When creating your artistic persona, first think about what kind of a singer you are. Are you a jazz singer? A rocker, soul singer, a pop artist? Each of these genres has certain conventions, not quite rules, about look, stagecraft, costuming, atmosphere based on what has come before. But don’t feel too constrained by the past, just learn from it. Remember that those who break the mold, like Elvis or Little Richard, are often considered thrilling innovators.
Know your audience. If your audience is comprised of young people, your show might look quite different than if you’re singing in a jazz club frequented by an older crowd. So knowing who your audience is, is a good first step to envisioning the visual and auditory adventure you have in mind.
What are Your Goals?
Before dreaming up your artistic world, ask yourself: “What are my singing goals? If you just love to sing, then singing at karaoke clubs or open mic nights might be perfect for you. Just throw on a cute outfit, do your hair and you’ll be good to go!
But if you’d like to make a salary and sing in hotels or cruise ships around the world, that’s a whole different avenue of self-presentation. Maybe you’re a singer-songwriter type of performer who goes onstage as yourself, meaning your stage persona is based on the real you, honest and direct. Good examples of this kind of artist are Sheryl Crow or Ed Sheeran.
But perhaps you’d like to take a walk on the wild side and see yourself as a creative visionary who tours and performs for huge audiences as another character altogether. In that case, your alter ego, we could call it, might be an extension of your real personality or somebody completely different from the real you.
Think of Madonna or Lady Gaga – they’re both known for creating stage personas which not only stimulate and shock but can even start international fashion trends.
Unleash Your Imagination
If you’re interested in delving into creating an artistic persona for yourself, let your imagination run wild. Let’s start with your look. Do you have a color theme, like Prince did? Is there something unique and news-worthy you can do with a costume or your hair? If you can dance, definitely put that into your alter-ego’s superpowers. If you play an instrument or two, think about how your instruments can fit into your show visually? Perhaps you can acquire a keyboard or guitar which looks different somehow or is custom-made to reflect your persona.
Your Stage Name
Of course, we can’t forget your stage name. Will it be your regular name or perhaps just one name like Adele or Cher? How do you feel about creating a completely new name like rappers do?
Think about the visuals behind you on stage. Try to imagine what you want to be playing on screens behind the band. What about special effects? Can you imagine a unique lighting design, confetti, circus performers? Background dancers, costume changes, props? This is the time to let yourself dream to your heart’s content. Don’t let your rational mind interrupt your reveries with thoughts of “how could I possibly afford this!’ – For now, all things are possible!
Consider the Past
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Everything old is new again?” Rummaging through historical fashion and design ideas as well as studying famous characters from the past are all valuable tools when creating your first persona.
Once you have a vision of yourself on stage and have designed a world for that persona to live in, don’t worry, you can always come up with something new later on in your career. In fact, reinvention seems to be highly regarded in the pop music business.
Finally, it’s best not to dream in a vacuum. See as many shows as you can and steal ideas from imaginative artists who’ve come before you. Then make a twist, add your personal stamp, something fresh, thought-provoking and memorable.
Lisa Popeil is one of LA’s top voice coaches with over 40 years of professional teaching experience. As a singer, she’s performed and recorded with Frank Zappa and ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic and her album ‘Lisa Popeil’ was a Billboard ‘Top Album Pick’. Lisa has an MFA in Voice, is the creator of the Voiceworks® Method, and is regularly featured in leading music magazines, journals, books and conferences.