Mullum youth mentorshop applications are open.
This week Mullum Music Fest announced their Youth Mentorship. Categories and mentors include Singer/songwriter with Juzzie Smith, Band with Andrew Morris from The Wilson Pickers, Under 15 with Mandy Hawkes, and Vocal with the Hussy Hicks. July and Leesa from the Hussys are currently tearing it up in Germany. They spoke with The Echo about what they’ll be sharing as Vocal mentors. Leesa shared the wisdom.
What’s the biggest mistake people make when they sing?
From a technical perspective, I believe that singing is almost entirely about breathing. If you don’t have basic breath control then you can’t support your voice properly. From a musical perspective I find most people tend to mimic voices that inspire them, which is fine, but at some stage you have to find your own voice, and it’s really hard to do that if you’ve been copying someone else’s style for a long time.
What are the voices that always stop you in your tracks?
Kristy Lee from Alabama – whom I am lucky enough to be close friends with and who inspires me endlessly. If you haven’t heard Kristy then I recommend you drop everything immediately and go check her out. Also Krystle Warren, who is from Kansas City, Missouri, but is based in Paris. I’ve never heard anyone use their voice as an instrument in the same way that Krystle does – plus she has a tone that is like melted chocolate.
How did you find your voice?
I have been singing ever since I can remember. My parents talk about how I used to wake up and just start singing and making up songs as a toddler, and when I was nine years old they took me to the Tamworth Country Music Festival and I was totally hooked. I knew that I wanted to be on stage singing and it’s pretty much all I’ve ever done. Julz was always a fanatical guitarist but started to take a singing role in some of the bands she played in as a teenager and has been singing ever since.
Are there places you still have to work in your voice? After all this time singing do you lose ability? Do you find new places?
Of course I have to keep working at it; it’s an ever-evolving process and I hope to keep growing my sound and my ability always. I feel like I’m improving as the years go by and hopefully that will continue to be the case. I’m massively inspired by Mavis Staples, who is still touring, still creating amazing music, and putting on mind-blowing live performances at 80 – fingers crossed we can do the same!
What’s the best way to ‘grow’ a voice?
I think working hard at having lots of opportunities to sing in different situations really helps. Lots of live performances, jamming, collaborating with other musicians, choirs – just anything that gives you an opportunity to use your voice in different ways. I’ve been really lucky to have a musical collaborator as accomplished as Julz, which really drives me to step up and push myself harder and harder, so if you can find people who can help you grow musically then you’ll be ahead of the game. To succeed in anything you do have to work hard, so practising breath control and working on pushing the boundaries of your range – ie trying to sing one note higher or lower than you did last week – really helps your voice evolve.
How important is it as a singer to be able to play an instrument, do you think?
It certainly helps. It’s not absolutely necessary but if you want to become a music creator you either have to play an instrument (or learn to program music) or find someone who can be your musical partner, which can be brilliant but also means you can’t be totally self-sufficient as you’ll always have to rely on someone else.
What will you be looking for in the person you choose in the Vocal category?
Originality and an obvious love for singing. Someone who has loads of potential but has only just started to realise it. Obviously natural tone and things like pitch and phrasing are very important as well but mostly, for me, it’s about an innate musicality that is undeniable.
Apply at: www.mullummusicfestival.com/Youth%20Mentorship/48. Closes 14 October 2019