Feature Photo credit: Kirsten James; Adrian performing in Victoria, BC, Canada.
Adrian Chalifour has been making big waves: his song “Head Down Heart Up” won 1st Prize (AAA category) in the 2019 international Unsigned Only competition.
He’s been charting on Canadian commercial radio and has appeared Canadian TV show The LAUNCH. And Bebe Rexha even asked him to sing at her wedding!
Adrian has some great practical insights on singing & performing that come from, literally, hundreds of self-booked shows.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in terms of vocal health and/or technique?
Probably the vital importance of warming up. When my bandmates and I began consistently doing vocal warm-ups before each gig a few years ago the results were undeniable and our live show benefited SO much SO quickly it made me wonder why it took that long to put it into practice!
What was your biggest takeaway your first performance?
I didn’t perform my own music publicly until I was 19. It was in a cafe to no more than 6 people. Yet, the moment I got up there my mouth went bone dry, and I had so much sweat coming off my forehead that my hair gel stung my eyes – and I immediately forgot all the words to my own songs. The lesson was that this is going to be a marathon not a sprint, and I better start performing as much as possible so it can start being fun.
How has technique and practice helped your overall performance since then?
Proper breath control probably helped the most to improve my performance and reduce performance anxiety. Just breathe, dude!
If you had to pick just one vocal exercise, practice technique or warmup, what would it be?
I’d have to go with short, simple scales using lip buzz / lip trill. I start relatively low (not so low that it’s a struggle) and cut myself off before I stray too high, so that it says a nice, comfortable way to ease into singing without pushing too much air or straining.
What performance would you single out as being a “turning point” & why?
I’d have to say my performance on Canadian TV show The LAUNCH was a major turning point for my confidence as a vocalist. I’ve always seen myself as a songwriter first and vocalist second. But having four industry icons ALL compliment my voice really changed the way I think about my gifts. I mean, when Bebe Rexha asks you to be her wedding singer it’s a game changer.
A vocal artist who inspires you?
Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) – no other artist has moved me to tears more times. Also, his vocal and dynamic range are insane. But what really sets his voice apart for me is how he uses it to add yet another dimension to his songwriting to the point where the voice is nearly inseparable from the song itself. They’re made for one another and it’s a truly beautiful thing.
What were one or two critical steps you took to reach larger audiences with your music?
I believed in my first record enough to book a 200-capacity venue for the CD release show and then hustled my ass off to sell every one of those tickets. It was a big enough goal to be ambitious but attainable enough to pull off. The room was packed and electric, and that one local radio DJ I convinced to come out was so blown away that he added my song to rotation a couple months later. After that, the audience kept growing and I’d see less and less people I actually knew directly. It was a great feeling!
So, how did you fill up that room?
I spread the word to friends and family in person, on social media, I phoned people, emailed people, got my bandmates to spread the word, hung up posters at the university and downtown… You name it, I did it to the max. Each ticket also came with a CD copy of my new album (which in 2012 was still something that added value) and on top of that, every copy of the album was hand-crafted using a paint-stamping technique and autographed. I wanted people to know this was more than show, it was an experience not to be missed! I think that went a long way to becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy too, because it truly was an unforgettable night.
Any advice to other singers who would like to fill up a room as you did?
I should also say one reason I felt so motivated to make that show a success was because I could sense my momentum building as an artist. I would encourage aspiring artists to push yourself to be self-aware about your art and performance. What are your strengths? Are you ‘wowing’ or at least captivating your audiences? Are people going out of their way to come to your shows? If the answer is yes, maybe you’re ready to try something audacious like booking a large room.
What’s something that inspires you?
I’m so inspired by the depth and breadth of the human experience. The deeper you get into life (I’m 35 years in and counting) the more highs and lows you experience. Some are magical (like the birth of your first child) some are devastating (like suddenly losing someone you love), but they’re all part of the tapestry. There’s a certain beauty to it all – the joy and suffering. I’m finding more and more of my music is coming from those places these days. What is singing if not a way to give voice to every moment of our existence?
The biggest dream you’ve set for yourself as an artist?
My vision is to manifest joy by creating and sharing great music. As long as I’m doing that then I feel like I’m honouring the gifts I’ve been given.
My goal therefore (or perhaps ‘the dream’) is to generate enough money to spend most of my waking hours doing just that.
What are you currently working on?
I just released a new album called “JOY” that I’m very proud of! It’s the first album I’ve released under my own name instead of the moniker Towers and Trees and contains the most heart-first music I’ve created yet! In 2020 I plan to tour farther and longer than ever before – and I will keep chasing this dream of sharing my music all over the world!
Adrian Chalifour has been creating and sharing heart-driven music for nearly a decade, most notably as the driving force behind Towers and Trees, a solo home-recording project that grew into one of Western Canada’s preeminent indie acts. His music has charted on Canadian radio and he has toured Canada extensively, captivating audiences of all sizes with his soulful voice and charismatic performances. In early 2019 he made his national television debut by competing on CTV’s hit show THE LAUNCH, and announced a new solo chapter in his journey with the release of his album JOY in October 2019.