Why I’m not going on Britain’s Got the X Factor Voice

Settle down kids, this is going to be either a very short one or a very long one! but it’s gunna be one.

A lot of people say ‘Why don’t you go on[Insert terrible TV ‘Singing’ Competition]?’ and I’m hear to say stop saying that; you don’t know the ramifications that that has on someone’s career. ‘Oh but the exposure’, no! it’s not worth it!

Let’s start at the beginning. I am done with competitions for now. Auditioning for Music Schools, trying out for shows, playing at open mic nights. No! I’m done! I am in such a niche field that having to compete with others isn’t a thing I have to do. When there are 5 Singing Harpists in Cardiff and we’re all competing for the same gigs, then I will start trying out for things. But I refuse to take my skills and pit them against others who have not spent as much time and effort creating a career for themselves and view [Insert terrible TV ‘Singing’ Competition] as an easy fix to get past the years of actually having to do work. sure, if you’re a singer song-writer go on[Insert terrible TV ‘Singing’ Competition] make all the money you can and then linger round clubs and try and get recognised! I don’t want that. I want a slow and well deserved build, I want to get to the top of the mountain and look down and see every single step I took to get there and have that sense of fulfilment that you won’t get if you go on [Insert terrible TV ‘Singing’ Competition]. 

So, you’ve done the ‘auditioning’. Now you’ve got to go up against other ‘singers’. I am a very well rounded person who is incredibly mean when I’m competitive. This would make for fantastic television but would also haunt me throughout my very short career. I’d like people to think I’m a very nice and calm person who is both professional and fun. If you create your own career you have better control of how you are represented, Look at Joni Mitchell and Rolling Stone.

So, you’ve won or you’ve lost or you’ve come in blah place at [Insert terrible TV ‘Singing’ Competition], what now? Well, if you won you will probably have to push out a couple albums, go on some tours. There won’t be any development, you’ll make pop you won’t make art.

If you Look at great artists like Melody Gardot or Corrine Bailey-Ray, if you look at their albums and their music their’s a growth and a development as artists that makes their music interesting. If you listen to an [Insert terrible TV ‘Singing’ Competition] alumni their albums are all exactly the same their isn’t the same level of class. Also their contracts aren’t as good, you don’t get enough of the profit and they work you silly.

So, You’ve graduated from [Insert terrible TV ‘Singing’ Competition] and it’s 5 years later… you’ve done your two records, you’re UK tour… what are you going to do now…? get gigs? go work in the music industry…? you will be ‘that singer from [Insert terrible TV ‘Singing’ Competition]’ until you die… that will be your label. You will be branded with that iron!

So, I’m not going on [Insert terrible TV ‘Singing’ Competition] until I’ve exhausted all my other options… so I’ll see you on there in my late 30’s.

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Treat Yoself 2016!

so for the past two weeks I’ve been putting off buying a pair of shoes.

Shut up! stop right there!

‘A Woman buying shoes… tell me something new!’

No, I was putting off buying these shoes!

http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/womens/joy-canvas-womens?colour=Natural

Let me take you back two weeks (this will be like a month by the time this comes out but bare with me!)

So, I wear my boots busking all winter, and have worn them so much that there is a huge whole in the sole, which is easy to get fixed but it just shows how much I’ve worn them in the last two years. I wear them every time I go busking so they get used!

However, during the summer I wear a pair of sandals but at the end of last summer my sandals broke and I’ve been on a quest to find a good summer replacement. I have to walk 25-30 minutes each way with a 6kg harp on my back. so I can’t wear something on my feet that I will regret 5 minutes down the road.

For weddings I can wear nice shoes and easy pumps that I don’t have to do any walking in and basically just have to be comfortable to drive in! So I had a couple options and I came across these shoes.

It’s a fantastic company that makes really great shoes! they used to have a casual line called ‘Terra Plana’ I have a pair of heels and heeled ankle boots from them that are still fantastic 3 years on! They use 50% recycled materials and really design their shoes for people who have stuff to do! and also sports and running stuff… but yeah, walking with a harp on your back is like a gym but you get paid in between!

Anyway, I’ve been ‘umming’ and ‘aaaahing’ about it for a good couple weeks and today I was just went for it and bought them (also I got a 15% discount… so that was pretty good). But I realised that it’s because as a self-employed person you have to watch every penny to make sure you’re on track financially and you’re making enough, saving enough to pay for everything and pay your taxes…. all that grown up nonsense!

And then, on top of this our society puts so much emphasis on ‘getting a bargain’ and getting things for ‘cheaper’ than their worth. So my actual first attempt at getting my ‘summer busking shoes’ were a pair of £4 espadrilles I got from H&M that don’t fit and aren’t properly made. My usual summer pumps I get from Next during their boxing day sale, they are around £8-£16 and last one year then fall apart, they are also bad for my feet. So this year I thought I should just do what I do with the winter and get a decent pair of shoes that will last, be comfortable and good to my feet! So I took the plunge and bought an expensive pair of everyday shoes! I will let you all know how I get on with them!

 

Back to the point, as a self-employed musician you feel this pressure to try and save all your money for work related things, upgrading your instruments and equipment. We don’t look at the musician and their physical health. This can be very dangerous as music is such a physical profession that you have to be well enough to be able to make the noises and pluck the strings etc! On top of this, as a musician, who is pretty happy with their work, I tend to not really ‘treat myself’ regularly that isn’t just a work-related expense, and I get that these shoes are a work expense but let’s not dwell on that!

I’m very happy with my work at the moment, at 23 I feel like I’m making a healthy start to my career and making good decisions that will positively effect the longevity of my work in music. However, a sign that you are not happy with your work is if you are ‘treating yourself’ a lot more than is actually a ‘treat’. In Sarah Silverman’s book she talks about her friend’s philosophy; ‘Make it a treat’, she was talking about sex and drugs… but it applies here! If you’re living beyond your means and spending money like a crazy person, then you’re probably not happy with your lifestyle. We can get really desensitized to the things that make us happy, ‘too much of a good thing’ can actually numb your brain’s pleasure centre! That’s why I rarely listen to music at the moment because I’ve reached the point where, performing and playing music is something I do so much that it doesn’t have the same effect that it did when I was 15 and only singing a couple minutes a day. Nowadays, I actually sing for longer than I speak, which is worrying but it’s just how it works out on a day to day basis. Therefore, I have stopped listening to music on my ipod on the way to work and listen to podcasts instead, which allows my brain to wring out and reset so I can enjoy my work and performing.

This is just something personal to me that I realise I do and it’s something for us all to think about in our lives as musicians and as people in general! Make sure you’re treating yourself if you don’t think you can, make sure you’re happy and healthy and also make sure you make bank!

 

 

 

UPDATE:

I LOVE THEM!!!!

they are the best! I forget I’m wearing them half the time because it just feels like I’m in barefeet wearing socks!

New shoes came today from @vivobarefoot yay!!!!

A post shared by Sam Hickman. Singing Harpist (@samhickmanmusic) on

They are awesome!

I’ve worn them busking

 

Oh, the life if a celebrity…

A post shared by Sam Hickman. Singing Harpist (@samhickmanmusic) on

I’ve worn them at gigs

It’s AWESOME! THEY ARE THE PERFECT SUMMER SHOE!

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My Favourite Topic: Myself; subtopic: MY VOICE!

La Voce! La Voca! La Diva!

 

 

My Voice is possibly my best asset! not my speaking voice… my odd anglo/american accent coupled with my harp playing skills leave most babbled as to where I’m actually from… ‘Oh! you’re Irish’… I love when people yell that at me in the street…. love it…. looooove it…. I don’t, I hate it. Let people be people with weird accents, unless you have a great story (and I mean FANTASTIC story!) about whatever country you think I’m from, don’t shout it at me… or speak it at me with that tone of ‘well I never!’.

I spent about two years auditioning for Masters programs as a soprano until the head of voice at Royal northern college of music said ‘you sound like a mezzo’. And she was right. I have both a mezzo and a high soprano range, but because of the amount of low singing I do for my sets (because belting out top A’s-Eb’s doesn’t get you booked back at establishments…) My lower range is worked out a lot more than my top notes. my highest notes for my hilton sets is usually an F at most, which is high in the mezzo range. It’s also very difficult to sing high free notes while playing harp at the same time. You try brushing your teeth while flossing… it’s not impossible but it’s tricky!

A Healthy Mix

I sing in my ‘Belt’ Range most of the time. This is usually in a musical theatre style. I try and do an ‘Audra McDonald’

She is a classically trained singer who uses her natural technique and then applies that in a musical theatre setting. Which is what I try and aim for.

It’s the most comfortable way of using my voice and it means that it says healthy and I can sing for 3-4 hours without it effecting me.

I have only lost my voice twice in my young adult life! and both were through singing while very ill or just using my voice a lot without taking decent rest. If I loose my voice then I don’t sing, I stay as quiet as I can and just wait for it to recover itself. It’s a great instrument but it’s always with you and you have to look after it!

Picking Music to suit my voice

I tend to stick to songs from musicals, jazz standards and whatever classical repertoire that can be adapted for my harp. Folk tunes are also lovely to do because they leave a lot of room for interpretation and arranging, which can be a lot of fun!

I try and pick music that sits comfortably in my voice and have a decent tune. A lot of modern pop music sounds terrible when mixed with a harp because it’ll be the same 4 chords over and over again then then a very VERY dull and repetitive tune (See any bruno mars song). If it will sounds nice when I don’t have a harp accompanying me then it’s probably a great song!

If I do a pop cover, I try and make them as far away from the original as they can get. This is very easy as I’m playing a harp so we’ve already got a good start there!

It’s all about doing things you enjoy and hoping others enjoy it as much as you do!

 

Where Will it Go?

I am constantly thinking about further down the line. career wise and health wise! If you look at a pop singer they have such a short live span because they are usually all sung out 5 years on! Unless their Cher but she can do whatever she likes! she’s Cher!

A lot have to go through surgery to correct injuries to their voices. This is because they are overworked and not treated (or treating their instruments) like an athlete! If you look at Reneé Fleming who is 57 years old and still sounds as healthy as when she was at her peak in her mid 35’s (oh! you’re voice matures gradually and is usually at it’s best during it’s mid 30/40’s… so… for a classical career you can start a lot later!)

Just be mindful of your voice! I’ve had a few vocal breaks in my singing where I’m pushing and my voice doesn’t like it because I’ve been sleeping poorly and it’s shown on my voice! buying a house is very stressful! So be mindful of where you are physically, if you are tried if you have been ill, the less damage you do now the better you’ll sound in 10 years time! Chill!

 

That’s it for this week. Next week: Why I’m never going on Britain’s Got Talent

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Why a Harp is a better instrument than…

A Piano

 

 

I thought I would start a fun series of why a harp is better than [insert instrument]…

This week, The piano.

 

I got my residency at the Hilton because they couldn’t fit the baby grand through the door.

It sounds ridiculous, and there are many other factors. But, one of the main reasons I got my gig at the Hilton is because they can’t get their baby grand piano they have in the Lounge into the restaurant.

A harp is great because you can take it anywhere! I’ve carried my big one over a drawbridge and up a flights of stairs in castle Coch. I’ve played it at festivals where I’ve had to carry it through the mud, I’ve gone busking with it!

I know that there is a piano busker in Cardiff and you can disassemble a  piano to get it up and down stairs… but that’s not the point! The harp is great because it brings you to the world! the piano you have to just turn up and hope there’s one there!

The Harp also a lot more aesthetically pleasing than a piano and takes up less space… if you’re a fancy rich person, an antique Erard or Egan will only cost max £8,000… and you’re not going to play it, so buy a £2k one that doesn’t work anymore…. Also, it’s silly having a giant piano you can’t play! let someone use it!

Having a harp in the corner of your house looks a lot better. AND! BONUS! if people do ‘play it’, their probably a lot better at playing a harp than someone who says they ‘play’ piano but really just knows a couple Billy Joel songs and then plays them again, and again, and again, and again until you close the lid on their hands… and then 10 minutes later… what do you hear? ‘SING US A SONG YOU’RE THE PIANO MAN!’ NO! get a harp! the worst case scenario you are lulled to sleep by a 15 minute version of Row Row Row Your Boat! You’re Welcome!

The Harp falls short on only a couple issues. Firstly, it’s basically impossible to sight read something chromatic perfectly… so you have to actually rehearse! (bummer I know!) and Secondly, you can’t really go wild with chromatics. you can do a lot! and some do A LOT! but your a little restricted in that sense. but you can work it out! half the fun of harp playing is the puzzles! you get none of that with a piano!

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