When it comes to succeeding in the music business, we all know what the industry looks for: proficiency (experience and skills in vocals, musicianship, songwriting, dancing, or whatever it is you can do); presence and personality (commercial value) and individuality (how an artist stands out from the crowd).
But what is it that makes someone unique? Recently I have been reflecting on the fact that being yourself is the key ingredient to developing the vocal identity and style that can attract the right kind of attention from movers and shakers in the business. Why? Quite simply because they need to buy into you; no matter what you are trying to do, being “you” is the key. So how do you do this?
Sometimes being yourself (whatever that means) can seem like a lot of hard work. I don’t profess to have all the answers, but I am certain that if you develop and grow yourself as an individual, people will be attracted to you as an artist.
Let me share some of the “truths” that I have learnt on my never ending journey of self-discovery. These truths have allowed me to become successful as a vocal coach and family man. They have helped me to unravel my purpose; they have enabled me to freely be myself so I can connect with people in a way that has added meaning to both their life and mine.
I am sure you’ve heard this before. To love yourself means embracing your flaws. Accept that they are a part of you and no one is perfect. Accept and embrace your flaws for what they are … a part of who you are and what makes you special. So to put this in context: love your voice, body, colour, mind, abilities, mistakes, triumphs and journey…. you get my drift. Love everything about “you”.
There is something cathartic about letting our “insides out”. Self-expression, whether it be through singing, art, sports, speech, writing, pottery, baking or dance is cathartic. When we are able to freely express how we feel in a productive and creative way it helps us to feel grounded, heard and comfortable in our own skin. So, find a way to express yourself creatively. Create something; leave your mark on the world. It helps you to know where you are in life and what your purpose is.
People need people or rather like-minded people need like-minded people. A like-minded person can be at a different stage or level of success in life to you. Surround yourself with like-minded people on or “above” your level of success. Friends and mentors that can encourage and support you along the way come rain or shine are priceless.
Stay connected and accountable to those people; no man or woman is an island, we all need each other.
Give and it will be given back to you in greater measure. Find time to help others; there is always someone that needs your help. Be generous in the giving of your time, money, services or resources. It’s amazing what that can do for someone and for your inner being. The Karmic effect means that when you do something positive for another person that will in some way reflect back to you.
Believe in yourself
Be kind to yourself and say positive things when you are engaged in self talk (which can tend to be negative). Use affirming and assuring language. For example, rather than saying “I can’t do this” say “This might be hard and scary but I can do this and have worked hard for this”. Believe that everything you need to succeed is already inside you, it’s just a matter of finding a way to “let it out”.
Trust in something other than yourself
Some call it inspiration, some call it divine power, some even say it’s the Universe (for me it’s God – Jesus Christ). It can be anything that you truly believe in and communicate with. You have to trust that you are in connection with a higher source; Something or Someone that is bigger and more powerful than you. This helps to ensure you don’t become self-absorbed or lost in your own world. It helps you to be more people conscious than self-conscious, it helps to promote humility and our human need to hope in something bigger and better.
Do something that makes you add to your already existing gifts, talents and skills. Challenge yourself to improve your knowledge, your voice, music or songwriting. Do something that makes you learn, study, or renew the way you think about things. Try something that scares you a little and takes you out of your comfort zone. It might be singing, public speaking, swimming, flying a plane or doing an audition. Take the time to try something new and see what you gain from that experience.
True rest brings us into a good relationship with others and with ourselves. When we experience real rest, we feel revitalised and more alert and creative and our capacity to love our gifts and talents increases. Lack of rest can compromise the quality and meaning of our artistry and negatively impact our creativity, health and personal lives.
True strength comes from quietness and trust. Trust that who we are – right now – is enough for now.
So… who are you? You are the sum of your environment; but it doesn’t stop there. Are you what people say you are? No way, you can’t rely on the opinion of others to define you. For me, a person is the sum of what they invest in themselves, and the process in which that inner investment is revealed psychologically and practically in daily life.
Which brings me back to the question: who are “you”? “You” are the ever evolving, ever growing and ever changing face of everything we take in, accept, embrace, employ, believe and “act” out.
I leave you with this quote:
“We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.” – Swami Vivekananda
Being you is your vocal style and your vocal style is being you.
Joshua Alamu is a professional voice coach with over 10 years of experience as a singing teacher within the music and television industry both in the UK and overseas. He has worked as a vocal coach for the BBC’s talent show The Voice UK – series one and two. Joshua’s video enhanced e-Book Mad About Vocal Style was successfully launch in 2014. joshuaalamu.com