Kenny Royster, Nashville Music Producer
on Studio Music Work

Kenny Royster and Darby Ledbetter with their Emmy

Kenny Royster on Recording and Producing
Interview by Sue Basko

Today’s blog guest is Kenny Royster, Emmy Award winning Music Producer and
owner of Kenny Royster Productions and Direct Image Studio in Nashville, Tennessee.

Please tell me about the Emmy Award.

An artist that I am producing, Darby Ledbetter, brought me a song titled "Don't Let Your Guard Down,” that he was writing. I told him to change it to "I Won't Let My Guard Down," because that sounds like a promise. His co-writer, Jeff Teague, and I produced the song together. I engineered it.

Darby is a five time deployed to Iraq National Guardsman. The National Guard shot a video to the song and it was played in 2,700 movie theatres. It was nominated and then we won the Emmy. Darby and I have co-written a song called "Soldier Up" that the National Guard is going to shoot a full-length video on, starting March of this year. We are believing for Emmy number two.

How does your studio get award-winning sound?

The difference between a semi-pro studio and a world class studio is gear, signal path and experience (you get what you pay for). I've recorded over 8,000 songs, giving me a lot of experience. As far as gear, I use world class components that start from the microphones and end up at the recorder, i.e.: the preamps, compressors, converters, effects and mastering components. Very technical, but the bottom line is that it sounds great and wins Emmys!

Do you have any songwriting accomplishments?

I have written songs for prime time major network movies, television and film. I've also written a Country Christian number one song for the band Ricochet, called "That's Love."

Please tell me about your past, what led up to where you are today.

I started out as a guitar player, singer and songwriter. I moved from Portland, Oregon to Los Angeles, California and recorded in many studios in Los Angeles with my bands. I then moved to Nashville, Tennessee and started a recording studio of my own.

These are some of the artists that I've worked with: Richie McDonald from Lonestar, Craig Morgan, The Lynns (Loretta Lynn's daughters), Jamie O'Neal, Randy Houser, Trace Adkins...and too many number one songwriters to list. I've been in the production and recording business for over 15 years and recorded over 8,000 songs.

What are you up to today? Please tell us where you are located, about your studio, what you do, etc.

I'm producing several artists that are currently shopping record deals. I am writing music and songs for major ad campaigns for the National Guard, Facebook, and recording artists.

I own and operate my own studio: Kenny Royster Productions and Direct Image Studio 1700 Hayes St., Ste. 100-D, Nashville, TN 37203, (615) 321-8532, http://directimagestudio.com/

My studio is a full service studio, recording everything from simple demos to full-on masters. With me and my studio you get an engineer, producer, vocal coach and recording studio all in one.

After working with over a thousand singers and studying with some of the best vocal coaches in the world, I've molded my own vocal techniques that get great results (two $100,000 Colgate Country Showdown Competition winners use my techniques). If you're a singer and you're looking for a studio, you should work with me. I've recorded genres that include: country, bluegrass, Christian, rock, pop, Latin, opera, reggae and R&B.

I have a unique studio in that I have world class in-house instruments set up and ready to play at all times. Drums, guitars and guitar amps, keyboards, synthesizers and acoustic instruments.This helps in keeping a world class consistent and versatile sound.

Please tell me about how you work with young or new artists.

With new or young artists, I try to teach them how to record emotion. My vocal techniques give singers the tools to amplify emotion. The song dictates a certain kind of approach but proper techniques make the emotion more apparent to the listener. The sound of a voice comes from the vowels, the beginning consonants of the important words are a powerful communication tool.

Singing tips: Put on the headphones, do not put your hands up and hold onto the headphones while singing. It's very unnatural and restricting. There are several properties of the human voice that change, but too many variables to be discussed without one on one interaction with me.

Another tip is, move your body to the music. Air guitar or anything rhythmic is your friend and will add to your performance. This connects you to the groove and gives you power.

Focus your voice “forward." Imagine your voice being projected into a space in front of you, and slightly above your head. This is where the voice rings and the harmonic properties of your human instrument are allowed to work. "Forward and up.”

To get the most out of these techniques, you must work with me one on one. Come to Nashville and work with me for an enlightening experience. You'll be able to take the singing tools I show you with you everywhere you go. I can provide you with a full band of great musicians that can create a very current cutting edge, to modern retro sound. The song itself dictates part of how to produce it. The rest is up to the artist and me.

I love the way the vocals sound on the songs you recorded for Cameron Burnette.

The signal path for the vocals is a custom handmade Lawson mic and a Vintech mic pre and a tube tech cl1b compressor and radar converter and lexicon effects and Sony Oxford eq. It's a 15,000.00 chain.

Let's talk signal path.

Source i.e.: drum, guitar, amplifier etc., microphone, mic cable, mic preamp, compressor, converter, equalization, effects, clock, mixdown. When you are talking world class signal path, it's only as good as your weakest link.

You buy a great acoustic guitar or electric guitar amp, then you buy a great microphone and it should sound great right? It's only part of the signal path. You still need a great mic preamp and compressor (depending on what you're recording). If it's vocals, you definitely need a compressor.

Then it's converters, if you are recording digital. Then equalization for sound shaping. Then you'll need great effects to create the desired ambience. Then you'll need a world class clock, if you are recording digital.

All of these elements are a must for professional recording quality. The bottom line is, and will always be, the performance of the artist. The best artists out, all want to have the best sound available, so nothing in the signal path can be anything but stellar.

So what should you purchase? Lots of variables and opinions, so let's talk common awesome basics. Vocal signal path: mic Neumann 47 or many manufacturers make great replicas. Lawson 47, Peluso 47, Blue 47, Telefunkin 47, Corby 47, Bock, Soundelux. These are all great Mics for vocals. Not cheap but great. Great for acoustic instruments, also.

Now preamps: Neve 1073, Vintech 73 and 81 line, API 500 series, Chandler, Avalon, Focusrite. These are all great, just pick a flavor! Now you've got a mic, and mic preamp.

How about a compressor: Universal Audio LA2A or 1176, or Tubetech CL1B, Manley Labs Vari Mu, Neve, Focusrite, Avalon, or Vintech. All great.

Now, Digital converters: RADAR, Apogee, Black lion. All great.

Now digital clocks RADAR, Apogee, Black lion. All great.

Now microphone cable: Mogami.

These components will give you a great signal path. These components are what I use in my studio.

Can you explain a little about the Nashville music scene?

The great thing about the Nashville music scene is that great musicians and singers from all over the world come to work in the studios and with touring artists. This provides artists that don't have bands the opportunity to have incredible musicians on their projects.

Come to Nashville and record with me and let me share the blessings with you that I've been blessed with. You'll be able to take the experiences and tools with you and use them throughout your entire musical career.

-- Kenny Royster

Thanks, Kenny!

Click to read about Joe Connors, Chicago Recording Engineer-Producer

Click to read about Sean Giovanni, Nashville Music Producer/ Balcony TV Nashville

How to Be a Street Performer in Nashville

Click to read Taryn DeCicco, DIY Indie Rock Promotion

Click to read Voice Coach: Interview with Cari Cole

Click to read Courrier: Thoughtful Rock Band Marketing

Taryn DeCicco: DIY Indie Rock Promotion


Taryn DeCicco: DIY Indie Rock Promotion
Interview by Sue Basko

Taryn DeCicco is the new girl on the block -- a solo alternative rock act who has leapfrogged into the limelight through talent, hard work, and her own do-it-yourself very aggressive and organized music promotion. I've never seen anything quite like it. Taryn is everywhere! Here, she is going to share some of her secrets with all of us!

Are you on a musical mission? If so, what is it?

I am on more than one! The first is that music has saved my life and now I would like to contribute to it. Especially, in this time of confusion within the industry and for artists. I am happy to be engaged in the gestalt of music. In this time of crisis, learning about gaps in the industry & artistic community that need to be filled so that I can help, ( myself and others), bridge those gaps. Second, on a personal level, I am ready to take my experience & reach out and connect with others on a very deep personal level. I believe the role of the artist is to help others with their emotional life, and I find I am now able to undertake this important role. Lastly, another mission is to tap into my own personal power, removing the limitations & barriers I have arbitrarily placed there. Overcoming a lifelong stage fright is but one example of what I mean.

How would you describe your musical style?

Ostensibly, it is alternative indie rock, I call it lovingly “girlie grunge.” It is creative, passionate, moody & emotive music with lots of twists and turns, and melodic and tempo shifts. Many reviewers have remarked on a very unique and engaging style which is completely mine…I like that! I also feel blessed that I can cross many genres from hard rock to even blues/jazz occasionally, and reach listeners.

Is there a good place online where people can hear your music?

I am active online in most of the musical sites: Reverbnation, Myspace, YouTube, Facebook, and am just getting started on Grooveshark, PureVolume, Ilike, and a few others. It is quite time consuming.

Is there a good place online for people to contact you?

People can contact me wherever they are. I have sites on every social network and am active on them daily. Music wise, Reverbnation has all of my music, and Myspace has a few demos, but I am active and up to date with them as well, in terms of shows, press and the like.

Tell me some about your life and background. What has led up to where you are today?

I grew up on the East Coast and moved around lots as a child. I was and am quite shy and this was difficult & traumatic for me. I connected with music and animals by age 4 and have never looked back…they are the only two constants in an otherwise turbulent life. In order to have time and space to devote to my art, I decided to become a nutritionist and naturopath long before it was mainstream. I became an acupuncturist as well. Paradoxically, a lot of my own personal healing has taken place, while I have done that work. What I have learned is that if we all focused on fixing ourselves, our systems, and planet would be a lot healthier than they are!

You seem to do a really good job at marketing yourself and your music. Can you tell me about ReverbNation? What is it, what do they do, how do you use it? How much does it cost?

Thank you! I have learned a bit about that in the past 5 months!

The Business of Music is the business of finding listeners… and well, it is necessary to market in order to get people to listen, and it takes a lot of effort and a long time…fortunately there are some great tools online for indie artists.

I really like ReverbNation. It has everything an independent artist needs to start an online presence, and it is FREE. It also contains an application for Facebook called MyBand which is also FREE, so there is no excuse not to do it. It is an excellent tool to build your fan base and get noticed. They also chart artists. You can chart in one genre and it is based on your influence as an artist and on the web, and it is very good. When you have a good standing on Reverbnation, it is something that venues, radio stations and blogs and music critics and even labels pay attention to. There are also many opportunities to submit to showcases and industry events for even more exposure. I am just starting out, so I haven’t yet done that.

I notice you have a nice ReverbNation music link for your Facebook page. How does that work?

That is the MyBand Facebook App. It contains all your Reverbnation stats and show schedule and songs right on your band page of Facebook. I am a bit disappointed I had to get a separate page for my music on FB, it is not really that accessible to people at this point, but it is gradually gaining speed. I’ve only had it up a short time.

Which do you like, what do they do?

I mainly work with ReverbNation, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter and Facebook. I think they all have their great points. Reverbnation is a great marketing vehicle. So is MySpace if you use it properly , and it takes a long time to get results.

Facebook is a favorite place to connect. I like Twitter, but it is more limited musically, i.e. no players etc…although you can use links. You can network with others and I have enjoyed meeting great bands and musicians on there, so it has helped me a lot locally!

MySpace has pretty much been dead for musicians in the short time I have been on board, so not much opportunity there at present. But I suspect that will change down the road.

YouTube is a must for anyone who performs live so others can see your act live.

How about online radio? Rulus? What else? Tell me about radio opportunities.

There are SOOOO many. I am on so many it’s hard to list: Iradio104-LA, 103.1-LA, Live 365, radio UK, Clear Channel, Rukus is 24/7 indie, unsigned radio, Radio Rock Café, Indie-Lite, Indie Dial IMradio, and Westsidewill both local in Chicago, Houndstooth, LA, Women’s Radio, and Chicago Music Promotions, Fearless, MaxiMum Threshold. I have hit the ground running with online stations, college radio although my demographic is 24-45 really out of that college age group, and some local non commercial AM and FM stations and shows and also more and more overseas. I just got picked up in several countries: France, Italy, Canada, UK, and Russia. I think getting played is good, period, so if it’s available, I go for it.

Booking shows -- you also seem really good at getting yourself booked. What's your method?

I am new and have a minute local fan base at present, (although they are loyal) so it is stressful when venues want a big head count. If I know I can’t produce it I do not agree to do a show.

If I can book it, I always put on the best performance I can. The sets are fresh interesting and I put my total energy into it! I turn down a lot of ops because I know I will not produce the number of people the venue wants, even though the show itself might be great, but in the long run I think it is a better plan.

I, right now, prefer to do showcases so I do not have the responsibility of carrying the night! It is also a good way to network (sometimes) with other acts. I try to have a fan or friend video each show or at least a part and I upload them to YouTube, I think that helps in a number of ways to get your next show booked.

Also, frankly, with the internet there are ways to perform and build your fanbase without any stress with regard to venues…USTREAM for example.

Other places to play are bookstores, music stores, outdoors and even healthclubs and private clubs…sometimes you have to be creative.

Where do you see yourself headed?

I have no earthly idea! I do know that this is going with the flow for me, and I am trying to just let music happen, and to address my fears about that as they surface. For myself, I am just trying to live with integrity as an artist, and put out music worth listening to and shows worth attending.

Where would you like to be in one year?

Playing better venues with a huge amount of critical support, locally and globally and a firm fan base in downtown Chicago.

How about in 5 years?

Being successful in music and using what I learn to either start a label or design an artist development project geared towards helping other artists succeed.

What's a good tip you can share with other independent musicians?

Believe in yourself and your music, be professional, work very hard, do not be afraid to spend money. It is an investment in your art! Do Not consider marketing yourself a bad thing.

Let's talk male and female. I have been to places with line-ups of 4 or 5 bands and there is not a female among them. I think a lot of young men are rockist -- do you know this term? It means basically thinking that rock music is electric guitars, bass, drums, and done by males. What is your experience of this, if any?

Well, male ego is a problem especially to young female solo artists. I am always the only woman playing solo at any given venue and certainly the only solo woman in places like the Cubby Bear. Part of my mission is to help other women get past that intimidation and take their rightful places in rock music.

Most of the young men, I‘ve encountered in Chicago are really kind, respectful and complimentary. Many of them have come up to me after shows pointed at their band mates and said we could not never have done here what you have done!

Truthfully, my mother died in a cataclysmic way a couple of years ago and that has enabled me to get past my fears because it was the worst thing that could ever happen to me and well I now compare everything to that…

You seem pretty versatile -- guitar, keyboard, singing. How did you learn all this?

Thanks! Just years and years of compulsion and practice. I have played piano since early childhood, sung since kindergarten, and took up guitar in my early 20’s… written instrumentals since age 25.

I took piano lessons as a kid but I wasn’t always the most dedicated at practicing, ...I’m still not…I play constantly and can write at the drop of a hat but hate doing the same stuff over and over…it’s torture! Even in the studio, I am very motivated to try to get a song in one take and all the demos were done in one take…I studied voice very briefly and guitar very briefly.but learned the most by just playing and singing constantly.

I also love to do creative arrangements of classic and well known rock songs for example a piano vocal Soundgarden Cover. I find these projects sometimes even more creative than writing my own songs. Due to the studio and recording process, I have had to learn to be much more disciplined than I like to be…it is better for my art though.

What are 5 things you think would help you move forward in music as you would like?

#1 Finishing Conundrum my debut album to my 100% satisfaction…we are 95% done

#2 Sending it out to those who have asked to review it

#3 Just going for it with regard to sending it to major blogs and radio stations & labels!

#4 Believing in myself and my talent.

#5 Learning about production…not to do it but to have a more specific and concrete way of communicating with the engineer so the finished project reflects me 100% artistically.

If you are playing at a small, quiet place and someone is talking loudly and interrupting the show for others, what do you do?

It happened last weekend but it was a tiny baby that the parents left with…still it was a distraction and I made a joke about the baby not being a fan. For me, I will use humor to get a message across. I really do not like to be disrespected and it must be addressed. Although it is rare, a performer must be prepared to take charge in this instance.

Can you set up and run all your own equipment?

YES!!! When you begin doing shows it is so important to know how to make sure there are no or minimal technical problems for everyone’s benefit!

What is your favorite guitar?

I am a Fender girl….I have others, some quite expensive but only play the Fenders! I am a Yamaha keyboard lover too…no board gets the sound and action of a Piano like Yamaha does.

Who are your musical influences?

Soooo so many, but the majors are:

Pink Floyd

Led Zepplin

Nirvana

Pearl Jam

Heart

Patti Smith

Doors

Beatles

Stones

Gomez

Deathcab for Cutie

FooFighters

Pretenders

RadioHead

Red Hot Chili Peppers

U2

Rikki Lee Jones

Lucinda Williams

If you could pose with a giraffe or a sports car, which is more you?

Definitely the Giraffe…Always and Forever More! ☺

Thank you, Taryn!

IMPORTANT EDITORIAL NOTE: Before you sign up for any online or other service, be sure to read the FULL CONTRACT or have a lawyer do so for you. Some of the services that Taryn lists have not been checked out by Sue Basko, and Sue cannot vouch for their contracts.

PHOTO CREDIT: Top photo by Kari Skaflen

Character Actor: Interview with Dave Vescio

Character Actor: Interview with Dave Vescio
By Sue Basko

Today's blog is really special. Dave Vescio is a character actor in Los Angeles. Dave often plays quirky characters. You can watch Dave's demo reel by clicking here. But, please come back and read the interview. Dave gives great advice for aspiring and working actors and directors.

Sue: You're a character actor. Actors used to be more or less divided up between leading men and character actors, and now there are leading roles for actors like Steve Buscemi and Zach Galifianakis. Do you think roles are changing?


Dave: Yes and no. I still think that the majority of the lead roles in the United States will always be handed out to leading men and leading women types. For some reason our culture is really focused on how people look. We’re always judging one another on if they’re good looking or not. Like that really matters if someone is worth knowing or dating, because of what they look like on the outside. So, stupid… But, the truth of the matter is, is that’s how life in the United States is. So, that’s how our film & television industry is geared towards; because the customer is ALWAYS right!


And years ago, I was taught by my mentors that ninety percent of film & TV acting is just based on: how you look. Meaning, do you look like this type of character from the get-go? And if so, then the other ten percent is based on: can you take direction or not.


So, that’s how I base my own career, from the get-go. I look like a desperate/flawed antagonist, villain, and/or an interesting offbeat, and these are the roles that I get. But, once in awhile, I do get the lead role, versus the supporting role or day player role. And I think the same is with Steve Buscemi and Zach Galfianakis. Yes, they do play lead roles from time to time, but, they also play a lot of supporting roles or cameo roles as well. But, that’s fine. I have no qualms with this. My job is to be the best actor that I can be. And as Stanislavsky once said, “There are no small parts, only small actors.”


Sue: Please give advice. Say someone wants to be an actor today. Say they are past college age. What acting training do you think would be ideal. Name names. Name places, if you will.


Dave: That’s a good question. This is what I recommend to all beginner actors. Read every single acting book that you can get your hands on. Go to the public library, go to the bookstore, and read away. Now, out of these couple dozen acting books that you’ve read; which acting theories stick with you best? Which ones would you like to study further in the classroom setting; or one-on-one with an acting coach? That’s what I did.


I read three dozen plus acting books, and I realized that I only liked two acting books. One was called ‘True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor’ by David Mamet, and the other was called ‘Practical Handbook for the Actor’ which was written by David Mamet’s students. So, David Mamet’s acting theory is what I needed to study through and through, so I applied to his acting conservatory in New York City in 2002 (The Atlantic Theater Company Acting School), got accepted, and the rest is history! :)


Plus, art will always be subjective, so, you have to trust your instincts, your own style of acting, and allow your acting career to take you, where ever it takes you. That’s the best advice that I can ever give to any beginner actor. Trust your instincts!


Sue: What is the best way to get started in acting?


Dave: Honestly, the best way to get started in acting is to allow yourself to perform where ever and whenever you can. Perform on the streets, perform in a local community play, perform in a school play; shoot, perform where ever you can. Go do monologues on your street corner; create street theatre; create a play for your local community to see; create a short film; do whatever you got to do to get seen by the general public. And by doing it “for real”, you’ll start to see what works and what doesn’t work with the paying audience. And let the audience teach you. The customer is ALWAYS right; and the sooner that you can accept that, the sooner you can make-a-living at professional acting.


Sue: What is the best way to get an agent in L.A?


Dave: I just tell beginner actors to submit to every single agent that there is in their local city. And let the agents decide if they want to work with you or not. And if none of them want to work with you, then you have no choice but to become your own agent. That’s what I did; and still do, to this day.


Yes, I have an agent, and I’ve had many agents & managers over the years, but, I’ve always got my own paid acting work, on my own. Every single paid acting job that I’ve ever gotten to this day is because of my own hustling efforts. I hustle every single day! I submit myself to every single acting job that there is; from the breakdowns, to all the different casting notice websites, to all the in-development & pre-production lists that there are, and etc. etc. And in the end, I’m ALWAYS booking my own acting jobs! :) So, if by chance, you cannot find a good sales person to sell your product for you, meaning, a good agent or a good manager, then you have to sell it yourself. And I’ve learned early on, that I can become my own agent and/or manager; and I did, and I still do it every single day.


There’s a dozen plus books written by agents and managers on how to get acting work for your self. So, go out there and read them. Knowledge is POWER! The more you Know, the more you apply what you Know, the more Power that you’ll have in the end. Read, Study, Practice, Master, and Teach; it’s an endless cycle. But, a cycle that ALWAYS guarantees success in life! :)


Sue: You have started calling yourself a Sci Fi Actor. What is that about? Are you a big Sci Fi fan?


Dave: Right now my publicity team is calling me a sci-fi actor, because I have a lot of sci-fi films coming out in 2011; such as ‘Gemini Rising’ (starring Lance Henriksen) which will air on the Syfy Channel later on this year; and a Lionsgate movie called ‘Virus X’. But, my other film & TV genres are definitely horror, crime, and dark comedy. But, I am a big sci-fi fan as well! :) I just love science fiction, and always have! Shoot, any storyline that has a hero, a villain, and a victim in it, is a great storyline to me. And science fiction projects definitely fit that type of storyline! :)


Sue: I have long been impressed by your work. I have been open about that for some time. You really have a presence on screen. Does that come naturally or what are your secrets?


Dave: Thank you; I really do appreciate the compliments Susan! :) And yes, I do work on my screen presence every single day. I meditate, connect my chakras, exercise, drink lots of water, massage my face, do yoga, play to win, and perform monologues to random people on the street corners. I feel the more time I spend in the present moment, where I’m not thinking about the past or the future, the better my odds are that I’ll have a screen presence like no other on set. So, I constantly work on my screen presence every single day of every single year.


Sue: What are some of your favorite roles you have played?


Dave: My favorite roles will always be the antagonists, the villains, and/or the interesting offbeats. And 95% of my roles definitely fit that category; which is why I love to act professionally!


Sue: Would you like to do a TV series where you recur or are a main character?


Dave: Ugh… Not really. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love to act in anything that I can. And I never, ever turn down a paid acting job; unless it conflicts with another shoot date. But, I rather be in a storyline that has a definite beginning, a middle, and an end. And episodic TV cannot promise that for me. I guess I need closure in life, so, that’s why I prefer to do feature films, TV movies, commercials, and music videos. They always have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Plus, I cannot see myself being the same character, week after week, month after month, and year after year. It seems just too boring to me. I just love to become a different kind of character every single month. It’s why I act in the first place; to experience something new (every single month).


Sue: Advice: People reading my blog are from the US and from the world. They are looking to know about Hollywood. Some would like to go there to be an actor, director, etc. Can you tell them something -- advice, warnings, useful tips?


Dave: I’ve been in the “Show Business” world for over a decade now. I first started off filming documentaries professionally, then I became a TV photojournalist for CBS News (specializing in natural disasters & man-made disasters), then I co-taught TV Production and Electronic News Gathering at Virginia Tech, and then in 2006 I became a professional actor here in Hollywood.


So, this is what I truly recommend to all of your readers: why did they choose to use these following words to describe our business: Show Business, Lead role, Actor, and Director. What do these words truly mean? What’s the actual dictionary definition of all of these words? That’s it, that’s all you ever have to do with your career. That’s the secret to having success in this business of ours! :) And I know; it sounds so easy, but, it’s not. There’s so much to learn about these words.


So, let’s look at “Show Business”. What does “Show” actually mean? It means to actually “show” your art work to every single person that you’re ever going to meet in your life. By doing “business” tactics; such as marketing, advertising, publicity, networking, social networking, and etc. That’s it, that’s all you ever do. Just show, show, and show your work to every single person that you possibly can show it to. And let them teach you what they liked & disliked about it. The audience will make you the BEST that you can be! :) So, you got to listen to them. They pay your bills in the end. And without them -- meaning, the paying audience, you’ll never make-a-living in this business of ours. It’s just the way it is. We co-exist with one another. The performer & the audience member are the yin and the yang. We cannot exist without the other. Otherwise, it's just self-masturbation; meaning, creating art for yourself. So, don’t be afraid of the audience member, embrace them, and let them teach you whatever they wish to teach you. You've got to listen to them, no matter what.


Criticism is like sandpaper. It's going to hurt like hell. It's going to make you bleed. But, in the end, it just polishes you up. So, let ALL that criticism polish you up!


What does “Lead role” mean? It means to actually “lead” the audience to the story, plus, through the story as well. So, lead the general audience to every single one of your stories, and lead them through it as well. Even if you’re like me and you’re just a character actor (who just plays lead roles from time to time), be the “leader” no matter what. Lead the general audience to every single one of your stories. I was taught for every dollar that you pay me to act; I have to make you fifteen dollars back. So, it’s my job to lead the audience to the story, no matter what. To make my producers their money back. It’s about giving all you got. So, that’s what I do. I give it ALL, no matter what. And in return, I get hired over and over again as a professional actor. And this applies to directors as well. You got to “lead” the audience to your stories and through your stories, no matter what. Once again, don’t be afraid to be criticized by the audience. It’s their job to criticize, and it’s our job to listen to them, and give them something better the next time around!


And the same goes with the words “Actor” and “Director”; actors act (meaning, doing an action), and directors direct (meaning, actually directing the actors, the dp, and the rest of the crew members). So, actors have to do an actual physical action when they act, and directors have to direct, and not let the actors direct themselves (which most directors do); which I honestly don’t get.


So, that’s the best advice that I can give to anyone in this business of ours. Just “Show” your art work by using every single “Business” tactic that there is, to every single human being that you can possibly show it too. That’s the secret to success in any career in the “Show Business” world! :)


Best of SUCCESS to you ALL! :)


You might also want to read:

Rob Adler on Acting, Teaching Acting to Children and Adults, Games, and Other Thoughts

Demo Reels: How and Why

Using Songs in a Film Legally - Synch Rights

Using Songs in a Film Legally, Part 2: What about Music Licensors?

What is a Talent Agent and How Do I Get One?

Click to read Courrier: Thoughtful Rock Band Marketing


Voice Coach: Interview with Cari Cole

Voice Coach: Interview with Cari Cole
by Sue Basko

Today's blog guest is distinguished New York City voice coach, Cari Cole. Cari has graciously agreed to share her expertise and advice with all of us.

You work in New York City, right?

Yes, I am the Founder of Cari Cole Voice & Music Co for the past 20+ years in New York City on 34th St.

Do you have your own studio? Can you tell me about it?

I have a boutique Pro-Tools production studio where I work with aspiring, emerging and famous singers and bands, helping them find their voice, craft their music and create successful careers.

What is your background/ training/ education?

Voice, Songwriting & Composition, Guitar, Piano and Flute. I studied classical guitar and flute from the age of 6. Studied voice in an apprenticeship with a renowned vocal coach from 19 yrs to 27. Studied voice, songwriting, composition and jazz guitar at the New York School for Commercial Music under Stan Persky, Director of Music at New York’s City College. Was a principal Vocal coach at the Katherine Agresta Vocal Studios for several years in the late 80’s and founded my own vocal studio in 1987.

What do you do?

I am a vocal coach, songwriter, producer, arranger and manager.

Who do you work with?

Grammy winners, American Idol finalists, Major and Indie label artists, and aspiring and emerging artists.

What kind of singers?

All commercial styles. Pop, rock, R & B, Gospel, Folk, Country, Hip Hop, etc.

What genre singers do you most work with?

All commercial styles.

Who are your typical clients?

Half of my clientele is under 17, aspiring artists in development. The other half is over 17 and are emerging and professional recording artists.


Who do you think should have a singing coach?

Everyone who aspires to have a professional career.

What are some of your techniques?

Think down for higher notes.

Keep the chest lifted throughout singing (pectorals engaged)

Open your mouth more on your words.

Breathe into your ribs sideways and into your back ribs for higher notes.

Drink the tone.

Move your jaw downward on all vowels.

Lift the soft palate and drop the tongue.

You can find out more about all of these techniques here:

http://www.caricole.com/SingersGift/

What is the minimum number of lessons that are required to make any difference?

One.

I hear quite a few singers that I think could use some help. Some of these are from rock bands and others are singer songwriters. Some are off pitch, others just have voices that are not very pleasant. Some are just mediocre. Some are so "off" it is funny or pathetic. I wonder, how can they not know? Should someone be telling them? I think there is no one with incentive to tell them. Surely a studio is not going to tell them - it wants their money. And their family and friends won't tell them. I won't tell them unless they specifically ask, and then they either do not believe me or do not like to hear it, of course. What can be done? I mean, I am asking this because it is an actual problem I face. People will tell me they cannot get more bookings or they cannot get airplay, and I feel like I should tell them why. How do YOU let someone know they sound bad or just not very good?

I am very honest with my artists. They depend upon me for that so I don’t have any problem telling them the truth. I always give them a way to fix what isn’t working so they don’t feel hopeless. It really works, they get inspired to make the changes they need. If someone is really off pitch, I tell them what they have to do - but I also may ask them why they want to do music when it may not be what they are going to excel at.

Honestly I think you should give them your professional feedback and tell them they MUST work with a vocal coach before you will work with them. People need to hear the truth - especially from a professional. Don’t be afraid to do that. You have to tell them the reason they are not getting bookings or airplay is because their recordings are not good enough - and then break it down further, like “the voice is not strong enough, or off pitch” etc. I do that all the time.

If someone does not sing on pitch, can you work with them to get them able to do it?

Yes for the most part, but a lot depends on their music background. If someone has no music background and they are off pitch, I am not inclined to work with them because the results are usually not good - they have to study music - an instrument, develop their ear first. I use Hearfones (hearfones.com) to improve and fix pitch along with my specific vocal techniques- they are awesome.

if someone has a voice that is not pleasant, can you somehow make it pleasant?

If it’s a problem with nasality or off pitch and they have a music background, those things can be fixed. If the voice doesn’t sound good and the singer doesn’t work hard enough, and does not have a music background or play an instrument there is nothing that can be done.

Cardio exercise is great for breath control. What other daily activities help build singing skill?

Vocalizing scales and singing with blues and jazz singers to improve phrasing (even if you sing rock).

Have you worked with anyone who has really done you proud? Who?

Diane Birch, Chrisette Michele, and many more but I am most proud of Diane for all the work we did together and for her recent success.

Do you perform as a singer?

Yes. I have performed all over - from CBGB’s to Carnegie Hall & Town Hall as well as the Bluebird Café in Nashville and many others. I have a record out called The Circle of Fire, that is inspired by the NY Times bestselling book, The Four Agreements, available now on iTunes worldwide or at www.cdbaby.com/caricole. I have a worldwide following and have sold upwards of 20,000 records.

How about changes in voices -- the change in a boy from boy to adult, changes as we get older, etc? How do you work with this?

Vocal technique assists the changes in the voice from pubescent to adolescent. A voice that trains stays in great shape long into the 70’s. Any decline in the voice has not to do with age but with declining health.

How can a person find a voice coach near where they live?

Google. Local to NYC -- nyst.org

What should they look for in a voice coach?

Someone who is patient, knowledgeable, can easily explain how to use the voice and answer any question satisfactorily. It’s also best to work with someone who works with artists in the industry and can help guide you from an industry perspective as well. I.e.: If you are a commercial singer and want to be a recording artist, study with a contemporary coach and not an opera coach.

Do you coach voice for non-singers -- for the speaking voice?

I do work with the speaking voice - but only with my singers.

Can you suggest a few simple at-home practices to help our voices?

Study and train. Find a great coach. There are also a lot of home study courses like my Singers Gift Vocal warm-ups www.caricole.com

Practice technique every day.

Practice breathing into your abdomen, ribs and back to drop your diaphragm.

Record yourself and listen back to make improvements.

Sing with Hearfones to improve your pitch.

Learn an instrument.

Take drum lessons to improve your timing.

-- Cari Cole

C A R I C O L E V O I C E & M U S I C C O M P A N Y

T. 800.330.5250

401 E. 34th St. Ste. #N19K

New York, NY 10016

Email: Cari@CariCole.com

www.caricole.com

www.caricole.com/SingersGift/

www.caricole.com/stepupII/index.html

www.facebook.com/CariColeVoiceandMusic

www.twitter.com/caricole

www.youtube.com/caricolevoicemusicco

Cari’s CD, The Circle of Fire, inspired by the NY Times bestselling book, The Four Agreements, available now on iTunes worldwide or at www.cdbaby.com/caricole

Click to read Courrier: Thoughtful Rock Band Marketing

Getting Good Rock Band Photos:
Interview with Magi Wangler

Getting Good Rock Band Photos:
Interview with Magi Wangler
by Sue Basko

Every rock band or solo performer needs good photographs. Photos are needed for EPKs, press releases, websites, blogs, Facebook and myspace, and music sales sites. For online music sales, each song and each album need a picture. Bands also sell posters and postcards. Obviously- for most of today's purposes, you need high-resolution digital photographs.

NOTE: Click on any of the photos to see an enlarged version of it.
Click twice and the photo gets huge! Fun!

The photos communicate what you look like, but also what your whole vibe is about. By looking at one picture, the viewers should be able to tell if they want to hear this music or see this band, or not. A metal band must have a different style presentation from a pop band.

Who makes this happen? The photographer! Earlier this year, when the Chicago pop rock band, The Daymakers, needed pictures, I called photographer, Magi Wangler. Magi has a keen eye, good directorial skills, and solid technical expertise.

First, Magi talked with me about what I thought should be the goal of the photo sessions. Then she called Sean Skyler, the band's singer-songwriter, to discuss his goals and ideas. They all met in downtown Chicago on a dreary, foggy weekend day. This was not ideal for picture-taking, but the shivers from the cold do give the photos a sense of Chicago urgency. First, Magi took the band to pose on steps of an el station.

The next destination was out in the middle of Lasalle Street. She shot a series of photos at different angles, with the yellow street lines as counterpoint. One of those photos was later turned into a promo poster for an in-store performance.


Magi then headed with the band to an old railroad underpass, where she took a series of color and black-and-white photos. These have a great depth to them. Photos were also taken in a park, at the lakefront, and on a rooftop.

A few weeks later, I called Magi to please come out for a show. The Daymakers were playing at the House of Blues Chicago, and it would be a great opportunity to get pictures of the band in action. The House of Blues dressing rooms are decorated in an "outsider art" style -- very magical and colorful. This made a great setting for photos.

Magi then took a series of photos of the band members descending a winding staircase down several flights to the stage. Then, she took show photos, both from the floor, and above from the balconies.

All in all, I was extremely pleased with the pictures. I thought the band's essence had been captured. They could use the photos to show what they looked like in concert.

I recently asked Magi these questions:

Sue: When you are taking pictures of a band, what is your goal?
Magi: To make them look good, and make the picture look good.
Sue: How do you prepare for the shoot/ with the band? how do you find out what they want and what will work?
Magi: First, I listen to their music. You have to see where they are at on the art spectrum. Then, we go from there. I also discuss with them a style or any ideas they have. I believe it is always a team effort.
Sue: What are some trends now in photography?
Magi: Different techniques and styles are coming out every second! But, I have been seeing a lot of editorial or fine art style.
Sue: My brother-in-law says band photos always have to have one guy looking away as if he is too cool. What's your take on this?
Magi: LOL! Sometimes it does look stupid. But other times, it can be very effective. It just all depends.
Sue: What famous band or musician would you like to take photos of?
Magi: The list is too long! I love music!!!!! And all kinds of it, from rap to country and everything in between! But a couple of my faves are Dave Matthews Band and the Black Crowes. I would just love to photograph them!
Sue: What makes a great singer songwriter photo?
Magi: Many factors play into making a great singer songwriter photograph. I feel it is great when I can really show the band’s style and energy through the photograph.
Sue: What do you think makes a certain image stick in peoples' heads?
Magi: Emotion! If you can provoke an emotion from the viewer of your image, whether good or bad, you have accomplished your mission.
Sue: Did you go to school for photography?
Magi: Yes, I did. I have my B.A. from Columbia College Chicago. I majored in commercial photography, but learned all of my basics and started my love affair with photography in high school.
Sue: How many hours do you spend on a typical shoot?
Magi: It's different every time. It depends on the subjects. An average time is about 2 hours.
Sue: Where can you be reached, if bands want you to be their photographer?
Magi: Email Magi at: DocumentTheDay@gmail.com
p""

All photos Copyright Magi Wangler and Sean Skyler, 2010. Used with permission from Magi Wangler.