Many vocalists fear one particular thing at gigs and it has nothing to do with singing – they’re petrified at the prospect of talking to the audience in between songs.
This may be, in part, because often singers don’t prepare or rehearse this element of their performance. They spend hours perfecting their vocals, but don’t spend any time thinking about what they’ll say to their audience. That is until they’re on stage in front of a sea of faces struggling for words.
One artist who does have audience banter down to a fine art is UK cabaret singer Gary Williams. In fact, many people say he’s a “natural” at it, much to his annoyance.
Williams says: “One of the most common things singers say to me is: ‘How do you talk to an audience? It must be easy for you, you’re a natural’. And I hate that. I wasn’t born with an amazing ability to communicate with an audience. It comes from years and years of experience and preparation.”
Williams starts working on what he’ll talk about with his audience months in advance. “I never leave it to chance,” he says.
His advice to any singer who struggles with talking to an audience is this: it takes countless hours of hard work to make it look natural and spontaneous.
“It might look off the cuff but it’s not, it’s always thought through.”
Another artist who is great at communicating in between songs is stellar vocalist and trombonist Aubrey Logan. But Logan stresses this wasn’t always the case.
Early in her early career talking to the audience was the thing she found most challenging. And the harder she found it, the harder she tried – and the worse it got.
“I used to do these shows where I felt so stiff on stage,” Logan tells iSing. “The songs were cool…but I had this banter in the middle that was so bad.”
Logan eventually decided to stop trying so hard. Her advice is to make sure that you’re being yourself on stage – not who you think people want you to be. “I finally thought ‘banter is stupid and awkward, I’m going to make fun of it’. I had no idea my show would turn into a comedy show until I started to be myself – now people are laughing.
“The interesting thing is I’m not an extrovert, but you don’t have to be an extrovert to perform – you have to be a good communicator.”