Many singers that are household names today have done their share of demo and session work. Multi-platinum, award-winning country artists Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks have put in their share of time in the studio singing for or with others. Celebrated Grammy® and Dove award-winning Christian artist Ashley Cleveland has sung backup for a variety of artists including Reba McEntire, Aretha Franklin and John Hiatt.
Click here to check out Ashley’s website for more information on this incredible singer, songwriter and entertainer!
For the demo singer the key is to quickly get the right read on a song that will please the songwriter or publisher. This can put you in situations where you work against what you naturally feel about the song. Don’t be afraid to share what you hear, but your primary goal is to deliver what the composer and those affiliated with him or her want from you. So it’s key to be flexible and open while being extremely and quickly adaptable.
Backing It All Up
For session singers who are backing up the lead vocal it can get a little tricky as well. As a vocalist you must understand your supporting role, yet likely have your own take on how to best offer that support. The challenge comes with marrying your performance with that of the lead singer. But there are some key tips to bear in mind that will help you engage and then successfully complete those marriage vows in the session.
On a daily basis listen to the backing vocals in every song you hear. Make sure you mix up the styles of music and variety of artists. Listen for subtleties in that support. What makes the song successful, the lead singer more effective or moving by those backing vocals. And also note what you feel doesn’t work and why. How would you handle things differently?
The Four P’s
Remember the following four P’s of session vocalist performance: Patience, preparation, passion and professionalism. You have to hang in there and work things through. You need to continuously work on honing your craft so that you are totally prepared to deliver the goods. You must love music and love what you do to showcase the lead singer in their best light. And you need to always be present, show up on time, stay alert, with no excuses.
The session singer and the demo singer are both vital to the song, the music industry and radio – for survival and success. For more information on opportunities for session and demo work, as well as resources for strengthening your skills, there are a number of sites to check out.
Session singer veteran, Kim Chandler, offers a number of articles on becoming a successful session singer. Based in the UK, she has nearly 20 years of success in the music industry and is a deep well of information and insight not only for session and demo work but for singers in general.
Her article, Session Singer Advice, is pure gold. She offers examples of all kinds of session work, as well as provides a list of critical questions that you need to consider in deciding whether or not session work would be a good fit for you. In addition to recommending links for more information, she also offers sound strategies for breaking into the field.
Another session singer with an impressive track record is Sally Rivers. The British session artist started singing professionally at age seven in theatres and in hotels in the U.K. By age 15 she was a seasoned professional theatre performer. At the young age of 12 she landed her first paying gig as a session singer. Obviously she has tons of hands on, practical information to help broaden and focus your session singer awareness.
Read All About It
There is also a book to recommend on session singer work. The book is called Confessions Of A Session Singer and is written by Makky Kaylor. His story is rich with humor, insight, advice, and encouragement for those interested in getting into session work. Visit www.singers.com/instructional/makkykaylor.html for more details. The book is also available through amazon.com.
The Master Session Sensation
Finally, Dave Brooks is a master session singer and Brett Manning Associate. His holistic approach to his students equips them with the ability to make the most of their unique gifts in every given situation. His experience with demos and backing vocals is priceless to artist development and finding session work. He is the master and has the credentials to back it up. Check him out at www.brettmanningstudios.com/coaches/dave-brooks. If one of your goals for singing success is to conquer session work, here’s your go-to guru!