What makes a great cover?

Six rising artists share with us their approach for delivering impactful and memorable covers.

There are floods upon floods of artists out there covering songs on their socials daily, so, how do you make your covers stand out? We reached out to some artists who impressed us with their cover songs, and here’s what they shared about their approaches when choosing to tackle a particular song:

Connect with the song first

Kayode Disu @kayodedisu – Before singing a cover, I’d advise not to sing it only because it fits with your voice alone, but because you’ve found a way to connect with the story of message of the song first before going ahead to record/publish the cover. For instance, my recent cover titled “Still, be still” was done by Don Moen (though others also sang it) but I did that cover at such a time that I felt I was in the middle of a storm. During those difficult times, that song just came and seemed to settle on my heart, and I couldn’t help but sing it out. It was refreshing, and it was really helpful as it lifted not only my spirit, but also that of those who heard the cover. I truly sang my heart out, and the cover came to life. Let your heart resound with the song itself before your lips begins to move.

A song from the heart will always touch the heart.

What is the song about?

Elizabeth Royall @elizabethroyallmusic – When it comes to covers, I like to take the time to find out what the song is about according to the original artist and then, most importantly, what it means to me. Keep in mind that your interpretation may not translate exactly to the artist’s and you don’t always want it to either because that’s what makes you different. For example, if you’ve never experienced the type of romantic relationship a certain song speaks about, try singing about a family member or someone you have felt/feel close to instead. Sometimes, I also change certain lyrics to fit my persona so that I can relate to the song better.

Put your own spin on it

Abigail Fierce @akfierce – The most important thing about creating a cover of a song is making it your own in some way. I always ask myself “How can I put a different spin on this?” The world doesn’t need an exact replica of the same song. You don’t have to sound just like the original artist for it to be good or interesting. As a songwriter, I also take into consideration the strengths of the singer-songwriter genre which would be the quieter, intimate, softer side of music. If I can pull the best parts of the singer-songwriter genre and put that to use in a pop song or a grunge song, then I know I’ve put my own spin on it.

Don’t be afraid to spice things up!

Angela Wright @angela_wright – Keeping songs fresh in your repertoire can be a challenge for artists. I have found I have the most fun doing cover songs with other musicians and artists and collaborating with our ideas. I don’t think every cover has to be completely opposite of the original but it is nice to spice things up with new instruments and or switching the roles of the song.

Time alone with the song and your instrument

Rebecca Southard @southardrj – I love being able to accompany myself singing with basic piano chords. Having the control over the accompaniment, for example the key and tempo of the song, helps me feel I’m making it my own. I can take a pause where I feel it, or put more emphasis on a certain section. I love connecting to the lyrics and the music in more of my own way.

Start off by learning the original

Sarah King @sarahkingsings – I don’t necessarily need to have lived the song myself, but I want to connect with it somehow so I can connect with my listeners. If I’m already into the song, I usually start off by learning it the way I’ve heard it performed. I see how it sits for my voice, how the chord changes and rhythms feel, and then I see what I’m able to bring to it when I’m singing it. If it’s a request and I’m not super familiar, I’ll often listen a couple times – and to a couple versions, if there are others – to get a sense of how I might want to tell its story. After a run through of the original song and other version(s), I start trying different things if I feel the song needs something else from me. Does it need to be higher or lower? Slower or faster? Is there some small detail in the lyrics that people often miss that tells a slightly different tale than what people usually hear? Would this sound better in a minor key arrangement? Can I change the chords entirely and keep the melody, or vice versa? Each song is unique and I don’t go through this entire process for all songs – some sit quite nicely as they are for me. But I do play some covers that, unless you’re really paying attention, you wouldn’t recognize, and I love breathing new life into someone else’s story like that!

More about our contributors:

Kayode Disu is a singer, songwriter and music producer from Nigeria. He started his journey into the world of music at a very young age as a drummer in his local church. Throughout his days in school, he has always been involved in music groups and has occasionally led as Music Director, helping other band members discover their sound and maximize their potential. He has released his debut Single, titled “Yes Lord” and has a couple of other music recording projects in progress at the studio. As a Music Producer, leveraging advancements in technology, he has been able to produce several artists from different parts of the world, including USA, China, Germany, Portugal and many more. One of his works as a producer includes “No longer Bound” by Valderine Charlton (USA). The song is available on You Tube. He is experienced in many genres of music but has a particular love for Christian Pop/Rock. He is passionate about music and believes that good music can bring healing, restoration, strength, hope and love to humanity.

Elizabeth Royall is an Indie Pop singer-songwriter based in Ottawa, Ontario. She first became interested in music around the age of 4, when her older sister started teaching her to sing. With influences such as Sasha Sloan, Renforshort, Melanie Martinez, Lennon Stella and Billie Eilish, Elizabeth looks forward to releasing original music that reflects her own personal struggles and growth in the coming year.

Abigail Fierce is a 19 year-old singer-songwriter/actress living in LA. She plays all of the instruments on her tracks, except drums, and loves writing songs alone at 4am. She can be seen as Wendy on the new Hulu series “Love, Victor”, on Netflix’s “American Vandal”, ABC’s “American Housewife” and Hannah Stocking’s “The Set Up” on Facebook Watch. You can follow her on Instagram @akfierce and Twitter @abfierce.  Check out her latest releases ‘Pitch Dark’ and Girl in the Mirror.

Rebecca Southard has been singing and dancing since the age of 5. While ‘plan A’ was studying for dentistry, Rebecca then decided to go down the performing path and train as an actor/singer to see if she could turn this passionate hobby into a professional reality. After graduating with a 1st Class BA in Musical Theatre from the London College of Music, Rebecca most recently returned from working abroad at Universal Studios Japan as a singer. Despite the ‘Covid times’ we are in and how hard hit our industry has been, Rebecca has been soaking up all the wonderful actor/singer materials, platforms and networks that have become so available with other likeminded people, helping her to keep focused and motivated to achieve her next goal!

Angela Wright, age 20, is an indie pop artist originally from Salt Lake City, Utah and currently based in Nashville, TN. She has an impressive vocal range and style, with a diversified performance background. Her music speaks to many listeners in the way she weaves together her influences from pop, rock, and indie genres. Some of her biggest influences are Etta James, Chris Isaak, Lana Del Rey, Kacey Musgraves, Maggie Rogers, Florence and The Machine, Adele, Cigarettes After Sex, and Phoebe Bridgers. She attended Berklee College of Music in Boston in 2018/19 as a vocal principle in songwriting. In 2019 she decided to head to Nashville to seek the next chapter in her solo career.

Sarah King
Singer |Songwriter

Sarah King sings blues, folk, and rock music, all delivered with a side of Southern soul. Taking the stage with only an acoustic guitar, she captivates audiences with her haunting melodies, confident stage presence, and thought-provoking lyrics. Sarah is currently working on new material with producers Simone Felice (The Lumineers, Jade Bird) and David Baron (Shawn Mendes, Meghan Trainor). Find out more about Sarah on sarahkingsings.comInstagram | Facebook

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