Lis Lewis has coached many major recording artists such as Rihanna, Demi Lovato and Britney Spears. In this wide ranging interview, we ask her how difficult life can be for a signed pop star.
Know Your Limits and Stretch Your Boundaries
Your band mates can put their instruments away safely in a box – you cannot put your voice away in a box. If you find that you tire after an hour in the studio, you know there are problems. Professional singers need to seek out their boundaries and limitations so they can work on extending them through lifestyle changes and vocal training. You can do all of this without changing your sound. You can find a vocal coach who can help you go past your boundaries whilst still sounding like ‘you’.
Look After YOU Because Your Voice is YOU
You carry your voice around with you everywhere and you use it to talk all day long. So much can affect your vocal performance. You may feel under the weather, you may have eaten something heavy the day before, you may have had a fight with your boyfriend, maybe it’s windy or dusty outside. All these things, physically and/or psychologically can affect your instrument.
The fact that your voice is part of your body is huge and not to be underestimated.
The fact that your voice is part of your body is huge and not to be underestimated. It’s very personal. A vocalist shows so much vulnerability by singing. If you get bad press or someone doesn’t like your singing – it feels like it is you they don’t like.
Be Aware of Backstage Temptations
Backstage drugs and alcohol are very prevalent. It’s everywhere. You can walk up and down a corridor of dressing rooms and hear it and smell it from each direction. It’s very common in the pop and rock world. It’s too bad, and each individual artist is going to have to make decisions on how they deal with it. Sure, substances can make you feel uninhibited so you feel you are giving a better performance, but it can be hugely deteriorating, addictive and unhealthy.
Make Yourself at Home in the Studio
Singers often modify the recording studio to make the atmosphere nicer with candles or dim lights. It’s almost essential to do this. You need to create a space where you feel private and safe before you present this work in public.
If you’re at home by yourself you could yell, sing, throw your arms about and dance. You need to re-create this feeling of freedom when you are in the studio. You have to perform your best because you know your work will be examined under a microscope by the public.
A lot of times singers go into the studio to write. Then they record straight after the song is written. Often there isn’t even a song to practice because they haven’t written it yet. This is a very common writing and recording experience. They may go back to re-record their vocals, but the majority is done on the spot.
I don’t think it’s a great idea to have your voice teacher in the studio with you. I prefer to spend a short amount of time with them to do a warm up so they felt ready to sing – and then leave!
The last thing you want to be thinking about is technical stuff like “oh, I missed that last note” or “I don’t like that last breath I just took”. The priority is to give an emotional and authentic performance.
There is a difference between a vocal coach and a vocal producer. A vocal producer provides ideas and facilitates ways to explore. They might point out bum notes, but mostly they are there to encourage you to expand and open up, rather than shut down and be cautious.
Lis Lewis is a celebrity voice teacher and coach in Los Angeles whose clients include Rihanna, Miguel, Britney Spears, Demi Lovato, Colbie Caillat, All-American Rejects, Courtney Love, Kali Uchis and many more. She has been training recording artists for over 30 years. Find out more on her website: https://thesingersworkshop.com/