My goal is to share as much knowledge, with up and coming and established vocalists, what it takes to do what successful singers do… how they made it and how they stay on top of their game. A great Producer is key. Canada’s producing icon, Gavin Brown, shares his years of experience and insight on how to make that happen. A must see for any serious singer! The link to my website to get info on how to continue a conversation with Gavin is www.mitchseekinsvocalstudio.com
Hi! I’m Mitch Seekins – The Vocal Coach.
Welcome to the ‘Sing Like A Pro Interview Series” where you find out from people who are at the top of their game, what they did to get there and what they do to stay there!
This and the next upcoming Interview is especially important for you to have a listen to as it may be the difference between a highly successful music career….and one that’s… just ok.
One of the biggest lessons to learn as an artist/vocalist is….that you can’t do this alone. Behind the scenes of EVERY successful artist is…a team. People who help create and develop a career with you, are paramount to your success. A major player in that team is a Producer… who can help take your songs that might well be good …and make them great, tuning them into hits, which is the key to having and sustaining a thriving, prosperous career.
This episode features Gavin Brown, one of Canada’s most prolific and successful music producers who works at a global scale. To date he has produced over 40 #1 hits and countless top 10’s … His insights and advice are backed by many years of experience and I think you are going to want to hear them. Please listen to the end for important info if you’d like to learn more from Gavin! If you like this please share and hit that subscribe button…I have a lot more to come!
Mr. brown how are you doing?
I’m well, Mr. Seekins, how are you?
I’m doing good… just fine. It’s been a long time, it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen you face to face, anyway.
You know there’s reasons for that unfortunately….
Yeah I know I know,
But you know but you’re in my life regularly you uh, come up in my calendar “vocal lesson with Mitch” you know a bunch of different artists I work with!
You’ve worked with like some crazy, I mean crazy people: Bare Naked Ladies, Tragically Hip, uh Billy Talent, Metric, New Kids On The Block… I didn’t know you did some stuff with New Kids On The Block! Yep!
That’s cool and even you did something with Lady Gaga… a long time ago I know! All this stuff I found on the internet.
you know oh the internet yeah!
And i mean of course Three Days Grace which is you know, how i was introduced to them…
I think that was like as of 2015, so there’s even more stuff since then.
Yeah i think there’s a number of your clients, even like Ian Thornley, I worked with him
uh i know that you work regularly with Matt
you know and uh I’ve made two records with matt as the singer um or three, two and a half or something an amount of, an amount of recording yeah and uh um yeah we did a cover song in there “Three Days Grace Version of “Somebody That I Used To Know” that’s what we did. so we uh you know you know I’ve known Matt a long time and yeah I worked with him in My Darkest Days era even before then… you know he has a couple co-writes on the very first Three Days Grace record
yeah i know he was telling me!
Yeah so we’ve we’ve known each other a long time and I you know I really respect his work ethic and his talents and you know, his drive to you know to , to be amazing. you know i think when Adam left and and Matt had the interim uh position on that tour for Three Days Grace, uh you know he took it very, very seriously and wanted you know wanted to make sure he could keep the job
and you know not only did he keep the job he’s excelled!
hey it’s fantastic you know we went and had a few number one songs um you know with him singing um and uh you know and it’s not easy to replace a singer especially one as identifiable as Adam you know and when you look at history you have ACDC, you have Van Halen uh and you have uh Three Days Grace you know those are the bands that have had you know, i guess Journey but that’s you know that’s a different kind of story
that’s a different yeah that’s a different thing they’re not continuing up to continuing to put out new music as far as i know
yeah, no and they’ve also had like 700 members that’s a different kind of dance yeah like where you know all we did was replace one person and uh you know and maintained the fan base and maybe grew it as well so…
absolutely grew it! um the last number one that that they did that was Matt’s seventh with the band you know and i think they’ve got a few more coming up on this new record i think fabulous fabulous record
Well I think a lot of that’s, you know, attributable to you um Mitch to tell you the truth… you know they have you know other than that pandemic layoff they toured extensively across the globe and you know uh you know those are long concerts filled with you know acrobatics and higher high energy performance and you know loud you know uh you know loud music with a large range of you know large range and um you know matt’s ability to you know uh you know i remember touring with them a bunch uh off and on and him like you know i thought you know i’d come backstage after the struggle matt matt you nailed it he goes well yeah but in the third song i missed this note and then the fifth song that you know you know the attention to detail was just fantastic yeah yeah and his ability to like i said earlier you know to have um you know this is a marathon the music business it’s not a sprint and so like you said it’s seven number ones you know and it feels like yesterday he just joined i know i know i was i was looking at my books and i think we started you introduced me to him in 2014 and we’ve never stopped working we keep it in between tours yeah you know we continue yeah and good for him to do that you know there’s a music the music business is you know i try to draw a parallel to professional sports because you know there’s nothing else where that requires um the amount of uh skill talent luck um and you know in a small pool of folks who actually survive yeah and then you look at the folks who are at the top you know michael jordan always had a coach tiger woods always goes back to the range after every you know they the you know the folks at the top work hard to stay there and and you know matt’s a great example of someone who you know not didn’t just like oh i’m gonna learn some stuff from mitch and then go on to you know seven number ones you know you’re you’ve been integral in in creating that you know long-term long-term career yeah yeah yeah maintaining it you know they’re on tour right now they are they are and uh i haven’t heard i always like it when i don’t hear from my my guy i only hear from when they have problems that we work through that’s stressful well it’s not as quite as stressful for me it is as it is for them but i i still feel that oh my god okay what can i do to get him through you know this particular set of shows or show and all that kind of thing you’ve been doing this for a long time um but i actually i don’t really know much about you in terms of like how you started and that kind of thing so i’m presuming that you started as as a musician yeah so i started um piano lessons on mondays and drum lessons on wednesdays when i was five years old and so by the time i was in my mid-teens i was touring in a band as a drummer and then in my early 20s and that was kind of like a post-punk hardcore band in the late 80s early 90s and then you know we made a record with steve albini and and uh toured all over the states and you know i was still in high school uh and then after that i uh i actually sang in a band for a year which was probably um one of the most valuable learning experiences because a uh i realized i’m a terrible singer and b which was what people were telling me don’t give up okay yeah yeah yeah um you know but i also realized how much uh how difficult it is to stand up on stage and only have you know you only can open your mouth and you’re so vulnerable and you’re you know so i have a deep amount of respect for people who get up on the front of the stage and sing you know i was best suited hiding behind the drums you know acting like a sport you know like like uh you know enjoying that ability back there but singing you know was was emotionally destruct destructive for me and you know and really really uh you know it’s such a vulnerable place so i you know i i took that into producing later you know after i was a drummer for another bunch of years i played in a bunch of bands and toured around anybody that of note that uh i played drums in uh crash vegas the sky diggers i played in jim cuddy’s solo band i played in big sugar for a year and a half i played toured with sarah harmer um and then i joined a band called danko jones which was they had been opening up for big sugar on the last tour that i was on um and then after i left them uh big sugar i joined django jones for eight months and then that was when the my producing thing started because we went into the studio pretty much right away and i was the only guy in the room who had any studio experience i’d played drums on a ton of records between the age of 15 and 25 so right i think i was 26 at the time and uh you know so i produced uh this song called bounce which is still there you know a big radio song we had a number one song in canada yeah and in doing that uh i realized how much i you know how much i loved being in the studio and not just getting in a van or a bus and traveling for eight hours eight hours to to unload and set up and play to tear down yeah oh my god yeah so i you know the the multifaceted nature of of producing where you know it was song writing it was arrangement it was uh engineering it was yeah you know equipment and yeah and there’s the political stuff like the budgets and the managers and the labels and then there’s the psychological stuff we’re dealing with crazy people um on all and all fronts um you know and and you know i really enjoyed digging into that i i didn’t know that you did this guy diggers gig yeah i played on one of the records and toured them for a year and played with a bunch of guys i played with hayden i played uh with chris brown and kate fenner the bourbon tabernacles i uh i you know did a like but big sugar we did a lot of touring with government mule and we did a lot of jamming with those guys and they were in the almond brothers the two of them yeah you know uh you know i was a drummer i did a lot of drummy stuff and uh um you know i played on jim cuddy’s solo record i think i was 22 at the time you know i was yeah lucky to be um a professional at a young age uh as a drummer and i was lucky to realize that uh after 10 or more years of touring that that wasn’t for me yeah yeah you know no i mean and like you said it just seemed to be a natural progression to move into the producing side of things because you have the studio experience and yeah and you enjoyed it i mean that’s the i loved it yeah and i still i still do um and you know the main the main way i describe what i do is is i work with songs yeah and so so songs are the most important thing when i differentiate that from music music is one thing and songs are a different thing altogether yeah and songs have a distinct form and a distinct shape and are supported by music yeah so uh a lot of my work is done before we even go into the studio a lot of my work is done you know um i wouldn’t even call it pre-production it’s just working on the songs and then also you know getting uh you know uh an idea together as to what we’re trying to achieve you know really making an agreement amongst all the participants as to you know because not everybody wants to play at their canada center you know i like i like people who do yeah you know of course yeah you know but not everybody’s willing to do you know the amount of personal work and the amount of uh effort and the amount of you know uh psychological work that it takes to do that in it because it’s really really hard to to to be up there yeah i know that and that’s a major point that i’m trying to because i’ve done a whole series of of these so far and i’ve got a lot more to do and it’s trying to educate young singers coming up that the psychological end of things particularly is that that requires a lot of work and it’s not just something that just kind of happened yeah and it has you know there’s i find that there’s a uh you know it happened to me it seems to happen everybody where there’s like kind of a bursting of the adolescent bubble where you think you’re the center of the universe and you think that you know you’re it’s my music and it’s like well no it’s not it’s uh the audience’s music yeah you know i did i didn’t invent a minor did you you know like yeah yeah we’re we’re part of an arc of hundreds of or of years of of modern western music and you know we’re just little little blips in the sand here yeah and so so trying to you know get your you know get this fragile insecure ego which you know all artists have which is part of the beauty of it all yeah and focus that that energy towards you know the audience and remember what it was like when you first heard music that made you understand yourself and may you know drew you into the into wanting to be that a professional communicator you know that so what that requires is a different relationship with music than you think yeah than people think and so being a professional communicator requires professionalizing which is where you come in because talent is one thing but skill is learned is learned i know so you know i you know i had a lot of talent luckily my family’s musical but i also worked you know i would when i was really trying to be a drummer i would practice 10 hours a day and then go do a gig you know i had you know i had my ass kicked by by a number of factors in my life and and another a number of musicians you know who were like hey kid you’re pretty good but you’re not good enough yeah and so so i you know when i was a drummer i took you know i worked my ass off and i studied and i really really worked hard um to be able to to be great at my craft and then when i turned into a more in the songwriting and the in the uh recording side i learned how to do every bit of pro tools i learned all of the gear i learned how to engineer i learned all the all the things that were needed to be a producer you know even though i never really engineered a record i needed you know like i would always have an engineer um you know so so i i take you know i take it the professional side of things very very seriously and and i don’t believe that you know music i think everyone should have a relationship with music i think most people shouldn’t have a professional relationship with music yeah you know and it’s like i said you know and it’s okay and it’s okay absolutely you know weekend jam bands are fun as hell like absolutely um but i think you know it’s like me playing golf on the weekend i am so far from the pga tour it’s not even funny my best round you know is you know is is the not even close yeah so you know and that for some reason people buy a guitar and ten minutes later they think they should be neil young and it’s like ah you know you know but it really worked that way yeah you know so so you know it’s a lifelong pursuit and i you know i really appreciate uh folks like you who can uh you know really bring uh a really strong professional skill set to people and offer them the opportunity to maximize their talent yeah then you know and and that’s invaluable for me because you know i did that with a bunch of singers early on my career as much as i could in the studio until i knew about you and then you know um you know and then it’s uh then it’s like oh you know why don’t you go see mitch and then we’ll record in a few months you know yeah yeah so yeah um you know and then hey bass player won’t you go see the bass playing equivalent of mitch and you know like you know there’s there’s professionalization that has to happen yeah you know or it’s a choice not to and that’s you know that’s uh and then you’re gonna get the results that you that that the the you know the effort does equal the results for the most part yeah absolutely with all the singers that you’ve worked with there there is there is a difference between those who have studied and those who have not so yeah was was there a noticeable difference be before you you found out about what it is i do that you you could see you know this singer studied and and we’re able to do this and this singer hasn’t it’s still good but there’s limitations as to it’s mostly it’s mostly stamina and and yeah folks at least in the studio you know uh people come in you know with an identity or we focus their identity as much as we can so it’s not like it’s not like i need a singer who has you know unbelievable chops in seven different styles like you know like i don’t need someone to sing you know but but what they need to be able to do is is you know uh a you know last more than 20 minutes and b uh you know take direction um as much as possible and then c mostly have studied enough to get over the technique and be able to perform in an emotional capacity and that’s you know that’s the part you know uh where you know to relate it again to sports like you know i play golf all the time because and i love it and i’m terrible but i’m getting better yeah yeah yeah i work at it but i’m still thinking about my swing on the course whereas the guys i play with who are really good they’re just playing golf they’re just playing golf so you know so i’m still thinking about the the minutia of the technique and what you know and when i do it right it’s it turns out okay but then i don’t have the facility to do it right over and over again and that’s where someone who studied has a the stamina b the ability to to parse out what they’re doing right and wrong fix it and then repeat it and so you know that that’s that’s the you know and and those are professional qualities you know like you know i uh you know the the repeatability factor is huge you know when we do vocals we do multiple takes and we comp the vocals together right i don’t want you know seven or eight different takes i want seven or eight takes that are almost identical so i can then find that one that just has that emotional context yeah and that tone and that communication that’s better i don’t need seven wildly different takes i need seven exactly the same exactly yeah and that that requires you know uh uh the skill levels and the time that the commitment to get those skills um and that’s you know and that’s a big difference you know that’s a huge difference you’re working with a kid that we work with now a guy named nick you know who’s got a weird cool voice it’s very it’s very it’s it’s it’s so interesting it’s a very unique sound like it is i i’m i’m uh thrilled to be working with him because i don’t know if i’ve really worked with somebody with such like he opens his mouth you know it’s him yeah and then so for us you know yeah and so you know i’ve known him for a couple years now and we just went in the studio last week and i think we’re in tomorrow um yeah i think you’re working with him today or tomorrow um i didn’t even have to check my schedule i know he’s both but he’s he’s developed a number of these things a stamina b repeatability and and repeatability for him is tough because you know he’s kind of riffing on these melodies ideas you know they’re not he’s not you know when we first met he was he would just open his mouth and sing his thing and it was awesome and cool um and you know so and now we’re getting pronunciation better we’re getting toned that’s more easier home better yeah i’m working with him on top you know um we’re getting repeatability and we’re getting stamina and um you know and there’s a there’s a harshness that’s kind of been rounded off of his voice thankfully you know and you know we got we got to get the right mic and we got to get the right compressor and you know and the producer i’m not producing this stuff but i’m helping him you know with the songwriting so we’re making good song demos yeah and uh you know so whoever produces it is going to have a a fun time putting a tone around that voice like what’s the right and you said it earlier right you know what is it the sonic landscape or whatever that goes around the voice you know when we did billy talent’s first couple records ben has a really unique voice and you know i think we we got it on the radio yeah yeah yeah the number one songs um you know the music was so much more aggressive and the guitar tones would would offset some of the great the the grading quality of his voice but he also then did the work you know and they’re they’re they just sold out air canada center a couple weeks ago again you know so 20 years later i know they’re touring the world you know and and when he and i met he hadn’t taken any singing lessons and you know he had he just he did a lot of work and um you know again repeatability and you know all the things we’ve spoken about yeah so it’s it’s uh it’s it’s no secret i know it really is like i mean i i you know it’s it’s my job is interesting because i show people how to do it but it’s really up to them to actually get it done you know and it’s it’s it’s it’s nice to be at the level where you know i’m getting referrals from you know from you and from from people who are at that professional level who are committed to doing the work because it does it does it takes work and it takes time and it takes time you got to be patient with me yeah i had a drum teacher in my early twenties a guy named jim blackley who’s a legendary drum teacher in toronto and you know he’d say in his scottish accent i won’t be on the band stand with you tonight son yeah you know like uh you know oh you know you got to do the work you know and he’s got to do the work you know when i see him once a month and you know the minute i sat down he would know by my body posture if i’d if i’d been practicing he’d know whether you know like you know there’s no fooling anybody yeah yeah i know i know i know you know yeah you just you just end up shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t yeah i also find it’s important to put a perspective for folks that you know whatever you’re doing uh you know someone else is doing more and you know and uh you know and each of the when the spotify releases come out every friday there’s no sticker that says oh sorry i didn’t try hard you know there’s nothing there like you know it’s it’s it’s as much as you can possibly do to better yourself is is you know and that again is a psychological thing it really is yeah yeah is there is there any vocals that you’ve worked with you know over the years that that kind of stands out in your in your mind as as as being exceptional and and why like what so yeah so when i first started working with ian thornley um it was his first solo record after big wreck yeah we’ll come again and we wrote a bunch of songs and did a bunch of demos and you know he he has that extraordinary ability of being able to do a lot of things and so we narrowed it down to like we’re going to do a you know like a active rock you know the edge 102 kind of record and that was the kind of stuff that i was doing and he was signed to chad from nickelback and you know and he was an unbelievable guitar player but then we started doing you know when we were saying writing and he was singing he was like wow this is great but then for me i know what it’s like in front of a microphone yeah through the other side of the glass that’s really what i know when things are great and when he started singing it was just mind mind-blowing how great his tone his control his emotion you know his emotion his ability to communicate was just you know uh unbelievable you know not necessarily better than get his guitar but on par with his guitar playing you know which is world class as well yeah you know so so he you know he was absolutely spectacular uh the time i spent with lady gaga was just you know she’s unbelievable singer it was very little time but we did one song yeah so you did you did do vocals with her uh no i did uh like a pre-production session okay right my manager martin kirstenbaum who signed her originally to interscope um and produced and co-wrote a bunch of her first record um he did the vocals but her and i did a session here in toronto when she was here yeah you know her vocals you know it’s just her whole being her whole thing is just spectacular yeah yeah um you know uh you know there’s been a number of standouts um uh and i’m trying to i mean for me and that what you know what matt walsh does as well with three days grace is like oh yeah extraordinary geez you know it’s so funny i remember talking to barry the guitar player and he was going you know thank you so much for for taking care of matt and i’m going man you’re so lucky that this guy has like vocal cords of steel and you know barry’s kind of looking at me but it’s true you know matt has a genetic thing that allows him to sing in that intensity without ripping himself apart and this was this was 45 years ago when when barry said you know that to me and we’ve worked since and you know his ability has even you know gotten better and better he’s no longer killing himself for shows or anything like that it’s great you know i would agree yeah and that’s you know that’s unbelievable and a great guy yeah yeah yeah you know that band where you know it’s coming up 20 years now i know but i don’t know yeah ian studied with me for almost two years and and got what he needed and it’s just so funny you know in my mind he’s got one of the best rock voices in the world and you know for a guy who’s so kind of insecure about his voice he’s like man you got nothing to worry about my god you know it’s amazing if you haven’t seen it watch the uh ian thornley interview that i did you know the other guy i would be uh jeff martin from the tea party who was an underrated underrated everything you know he i made a record with them it was their seventh record it was called seven circles yeah i did most of it bob rock did a couple songs um and i was uh you know he was like one take wonder like he’d go in nail it you know pour a drink and say let’s you know next song next time you know and uh same with this guitar playing you know like i think i did tea party and ian thornley around the same time 2000 yeah or 2005 somewhere in there and yeah yeah yeah yeah unbelievable yeah i know i’ve never met jeff but what what a tone oh yeah like you know his voices and the ability to know who he is you know and what you know he he’s got a whole thing that he does and like it or not it’s what he does and he does it very very well yeah uh sarah harmer i did a bunch of work with her over the years her voice um you know put i think not very studied but you know natural talent and unique melodic sense um you know we did i played drums in our first solo single called basin apartment i put uh some singles on one of her records i produced a whole record i toured with her off and on all through the states and you know she was great um dude there’s a whole there’s a whole bunch of people i worked with you know oh i know and and they all have their you know strong points and and weak points and uh different levels of natural ability you know mixed with training or no training but they’re just you know just great singers i mean god i mean look at look at adele for example like yeah i don’t know if there’s any training there at all she may have gotten training now but oh my god what a singer holy cow you know amazing voice so everybody you know everybody’s different and it’s it’s it’s so cool you know when i hear you know guys like you actually bring out the best in a singer it’s it’s it’s always been so fascinating for me you know you must be listening to the the right songs then cause we don’t look do you have any advice i mean all this is advice for singers but do you have anything specific for vocalists heading into the studio like yeah there’s a bunch of things that are that are key on a the key yeah make sure you know what your range is uh tempo is huge for me i uh i find you know when people are writing 99 of the time you’re right too slow yeah and uh a lot of times i spend a lot of time getting the lyrical flow to be as if talking was happening but then add tone yeah and itch so you know like not unlike this this should be the cadence of of how the this verse should go but you know but when people write songs they want you know they write them too slow you know and then all this other stuff starts to happen uh where you know you then you have all this room to swoop into the note you have all this room to swoop out and create some sort of uh an articulation or you know and and uh that’s not for me the records i want to make are not really that you know i’m really into communicating you know i made four barenaked ladies records and and ed is talking about a guy who doesn’t you know he’s not he’s very economical like he doesn’t have huge power in terms of long big notes he’s a great singer in the terms of communicating and and you know and not wasting you know so that it would you know to get him to sing stuff in time you know in a tempo that moves is you know really easy because you know but then you know that’s that’s huge getting getting the tempo and the key right um you know also trying not to do too much in one day in the studio is you know uh there’s uh i have like a two hour limit a rule it’s like we’re not going to sing for more than two hours you know do your warm-up do your mitch she can warm up yeah and then then we’re gonna sing not more than two hours and uh you know hopefully there’s enough studio time booked over the course of several sessions in order to cut you know you can get a whole pile of stuff done in two hours you can get a song you can only get verses you you know like whatever yeah it feels like in the day make sure that you you know you know singing for six hours like just don’t nobody nobody nobody you know unless you’re a trained opera star you know doing a live performance like nobody i know can sing for six hours and deliver number one songs yeah yeah you know and also um you know a lot of that has to do with mental focus as well i don’t think people are able to sustain uh any sort of mental focus for more than that um you know even when you’re in it you’re in the zone you know uh i also like uh to not comp the vocals and and not evaluate the vocals until a later date because a lot of the emotional uh relationship to delivering it um when you’re doing it or if i’m in you know the people in the room and the control room are you know feeling it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always the best yeah yeah you know and it has to those that has to do with a different set of molecules in the room as opposed to what’s actually captured on tape yeah you know so and then another thing i try to do is make sure that uh you know the pressure’s off you know allow if you’re going into the studio allow yourself the ability to not get it that day yeah i talk to people all that all the time with that try not to feel the pressure think of it as there is no pressure if you do it wrong yeah do it again yeah yeah you know you have the opportunity you know you make sure you have the opportunity to especially when you’re young and new and you know and that and that’s the first five years like yeah new doesn’t mean for five months it’s like no i know you know the first 10 years of your career make sure you know that you have extra time because you know it it’s it’s you know it’s hard to it’s hard to verbalize and have someone totally understand what you’re saying yeah take it from a bunch of dudes who’ve done it for a long time yeah like you know just sing just whatever you’re gonna get that day what you’re gonna get and it might take 10 more times to get it but and that’s okay you’re not a lesser human being you know there’s a lot of singers who come and they belittle themselves and they’d be oh i could i can’t believe i couldn’t get it today it’s like so the [ __ ] what excuse my language so what it’s it’s a human it’s a human instrument yeah you know like we were saying it’s an it’s an athletic thing no athlete is ever at their peak every single day yeah you know and and so you know you look at you know even the nfl they have to deliver once a week yeah they have to train you know four or five days a week they have to rest they have to eat right you know and then they have to deliver they have a window to deliver and so you know uh you know and this is something that nick no good and i are doing we’re in the in the studio tomorrow doing some vocals you know we’re gonna do he’s saying uh we were in the cup like four or five days two weeks ago and i said just sing today he’s like but i gotta get it right it’s like no you know you know whatever we wind up tomorrow might not be on the record either so let’s just you know bring it down a notch yeah you know and and there’s a number of factors why you know uh diet sleep season change yeah humidity levels yeah absolutely yeah yeah and and being on tour i remember being in vance you know touring uh you know across saskatchewan in february and the sick every single singer lost their voice yeah you know because they didn’t prepare properly in this like you know on a tuesday night in regina well it’s going to be a lot of guitar solos tonight folks i know i don’t i have i have everybody out with you know zinc and vitamin c for immune boosting when they start to feel something and humidifiers i’m always harping on humidifiers humidifiers get humidifiers going like you’ve got to keep that moisture going you know yeah it’s it’s a it’s the real deal so it is yeah so that would that would be my main thing the keeping the key right getting the right tempo you know taking the pressure off giving yourself a bandwidth of time and opportunity to to uh be able to deliver and you know um and and have prepared yeah you know it’s it’s really expensive to go in the studio uh you know so why don’t you wait a month or two uh and do more work with mitch seekins because then it’ll be cheaper when you go in the studio and nail it yeah yeah exactly you know and nobody’s really waiting for your records you know like you know i know i know we’re all excited about our our own music but you know again why be in a hurry to fail you know correct yeah why not take the time and get it right you know so yeah like like this kid no good just saying we’ve been working with them for two years now you know two years which one nick nick yeah yeah yeah i’m seeing him tomorrow morning yeah i think i think we started working with him two years ago i know like two summers ago we were in my backyard with one another co-writer guy named mike bolenki who you might know um he’s a great great singer mike blankie oh my god so mike mike does a bunch of work with me on a bunch of stuff and him and nick did a bunch of writing and you know that and it you know it’s taken it takes some time so you know yeah i think stuff that i’ve heard so far is sounding fantastic yeah and we did stuff in the studio we went in the studio with a couple of those songs early on and you know the rest retool the recipe keep working on the recipe go back to the beginning again yeah and again i think you know i think the kids 20 like we’re in no hurry um you know and you know we have some some momentum and you know the time is now but he is so much better now working with you than he was it was like on he had all that raw uh you know oyster ability but now he’s turning into the pearl so yeah yeah and he’s not losing uh let’s look there’s one other thing working on your craft doesn’t mean you’ll lose your identity that’s a huge element of music yeah like i you know i spent i’ve hundreds of drum lessons and piano lessons and all it did was allow me the ability to communicate who i am yeah there was a time when i was stuck in the middle of it all where all i could think about was technique and we talked about this earlier in a question you have to be able to surpass your technique but you know without technique you’ll never get there no skills yeah yeah it just it opens up an entire palette it’s still you you know and and you know people not so much anymore but you know a long time ago am i am i just going to sound like an opera singer because all vocal technique is based in the operatic world no if you look at my website on that video he and darren they got i got punk bands i got all kinds of and they all sound like them but just more consistent and better and easier and it’s just it’s just better you know nick egan is like the most unique voice i’ve heard in like 20 years and he is he’s not the lessons with you are making him more like himself because he no longer is limited by his inabilities he’s now being able to use his abilities yeah to match his imagination yeah there’s a beautiful thing about art and you know limitations of things create you know the opportunity for art but i also you know it’s also um you know that happens you know a few times what do you want to do yeah the rest of your career i know i know uh so this is this is a question for the tech guys that might be watching this sure is there um like a a favorite microphone that you found that you can use with a multitude of different voices and styles because i mean every voice is different every microphone is different but is there kind of a generic one that there’s probably three or four that would all would work um you know if you’re going to do a rock band you’re probably going to want to do like an sm7 or you’re going to want to do a u47 yeah those are the you know those are the two kind of very different style of microphone but um those you’re going to be able to put your vocal in and around uh in the middle of the mix and have guitars and drums and cymbals and keys or whatever it is raging and that vocal will still hold uh yeah in the center yeah uh you know uh this the sony’s uh c800 is an unbelievable microphone if you have fifteen thousand dollars to blow you know uh and that’s probably you know most of the pop records you hear are that um and it’s unbelievable um and for example nick we’ve been using it uh with nick and it’s been softening some of his roughness you know um but not uh you know covering up any of the anything um i used an elam 251 for a long time um which is another you know i think they’re ten to forty thousand dollars depending on what vintage you get yeah and uh unbelievable microphone like if you want all the detail um it’s a it’s a it’s kind of like a ferrari you know like if you really want that you know that detail and that cr clarity um you know not like a c12 which will have too much top end in my opinion it’s more like it’s just so clear um it’s probably my favorite microphone the elem 251 uh you know those would be you know those would be the mics i would choose that i’ve probably spent the most time recording you know there’s always something fun with an uh like a 57 handheld you know for a vibe but yeah we’ve you know i’ve also used c37 i’ve used on emily from metric a little bit uh like which is the precursor to the c800 the sony c800 yeah and then um that’s probably it yeah like yeah yeah and they’re all unfortunately really expensive except for the sm7 and you know and you know i’ve used some of the knockoffs and the you know the uh you know the of those um but i’ve only rarely ever used them because i thankfully you know go to studios or or have owned the real thing and there’s really no replacement and of course a great preamp is important i have a pair of gml trees that i use uh i love the neve portico pries you know a 1073 neve uh can’t go wrong you know any of those things um uh you know the knee the rupert neve stuff is great the air neve stuff too um you know i’ve very rarely used an ssl preamp on a vocal right or very rarely used an api um by gml or nev um or rupert neve uh and then a compressor you know uh i owned blue 1176 blue stripes for a long long time i would track with them and mix with them um but those are really aggressive and i don’t really make too many aggressive records anymore um so i have a newer version i have what i call the new stripe which is the uua it’s a black face with a blue stripe and it kind of combines the best stuff of the black face 1176 with the blue stripe um it’s a little cleaner uh and hell of a lot less expensive um but i also you know to stressors we’ve used a lot of distressors to tape um you know like you 47 through a neve with a distressor and you’re going to have you know if it’s not you know you you it’s it’s not if it sounds bad it’s you did something wrong yes yeah something something’s bad with the stinger yeah yeah you know so you know there’s other ways to to swing the cat you know i know budgets are very you know very conscious these days especially you know the laptop generation people want their portable uh you know and a lot of times they’re not using any like you know they’re using digital breeze or they’re you know they’re using pretty cheap microphones and unfortunately it sounds cheap in my opinion yeah yeah uh you know uh it can’t you know but also sometimes it’s funny because it might sound cheap but it also might sound like what’s happening in the world you know and that’s that’s an important thing too because culture has a lot to do with technology and culture are very interlinked in music you know as drum machines came up the sound of the music would change as you know different synthesizers and midi and you know different you know even the distortion the guitar amp like the story of the guy breaking the cone of his of his speaker and his amp and creating distortion you know once that started you know anyway these technologies have a day a sound in a time frame yeah so kind of shitty vocals with a lot of post-production a lot of reverb and you know a lot of [ __ ] with little altar boy informant and a bunch of plug-ins that’s a that’s uh a sonic you know now that’s that’s how yeah yeah yeah yeah you know like auto-tune was a was you know we auto-tune everything we you know we melodyne everything you have to because that’s otherwise it sounds like old people’s music because it’s out of tune yeah i know i know it’s it’s uh i just watched coachella i had two students playing coachella uh this year who played uh ali gotti great that was great yeah ali is fantastic yeah it was his tenth the first show was his tenth performance
he ever a couple a couple years ago he did a couple nights at the danforth music hall yeah like eight years yeah but that was i know but that was his like third and fourth performance ever you know i know and uh pot uh yeah right yeah talk about pros like oh my god oh yeah fun fun guys you have a great roster mitch you should be very yeah i’ve been very lucky i i really enjoy working working with all the people that i do so um thank you so much for doing this man i really appreciate it really i appreciate it and and i think there’s tons of information in there for you know people to to dig in that actually want to know this stuff because it is important if you if you really want to develop a career this this stuff’s important you know well the other thing is this stuff you know is a culmination of decades of other people’s knowledge that i’ve assimilated you know i i got really lucky to be in the room with some heavy heavy folks at a young age and yeah sucked it all up and sponged it all in and and you know made it made it make sense for what i was doing yeah you know and you know there’s a whole pile of online tutorials and there’s a whole pile of schools you can go to but at the same time it’s you know it’s an oral tradition it’s you know p you know it’s how how do you learn how to make a number one song you try to hang out with people who have number one songs that’s right you know that’s right you know and i got to do that you know so and by doing that and being lucky enough to be in the room and having some great of course um you know uh allowed me to accumulate this knowledge one of the other things is if you want mitch um and if you have anyone approach you who wants further information please you know contact me yeah and i’m more than happy to spend time you know that’s awesome yeah it’s awesome a five minute phone call you know is no problem you know i love talking about this stuff and yeah you know you know people are you know people who are thirsty for this information i’m interested in talking to them about it yeah exactly exactly thank you so much thanks mitch all right
There you go! If you’d like to chat further with Gavin, email me through the contact page on my website as I don’t want to publicly publish his email…. There’s a link in description and I’ll send you his address so you can arrange a convenient time….and I promise I wont save your email or contact you for anything else…I don’t work that way
So if you enjoyed the interview….why not subscribe or have a look at my website to see what I do…again the link is in the description. Thanks….Im Mitch Seekins the Vocal Coach
An Interview all about singing with the amazing Luna Li. I am including some timestamp chapters so you can skip to the questions you want to hear about. Hope you enjoy and subscribe! 0:00 Welcome! 1:48 Interview Start 2:39 When did you start? 6:23 Finding your “sound”? 12:33 Recording vs. Live 14:09 Warming up 15:40 Vocal Problems 17:42 Vocal Recovery on Tour 20:30 Big Shows vs. Small Shows 21:57 Thoughts on Studying The Voice 24:45 Vocal Game Changer? 26:04 The Zone 27:31 Addicted to Singing! 28:29 Luna’s Personal Vocal Tip 29:19 Thanks!
Hi! I’m Mitch Seekins – The Vocal Coach.
Ever wanted to know what it takes to be a pro vocalist? I know what it takes….but why not listen to the people who are already there? Welcome to my “Sing Like a Pro Interview Series’, where you hear from the professionals themselves… what it takes to do what they do! Oh, and if you like this and perhaps learned something hit that subscribe button!
This episode features the amazing Luna Li!
Luna Li is an incredible singer / songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who is making a huge splash in the North American scene selling out shows in LA, San Francisco, New York, to name the few that I know about…as well as beginning the festival circuit.
We have been working together for a few years now in prep for her touring career to open up after the lockdown stuff and the release of her 1st solo album, Duality, in the beginning of March this year
Her artistic sensibility is off the charts, not only showing through her music but in her visually stunning videos as well. Hope you enjoy…
Hi! how are you doing?
I’m good how are you?
I’m great thanks for thanks for doing this….i really appreciate it, uh the purpose of this video is to, you know, get information out to young and upcoming singers just like yourself into actually understanding what it is and the effort that it takes to do , what you are doing. Because a lot of people have misconceptions out there and it’s just it’s so nice to get so many different perspectives on, people like yourself, who are professionals and are actually out there making all this stuff happen and uh so getting some info in behind the scenes and what it takes I think would be really really helpful for people so thanks!
yeah sounds great thanks for having me.
So how old were you when you started singing?
um i mean i was singing just for fun in the house since i was like two years old yeah so there’s lots of music in my house growing up my mom taught music classes for toddlers when i was little kid so she was very well versed in like the kind of circle games and that kind of thing that kids do and we would do that with my siblings at home um and then she joined her partner in running a music school when i was a little older around eight or nine um so i was always surrounded by music always surrounded by music yeah no that that that’s great and and so when did you turn pro
i don’t think there was like a specific moment where i say or i would say like turned pro but i guess after high school i went to McGill for violin i felt like there was some more structure in the classical world there was a bit more familiarity there for me um and then after doing one semester i realized it was not what i wanted to be doing i wanted to go back and start making my own music so i moved back to Toronto and that’s when i kind of started playing in bands for the first time um i did a course at Seneca college and like basically how to be an independent artist and i guess that was kind of the turning point for me where i realized that i wanted to pursue being an artist um but i don’t know if i would call that pro right away because i was really just like playing at house shows playing in people’s basements playing to five people um and slowly grew from there yeah my my definition is probably old school but my definition of pro is when you actually get paid for it right so I’m presuming you’d get something even if it’s you know 25 bucks 20 bucks or something so splitting the door yeah yeah exactly that that’s great so you played in in other projects before you uh started your own your own thing yeah my first thing was a band called veins which was sort of like pre-luna li project i was like kind of afraid to call it a solo project because i was a bit shy and i kind of wanted to like hide behind the façade of a band even though i was the one who was writing all the music and everything ah so it was still a project though wasn’t it i hired a gun so to speak yeah um so i was yeah it was my project i had my boyfriend and his friend playing it with me was a three-piece at the beginning so that was sort of like my first thing and then i played in a few other bands i played in this band called mother tongues which is a really cool psych project i played keys and then i still play in this man called tange once in a while it’s kind of like a punky girl band where i play drums which is really fun for me i would not call myself a drummer but like um it was just something fun for the three of us it’s like a side project yeah yeah because i know that you’re i didn’t know you played drums i know that you’re a multi-instrumentalist i mean you do guitar i’ve seen you do bass i’ve seen you do harp um yeah so drums uh keyboards i would imagine yeah so i mean growing up in the in the music school environment you got to be able to play with everything yeah it was great i started with piano when i was five that was my first system and i did classical piano and violin growing up yeah and then yeah yeah of course yeah yeah and then i started learning guitar when i was 12 and that’s kind of when i started like breaking off from the classical world and like starting to do covers and writing my own songs and stuff like that great and um so the one thing that that that you know i’ve always been really impressed with you is there is there’s such you have such a distinct definitive sound and it’s you know combining that with the video stuff like i posted it the the artistic level is you know i i i love it i think it’s great is is that was that kind of a uh an organic growth for you or is it something that you started and then you you know you you thought okay i want to tailor my sound and and i need to discover me as an artist and and my own vocal sound you know because we’re talking about singing you know all that sort of thing what what was that what was that like i guess like it was a little bit of organic and it was a little bit of concentration and figuring out and taking time but i mean i guess after i left mcgill i sort of abandoned my classical background i came back to toronto got really involved with the toronto music scene specifically the rock scene and so that first band veins that i was talking about we did kind of more like a garage rock sound and that because that was like really the sound that was happening in the scene at the time um and that’s what i thought was cool like i was like you know violin’s not cool i’m not gonna i’m gonna put down my violin and play guitar instead like um so that was kind of where i started out but then as i went along i kind of realized i wanted to incorporate the violin but i just didn’t really know how to add it in without it being kind of more like folksy or country sounding because that’s kind of like you know more of the types of bands where you hear violin and i knew that wasn’t really my style but then one for one of my birthdays i my grandma asked what i wanted for my birthday and i asked her to buy me a loot pedal and i was kind of intending to just use it with my guitar but then i decided to try plugging my violin and to see what that would sound like and i realized i could build these like lush orchestral sounding layers um and have it feel like really big and beautiful with just like one one instrument so from there that was kind of the turning point where i was like oh okay like this is how i want to incorporate the violin i wanted to sound like big and dreamy and orchestral and cinematic um and so that’s when i started really like incorporating my classical background into the sort of like rock sound and then i also started learning how to play the harp which was more recent for me maybe like five years ago um and that is just like a really beautiful dreamy classical sounding instrument um and i’m still working on it but i really love using it as a production tool like just adding a little bit of harp on the song really elevates everything yeah so but then from a vocal standpoint so the music came first and then you got then then you know you had to figure out okay how how am i going to approach this from a vocal standpoint definitely the vocals kind of came later like i wasn’t really focused on the vocals at first because like coming from an instrumental background that was sort of like always um what came first for me um and like the songwriting and the lyrics and that kind of thing and yeah i mean i guess i just like kind of saying how i thought felt natural and then eventually i realized that like i wanted to kind of stylize it a little bit more and have it feel a bit more like intentional and um yeah i mean that was probably like around the time i started taking lessons with you as well we’ve been working two and a half three years something like that yeah i can’t believe it’s been that long you know it’s been a lot of time yeah um and i kind of yeah the vocals was something that i definitely like brushed off at first and um yeah it was like kind of underrated in my world the importance of vocals um and then yeah since we started working together and like as i started to hone my sound a little bit more um i guess i just started diving in more into really thinking about how i could use vocals layering them using harmonies and choral sounds and different textures and stuff like that see that that’s great because you know trying to convey to people how much effort is involved in doing something like what you do uh i mean that’s just validation it’s it’s lots of time lots of experimentation not being afraid to fail you know try different things some things will work some things don’t you know but it’s it’s and like did you enjoy that journey though like that experimentation did you did you did you enjoyed it yeah i always loved making music and like i think at the beginning it took me a while to make music that i felt like i would listen to if it wasn’t my own music like when i got to that point i was like okay now i really feel like uh really proud of this and i mean like it’s sometimes tough at first when you’re like i’m making this music i think it’s fine but like it’s not like exactly what i want to do but you kind of just have to go through that process and write those kind of first songs before you can get to that place yeah and then with the experimentation with the vocals um uh you know finding what works and what doesn’t work you didn’t like when something didn’t work it didn’t you know drag you down and go oh god that just sucked i just you know yeah exactly exactly for me it was always really interesting because okay if that didn’t work okay well no to sell okay that kind of sucks okay what what can i do it because it’s that it’s that inventive it’s that it’s that artistic thing of trying different things and and not being disillusioned uh when things don’t work um it’s just it is a process so um you just released your very first record so congratulations on that that’s awesome that’s awesome and it’s been a long time coming and the first records always are you know um and is this so you have gigged um somewhat you haven’t really done a solid massive u.s or national tour as of yet have you my kind of first longer tour was last fall we did six weeks with japanese breakfast so that was my first kind of real tour prior to that it was definitely just like around the toronto music scene and you know going to montreal for the weekend that kind of thing right right um because my my question is you know um have have you ever thought about the vocals while you’re recording in terms of okay this is what i’m going to do for the record how am i going to do that live did have you have you got to that point i when i’m recording or writing vocals or any of the music i never think about how it’s going to be live like i just you know do what i feel in the moment because a lot of my stuff is so heavily layered and there’s just so much of the arrangement is like really dense um which is tricky to pull off live and like i don’t like to burden myself with thinking about how i’m gonna do that down the road um but then we just end up having to like rearrange stuff and rework stuff for live which can be cool too because then you have two separate versions exactly that’s fun yeah warming up so tell us what do you do before a show or a recording session do you have a routine well i do the file you do that i always do that yeah and that’s pretty much it i mean it’s a great warm-up um it like preps me and makes me feel like i’m ready um you know being sort of starting out sometimes that warm-up ends up being done in the van in the bathroom like all over the place always back alleyway like yeah always have a proper green room so you kind of just have to improvise i’ve literally done it in like the public bathroom in the venue before and i’m like i can hear people coming in i’m just doing this right now weird sounds and yeah but it is it is important to get those muscles working and stuff like that so you know the message you know for the people that might see it is is it trying to just overcome the shyness of prepping for the show because what’s important is the show not necessarily your feelings before the show you know if you can pull off an excellent show because you’ve done a proper warm-up i mean there’s worth it yeah not much of a better feeling than that the feeling of accomplishment and and yeah absolutely joy this is a joy to it you know usually now i ask about have you had any vocal problems while you’re touring and how have you overcome that but you’re you’re new to this i am new to this and i did not have any problems on the six weeks we did like it was very intense the schedule was for the most part six days of shows one day off and that was the whole thing um i didn’t yeah i didn’t realize that yeah it was very fast paced um several of them were like you know three shows in seattle or two nights in l.a so we kind of got to settle down and be in one place a little bit so that’s why there was you know just so much going on at once um but still there’s gonna be press there’s gonna be meet and greets is going to be like because you know i always always tell my people it’s it’s not just the show yeah that’s so hard on the voice it’s everything else the rehearsals the sound checks the meet and greets the interviews you’re using your voice the whole time and if you fatigue your voice out during the day doing that stuff which is important to do it kind of leaves the show difficult yeah um where are you going on this tour well i know there’s there’s issues uh visa wise um but once you get going so uh east coast and then hopefully back to the west coast are you doing stuff in the middle um we’re planning some stuff um we’re kind of rescheduling some of the dates that got postponed for the west coast we had a bunch of shows there and then we’re doing new york philly and washington um and then i have a small run opening for biba dubi which is in april we’re doing several dates in california which will be fun um and then i’m also planning some canadian dates for later this year and then probably another us tour in the fall so beautiful yeah have you thought about stuff to take on the road uh to help with vocal recovery that kind of thing like the humidifiers that i’m constantly talking about watch the humidifier video it’s very good um uh you know zinc and vitamin c and hydration levels you do you do you just drink lots of water and all that sort of you do all that stuff that we talk about yeah absolutely i’m also just like a big water drinker i drink so much water in the day so i just make sure i always have that with me um the vitamin c the zinc just in case just in case exactly yeah all my vitamins trying to stay healthy and like eat well which is sometimes tough also just like on the road i’m vegetarian so sometimes it’s like we’re in the middle of nowhere at all there is mcdonald’s and then i just have to eat fries for lunch or whatever but for for the most part we try and like stock up we’ll go to um like try and go to like some healthier grocery stores and get some healthy snacks and that kind of thing just to make sure that we’re like still getting all our nutrients while we’re on the road yeah greens uh green string uh greens like powdered greens drinks like greens plus uh there’s so many of them those are great to take on the road as well because you can just throw that into a glass of orange juice or something and that will give you energy plus nutrition and help the orange juice on the rider you’ll have one every night exactly exactly do you have anything on the rider yeah we have like usually we just try and do like fruit and veggie trays um like some chips granola bars that kind of thing yeah um it was tough last time because i felt like we had to learn what we could do without wasting food yeah a lot of the time like you asked for the veggie tray or whatever and then like there’s so much left and then we would try and bring it in the van but then like it got buried under some bags and we were like what’s that smell coming from the van so sometimes you just have to like be smart about what you ask for like reduce the weight yeah yeah um the only thing i ever had on my rider was a fruit tray because pineapple is fabulous and with fruit you can utilize the energy right away there’s really very little digestion in it so it was it was oranges pineapple uh cantaloupe honeydew melon uh and apple slices and because you can you can when i was you know doing the opera stuff and and uh the shows yeah uh you know the shows there there would always be an intermission so you could kind of load up on some sugar to get through the rest of the show you know at the end um so how what what’s the biggest show you’ve done today like so far like in terms of people like an audience yeah i would say probably we when we played at the head in the clouds festival which was last November um yeah we got to play the main stage um there was a whole runway which was really fun yeah and i think it was the biggest crowd that we’ve ever played too yeah um so in terms of preparation for a show that size did you pay more attention to it because it was new or like in in terms of big shows little shows or is it all the same do you just do everything the same so far um i would say mostly the same like you know regardless of whether it’s a big show or a little show like i want to do my best and sound the best that i can and have the set be tied and impressive like you know a smaller audience deserves as good of a shower as a bigger audience so um and sometimes it’s more fun yeah because it’s more intimate you can connect with people on a higher level yeah that’s nice obviously there’s some differences in terms of like the way i’m performing yeah there’ll be more stage movement big yeah if there’s a huge crowd but um but yeah i think both both are really special and i really enjoy the human aspects of each so we’ve been working together for a long time like we said two and a half years like it’s been a long time i’d have to look back uh yeah um so any thoughts on studying and how it’s enhanced what you do yeah i mean it’s definitely helped so much um and like just being more aware of my voice and like my body and how i’m feeling and how that affects my performance um is a really big help too because it was not always something that i was aware of before something that i like as i said before kind of like overlooked the vocal parts of the project yeah for a lot of the time yeah um most people do because there’s this unconscious thought that well we can talk so we must be able to sing you know when it’s actually a lot more complicated than that yeah yeah i mean i think taking lessons like really helped me i guess like express what i wanted to express in a better way just because i was like able to do it at a higher level um and also just like being on tour and playing shows like i definitely feel like stronger i have more control and even like with the sound too like singing more forward and singing more clearly really helps like um for the most part when you’re starting out like the sound can be really really bad at some shows especially when you’re playing in a basement i think like i didn’t realize like the way i would was singing like could actually affect like how my voice cuts through the mix um absolutely so yeah yeah just all of those things yeah and the other the other thing too is that when you are dealing with a really bad stage sound um unless you’ve committed a lot of the stuff to muscle memory what ends up happening is that you start to manipulate the muscles in the throat to try and compensate for what you’re not hearing it just wears the voice out like crazy you know um so in in those instances you know the the the work that we’ve done and all that will really save your butt yeah you know i definitely feel like my voice has been healthier too i mean i remember like several years ago before we started taking lessons um i would like sometimes lose my voice before a big show because of like all the stress from prepping you know for weeks and weeks and like just not taking care of my body enough and just like doing so many rehearsals and probably not singing the most healthy and like in the in the right way and not doing vocal warm-ups and that kind of thing i remember like losing my voice after a show and that kind of thing and then like doing six weeks with so many 30 shows is no problem um endurance is much better yeah is there is there anything in particular that that we’ve done that you know you’ve noticed as a as a big game changer or is it just kind of an overall thing yeah i think just the strength and the control that i’ve gained have been a really big game changer and like i notice it when i’m making new music that like i feel that i can go further with the melodies that i’m making and like it just opened up a little bit um just more options for me to try out so that’s been really cool yeah it’s a it’s a it ends up being a a larger instrument so instead of you know this much you have this much which people don’t necessarily think is you know okay that’s a little bit more but then you have full control you can do textually because i’ve always you know like i’ve always said singing isn’t just notes and words it’s notes words and textures most importantly because that’s how you communicate with the vocal well with the with a vocal it you know it’s it’s what you do with that sound so if you have that extra room plus all the control it’s it’s a it’s so much fun it’s it’s it’s a great instrument do you have you gotten to a point you know singing live where you just kind of sink into a vocal and just kind of everything disappears have you i call it the zone have you got there yet um yeah i think i think i’ve gotten there a lot of my set is like i’m playing instruments at the same time too so it’s kind of like a blend of everything i know but um this tour is actually the first time that i have a few songs that i’m not playing i’m just singing so i’m really looking forward to that and just kind of see how that plays out i think it’ll be really nice to be able to like just get really into it get into the zone um like just being able to like go up to the audience and connect with them more instead of being stuck at the mic sand i think that’ll be exciting yeah that that’ll be fun and uh have you practiced that have you have you been working with that because a lot of people it it makes them feel like naked and vulnerable because i don’t have like it’s weird yeah you don’t have anything to hold um i mean i on the last tour i had a song where i put my guitar down halfway through and did that for half the song oh okay so i like had some practice in that and and then yeah just like at rehearsals i’ve been practicing doing that and i don’t know i think also like because i have a dance background like i did ballet for years growing up and like like modern dance and stuff like that i think that really really helped with my stage presence too and just like being comfortable in my body on stage absolutely huge it’s a big learning curve like learning how to perform and it it took me a while to like really get comfortable on stage like i think my first show i was just standing there like with my guitar and not moving at all oh yeah i remember my my my legs shaking for the first five songs of the very first set i ever did it settled down after that and i had a lot of fun after that but man those first few songs are very very nerve-wracking and then you know if you because there’s so much tension if you crack and then you feel bad and it’s just it’s yeah it’s hard it’s very hard i i always thought i was not that great but i was so addicted to singing i i didn’t care that i didn’t think i was not great i needed to do it anyway definitely i mean i think like many artists are like that like the they’re their biggest critic right yeah yeah yeah i’m definitely very self-critical sometimes too but yeah yeah like it’s like you said it’s you love it so much that you just gotta keep going just gotta keep going do you have any extra personal tips that we haven’t talked about that you might send out there to other vocalists that are upcoming or or anything i mean i think like something that i’ve learned from like doing our lessons and just like thinking about my voice and singing more it’s just like singing every day is so important because like as we talk about the voice is really a muscle and it’s like really about keeping it in shape and i think when i first started out i kind of would only sing when i was like either playing a show or rehearsing or recording and like even just like singing around the house every day and like kind of keeping it light and fun is just really important um to just you know keep it going keep your muscles in shape and keep enjoying it too exactly well thank you so much for doing this of course that was awesome uh have a wonderful tour congratulations on the record and i’m going to include some links below to uh the videos which i think are fabulous fabulous videos and i look forward to seeing you hopefully you’ll come to my hometown and i can see you live that would be great all right thank you so much thank you bye
Thanks for watching! I’d like to give a shout out to some of the people who made this all possible … a huge thanks to Luna Li for doing the interview. And to her manager, Dexter Brown from Inside Pocket Music for sending me the media and permissions
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I have a heart to heart chat with Ian Thornley about how hard being a pro vocalist at his level really is! How learning and hard work is a must to establish and maintain a career. Thanks to Ian for doing the interview with me (thanks man!!) and to Big Wrecks manager Rian Balloch of Skware Eyes Collaborative for sending over the video and images. https://www.bigwreckmusic.com/
hi I’m Mitch Seekins the vocal coach welcome to my Sing Like A Pro Interview Series where you hear from the professionals themselves, what it takes to do what they do – this episode features Ian Thornley from Big Wreck!
I had the pleasure to work with Ian in 2016 – 2017. He came to me with concerns about some issues that were beginning to show up in his voice. Being a big fan of his spectacular vocals and music I was honored to help out.
In this heartfelt interview what I would like everyone to take away from this is even with the talent and skills and love for what he does even Ian Thornley can have a hard time with things… and if you are on a similar path of building or maintaining a career, take solace in knowing that you’re not alone with the struggles. It’s all part of the journey.
How you doing man? I’m doing all right I’m doing all right
A little foggy today it was a late one last night but uh you know I’m late for me nowadays anything past midnight is just um and we went we went a little past midnight because there was a as i was telling you earlier there were some technical difficulties um that uh unforeseen and they and it caused us to run late but we got our work done and uh yeah back at it today good yeah
thanks for doing this it’s no problem of course it’s um you know like i was telling you I’m trying to just do a series of interviews of people at your level and just get the information on what it actually takes to do what you guys do you know because a lot of people don’t understand you know what the mindset is and how everything kind of flows
well I think mindset is a good is a good uh window to go through um to get into it but you know my mindset has changed drastically you know throughout I’ve been doing this a while yeah and uh initially I I was dead set against even having a mindset because that wouldn’t be authentic enough and that wouldn’t be real you know whatever conversation I had going back then um so things like warming up and whatnot like and I’ve told the story before I probably told you but uh like Miles (Kennedy) was the first guy I ever saw warm up his voice right we were on tour together in 98 or 99 right um and yeah he was always like an hour before they went on like where did Miles go uh and he was he was in the van like in the passenger seat of the van do you want to make all these weird noises and I’m like what are you doing in there and then of course he gets on stage and does what he does right and i was just like holy [ __ ] um and it was really like well he does what he does and i do what i do you know i can’t i don’t um and that’s a you know that’s kind of a coward’s way out because i was still i was still getting on stage and having a great night or having a [ __ ] night and not really knowing vocally why like even if i was in good voice and good health um you get on stage and sometimes it’s just it just you’re working hard for stuff and i had no idea why um and a lot of it sort of through the years that aspect of just sort of you know well that doesn’t feel like it like it should yeah and then just kind of learning sort of physically how things should feel and then getting a lot of the pointers from Miles along the way you know sort of every five or six years give a give a little tip for a little you know things like that and i would take him to heart and i would you know at one point he gave me a recording of his vocal lesson that he had had with uh i think was Ron Anderson and just a lot of the stuff that they were going over in a lot of this sort of vernacular and it all just kind of started to resonate you know no pun intended but it also it kind of it just started to make sense um and then i started to warm up a little more um and take it a little more seriously right um because i mean it only takes one and i’ve had a few but one really bad night and i you know i can remember as we’ve all had them um probably not you but like your version of a bad habit is coming off fantastic but this was like this was something other i we were it was like a super bowl thing it was in town in toronto yeah uh and i’d come down with something and i was like it was and it was just getting progressively worse throughout the day and i was like oh no well i’m like taking this taking that and just like anything to sort of keep it from you know getting in the way yeah and it was a short and it was like a half-time thing so it was a shortened set i think we only played five songs or something um and i get into the first song and and i’m like okay i’m really trying to take it easy this is before you and i had met right like for several years um and i’m sort of taking it easy but you know there’s some higher notes that you can push and i think it was so far so good or something like that where whereas then you can lean into them a bit and i was like oh it’s there it’s there i’m good so the first two songs great and then it was albatross was the next one which was which is like requires a different kind of i and i wouldn’t have known back then and i still probably wouldn’t know but i don’t try to sing that one super hard it’s just it’s supposed to be a little cleaner and yeah a little more singier it’s not shouting you’re not yelling yeah um and i and i honestly i would open my mouth and i didn’t know what was going to come out yeah and this is like right from the from the intro which is not particularly challenging and i was like why is that note oh my god and then you kind of have to readjust and then i know i want to sing a c sharp here and you know put x it’s just nothing was where it should be yeah and then of course you know that you get into the to the higher parts um and and it’s a pretty naked intro man like that’s pretty like this is just a guitar or two and a vocal that’s going up to high b’s and stuff and it um yeah and and it was horrible you know and it crushed me like i i went home that night and I sat by myself for a while you know just like am i cut out for this should i be doing this like maybe all those years ago when we were looking for a singer that was the right call it was that bad um i know and then and then yeah and then it just again i probably reached out to miles after that like dude you know and maybe that’s when when he gave me that tape and it was just a lot of a lot of the things that you and i do yeah um but obviously i’m i’m sort of a fly on the wall and don’t really know i’m just sort of grabbing things here and there and doing my own thing with it like that’s got to be what they’re talking about that kind of thing i know um but then when you and i met it was like okay and i still reach out to you when i’m on the road and i get sick how am i gonna get through this dude um because it because it i mean i’d still go back to that place where where you open your mouth and you don’t know what’s going to come out and there’s not a worse feeling in the world man people call singers this and they’re that and um but it really is it’s terrifying and you and your yeah you’re at the whim of whatever is going on in here and i you know so as much control as as you can gain over it like that’s what sort of where my mindset is now is is that it’s like well i want to make i want to cut like a bad night i want it to still be passable that’s right you know and it’s brutal for me and it’s really you know difficult and it’s exhausting because especially when you’re sick and you’re trying to navigate through a lot of these songs that we have and uh which are not easy to sing none of them well so i mean if you’re in good voice and you’re relaxed and you’re and you’re and you’re warmed up it’s not hard um it’s fun it and can be fun you know when you when you go for something high and you pin it and then it’s like what there’s so much gas in the tank right now i really want to lean into this you can just put more you know and i love that but when it’s not there it’s exhausting because it’s you’re you’re you know you know it’s a high wire act yeah it is you know like with the you know with the the master class that i do at the beginning of everybody who studies with me we talked about the psychological end of things yeah and you know the the amount of stress the physical stress and the emotional stress the emotional trauma that a singer experiences this is horrible it can be horrible it’s not elating like when you nail it better you know yeah maybe you know playing guitar the way you do when you nail something well that’s going to give you the same response but having you know the body as the instrument your body has the instrument it just there’s something about it you know um when uh you know so you didn’t start out as a vocalist right no no no heavens no you were you were a keyboardist first as i saw it posted on instagram yeah when i i started i started on piano and quickly moved into synthesizers and stuff like that i was in i was in a band when i was started in eighth grade eighth eighth and ninth grade i was playing in a pop band around town nice and i was a little synth dude um which is a great experience for me and uh you know they were all all the other people in the band were were much older and and sort of seasoned and uh have gone on to do some great things but but i i yeah and then and then i eventually have found my way to guitar um and i i don’t know that the sort of immediacy of that connection was was
i did just it just brought me to a different place than than piano did yeah um you know it’s all music but yeah i think that the connection to it i don’t know i still i i still play every day and if i can all day every day yeah it’s one of those lifelong obsessions but yeah um yeah and then i i went to school i went to berkeley for three years um with guitar as my my instrument um and again you know that’s not going to make you a great guitar player but it’s a great place to you know there’s all these other like-minded kids who are who are chasing the same kind of thing even if it’s very different yeah um and it was all about what’s up it was all jazz right yeah yeah i mean they used jazz as the sort of curriculum to right to explain things you know that and a lot of the sort of stuff that i’ve been sticking around with on guitar and you know i already started writing and coming up with bits that i liked and fitting them together and you know sort of reverse engineering a lot of the stuff that i couldn’t figure out um i mean at berkeley would give you the names of those things which just it just helps expediate the process of a lot of things yeah yeah um and also open your mind to different different directions like different different possibilities of what you can yeah oh for sure i’ll never knock um you know schooling yourself on you know it’s not keeping it real or anything like that i i think that’s that’s garbage like the truth is like it like the more you learn the the further you will go and then the more you learn to re you realize that how much further you have to go and then it just never ends it’s just a i know you know it’s a dog in his chair chasing his tail kind of deal because it you never you never arrive i’ve never i haven’t arrived um but yeah and then with vocals it was it was a and i’ve told this story many times too we we were looking for a singer for a while and that’s hard man you know especially if i was going to be the the primary writer um
yeah it was it was it was really hard and people don’t you know obviously not everybody thinks the way you do about you know this is how this should go this should move like this and and just those things and i’m using a very base level yeah example here but and there was just people that just wouldn’t fit and so much of great great singers and great musicians and it just wasn’t quite jealous or um you know one of the other guys in the band didn’t get along with it whatever it was we tried and tried and then i there was an adventure there eventually got to a there was a [ __ ] moment like you know and i think it was brian and i was just like dude [ __ ] it you sing and i eventually would say brian brian oh brian did yeah it would have been him and i think the other guys were encouraging me to do so as well yeah um but i think you know brian and i like brian was sort of like my big brother at the time like he was he was slightly older than me and yeah um yeah i know like if he if he if i would sing on a demo and and if he if he said it sounded cool then it’d be like all right you know really sort of seeking his approval but uh yeah i eventually had just kind of jumped in um not knowing anything about that you know my my version of learning how was was just doing it right yeah yeah um i mean i was i was the same as well and most people are when they you know when they start out it’s just kind of like okay let’s just yeah see what happens you know see what happens um were there any influences that that uh that you have to kind of go yeah i mean yeah well in this vocally not really um because i would just kind of like well those that you know what Freddie mercury does is magic and what jeff buckley does is magic and i can’t i’m not a magician you know i’m just a guitar player who’s singing right i still have that mentality too right right um then i heard phil collins and said that he says i’m not a singer who plays some drums i am a drummer who does singing and i i’m like that’s how i feel yeah yeah but i not i don’t think i i don’t think i there was never anything i was shooting for right um until like later on when when uh i started to mess around with range and and going higher and you can probably speak to this better than i can but i’ve always been of the mind that you’re you get what you get you know yeah you can probably grow your range and and there’s things you can do to to get higher and lower and and maintain a good tone but um i think the the actual sound of it i mean you can’t change this and this and all the things that that make the noise you can’t i can’t change it yeah um so it’s like as much as i would want to sound like robert plant or bb king or even joe strummer or all these guys who i just have these voices that that get into me yeah um i end up just sounding like me or is it people always say oh it’s chris cornell i’m like that and you know what that’s that’s great because he’s awesome so um yeah yeah he was and i mean you know i can i can i can see why people say that it’s the same kind of tonal quality you guys don’t sing you don’t sing the same but the the tonal quality is similar yeah i guess i don’t hear you you know like there was there was a a time when it was you know i guess it was the early 90s and uh and that the whole grunge in seattle thing happened and a lot of it really affected me because i because i’m such a big zepp guy yeah and i’m such a big who and and a lot of it seemed like it came directly from that um and like pearl jam had a huge impact on me right um just and it was like it was just the whole thing that that that got me right yeah yeah it wasn’t like all the way eddie does this or the way you know stone does that it was just the whole thing i was like i got it um because and and i i later you know i think it’s i think it’s just because it feels like they mean it you know it feels like eddie means it um and then of course shortly thereafter every singer that would come out of the woodwork had the r thing that lance daley were doing to her thing and i you know i even i even [ __ ] with it a bit of a demo yeah and i remember hearing the back going nope that’s not me and i had a discussion with a good friend of mine who’s a wonderful singer uh danny graves i mean years ago we had this conversation about those kind of singers that are guys yeah um and he’s like yeah it’s a crutch it’s a it’s like an easy way to get your pitch and it’s and it’s an easy way to sound like i mean it man yeah and as like you see the people who are doing it tend to forget that like eddie and lane actually did [ __ ] mean it like that’s yeah that was real and and you know i don’t think he does it anymore eddie but uh you know whatever he’s such a great um and chris the same thing like I wasn’t as much into soundgarden uh because i think they were sort of more sabbath derived that sort of really uh low-tuned heavy dirty thing which i know big rec is known for um but it you know that would have been a brian influencing me and my musical taste but him bringing in kings x him bringing in sound garden and stuff like that and then i i went through a period where i just loved soundgarden um yeah and it’s just yeah but i and i’m sure all that you know i think you are what you eat so all those influences that they’re gonna come in but you know like we’re saying earlier i still open my mouth and i don’t sound like like the guy i’m trying to sound like it’s just not possible yeah yeah yeah i want to be steve perry like who doesn’t want to be who doesn’t want that voice you know um like there’s so many great voices that uh and it’s and i’m not just talking like technique it licks and listen to the control i just mean the tone the sound that’s right yeah that’s right like there’s nothing better than than rock the casbah and london calling like joe strummer i believe every word that guy says yeah and and the sound of his voice just it just sounds like he’s emptying the tank for you and that’s what he’s doing so yeah um so by the time the first record came how how long it was was it were you guys kind of working for a couple years before you did the first record like um yeah i guess like
like we started maybe 90 maybe 94.95 we started to you know put demos together and dick around with stuff uh but as far as um
as far as doing a like calling it a band i don’t really know when that but it was it wasn’t that long um of a time from when we really started to okay let’s do this yeah until it was like okay well now we’re we’re looking at getting signed with atlantic and we’re going to do this it wasn’t that long right um and certainly not enough time for me to because the first time i went in to do vocals on what would eventually become the album like the first album was was two made from two different sessions that were demo sessions those are the demos that were that were turned into the record and i still remember the first of those sessions i think it was three sessions actually but but from the one that we didn’t do at presents i don’t think we used anything maybe we used to fall through the cracks or something like that um but i i still distinctly remember like putting it off and putting in the vocals and putting it off i still do that like it’s always the last thing um and i remember stepping up to the mic and then and then hearing you know my voice going through it i think it was an 87 into an orange county and then they you know fed it fed me a little bit of delay or reverb and i was just like oh man this is and then and then you know once you get past that sort of initial whatever then it’s like okay i can play with this and it doesn’t sound stupid you know and i’m looking through the glass and it’s like i don’t see brian going oh you know yeah of course the day of doing this it was it was you know they were like it was encouraging and that’s sort of the mental game like once you get out of your own way then it’s like okay what can we do yeah you know and i didn’t know about i didn’t know how high i could go i didn’t really mess around up there and you can hear it on the first record there’s a couple of high notes but they’re just stuff where you’re yeah there’s some harmonies and stuff i’m just like oh i can do it i didn’t i didn’t know if i had a ceiling i didn’t i didn’t really dick around up there but as far as singing hard and getting uh some grit on the sound i would just push you know yeah which is not good like i remember i remember after i did the vocal for overemphasizing i was like that’s probably not a good idea to do that like that every night you know like yeah you know we could maybe get into that too but i see i tend to sing differently live um slightly than i would in the studio you know yeah but if i especially if it’s a friday it’s a friday night we’re not going in saturday and sunday um for some of the rocky or more you know grittier parts then i’ll actually do something that’s probably not healthy and probably not good for my throat just to get the sound yeah um because because there’s that sound of a voice just on the brink where it’s like they’re doing damage i love that you know yeah i love that noise so i i sometimes it’s the only way to get it is just to you know you’re good and warmed up and you’re loose and i’m singing all day and everything’s great it’s like okay well let’s circle back to that thing i’m gonna have another stab at that yeah you know the ridiculously high and hard and then and then you you leave leave the studio you know sort of with a whisper it’s like yeah well done
part of it is is knowing okay i can do this because i know i’ve got like two or three days off yeah yeah live i don’t get that live i don’t yet you don’t get that i mean my my regimen uh when we’re on tours is a lot more strict than it is in the studio like in the studio i i i always i’ll make sure that i’m loose and i’ll stretch um i’ll stretch it out and try to clean out you know especially if it’s cold um try to have everything cleaned out and um yeah and then i’ll just i’ll just kind of start in with the song you know this sort of like lightly singing it to myself you know um and just how i’m gonna approach certain lines i’m gonna approach certain things um and then again it’s the same thing as when it was when i first did it once the headphones come on it’s like okay now you’re now in this box and now you know what you can work with and what you can do yeah yeah and as i’ve gotten older oddly enough this is another thing we’ve talked about it’s like i feel like my range has grown like my box has gotten bigger my trick bag is bigger but i feel like just vocally i’m i’m able to do stuff with a lot more ease and i have a lot more control over it but stuff that i would never even attempted 20 years ago yeah i know because it like i think we talked about that the human male voice doesn’t mature until about the age of 35 and then you’ve got this window of being in your vocal prime until you’re about 70. so right in that time all the bottom end comes in the top end uh just gets clarified a little more um stable yeah everything just sits bigger you know um my balls dropped what’s that my balls finally dropped when i was 35.
exactly exactly i’d my uh you know my my uh a’s a flats g’s and and i’ve even got f sharps now uh you know when i was 25 there was i wasn’t singing below you know the b flat like i mean that’s that’s pushing it but and it’s so funny you know it it is it’s just genetics in that first record because it you know to to to my ear and to everybody’s ear there is definitely a big wreck sound there’s definitely an ian thornley sound and that’s just you kind of opening your mouth and kind of doing what you do so there wasn’t really much thought it was an organic kind of thing yeah and and and that early on it was just a lot of it was a lot of feeling things out and i mean there has to be a certain amount of trust for me back then there had to be like
you know like no no cracking jokes while i’m doing this right because i’ll just [ __ ] leave like i was i was that like a don’t know like try i’d have the lights off in the live room where i was like i’d make sure that the lights were off yeah keep the lights on in the control room like it was that kind of thing yeah literally like i was that i was that you know in my head yeah and then once you once you get into it and you get some encouragement then the rest of it was yeah it was just sort of you know what sounds cool and then you just sort of lean off the mic and look in um and if they’re high five and then it’s like okay let’s do that then that’ll work yeah and back then of course everything was on tape so you just start at the beginning and go to the end anything you want to fix okay let’s go in there any ideas for doubles or harmonies or anything we got an extra track yeah so um yeah all that stuff was very you know and i was 23 or whatever like i was i was i was young um but yeah you know it’s very different now i just i still but like i said i still put the vocals off till till the end yeah and then once i get into it i really i really do enjoy it i really do like i’ve come to enjoy it a lot and then you know yeah yeah so when you’re when you’re uh working on tunes and i actually want to give a shout out to a student of mine his name is uh cody uh kerrigan he’s um he’s working on his phd for uh composition and he he was wanting me to ask um you know um as he’s a he’s a big fan how much play you do when you when you write a song you start with a guitar lick and then add vocals to that or is there a melody that comes out and you try to write something and how much do the vocals change from the inception to the final product is it a lot of experimentation in the studio yeah yeah there is to the latter i i generally it starts from from the music first um sometimes sometimes the whole thing falls in your lap and those are the good ones those are those are the lucky the lucky ones you don’t have to slug it out but but generally speaking it starts from it starts from the music first and i already like i will start putting the picture together in my mind as i’m as i’m piecing the music together or as i’m going through it i’ll have something in my i know where my in is you know so you know what depending on the mood and depending on the key and depending on all these different factors it’ll just so it tells me like your voice is going to go in here right um and sometimes as you know i’m sure like sometimes you just open your mouth and and something comes out here like and you get and you get um goosebumps it’s like that’s that’s my end that’s my spot yeah and then yeah and then you start flushing out melodies and and it tells me you know and then it’ll tell me what the words are what the story’s going to be and and it really you know you’re just sort of you’re just sort of rummaging through and clearing away dust and it’s like okay i see this now sometimes it’s it’s um it goes against the grain of the music and sometimes it is right in lockstep with the music and all those all those different factors that um obviously they’re all choices that are formed by your taste um and your influences and all the stuff that you love yeah um but but all of those you know i i like like we said earlier i think just getting out of your own way and getting out of your head and letting that letting the music tell you what it what it wants where it wants to go and every once in a while you know and i can hear it in our stuff and sometimes i can hear it in other bands and artists as well when when there’s sometimes there’s a moment where there’s a choice where the writer said i’m going to throw this thing in here yeah and it’s and there’s something um sort of cosmically jarring about it a little bit sometimes that’s the intention and when i do it that’s usually what i’m like i’m going to throw in a bar of three those kind of things they’re they’re conscious moves yeah um you know as opposed to a riff that sort of fell out and it happens to be in seven that’s different you know all these things are um they’re all sort of tools that you’re at your disposal and then when it comes to doing the vocal i usually i’ll start with with just scatting because i know where the melodies are going to go um and then as the words start to emerge and sometimes those are just like boom there’s a there’s a story the story in the song and it’s um yeah and then sometimes some some some of them come easily and some of them are are like nope like i have a couple songs every record that that just you know kicked my ass and i’m like nope and i’m rewriting and rewriting and it’s like maybe it’s maybe it’s my melodies maybe i’m too choppy with the with the melody and it should just be one soaring long you know and then it’s like well if i do that i gotta change the whole narrative i gotta change the whole story because you know this word fits great but it doesn’t make any sense with you know all these things it um i think that can be a dragon it can be very draining uh and it’s one of those things i can you know very rarely in those situations do i know that i’ve got it right because it’s not because it didn’t tell me i’m still kind of telling it well this is this is the right way and this is looking around the room going right right right um as opposed to like when you have the the two speakers are just saying yep you got it yeah um yeah and then and then you just put on way too many tracks with vocal way too many tracks of guitar and uh you know start cutting it down call it yeah yeah uh how do you how do you prep for uh you know to to do a record vocally how do you how do you do do you do you start saying because i mean you got to be in shape right you’re going to be vocally in shape if you’re putting you know stuff you know committing to stuff on on a record you you don’t want to be okay well i’m a little rusty like you want to be in shape for sure because you know studio is one thing touring is a is a different animal like it’s a different thing you know what what is it you do um i mean generally speaking into the processes were when i finished pre-production or demoing like um
i know okay by then there’s still a lot of singing right it’s not it’s not super it’s not as honed in is where i’m gonna want it but um i don’t even having said that sometimes it is like some of the demos that we’ve done over the years have just been like well that’s good enough to be on the record yeah because it’s just it’s just so flushed out yeah um but it but yeah i mean generally it’s it’s going to be pretty close to you know game ready and then and then you know i’ll do i’ll do warm-ups and it’s usually the first the first song sometimes it like i’ll circle back or ratzy would be like we want to circle back and um you know sometimes i have to circle back and try the first first verse again you know once i’m yeah but but yeah and sometimes it’s the song you know uh you want to start with something that’s not too challenging and that doesn’t you know where you’re not reaching for the stars and i’m trying to and trying to play around up there yeah it’s one thing to just squeeze a high note out as hard as you can but it’s another thing to actually sing it and yeah you know play with it yeah and um well yeah i did you know a lot of the stuff that you’ve taught me is is all comes in handy there like that’ll that’ll set me up and you know even when if i’m in the shower and i have to sing i’m i’m doing lip rolls good and i i find it even this morning i did it and it i just find it set it sets my voice up right for the day and that’s not i’m not when i start warming up before a show or or to sing in the studio i’m not um yeah from scratch yeah and i don’t know what that does maybe that’s just a psycho psychological thing for me and um
it gets everything moving it gets the blood flowing because it’s a physical instrument you know um so you just you just got to get things working that’s all yeah you just get it moving i just it’s kind of like it’s like a muscle it’s like stretching this or that’s right exactly any anything that you’re it’s one of those um anything you know i’m still i’m getting over some kind of cold that i had last week it wasn’t the cove um somehow i managed to i managed to bob and weave i don’t know how i haven’t got it i’m still having but yeah and and even that like when i’m when i’m sick that’s one another one of the times when i’ll i’ll be i’ll be just doing just doing lip rolls not like writing whole scales or arpeggios or anything but just you know going up into head and then coming down and going back up just to see where i’m at and it and honestly it just it sets my voice in a in a more relaxed stable even for even speaking right like even um and yeah i think you know like anything else if it’s not working it’s not working um and and that that’s happened sometime not not so much in the last few years but there have been times where i’m like it’s not in it’s not there today yeah it is it is a physical like a a human instrument and yeah it is tied uh like you were saying you know with with training the the goal is to you know bad days you know are up here as opposed to you know 20 years ago or 10 years ago where bad days may have been down here you know it’s a much narrower performance uh ratio you know you’re not you’re not swinging from here to here yeah and and that helps you psychologically as well knowing that you can for sure you can sing through stuff 100 in in terms of you know vocal recovery um is there ways that you deal with it now than you know that have changed from from before i mean um yeah i mean not really um i’ll try to i’ll try not to speak so much if yeah and especially when you’re not when you’re feeling a little under the weather um that’s when i really notice it yeah because like sometimes it’ll be i’ll have a cold and there’s a couple of days where it’s like you know i still have to do the gig or you know i don’t want to do but but there’s going to be a couple of days where it’s almost impossible and then on either side of that there it’s like okay i can work i can make this work yeah um and i still make the mistake of apologizing to the audience because it’s like [ __ ] letting them down um but it but it but yeah i can still make it work the tone is still there and the range in the you know but but you know maybe the longevity is not there or whatever it is um but after after that show like i’ll be on the bus and i’ll sound like sam elliott like it’s just fried yeah and that’s when you know that’s what i need the most you know tea and all of that and and sleep and and clean yeah little humidifiers for the bunk and all those things that that’ll that’ll get you through yeah yeah and you know the humidifier thing is so important a lot of people don’t advocate we need to get a sponsorship from advil colton science too i know that stuff like especially paul i think it was paulo that initially hit me to it but i was like man this stuff is like let’s just save my ass i know just clears everything out and so of course we’re always chugging water so i’m not worried about dehydrating which i think actual cold sinus does it just dries everything out but it’s like if you’re slamming water you know you’re you’re in good shape yeah i got dave onto it like if he’s not you feeling a little a little rough and dave’s doing a lot of singing nowadays and [ __ ] great sounds fantastic great um and he’s just i mean he’ll just take a couple of advil cold science a couple hours before the show and it’s like you know it just gets you through yeah yeah the only thing uh i think you need to be cognizant with that stuff is is if you’re really bad and you take it um it can uh it can accelerate damaging stuff
yeah yeah yeah i’m sure but i you know for me it’s uh you know and sometimes it’s even it’s just a a psychological thing you know i’ve had a long flight yeah the day of the show which sucks and you get out and you’re just like i do what’s i’m snotty and oh something’s never something’s all right something’s not right i have a cold science no i’m just bad yeah okay i feel great it’s gonna be a good show yeah and another thing that’s actually good for that uh is nasal rinsing uh i used to have the neti pot thing yeah yeah can’t do that no not not
you know the ones that you see in the tv commercial
yeah yeah all right
when i was doing shows you know what maybe i’ll get one of those you know well it is what all that bugs about very very uncomfortable thing to yeah to work on um uh so we worked together on you know 2016-2017 um is there anything that stands out on the stuff that we did that that really really made a difference uh just either in the consistency or the way yeah things yeah i think uh i think consistency 100 like that that is something that um i don’t think anything’s really changed tonally but i think it i i know that i know that it’s maintained and i’m sure that that that’s large part and due to working with you um um but nice and and i think again like i was saying about going to school it’s like just learning things and just it demystifies a lot of it yeah so yeah and there’s a lot of things about it that i’ve never even like the diaphragmatic stuff is something i’ve never even you know i think miles tried to explain it to me once and i was like okay that’s that’s that’s for that’s for advanced that’s not that’s
and that’s something that i still i still um it’s still going up going on in the back of my mind while i’m singing and doing some of the more challenging parts um all those things it’s just that yeah there’s a there’s a there’s a confidence that comes with um knowing you’ve got an 80 chance as opposed to a 40 chance of nailing it yeah you know and and especially if you’re a good voice then it’s almost it’s almost best when um the the the conversation isn’t there at all because i’m just like well i’m in i’m in good shape here and and everything’s flowing and everything feels great and if you just check in with yourself every now and then how much and then just and all that all that diaphragmatic stuff which is mechanic and sometimes i i’ll trip onto it accidentally where i i didn’t i yeah yeah and then and then i’m just like i could sing this note for four minutes like it just yeah um but yeah you know all of it is just has helped me tremendously you know i don’t think uh i’m sure i’d be in a different and that my voice would sound different than it does had it not been for meeting you and i it’s just like there’s no way to maintain especially the style of music we do the style that i do and and um you know how to avoid the certain pitfalls like uh because i you know i get swept up in in the moment all the time every night it happens to me every night i’ll get swept up and i’m like i’m going for this and i’m emptying the tank on this one note yeah and and it’s like my version of that now is just like let’s save some for the end of the song you know like lean into it and make it make it great but but let’s see let’s you know yeah and then we also have the other 40 dates to worry about after this so let’s you know that’s right it breaks there yeah but all of it has helped yeah the interesting thing with you is um you know through all the stages that i work with the the big one the final one is something called blending and you had that naturally in your voice you you had found your way to it which is how you do all that that top end stuff but we what you didn’t have was the support and it was as you as you you know get older just like just like anything i i can’t work out like i did when i was 30 i just i can’t yeah you know and it’s the same thing with the voice even though you’re in you know that vocal prime the recovery time as you age just just increases so once we establish the you know the the the support the diaphragmatic stuff with you it just kind of started connecting all that those mechanics together and um because the one thing that you know i don’t change people’s voices i you know you can change the sound that that’s not what i do i show people how to do what they do because that’s what sells records for them um in a healthy way so they they have the ability to do a 40-show tour without tearing themselves apart yeah that’s what was interesting with you because you had the majority of it naturally which is very rare just adding that that piece on just yeah it was everything for you yeah it really did it really did and i still you know as you know um you get sick on the road and like oh you’re going to be one of my first calls which help [ __ ] i remember the first show the last big tour it’s the first show we’re in boston i don’t have a voice yeah and it’s just simply how you warm up and even then like you know there’s a certain way of warming up but it doesn’t mean that that case could be fun yeah it’s still gonna be a lot of work but at least hopefully you can get through it yeah that’s the major thing do you have any you know like personal tips that you would you know give to young singers or you know people coming up and i wouldn’t i wouldn’t presume to even you know i wouldn’t know where to begin like yeah one of the things that i that i tend to do early in a tour and again this is all prefaced with it but if i’m in good voice and good health um once my voice is ready once it’s there after warming up and i tend to warm up too long a lot of the time and i’ve that’s something i’ve been sort of staying cognizant of in the last couple of years right um because sometimes i just you know save some for the show man you know but you know it’s like it’s like blowing all your good ideas and sound check it’s like well there’s some part of your mind that’s like well i’ve already been there i’ve already been you’re going off in some huge solo you miss all the all the gold because you’re like i’ve already been there it was like nobody was there to see it so yeah no you haven’t yeah but but yeah as far as the warm-up goes one thing that i’ll do early in a in a tour and sometimes it you know sometimes the whole way through but and depending on what we’re starting with the first song that we’re starting with um is once i’m warmed up and everything’s there and i’m i’m good it’s all i’ll give a couple of blasts
before we go on just to see just to see yeah and just to see if the you know the the sort of grit and that that whatever the thing is that when you’re singing certain parts and you want that sound um i’ll give a couple of blasts just to make sure you know i don’t want to i don’t want to do too many because yeah like that you get you got to be yeah be careful with those there’s a there’s a finite number yeah yeah exactly and a lot of it is you know if you you know if you include that in part of the warm-up schedule and you know like do you do that right before you go on or do you do that and then give the voice a a chance to to rest literally like five or ten minutes and then then not even like when i’m tired when i say blast like i’m singing along with the intro while we’re side stage oh okay yeah yeah yeah and i’m just doing light and light and light and keeping it just really light flexible and then and then i’ll i’ll give a couple of a couple of roars like just just to make sure that it’s in there you know yeah not too many not too much but then then of course you know there’s another three or four minutes before i have to start singing and i’m you know i’m fine but right right right and i don’t need i don’t even know if that’s helpful i just i don’t really as far as [ __ ] me giving advice you know i just just do do whatever whatever comes out of your mouth is that’s that’s you and then just work on it you know make it better don’t don’t do it for if you don’t if you’re not comfortable then you know sit on the end of your bed with your guitar or your piano and work on it until you feel it’s good enough yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah i i don’t know what else to do do you find you you up your water intake uh before a tour before sessions or do you just maintain hydration the whole time because that that’s a good one for most because most people don’t drink water in the early days i mean we drank everything but water and a lot of it you know nowadays i yeah i tend to i’m pretty hydrated man i tend to drink a lot of water and biosteel love that stuff i just like i’ll i’ll stay really really hydrated and i’m sure that’s i’m sure that’s helpful it’s a huge factor and pairing that with the you know with the humidifier because you know a lot of thing that a lot of things that people don’t understand is that you know that saying you know if you have a cold you drink lots of fluids and get plenty of sleep well part of that is that when you drink lots of fluids you keep all the mucus that your body produces thin and you can move it right so if you just stay hydrated all the time
you’re you’re in you’re in great shape and then you know the with the humidifiers in the recovery after a show it’s it’s really really important and i was quite happy to hear you you know you figured out how to do it on the bus you know just to give yourself a chance yeah well we would you know when i’m when i’m with sometimes like i remember in the last it must have been the last run or maybe the one pre one one of the ones where i got sick right off the hop um it’s like well we send somebody to go get a humidifier and we get a hotel room and then i’ll just like hold up in the hotel room with the humidifier just blasting right in my face yeah um yeah and then just and just slamming water and slamming water yeah yeah um it sucks man it’s the worst i i i hate getting sick it’s just it’s brutal it’s the worst part of being a singer it really is yeah because it’s not it’s not for anybody to be sick it sucks for anybody to be sick but i could be sick as a dog and still play blazing guitar solo you know i might not enjoy it as much i might not be doing loop-de-loops and jumping off the stack and i’m you know yeah but you know these still work yeah and this is just taken away it’s and you know it’s not your fault like nobody wants to get sick it’s just the worst yeah people waiting in the audience to see a great show and you’re like i don’t know if i can give them a great show
I know it’s a psychological thing like i said it’s you know the emotional stress of going, ah christ what the hell am i gonna do tonight you know you know been there many times it sucks um thanks for doing this man
that’s awesome hopefully there’s lots of stuff in there for people to digest and just get people thinking about what it is and how long and what’s the effort behind doing you know what you do
yeah i think that’s the whole point. it’s a lifelong pursuit
it certainly is it certainly is so thank you that i really appreciate it
dude thank you so much it’s great to see you all back for a top up soon because i’m we’re heading out in uh in april that’s all right yeah i think it’s yeah in april so we’re in warren rehearsals march but maybe sometime in there like sure i don’t keep meeting too but i really i’m due yeah see how much i’ve [ __ ] up over the last couple years i think i’m okay though it feels great like sounds great yeah when i’m healthy it’s okay yeah yeah it sounds great all right buddy all right
thanks for watching I’d like to give a big thanks to Ian for doing the interview and to Ryan Balloch from Skware Eyes Collaborative for providing me with the video and the images if you like this and perhaps learn something please hit that subscribe button I’ve got more stuff to come
Mitch Seekins Vocal Coach to Ian Thornley from Big Wreck and many others!
hi I’m Mitch Seekins The Vocal Coach I’m doing a series of interviews with the people I’m working with and have worked with in the past who are at the top of their game and I’m finding out what it takes for them to stay there and passing it on to you. This interview features Stefan Babcock from the Canadian punk band PUP
PUP is a particular favorite of mine because of the intensity of their live show and their tongue-in-cheek humor in the tunes. As a performer I gigged for 38 years and many of them were on the road on tour and any band who writes a song called “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You I Will” has my vote! With their incredible work ethic they have become one of the biggest punk bands in the world, touring globally for many years now. Stef and I sat down to talk about all the things he’s been through as a punk vocalist and how he has survived through it all.
So good morning stef hi thanks for doing this again uh for those that you don’t know this is the third time stef and i have done that he’s been very patient and very um good-natured about my ineptitude when it comes to this stuff. the first time i showed up at a gig and then couldn’t work the cameras awesome … so yes thanks again for doing this and um you know the whole purpose of this is just to you know give people an idea of what it takes to do what you do um and you know the stuff that that you have to deal with uh in order to you know perform uh at the level that you’re performing at . some of the questions that i’ve got for you pertain to you know the performance side of things and care but and also you know the stuff that we worked on vocal technique and that and that kind of thing.
so how were uh how old were you when you started singing
um i’ve been in band since i was 15 but i wasn’t i i didn’t i wasn’t a lead singer in a band until i was 23 24. yeah and is that when uh you turned pro kind of thing or were you pro before that with some of your other projects like being paid for a gig is my definition of pro yeah yes it depends on your definition um yes pro like i was i started i did my first tour tour at 16. um it wasn’t tours like five five six days in a row kind of thing um but i didn’t start doing it full time until i was around 24 25.
so once you got on the road what were some of the common vocal problems that you experienced while touring uh and i mean this is a big one because of what you experienced and what you brought you to to study with me ….so just kind of tell a little bit about what you uh what you went through on that.
playing a show or playing two shows or playing three shows is a very different experience than going out for a month yeah i never had trouble singing two three shows um and i started to notice that i was having major problems as soon as we started going out for a week two weeks three weeks at a time ….it’s just hard on your voice and hard on your body when you’re um out there night after night trying to like give it your all whether you’re playing to three people or three thousand it’s like i’ve always had that kind of mentality that you should go as hard as possible every show and uh just kind of if you’re not doing it right it just starts to take its toll so i just started losing my voice i couldn’t hit higher notes, notes that i could normally hit my voice started getting weird and raspy um i started having a lot of vocal cracks on stage which was pretty funny yeah and embarrassing at the same time like it’s people probably wondered why this 28 year old was hitting puberty again um it just got to the point where i felt like i really was not delivering uh even close to my best every night right and then it starts to affect you mentally and it’s a it’s a whole kind of spiral of self-doubt from there ….
yeah the psychological effect of something you know along that line gets pretty hefty in it and like you said it builds and um the emotional stress that is accumulated from that psychological stress , essentially it’s the same thing it just compounds and makes things worse and then you had uh the issue where you end up ended up hemorrhaging um just say a little bit about that
yeah we um we were i mean we had pretty much been on tour for maybe two years straight almost uh at that time i had gotten into a warm-up routine i was doing i was working hard on making singing easier for me uh but at a certain point things started to feel really off… um i went to see a doctor a mid-tour and they kind of told me like bad things are starting to happen you should go home um and it’s just not that easy to drop off before so i don’t want to say i ignored the advice but i just kind of thought i’m going to push through and just do everything in my power to take care of myself but keep going and at a certain point uh one show it would just it went away like i couldn’t make sounds at all while talking about not being able to hit the high notes or whatever it was like i there was no sound um and it turned out that i had to hemorrhage my vocal cords uh and uh that just sort of means that the cords filled with blood and i wasn’t able to really sing i couldn’t speak actually for about three weeks after that and sing i couldn’t sing for about four months or and i couldn’t really sing the way that i like to sing for almost i don’t know seven eight months it took a few months at least with with you to kind of get yeah
i think you were with me for at least um i think it was two two or three months before you had some shows to do down in the states or was it for ..i have to look back i’m not sure what uh what it was so um how did you hear about what it is i do i can’t i can’t even remember
i have i have a speech language pathologist mm-hmm they look at the vocal cords to see if there’s any damage and they’re more on the kind of medical side of coaching and vocal performance so i was working with somebody named aaron lowe who was just kind of like taking care of my busted up cords and helping the hemorrhage and stuff like that and uh he he recommended a few names and you were one of them um and you were not my first vocal teacher but you will be my last! i went through a lot of well not a lot i should say i went through maybe three four teachers who all just kept telling me you shouldn’t sing like this and when i say you shouldn’t sing like this it’s not like you should do what you do differently it’s like you shouldn’t do what you do and that’s just not an answer that i cared to hear …whether it was right or not i just what i do is what i do that’s what i built my career on there’s no real alternative except the alternative that you showed me… there’s a way to do what i do while also minimizing the damage and preparing myself physically and emotionally for kind of what it was gonna be like to cause a small bit of damage every night you know
right and um so you know you came over and i remember there wasn’t really much of a voice there when we started working and cause i mean what i what i do just for everybody here you know what i do does end up repairing voices it takes a while you know because realistically i mean i think it was like four months and then you had uh like five shows down in the states and then you came back for a couple months and then you had a few more shows and then a few more months and then you had australia and another bunch of months then you had europe um and it built from there um and it’s been three and a half years four years now and it’s been occasional you know because i mean the last world tour that you did i didn’t hear from you at all! and you were gone that last tour was ten and a half months long and so you know the voice is fully healed and you’re able to do what you do every night and not kill yourself.
how is the vocal fatigue on tour now?
i mean it’s still there like yeah a reality if you sing aggressive music and also i kind of sing you know higher a higher register yeah that you’re going to get fatigued if you do it every night but it’s so much more manageable now um right
there is a difference between vocal fatigue which is like a good workout as opposed to vocal damage which is you know uh you accumulate um that that can build i don’t think there’s no damage happening anymore and vocal fatigue is okay that’s just like going for a good solid run like yeah you’re gonna be tired but that doesn’t mean you can’t run tomorrow
you know what i mean yeah the goal now is just like to be able to go hard every night and if by the end of the night i’m i’m that’s fine as long as i feel like by the next night at nine p.m or whatever time we’re going on i’m gonna be ready to go again yeah it took a long time took a lot of work to get to the point where i had enough confidence that i knew i could come off stage and be white and know that tomorrow i’ll be good to go yeah you’d be you’d be fine yeah yeah um so some of the things that you do for vocal recovery now um i don’t think you knew a whole lot about how to take care of the voice well uh before we we began work i mean i think you had a little bit of an idea but what are the some of the things that you do now uh to deal with the the stress the strain of doing shows
uh a lot of the stuff is preventative i think um i’ve been doing warm-ups for maybe like before shows for maybe a year or so before we started working together yeah but the warm-ups that we do uh are a bit different they’re much more gentle it’s like about kind of really really it’s not a it’s not five minutes like let’s go it’s like really gentle ease back into it spend 20 minutes half an hour to get yourself going um so i would i will not miss a warm-up under any circumstances there’s there’s circumstances that i’ll go on stage without warming up because i know that that could lead to really big issues so yeah that means like it’s a bit different now like now that we you know always have like uh decent green rooms and stuff like that but there was a point four or five years ago where we were playing really small shows like uh that we didn’t have a backstage and it was just like well i guess i’m it’s you know it’s negative 20. i’m still gonna sit in the car or go for a walk and do this because i won’t get on stage without doing the warm-ups um i drink a lot of water um yeah it’s incredibly important the hydration level has to be there yeah like four or four ish leaders a day and then and then there’s the hardest part and it got easier as i got older but the hardest part of uh of taking care of myself was
trying to eat better um party less and more so i’m not gonna say i don’t party on tour i just choose my battles yeah you know in my early mid 20s i would um get wasted a lot and having a beard or two completely fine but when you’re getting hammered the next day you’re going to probably wake up without a voice and i know that about myself yeah so i permit myself to do that maybe once a week when we have a day off um that was hard that was a hard thing to to kind of acknowledge but it is the honest truth like i know that i need eight hours of sleep i know that if there’s a lot of travel i have to get extra sleep and i have to drink extra water and i have to eat healthier and um and yeah i just gotta take care of my body because it’s all it’s all connected it is all connected this is how your voice is going to feel and that’s kind of what it is yeah yeah no exactly um so uh my next question is any thoughts of studying voice well we’ve been kind of talking about that anyway so i mean essentially it um you know learning how to use the voice properly and take care of the voice has basically enabled you to maintain a career because recovering from a hemorrhage that’s pretty serious stuff and for a lot of singers if they don’t get the help that they need it’s done like the career is done like it’s you know it’s over unless you want to go you know sing lounge music or something but that’s not exactly you so
yeah yeah it’s real it’s like learning learning the proper techniques i i hate technique i hate music theory i don’t read music i learn music completely by ear i write songs by ear i hate all that stuff and i was really resistant yeah but um like i said earlier learning the technique doesn’t mean that i have to doesn’t mean that i have to do things differently yeah and you don’t compromise what you do yeah exactly and it took me a long time to kind of understand that and appreciate that you know like not to simplify things but like if you properly use your diaphragm and properly use the you know the blending techniques that mitch has taught me and things like that
they eventually just become muscle memory and then you can go back to singing however it is you like to sing as hard as you like to sing in any register and those muscles just kick in and you get the same sounds except stronger and i’m not like i’m not learning to become a classical singer here i’m hurting myself yeah yeah um and i know you touched on this a little bit before uh just the difference because i mean you know when i met you you were doing 250 shows a year sometimes they were people’s garages or somebody’s basement and now you’re doing shows upwards of uh you know 20 000 some some of the stuff um on an average what are you doing five or ten thousand seeders like what is it you’re doing now no not quite that much um you do big festivals of those sites like a normal headline show will be around 2000 2000 right and there isn’t really much of it because your show is your show there’s not a there’s no difference in preparation between singing somebody’s garage and seeing you know at a hall that you have you know 2 000 people and 500 500 of them are in a mosh pit in front of you there there’s there’s no difference in preparation for each show is that is that fair to say is that correct yeah it’s all about finding that routine that works for you and when you find something that works i mean when i found something that work i just stuck with it you know how many lessons i need before i go on tour i know how to prepare and then i know that every day um uh i have to eat two hours before the show and i have to warm up an hour before the show and i gotta drink you know half a liter of water right before we go on and away you’re good you’re good to go um
what is the most poignant thing that you learned from our work together um that has saved your ass essentially is it the blending is it the focusing forward is it the diaphragmatic work or is it a combination of everything is there something that sticks out to you um i can point to maybe a couple things um one major thing okay so all the technique i learned has been amazing and it’s all saved my butt so yeah i’m not want to diminish any of that that’s all the necessary necessary work if you don’t do that just forget it so that work is necessary um but then the things that really have clicked in my mind uh working with you for a few years uh one is that preparation i’m not talking about local warmers before show i’m talking about preparing to go on tour yeah i’m gonna go to the studio is incredibly important i used to have this mindset i used to think that okay well when i go on tour my my my voice is gonna hurt and it’s gonna suffer so leading up to a tour i just have to rest and not use it and build up as much good will or whatever you want to call it so that i can give it to you and that’s the exact opposite of what needs to happen yeah well at least i need to i shouldn’t say you for me it was i need to spend three weeks before any tour pretending like i’m on tour so that means five nights of the week i have to go
into my jam space or into my car or into my garage and scream for an hour like i’m on stage and accept the fact that i’m gonna lose my voice but it will happen in the three weeks preceding the tour instead of on tour so that preparation and being like committed because it sucks to go and like sing the songs by yourself at top yeah volume show volume yeah i know sucks it’s so boring it’s like but it’s all part of the job right like for me it was like commit to that prep and then i know i won’t have problems um and then another thing that has really stuck with me is just something that you told me i don’t know six seven months into this and it was that
we’re all only human and you’re never going to be a hundred percent or you must 100 sometimes but you’re not going to be a hundred percent every day um and that’s a hard thing when you’re on stage and people are staring at you and you know that you’re trying your hardest but you’re not giving your best it’s a hard thing to reckon with but um being easy on yourself is really important knowing that i’m gonna go out every night and give it a 100 but if i if i give 100 and i only sing 70 well that’s also okay because i’m human and i get to do it again the next night and the next night and yeah
you know you can’t it’s just the voice is a muscle and sometimes it’s firing on all cylinders and sometimes you’re just pushing through to get to
yeah um it is you know my philosophy has always been you know the voice it is an athletic endeavor to sing it’s it’s a coordination between muscles and air pressure and all that sort of thing and it is important to make sure that you work out if you are an olympic level athlete the last thing that you’re gonna do is stop training three or four weeks before a competition that doesn’t make any sense at all you know what i mean so if people understand that it is a coordinated uh effort uh a full body coordination uh effort and you do have to work it out i mean that would help a lot of people out i think that’s so that that’s a that’s a great that’s a a great tip um any last parting thoughts i mean we’re we gotta get to work because you’re you’re prepping for a record um i’m helping you prep for a record you’re leaving in i don’t know a month and a half or so or no three weeks three weeks two weeks some i don’t know something like that um any last thoughts um
i think it’s i think it’s easy to dismiss a lot of vocal training and stuff i certainly did at the beginning but i think if you’re a singer and you want to do it professionally and you want to go on tour and do it night after night and be somewhat consistent it’s like you owe it to yourself to
do your best to make it something that’s sustainable and one of the most important things that you can do to make sure that you have a career and you don’t burn out is to learn the techniques and also to commit yourself to making surgeon sacrifices in order to be the best singer or performer that you can be whether that means cutting down on partying or whether it means just making sure you practice extra whatever those things are it takes sacrifice and and if you want to do it for real i strongly suggest being honest with yourself about those things yeah yeah that that’s great advice as well um because it it does it doing this it takes a ton of commitment a lot of people don’t quite understand that um so and that’s basically what you got to do it’s it it’ll make the difference between a two-year career or a 30-year career you know you just want to be the best that you can be because if you don’t somebody else will come along and do it you know so there’s lots of competition out there and it is in and it’s not really a competition i really shouldn’t say that but um you know you always want to try to do the best job you can you know that’s that’s just the way that it is anyway thanks for doing this again i really appreciate that that’s in the last time this will be the last time there was no bumps uh it was all good it was all good so uh thank you steph and um i look forward to hearing the new record when it comes out thanks mitch all right
thanks for watching i’d like to give a shout out to some of the people who made this possible a heartfelt thanks to stefan for doing this interview again and to the other guys in puck to brilliant corners artist management and to rise records for their permissions and to amanda foltz the amazing photographer who took all those images i’ll provide a link to her page below please check out her work it really is spectacular if you like this and perhaps learn something please hit that subscribe button i’ve got more stuff to come
Want to know what it takes and what its like to sing at a professional level? Why not listen to the people who are already there? This interview features 3 Days Grace vocalist Matt Walst. Thanks so much to those who made this possible. Thanks Matt!
photos – www.alysoncoletta.com
hi i’m Mitch Seekins the vocal coach. I’m doing a series of interviews with the people I’m working with and have worked with in the pas,t who are at the top of their game and I’m finding out what it takes for them to stay there and passing it on to you.
How many bands out there still produce number one singles after being together for over 25 years? Throw in changing their lead vocalist mid stride? Usually this marks the beginning of the end for a band not getting even bigger than they ever have been! But this is what has happened for these guys. I’m talking about Three Days Grace! So far they’ve produced more us rock radio number one singles than any other band in history that’s pretty amazing stuff, in fact just this past weekend January 30th 22 – they hit number one again with their new single So Called Life! That’s the 16th number one, if you’re counting!
I started working with Matt Walst in 2014, at the request of the producer at the time, Gavin Brown, and only about a year after matt joined Three Days Grace. We did some work, and I was able to help with a few tunes on the Human album. We’ve continued to work together since then – in between tours that is- and he’s a great guy and I’m proud to call him a friend as well as a student. I thought it would be fantastic to interview him about being a front man for a band that constantly tours the world doing huge shows and give you some insight into what it takes to do what he does night after night. I got together with him at a studio in 2020 right before the very first lockdown… I know it’s been a long time but better late than never right? Oh and just so you know “So-Called Life” is the seventh number one for Matt with Three Days Grace. Hope you enjoy it!
Matt! Thanks for doing this man!
Excellent so how you been the tour was good?
Good man yeah … got some time on good it’s been home yeah working on songs and yeah we still do vocal lessons every week twice a week
Just to let everybody know this is really all about, you know, getting information to uh people and letting them know what it’s like to be at your level. What kind of preparation is involved you know all that all that kind of thing.
how old were you when you started (singing)?
I was about like 12 or 13 when I started like really trying to sing and like uh making my own music and making riffs and then singing melodies over it… but like from like as a small kid i was always in my room playing like Buddy Holly and singing along with it and yeah like my parents were very musical. They liked music but they didn’t play much of it. My dad can sing, he’s got like a opera kind of voice so yeah he was always singing around the house and stuff we always had music around so uh I was always singing in my room … but around like 13 14. and when i started singing like I did I thought I had a bad voice like and I probably did at the time. I had to find my voice and like what worked for me and like where my range was and yeah and at the age of 12
I mean you’re just going through that puberty stage you haven’t fully developed a range or total quality because it’s very unstable
I listened to videos from when i was like 16 and 17 and I’ve heard some stuff from high school and uh back then I didn’t think I had much of a voice and listening to it now I was like holy I was actually impressed with the 16 17 year old version of me!
And when did you turn pro touring?
uh 28 was the year that I started touring and really like got a record deal
oh okay! It was later on!
But uh yeah I moved to Toronto- we’re in Norwood right now- a small town of 1300 people, so I moved from uh Norwood to Toronto when i was about 22 and it was right after uh Three Days Grace blew up and I had two songs on that first record right and I was actually going to school in Peterborough here and uh for customs and I decided at one point when I when my royalties started coming in for Three Days Grace right I was like I made what I would have made in customs uh as a customs broker
On two songs in one year I made that money so while i was in school doing this like doing customs i started getting this money and I was like I’m gonna pursue music like yeah
I mean obviously something was starting to work
and i mean if it and if it’s a passion of yours….
um yeah well and seeing my brother’s band blow up at that point i was like well maybe this could be a possibility and the producer that they had i was working with and that’s kind of why those songs ended up there and
nowadays you tour a lot … like the last tour was how long was the last one (Album Cycle) two years?
um well there was one in the summer with the Breaking Benjamin and Chevelle , it was about 12 12 weeks long yeah but i mean like it it seemed like this cycle yeah it’s like a year and a half or something yeah we went from Disturbed in the winter to uh Breaking Benjamin uh in the summer then at the end of the summer we went Five Finger Death Punch tour so yeah this past couple years has been uh really good for us like we started off um uh not knowing where and like who we’re gonna tour with and then um after the single got out we just started doing it and we got a lot of tours by the end yeah
you were you were busy though yeah the whole time
now um i mean we’ve been working together for like four years now something like that um before that was there um any vocal problems that you had that seemed to be consistent uh or was it a haphazard thing or just when you got sick or…
yeah i was singing pretty hard like i was uh going hard to do i you still do!
but I choose I choose my battles better and now i know where i can light up and where i have to like give it uh i found my way through it but i did have some problems that’s that the first right but you know i i still do once once in a while you know you get a cold or a flu and and there’s not not much that you can do about it’s a human instrument yeah um and i mean with the other stuff i mean you are talking about recovery time so i mean if you hurt the voice during one show unless you have like a day or two off yeah the problem just persists and gets worse um yeah you know for the next for the next show yeah uh so it was just kind of a haphazard kind of hope you get better kind of thing or yeah or how did you deal with that i just uh you know lots of water but and uh lots of rest the same way i deal with it now um i just find that i i found a better place in my head like in my head voice yeah i don’t i don’t use my throat as much as i used to i send it up up here and i i find tone up here instead of like down here yeah because when you’re when you’re around here when you have lots of weight that’s when that’s when the damage starts happening so i don’t need i don’t do that as much now but uh you know i still uh on tour i i try to get as much rest as possible um yeah you know like and on a bus it’s hard but you got to do it you need like i try to get at least 10 hours sleep at night that’s amazing i try that’s amazing right another thing that a lot of people don’t necessarily think about is the actual psychological um hardship i mean particularly when you’re not sure of how to approach things and you’re on tour you’re doing you know bigger shows and you heard the voice what was it like dealing with that like the stuff in your head yeah yeah what was that like um you know i i go through it like even like after show um i i worry about the next day like i’m always always like because i got a show the next day i just finished an hour and a half yeah you know and like if you if you’re hurting here like you start thinking about it um i just had like honestly i have a few drinks and i try to get in no i try to get in that that mindset and to try to forget about that yeah and just do do what i can yeah and it usually works like yeah it but if you go out there thinking you’re you can’t do it and that you’re hurting you’re not going to be able to do it exactly so if you’re not thinking about that you’re going to have the right show so in terms of vocal recovery like you just mentioned you drink lots of water you get as much sleep as you can which is paramount um is there anything else that you do to enable a vocal recovery in between shows yeah um i can go over all them yeah yeah yeah i honestly i drink water like it’s going out of stuff yeah i like like if your pee is yellow you’re not drinking enough water that’s right you’re not hydrated enough first that’s first um i sometimes use my personal humidifier before it shows i usually use it for about 15 minutes watch the humidifier i usually use it for about 15 minutes um it can be good but also if you’re like have some bacterial going on and you’re huffing steam a lot it can turn bad yes it can be like a petri dish yeah like the steam so you gotta weigh that out um sometimes in hotels when i’m traveling i’ll crank the the shower in the hotel and i’ll get that bathroom like just like like crazy yeah some of them it’s just like water is running down yeah yeah but then i’ll crank that and i’ll just lay in there for about an hour and yeah like that i found when i was on tour that’s exactly what i’d do yes go have a like a ridiculously steamy hot shower before and after the show yeah yeah um i was very helpful uh big shows versus smaller shows now i don’t even know if you guys do any smaller shows vocally well i do your warm-up ever yeah before every show i i do uh about 15 minutes of your warm-up every time i’d say that the bigger shows are definitely harder on your vo vocally right because you don’t have that acoustic uh pa coming back yeah like you know you sing in a hall it’s way easier to hit the sing in the hall with that those acoustics you get the room to let everything relax and go yeah so when you’re at a big outdoor uh festival all that sounds going out to the crowd um so you don’t get that ambience right right and any you know difference in the actual show itself or is the show consistent smaller venues big venues doesn’t matter the three days great show is the three days great show yeah i would say like we treat it the same we just need a big show like outdoors to ten thousand fifteen thousand uh we’ll treat it the same as an indoor club with 2000 right connect better with a smaller crowd like especially if they’re going off and like crazy but then like you know we just played a festival i believe it was called louder than life um and it was massive it was massive it was like 50 000 50 60 000 people and it was insane like the crowd was just insane like i think there’s a actually a video clip of it on our instagram
and like that was so much fun like i connected with that crowd really well and at that point it just you just yeah once you practice and and and you just know the songs enough it’s you you get to concentrate on other things like i i saw santa claus in the middle of summer out in the middle of the crowd and i remember like i think it was between songs and i’m like hey santa you know it just becomes fun so yeah any thoughts on studying voice and how uh you know how and if it has enhanced what you do um abilities range endurance stamina what what’s your thought on on studying voice because what i run into occasion not so much anymore is you know people when they come to me is this going to change my voice am i going to just sound like an opera singer you know that kind of thing what what are your thoughts on studying i now of course it’s a loaded question you’ve been studying with me for four years but is there any advice that you would you would uh give people um i i just think for me the what i’ve learned from studying uh with you is that just like the positioning of of my voice like uh like a lot of the stuff is loud uh like i’m a loud singer when it’s up there and the choruses are loud um i just try like for me uh it’s positioning and singing from like positioning it up here instead of here and like i i definitely use my gut a lot more uh you know for singing the support stuff yeah yeah yeah um and it’s it’s made it more consistent it’s made it easier definitely easier like uh and consistent yeah so i can do the do what i do um more without uh without hurting myself right that would hopefully translate into not worrying about doing so many shows in a row yeah because you just have the confidence that well yeah i can do it i just did it last week so yeah yeah i’m going to do it again right yeah we’re only human so yes at one point at one point you know we’re only human and we can only do so much but uh you know the quality of what we do uh that definitely the quality of my singing i feel has got better over the years in the studio uh like you can hear the difference in more control more control better tone is there anything in particular that we’ve worked on that has made um a more impactful difference um i believe that the the uh blending stuff has definitely helped me out a lot yeah um it’s just when we’re blending like up so high and stuff like it just makes and then when you go to sing it like sing full voice it just makes those notes the the full voice stuff that i’m singing like seem really low like because we go up so high yeah blending um like when when i do that and then go sing something that usually i believe is pretty high i can hit it uh yeah yeah yeah yeah because that’s my philosophy you know i i approach the voice as a as an athlete so what i do with everybody is i over train yeah what they would naturally do so that just gets ingrained in your head yeah like well i’m doing this during the last yes this is easy yeah yeah and that’s that’s part of the confidence and uh which alleviates strain stress yeah emotional stress and then hopefully increases the consistency yeah do you have any personal tips other than what we’ve talked about that you could think of because i mean we talked about a lot of stuff yeah any any tips for young singers coming up sure what kind of advice would you give them sure um if you ever have pineapple pineapple’s the best like it just like i don’t know like if you got a dry throat and you eat a bit of pineapple it gets what gets everything going i don’t know what
i told you about that yeah yeah because when i was touring that was our only thing on the rider was a fruit tray yeah and there was cantaloupe um honeydew melon uh pineapple and oranges yeah um the fruit stuff so you found that the pineapple works yeah pineapple yeah i always eat a bit of pineapple and get the eggs yeah the citrus helps clear the throat the fruit juice uh your body accesses the energy immediately yeah um it’s yeah it’s just it’s really good stuff so um i think that’s it cool
oh uh this is for the the tech guys um do you have a favorite microphone that you use?
i just use my old Sennheiser uh no really favorites i i use a Sennheiser wireless on stage yeah uh it’s it’s pretty good yeah it works for me i think i think i’ve always had two i’ve always been on Sennheiser i use uh Sennheiser and Shure at home you know yeah yeah not a big deal
well thank you very much uh hopefully everybody found that helpful and uh thanks man i appreciate you doing this for me
no problem all right
okay so what was that last little bit of advice that you were given well you know we didn’t talk about colds too much but if you can try not to get a [ __ ] cold that would be very helpful yeah
Thanks for watching! I’d like to give a shout out to some of the people who made this all possible a huge thanks to Matt Walsh for doing the interview. To the boys in Three Days Grace and their management Q Prime Management for allowing me access to the footage and the pictures from the last world tour …. to RCA Records for their permissions and to Allison Coletta the wonderful photographer who took all those images… I’ll provide a link to her page below please check out her work it’s awesome.
If you like this and perhaps learn something please hit that subscribe button I’ve got more stuff to come
Having studied voice so extensively and performing in multiple musical genres, Mitch has been able to develop a unique vocal technique (The Mitch Seekins Vocal Technique) that empowers his students with the ability to sing in any musical genre. Mitch’s vocal technique is very different from “vocal coaching”.