Maggie Rogers was just a college student when she first met Pharrell Williams at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU. They were asked to prepare a song and bring it to class to be critiqued. She had no…
Recording the Music of the Stars
Imagine a job where you’re asked to sing backup vocal for Lady Gaga, record songs for Disney, or perform as a singing penguin — sometimes the day before recording begins. This week’s guest Gerald White has done all of this and so much more.
As a session singer, Gerald is on call regularly by recording studios and production companies who need him to perform in recording sessions and live performances. This has allowed him to provide vocals for films ranging from “Happy Feet” to “Avatar” to “Deadpool 2.” He’s performed for multiple Academy Awards, done live shows at the 2003 Olympic Festival in Dodger Stadium, and even lent his vocal skills to video games like “Call of Duty” and “World of Warcraft.”
But what is it really like being a session singer — and more importantly, how do you get into this industry? In this podcast, Gerald gives many behind-the-scenes stories about a session singer’s life. You’ll learn about the type of skills that are invaluable to a session singer, how social media is changing the way session singers can work, and how session singers “stay on the list” and get regular work.
In this episode, we’ll reveal:
- How a childhood spent singing R&B and pop in Mississippi led Gerald to pursue a singing career in LA 6:08
- How a sight singing course led to work in the session singing industry 9:37
- Why learning how to sight sing is crucial for session singing work 11:04
- How quickly a recording session moves for session singers — and why they don’t get a lot of rehearsal time 13:19
- Why providing a penguin’s singing voice for “Happy Feet” remains one of Gerald’s favorite projects 14:55
- The challenges of singing in an arena featuring a live video game performance 16:14
- Why different groups of session singers remain local while others tour more 17:47
- How social media and modern recording technology is opening the door for more performers to enter the world of session singing 18:46
- Why “getting on the list” and becoming part of a contractor’s talent pool is vital to getting regular session singing gigs 20:01
- How having a good attitude, being dependable, and taking care of your personal hygiene often determines if you “stay on the list” in the world of session singing 21:28
- Why the fast-paced world of session singing requires singers to maintain their voices regularly, especially during the heavy season 23:08
- How long recording sessions can be — and the stamina required to be a professional session singer 23:32
- How many session singers — including Gerald — are voice teachers who help performers become better singers 26:33
- The challenge of finding the balance between performance and teaching for a session singer 28:00
- The different types of versatility session singers offer in recordings 30:38
- The issues that arise from cross-training your voice to sing in multiple styles 31:40
- The importance of remaining professional around celebrities in the world of session singing 38:41
Gerald offers personalized individual and group voice lessons online and in-person for performers interested in becoming better singers. He also teaches sight singing and vocal masterclasses. Visit his website to learn more.
Interested in learning how to become a session singer? Gerald’s IVA webinar, “Managing a Successful Career as Both a Voice Teacher & Performer” covers everything from the type of demo you need to how to choose your repertoire to how to start getting work in this field. Download the recording to hear all his insights.
Plenty of other fascinating guests will be showing up in future episodes of “The Vocal Advancement” podcast. Be sure to follow and subscribe to us so you don’t miss a single one. And don’t forget to leave us a review!
About the Institute for Vocal Advancement
At IVA, we provide the teaching tools to help you offer the type of functional training voice students need. Our trainers teach from the empathic mindset students benefit from, showing you how to be a better vocal coach by example. Join the Institute for Vocal Advancement and you’ll be able to participate in webinars and online courses used by teachers in every part of the music industry.
See what’s coming up in our list of upcoming events and learn how our Teacher Training Programs can help your career. Use the code “iva20percent” to get 20% off your first year’s course membership fee!
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