I'm going to give you something that I've discovered over the years that's really going to help you: how to sing any song and nail it.
I struggled with this one for a while. You guys are probably going through it as well. If you've listened to me for a while, you know that I'm always telling you be yourself.
Sing who you are, and all that.
Well, how do you get to that place? I had to discover this.
There were all these songs that I wanted to sing. In the beginning of my career, I was doing cover songs. I wasn't writing songs, so I had to rely on songs that already existed, songs from other artists.
Now, I don't want to be like the other artists. I want to do the song and make it my own. How do I do that?
You're always influenced in some way by what you're hearing. I know you've seen people go into karaoke bars and try to sound exactly like the artist who did the original song, and that's fine. You'll get that a little bit.
But we want you to be able to sing any song. And the way you're going to do that is by discovering who you are musically as an artist, discovering your style. That's how you learn to sing any song, and it's going to be “you.”
First, you learn the song as written. And so doing that, you're going to sing it exactly as either the original artist or some demonstration that you've been given. You might be doing an original song a songwriter gave you.
Again, you're learning this song the way it was written. Then, after you've learned that, you want to make it “you.”
Let's take “Happy Birthday.” That's an easy song to illustrate this concept. So I take “Happy Birthday” and sing it what I call very “clean.” Very straight, right where it is.
Then once I know the notes and I know the pattern, I'm going to change them. You can hear me make “Happy Birthday” my own at 2:23 in the video (Hit play below to watch this demonstration).
I can make all kinds of different little changes. Then I record myself. I'm not going to get the exact thing that I want the first time. So I play around with it, which is what I'm telling you to do.
Your turn! Start by singing “Happy Birthday” straight. Then play around with finding different notes and rhythms. Find little changes that you can make. Take “Happy Birthday” and make it “you.”
I tell my clients that with cover songs you don't want to write a new song. You want to make some little changes while still honoring the songwriter.
I want you to give yourself permission to make changes.
I grew up singing in a choir. In a choir, you're singing things just like they're supposed to be, because everybody has to be together. But as an artist, you want to develop something else.
So give yourself permission now to step outside of the lines and do something a little bit different.
When I started doing this, I would play around with the timing a little bit. I wouldn't know for sure if that's what I wanted. So I would record it and listen, and then something else would inspire me to try next.
The more you do this, the more you are developing a skill that you didn't know you had. As you continue doing this, you will start to find your style. And you will then use that style, which will be “you,” to sing any particular song.
So think about that for a bit. Don't limit yourself. Step outside the lines!