Nicole Hart: A Marvelous Instrument
NH: Yes, we had originally planned to release a studio effort first, but found we really needed a recording quickly just so we could get some airplay and bring attention to the project right away. The band is so tight in live performance; it was a logical first step to record live for release. Originally this was just a demo EP, but it sold well and has picked up a lot of airplay all across America and into Europe and Australia as well.
AAJ: What big things have you and the band got planned for the future?
NH: We are planning to release a studio record, and Lance and I have written many new tunes that we haven't even brought into the live show yet. You know, there's always so much to do. These days you have to be a booker, manager, producer, publicist, sales person, and marketer, all while writing, performing and recording, too. I am also beginning to work with another booking agent and we are looking to tour down South and out to the Midwest and beyond.
Basically, what we have in mind is controlled expansion. To be successful in music, it's a 24/7 job, and sometimes life demands attention as well, but that's where all the good songwriting comes from. We're juggling all these things but, yes, we are putting the pieces together for the next release which will be a studio project and we will begin laying down tracks in October. We have a lot of special guests lined up to help us out in cameo appearances, too, so that is going to be fun!
AAJ: Do you have any advice for aspiring vocalists?
NH: Yes. Get to a vocal coach who specializes in contemporary music styles. First, learn to breathe properly and support your voice while singing. This is "Singing 101, supporting your voice with breath control. Don't be lazy, get that together because it will keep you strong and it permeates all things in your life; after all, you need to breathe just to live. Breathing correctly will enhance your whole life.
Make sure the coach helps you to understand the physiological makeup of the vocal chords, because that understanding will help you see into your instrument the way a guitarist can see his strings or a pianist can see her keyboard. I try to help my students use as many of their six senses as they can to understand the instrument that is inside their body. Practice in front of a mirror so you can see your face and jaw work while you sing. Notice whether you are tightening up or are relaxed.
Also, don't push your voice hard. Be gentle as you develop your range. You can step it up here and there to push the excitement level when you sing a song, but learn to use all the colors of your voice. This will help you to express more artistically, as well as save your vocal health in the long run, and it is more aurally interesting for your audience, as well.
Also, I would have to say that good pitch is vital. In my humble experience, the only musician who can get away with being pitchy is John Coltrane on "My Favorite Things, and that's only because he is one of the heaviest musicians who ever lived; he communicated despite the pitch. In other words, we can hear his soul regardless of his being sharp on that recording. This is a rare gift.
I don't care what anyone says. Make sure your pitch is deadly. Work with a vocal instructor to help you with ear training and your intonation. As soon as I hear any instrument out of tune, I just wonder what the heck that musician can be thinking if they don't hear themselves as being out of tune. Do yourself and your audience a favor as a vocalist and get that together right away. It's as with a drummer who plays with tons of fills, but who can't keep a simple groove on two and four. Your first job as a drummer is keeping the groove. Your first job as a vocalist: communicate on pitch.
A Tip: This "blues growl" is a vocal technique, not a style of singing. It should be used sparingly. When used most effectively, it should be used when you go for the lowest notes in your singing and used to sound as though you are straining to move the weight of the world.
Gina Sicilia, Allow Me to Confess (Swingnation, 2007)
NRG Band, Live! (ONG, 2006)
Various Artists, The Wedding Singer (OST) (Sony, 2006)
Courtesy of The NRG Band