. When music happens in that, you know, cultural format. It is an education, it really is. And it does teach you a level of fearlessness, that I believe kind of surpasses even conservatory training because there is such a deep, deep religious connection, spiritual connection. And then, of course, some of our greatest singers have come out of that tradition, Aretha Franklin, you know, Whitney Houston, Natalie Cole, so many. And so it is great training ground for singers who come from humble beginnings. And I’d like to say that it informed everything that came after, you know, good singing gospel informed everything. Every education that I received, after that was informed by that foundation that was built in the in the black church.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 08:47
That’s incredible. I do know that you had classical training, at some point in time, was that the first voice training that you ever had, like formal training as such?
Yes. I think I was about 17, 16 or 17 years old, when a member of our church actually encouraged my mother to seek out vocal coaching, formal vocal coaching. And my very first vocal coach was a wonderful woman who, who loved me and nurtured me. Her name was Catherine Lorenz. And she was actually a lifelong member of NATS. And I met her in 1980. Wow. And she immediately heard the raw material in my voice. And she thought it was pretty extraordinary that I was able to negotiate and navigate all my registers and, and everything really at such a young age and I had no idea of even the proper language that govern vocal pedagogy. So when I sang for her, I sang You know, the music that I knew, which was church music. But she heard in there, that through singing in church, I had already instinctually figured out my registers figured out everything. But what she did was she gave me the tools, the skill set the awareness, the understanding of how to really just play this instrument with skill, because I was playing it just based on instinct. Yes. And she finally gave me language and tools and skill, and started teaching me out of the 24 Italian art song, and arias book. And my first song out of that was Emil Bell’s foco.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 10:46
Oh, my gosh, that’s incredible. That’s incredible. You know, what I’d like to ask you is, how had you had that training? Before you had that background in the church? How do you think things would have panned out for you? Because I know like, for me, I started singing when I was about five years old. I said, that’s when I started singing. And I was listening to pop and rock and soul and funk all that music and singing it at the top of my lungs, from yay big. And I figured it all out, too. I was belting. I was doing everything. And I was fearless. I didn’t have fear of making the sounds, but that music was in my body. I embodied it in a way that training doesn’t. I feel when you love that music and you resonate with it, had I have done the classical training or had classical training. Prior to that music? I don’t know that I would have my career would have panned out the way that it did.
Oh, I absolutely know for a fact that had I began in opera. First. There would have been rules and restrictions that governed how fearlessly I showed up in my sound. Yes, I wouldn’t felt like I had permission to make unconventional sounds. And I would have put my voice in a right or wrong category, which is what opera did I always when people asked me, I always tell them that opera sanitized. A lot of what I organically felt was right about my voice. And it put me in a place where with when I was singing in church, I never questioned anything. I was just like, I never questioned it. But when I began when opera, when rules began to govern sounds, particularly when I got to conservatory and I, I was fortunate enough to be selected to Temple University’s Conservatory of Music in Philadelphia and studied with a wonderful Claire Meyer. When I when I when I when I began in a conservatory and and I was one of maybe four African-American opera voice majors and I happen to have had the privilege of being in the same class as the wonderful bass Eric Owens. He and I were classmates. Yes. Oh, they were few of us. I just remember feeling a longing for that young girl who was so fearless in her voice in the church. And when I got to the operatic stages, I began to question every sound that I was making. And whether or not the sound was right. Yes. Whatever Right? Was Yes. And I didn’t like how I was feeling about myself. I started to question a lot of things that even though everyone would tell me Oh, it’s such a wonderful mezzo-soprano. I mean, I was a mezzo-soprano. My roles were Carmen de Lila, as a Cheyna. I did all the mezzo-soprano roles and in college and and a few years outside of college, but that was my rep. And everyone was like, Oh, the voice is so wonderful to voices. So this but in the context of conservatory training, everything is scrutinized and judged, yes. And I also felt doubly under the microscope because, of course, African American being an African American and opera was also extremely buckled in, even though we’ve had pioneers like Paul Robeson, and the wonderful Marian Anderson and she and I actually share to share a birthday, you know, Marian Anderson, who broke the color barrier at the Met in the 1950s, and Miss Leontine. And, and Miss Kathleen battle. And this Jesse Norman and all these wonderful women who had come before me, the population of people of color in opera was still very small. And to give you some context, I do remember that it was only up until recently within the last 10 years or so. But they stopped putting dark makeup on their Othello’s. And that’s just basically blackface. And this is just within the last 10 years, they finally stopped doing a fellow with a white tenor, and dark makeup. And again, same with Aida. You know, Verity was very clear. Aida isn’t it’s a, it’s a black woman. And very 200 some odd years ago understood that he wanted a woman of color. Yes. And he wrote an opera with about a woman of color. And 200 years later, we even would put our wonderful sopranos in dark makeup when they were performing. Aida. So Oh, opera, you know, Opera has had its struggles. And, and I felt in the midst of that pretty lost. Personally, culturally, I felt pretty lost. Yes.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 16:43
I can’t even imagine. I can’t even imagine how that must have felt for you. And, you know, like, I want to say, I’m sorry, you went through that experience? You know, and I say that with love. But how messed up is this world?
Yeah, but I think that I needed to have that experience, because it definitely does inform how I teach today. And I do believe that, you know, experiences like that they can either make you or break you. And it did shape a lot of how I approach even opera singers who come to me today, and ask if I can reconfigure the vocal track for contemporary or CCM singing or popular singing. And I get that request a lot.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 17:36
I bet you do. Because you’ve walked the walk. Once again, as I said in your intro, you have done the hard yards. You have done it. So did you come to a point where you just said, this is not for me?
I did it? Well, a couple of things happen. A couple of things that happen if I’m being completely transparent. Yes, I started to experience voice problems.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 18:02
Oh, why am I not surprised? Sorry. Yes.
That I, you know, now 20 some odd years later, I believe was psychologically triggered. Yeah. But I got to a point where I just couldn’t sing. And mind you from undergrad and graduate level. I had superb coaching. On a graduate level I’d worked with Judith Hadden, who was at that time the wife of the great tenor Neil Schick Goff and of course, the woman who put the finishing touches on my mezzo-soprano was the wonderful legendary Margaret, Harshaw and Margaret, you know, took me under her wing and just really got me into that stratosphere of Wagnerian met serves. Wow. But by the time I was finished with my training with Margaret Harshaw, I started experiencing vocal trouble. And I wasn’t sure if it was the training or what it was. Now, years later, I believe a lot of it was psychological. I think, psychologically, I think I kind of pump the brakes on my own career, if that makes sense.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 19:26
Oh, 100% 100% Because I think that’s what a lot of teachers still don’t realize is that we’re a whole. We’re a human being. And they’re all these different parts to us that make the some of us and the psyche and the emotion. All of that is part of us. And if we haven’t got if we’re not in a good place emotionally and mentally, the voice is not going to behave itself and is see that all the time. And I’ve experienced that, when I felt that I was being silenced. And not being heard as in part of my career, I lost my voice. Not only did I lose my voice in life, in that time, and in my surroundings and in my career, but I lost my singing voice. So I do 100% believe all of that.
And I also believe that it also because, you know, I’m a woman of strong faith, I do believe that it was the divine, also, saying to me, enough is enough. I want you to live in your truth. And this is how I want you to best show up to serve humanity. As someone who can take now all of these skills that you’ve learned, and I think, in a way, God said to me, you know, I’m gonna pump, I’m gonna put pause here, because I want to give you a chance to catch your breath. Because between the ages of 16, and nearly 30, I was just non stop singing. Yep. And I want you to think about serving and developing and creating singers. Now. You don’t have anything to prove. You don’t have to be a singer. But you can definitely create an arsenal of wonderful singers to serve humanity. I didn’t know what that meant. Now, I’m paraphrasing now because when I think back on those years, I just think chaos, I was just traumatized. I didn’t know what was going on in my voice. I went to every auto laryngologist. But what triggered it was in seeing the auto laryngologist I began to be curious about Voice Science, and basically, dissecting what happened to me. So I just went on this journey of just studying Voice Science and, and really working with in sitting next to and if when they allowed me auto laryngologist. And, and just asking the questions, and I began that in an effort to kind of dissect what is going on with me. But in turn, it sparked something in me a curiosity just about Voice Science. And I’m like, I’m like this. This is interesting. I didn’t know any of this. And I just began just absorbing everything I can get my hands on about voice silence. And then taking it and reframing it back into contemporary gospel r&b, and then began to listen to singers like Aretha and using all the new knowledge in Voice Science and dissecting when I when I would hear Aretha do and Gladys Knight do and, and, and Nat King Cole do and think, okay, and Voice Science, they’re making a sound. And even though it gave me a language that I never had before, and I was able to listen to recordings of my favorite r&b and gospel artists and put the science into it. And it kind of happened out of this desire to kind of cure myself. Yes. But in fact, it was developing this ability. And when I tell you, I’ve read it all and studied it all, I mean, everything from would settle off dock to settle off is put down. And of course, anything Richard Miller wrote, I’ve probably read voraciously over and over again, Bernard work, everything I can absorb, to the point where I actually just on just independently got another degree.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 24:00
Yes, goodness. Yes, you probably have a DMA from the University of MzLyndia.
Yeah, everyone says that, you know, people, you know, my colleagues at USC, you know, say you because I actually remember mentioning it, I wanted to get a PhD and my colleagues are like, Why? Exactly. You already have it, you just, you know, you went to your own university and did this and, and but I attached it to CCM singing, I took the science that I was learning and I and I tried to connect it to what I was hearing happening in a research voice and Gladys’ voice and Whitney’s voice and and Sam Cook’s voice and Jackie Wilson’s voice and James Brown’s voice, yes. And began to really understand from the vocal science aspect what was happening and In that CCM world and giving it language and then taking the language and making it digestible, not using the scientific terms, that’s so intimidating, but making it digestible. i And I walked away from Opera completely.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 25:20
And is that when you started teaching,
for about a year after I opened up my little small studio in Chicago, one of my first clients was a background singer, who had experienced vocal pathology, she had an injury.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 25:38
Well, one of your first students. That’s a big call to start that that starting with the real problems,
yeah, she came in with pathology. And little did I know that she was the background vocalist to R Kelly. Oh, oh, really? I had no idea.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 26:01
Wow, well, and what was going on with her voice? She had Apollo. So to being diagnosed and she came to you, how did she find you?
I don’t think I think it was just by it was just something that happened. I think she just kind of was searching and someone in Chicago said, Hey, there’s this new coach around and go see or see if she can help you. And it really put all of what I had been doing the few years prior, as far as me doing all this research and Voice Science. That was basically my my launch. My launch was a singer with pathology.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 26:41
So What year was this? This was
1995. Okay, because my I really walked away from my career around 94.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 26:53
So this is the 90s. And you’re already putting out all this amazing work or launching your career. You have all this science base knowledge on CCM.
But it wasn’t called CCM I didn’t there was there wasn’t a name for it.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 27:12
No, it was other it was called. No, it was none and other right. That’s what it was. Yeah,
it wasn’t. So imagine my surprise and joy that there was actually now several years later a word for what I was doing. And I was and I was and then by that time in Chicago, I became known as Chicago’s vocal coach, and I was doing everything from radio vignettes, to working with major Chicago artists, background singers, gospel artists, well known gospel artists, because they felt most of the singers felt, okay, she comes from where we come from, but she also understands it from a, from a perspective that we don’t, and she’s able to articulate it in a way that makes sense. And on top of it, I often use language, with my CCM singers. Now that I can use the term Yes, where I say to them, I’m giving you permission to make unconventional sounds in your throat. Do not put a right or wrong on it, I want you to live very free in this instrument. I don’t want you to put a right or wrong on the sound because if the sound is coming out of you, that’s raw material for me to use in context of the lyric. Song lyrics are about emotion. So let’s use the sounds that you can create to paint this picture in the song. Yes. Which is why then I started getting a large population of songwriters who want to be able to sing their own music, but found it difficult to find the sounds to inform their lyrics. And so the company began and I named the company Sterling voice coaching. And I named it Sterling after my grandfather, my maternal grandfather, yes. The reason why is because my maternal grandfather was, you know, African American man, it was 11 children. My mother being the six who managed to survive in America as a black man in the South.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 29:32
Oh, okay. Yeah,
and get all of his children alive out of the south. Ah, but more importantly, Marisa is he owned his own land.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 29:47
How did he do that? Right.
He owned his own land in this and my grandfather was illiterate because African Americans weren’t really allowed much of an education. Yes, but he managed to secure acres of his own land in Virginia, during the 1940s. In America now this is this is 30 somebody years before civil rights. This is during a time where it was legal to lynch black people. And he owned his own land, had 11 children, and they all not only managed to survive and live, but he owned. And the interesting thing about this, the story of my family is he owned his own land around white men who did not.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 30:40
Oh, what an incredible human. What an incredible, he must have been a very brave, very smart, must be very honorable too and respected to some degree. Yeah, by the folks around him.
My mother when she recalls her, when she recalled her father, she would often say, you know, you know, that land that we owned allows us to raise our own fruits and vegetables. It allowed us to raise our own chickens and hogs. And we had our own meat. So she said, we never really had to ask the white community for anything. But they in turn asked us particularly during the Depression, yes. When the white community basically didn’t have anything we we My mother said, we didn’t even know there was a depression, we had plenty of food we had, we have everything we need. And my aunt and my grandmother, my mother’s mother’s so their own clothing. So she said mom made our clothes. And my mother knew something was wrong. I remember her telling me when she was a young girl, and she saw a white woman come to their farm, asking for a eggs during the Depression. And my mother was young, she’s very young, but she said something’s going on in the world, because this white woman is coming asking my mother for food.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 32:09
Wow. What an incredible story,
which is why I wanted my company to bear that legacy. So that’s where Sterling comes from. People always think it’s Sterling. Because Sterling means like sterling silver. Yes. But that was my grandfather’s name. His name was Sterling Smith. And so I wanted my company to bear his name in some capacity. And so Sterling voice coaching was born.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 32:39
So you started in Chicago?
I did. And I stayed in Chicago for 22 years.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 32:45
Okay. And so you’re working with all these music industry people? So at what point did you go to California?
It was in Chicago, that the Recording Academy, the Grammys asked me if I would help develop a new program, I sat on the board, I was they recruited me for the Board of Governors in Chicago. So but I was in Chicago, already serving on the Grammy board,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 33:16
he must have been doing incredible work. Like you must have had a massive reputation already. By this time.
By then I yeah, I was really doing a lot. And I was doing a lot with all kinds of artists, recording artists, emerging artists, developing artists, branding artists. And I was being called on by producers to brand artists, for instance, if there was a talent that producers were interested in, but there wasn’t a sound that they felt that they could market, I would be sent that particular artist and he said, Can you figure out what about this voice is marketable, train it so that we can brand it? So that is something that I still do? I still get asked to take a virtual unknown, and find the exceptional things about the voice. And so so it’s marketable. brandable. And then and that request, I get that request a lot from industry, from, from producers, from from everyone, it’s you know, and that’s a large population that I provide service for emerging artists is what we call them. Yes, they are artists that are on the brink of a very successful career. But then they did something about the voice that distinguishes it, and makes it marketable. And when I get the voice, I begin to work to try to find elements of their sound, that not only is unique, but sustainable. Because it’s not enough for the sound to just be different. It has to be a sound that sustains that can be sustained. Yes in the context of The career right?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 35:01
Yes. So, okay. Now when I hear music on the radio, or on Spotify, I know a lot of the artists that are releasing music, and I’m going to throw Ed Sheeran into the mix here. And I heard one of our own local artists, Dean Lewis recently to release some new music. There seems to be a sound at the moment. So you talk about uniqueness. But what I’m hearing is not uniqueness I’m hearing at the moment, there’s a lot of sounds that are all being produced in the studio to sound the same.
That’s very true.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 35:45
So how then do you work on uniqueness when a lot of that seems to me and I could be completely, completely wrong, because this is only my perception, then stripped away to sound like everybody else,
it is stripped away. In and this is, this is an area that’s it’s subtle, but it’s also very important. And this is an area that many vocal coaches don’t get to tiptoe in that I’ve Fortunately, I’ve had the privilege privilege of living, not only in the studio as a vocal producer, but away from it as well, in the vocal studio process of it, you have to understand that the voice that is needed in the recording studio is one aspect of what is being marketed. Singers usually don’t come to me. And producers come to me to get the sound at a place where they can get it in the studio, too. Build the sound around it. Yes. However, the career and singers will know this is live on stage
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 36:59
100%. There’s no money in record
sales. And that is where those subtle differences of uniqueness need to show up. Don’t necessarily need to show up in the recording studio, because that’s about mass producing a trend, a sound that is a trend, which is what you’re saying you’re hearing similarities, yes, that’s because they want to mass produce what this generation is saying they want to hear. That is not exactly what is happening live on stage, which is where singers not only earn their money, but get theirs, but their careers are basically built those concert ticket sales, when people buy that ticket, spend the time to come to that show. That is when every aspect of what is unique about your sound and your delivery has to show up. Otherwise, those fans can stay home and play the song on the radio or play the download or played the CD if there’s still CDs. They leave their homes to come to your show because they want to hear something else outside of what you recorded. Yes, they want to hear okay, I know how Ed Sheeran sounds on the song on the record, but how does he sound live on stage in front of me. That’s when Ed Sheeran has to pull a rabbit out the hat and out of his throat has to come more diverse, interesting sounds because that’s why they’re in that audience because they are there to hear their favorite Ed Sheeran song delivered in a different way than what they are experiencing in the recording. Right? The recording is designed to actually fall in line with what the trends of the time is. That’s why Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith, and everybody’s sounding the same on the recordings. And if people were just satisfied with the recordings, artists wouldn’t be able to sell tickets, but people aren’t. People want to see it come to life in front of you. But they also don’t want a prototype of the recording. Many artists will say wow, I didn’t know he or she could do that with their voice once it happens live. Now therein lies the rub. Since you mentioned Ed Sheeran, he’s got to be able then to have a studio voice. Yes, and then a live interpretation of the same song. Yes. Except this time he’s recruiting more tones, more textures, more unconventional sounds. Live. Otherwise, the fans could have stayed at home and listened to the recording. He was going to sing it exactly the same way yep. Yep. Yes. So the recording does serve a purpose, particularly in keeping it trendy. But the fans buy the tickets because they want to hear something outside of the trend live. Yeah. And they want to see it unfold in front of them in a very different way than they’re experiencing in the recording. Otherwise, they would stay home and listen to the recording. Yes, yes. So when an artist is coming to me, they’re coming to me primarily because they’re saying, Okay, it’s recorded, done. Now, how does this show up on stage?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 40:53
Right? How do I make this sustainable? What sounds Am I able to produce? So can I just back back? Sorry, I’m not going to come back to this because I have a million questions. So when an artist goes to these music managers, or these record labels or music labels, how does that process work then? So this, the these music producers are coming to you and asking you to find something unique in these artists, that they can record that that they can record? That? How do they know that this is the artist if they haven’t heard the thing? You know what I mean? Like,
I understand what you’re saying, and this is not the music industry of the 1950s or 60s, this is not Motown. This is not the genius of Barry Gordy where you had all in house artists development. Because of you know, social media. Yes, we actually record companies don’t have artists development anymore. They stopped doing that decades ago. independent artists really don’t need record companies no, they can do it all using online music platforms and streaming platforms. And they can use software, like Pro Tools like Logic that’s in their own home studios, record something, and then filter that through an online streaming platform get a ton of downloads. As soon as an a&r person at a label sees that the work is done for them, they recruit them into the into the label and says, hey, you’ve already got a million followers based on what you did at home. All we need to do now is just put you under our label, and you’re a star. Wow. That’s basically what’s happening today. And which is why it all seems so easy to so many young singers of this generation, because many of them have the technological technical skills with logic and pro tools to really just do home recordings. Many of them do, you know, Spotify, or Apple Music streaming platforms to release it. You’ll have an a&r at a label, who will hear they’ve already got a million streams on this cookie cutter song. And then the label will actually sometimes reach out or the or producer and say, Hey, I just saw that you’ve got over 100,000 streams on this song. How would you like to come over here because the work is already done the labor market? Yes. They don’t have to promote. They don’t have to build the fan base. It’s already been done for them, which is why these areas in labels have now kind of gone away. Artists are developing a lot of independence away from record labels. And that also gives artists the power to create sounds that sometimes fall against trends are not as trendy. And remember popular music is always about finding voices that can tell the story using interesting tones, textures and unorthodox sounds. If popular music was about traditional sounds, we wouldn’t have had our Mick Jagger’s. We wouldn’t have had our Tina Turner’s or Cher we wouldn’t have had Billie Holiday
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 44:44
know this sentiment. I mean, Billy Eilish is so many Eilish so many different sounds out there.
And it’s about, you know, yes, we do have voices that are like your Whitney’s and your Mariah’s but not as much as we do like our Billy Eilish is that people will immediately hear and say, Oh, that’s not really a great voice. But it’s interesting. There’s something about it that’s very appealing to me. There’s something about this. I liked the way their voice is telling this story. I like the way the words sound. I like the way I feel when I hear this voice. And more importantly, this voice seems very accessible to me. I feel like I can participate with this voice.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 45:36
So how do you then? Because I know you’re in this industry, and you’re working with music labels and and artists? How do other teachers stay current?
I have no idea.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 45:56
Because do you believe that as singing voice teachers to teach something, we should be immersing ourselves in the music in order to be able to teach it.
I think that the problem is a lot of CCM singers are staying in their studio. They’re not going to the concerts. They’re not interacting with record producers. They’re not going to the shows. And I think that you can’t stay in the studio and just teach pedagogy you have to get out there. You have to sit at the table to see how the deals are being made. What Why exactly are you signing this artists now? Hypothetically, let’s talk about maybe Billy Eilish. She was all she’s also a complete brand. Very much like Rihanna. Yes. Rihanna is not just the singer. She’s a brand and again, this is what is happening in the music industry today. Unlike the music industry of the 1960s and 70s, where artists were just singers Carly Simon was is a great singer, but she was just a singer songwriter. Carole King is a great singer, but she’s just a singer songwriter. Yes. Today. Think about Carole King selling perfume and and undergarments, and makeup and hair. You see what I’m saying?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 47:20
Yeah, like Taylor Swift and Beyonce.
Right? You don’t see you didn’t we didn’t see Carole King peddling a MasterCard or a visa on a commercial. Think about it. Carol King. And she you turn on the TV and she’s talking about the MasterCard like we see Taylor Swift. I think she’s doing credit card now.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 47:47
I know she has they all have perfume on a Katy Katy Perry is is that menu long?
Yep. Beyonce has has clothing. I mean, think about now the 70s artist James Taylor. Can you imagine James Taylor having a cologne?
In Judo is a wonderful singer, songwriter. Commercial, talking about Chanel, visual. by Jay Taylor. Yes. So do
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 48:21
you have to take all of that into consideration when you’re teaching these people? You’re dealing not just with a singer, but a whole brand?
Yeah. And then I will, and then that will determine how I coach it. If the voice is an interesting sound, but it’s limited on range, it’s limited on capacity and what it can do. But I’m looking at a visual, that’s a huge brand, I know immediately why there’s interest in them. If I’m looking at a, you know, someone who has a man, I see why they’re interested, this is someone who is physically very appealing, a great look that could sell perfume and makeup, but the voice is limited in its range in his capacity, then that will inform how I develop the sound, I will keep the sound, you know, I will work with the capacity of the singer and what they can do. I’ll make sure that there are interesting sounds that are happening that can inform the lyric. But I also also keep in mind that this is not just about singing. This is about building an entire brand that includes makeup, clothing, commercials. And so whoever is wherever that artists came to me from whether it was a management or production, they are thinking bigger than just the voice which is why someone like Rihanna can go years without dropping an album which she has. Yeah, we haven’t had an album in a couple of years. But why is she still one of the number one female recording artists of all time? She hasn’t released an album in years. It’s because Fenty is a billion dollar industry. Mm hmm. You know, the Fenty clothing line alone is huge. So she is relevant on so many of the levels that go far beyond her vocals. Yes. And even though Rihanna has a good voice, it’s clearly not Whitney, or Mariah or Jennifer Hudson. But she is also not produced like that either. Her production is a very high energy, danceable. You know, that’s get on the dance floor. And that’s catchy. Quick, easy to remember. Yes. Um, hooks? Yes. Not complex song arrangements, very accessible vocal range where anyone can sing along. Yes. And then she has this brand. This shows up at the Super Bowl. And everyone’s at home. Like we’re everybody wear a burger. And we love it. Because we feel like, wow, I can do that, too.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 51:24
Yes. And so you’re meeting these clients, these brands, where they’re at when they come to you, you’re building from there. So must be, there’s a great lesson in that. And that’s something that I talk about often is leaving our own biases at the door. You can’t have preconceived ideas, can you? You have to be very open and non-judgmental? And how do you do that? Mean? How do you stop your biases from creeping in when you’re working with somebody,
it’s not easy, because I came out of, first of all, I possess a pretty sizable instrument, just on my own. And out of that, there is this desire to build out range to build out dynamic to build out, you know, intensity, flexibility, all the things pedagogically we know the human voice can do. But I also have to respect the capacity of the instrument in front of me. If the capacity is just this, then I then my job is to find everything I can in the capacity that I’m working with, and give the singer a complete sense of self worth. So that they can feel like they are working in their own lane in their own capacity. Without pressure, like I felt an opera of showing up outside of what they feel comfortably that they can do. And that is why what I went through informs how I deal with voices that are just really really basic voices. Those are still human beings, they still need to be validated. Those are still human beings, they still have lovely sounds in their voice. And I can always find more even if the voice is yay big I can find a lot. Yes, and still have that human being walk away feeling like they are accomplished. feeling a sense of self worth. Feeling like I can go to the studio now and not feel so self conscious that I’m not singing like Jennifer Hudson, I’m not singing like Whitney. But what you did find is valuable and I can use it.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 54:03
Thank you so much for listening to this episode of a voice and beyond. I hope you enjoyed it as now is an important time for you to invest in your own self care, personal growth and education. Use every day as an opportunity to learn and to grow so you can show up feeling empowered and ready to live your best life. If you know someone who will also be inspired by this episode, please be sure to copy and paste the link and share it with them. Or share it on social media and use the hashtag a voice and beyond. I promise you I am committed to bringing you more inspiration and conversations just like this one every week. And if you would like to help me please rate and review this podcast and cheer me on by clicking the subscribe button on Apple podcast right now. I would also love to know what it is that you most enjoyed about this episode and what was your biggest takeaway? Please take care and I look forward to your company next time on the next episode of a voice and beyond.