Have you ever wondered how someone with a big singing voice and a performance schedue to match looks after and maintains their vocal health? When she thinks huge vocals, singer and vocal coach Cherie Mathieson immediately pictures Tami Neilson. The two spoke in order to get the inside scoop on some of the tips and tricks Tami uses to look after her voice, to get ready for performances and specifically, to vocally survive the rigorous act of touring.
There was a lot of laughing and anecdotal chatting so well worth a listen to the recording on this podcast!
How I maintain my voice has changed dramatically, even in the last five years. Having children and sleep deprivation played a crucial part in changing my routine.
I never used to warm up or did anything to take care of my voice, whereas now, being a mum of two young children, sleep is a precious commodity. It can be rare to get a solid sleep, and suddenly you have to start pulling other things from your toolbox as you’re not able to sleep 12 hours after your gig. The recovery time just isn’t there.
I tend to be not as mindful when it’s one-off gigs. Most of my performing now is in a touring formula because that’s how I have to manage it. Juggling parenthood and being a musician it needs to be concentrated and getting as much done as I can in a short amount of time.
Especially touring so much more internationally now than I ever have before, being on flights for 20 hours totally dehydrates you and jet lag is a big side effect of dehydration. You land and three hours later you need to be doing a breakfast show that you have to be up for at 4am – after travelling for 36 hours – so there’s no time for jet lag, or rest either.
That’s another real struggle on the road. Access to healthy food can be very limited. When you’re in a tour van for eight hours you tend to stop at gas stations which only have rubbish. You get to the venue and in the green room they have a rider of crackers & chips – and you hope some veggies & fruit.
Your meal times are all over the place and you don’t know when you are going to eat. I don’t like eating before I sing. I don’t want something heavy in my stomach, so if I don’t get a substantial lunch then I’m not eating until midnight. I don’t want to be burping during the show!
This is something I haven’t been mindful of. As a parent you don’t carve out a lot of times for yourself, it’s hard to, you don’t prioritise it. I have recently started making more time for working out and getting exercise in.
Over the last few years, especially with the extensive touring, I have realised that we are elite athletes! We are using a very tiny part that no-one can see, but we have to take so much care. You use your whole body to sing, and I’ve learned that I need to prioritise that. It is something that is important for staying on top as a vocalist and making sure that I am treating my voice with the respect that it’s due.
We tend to take our voices for granted until we start having issues when we are thrashing it. We are taking from our voices & ourselves, giving everything out and not filling up that well. That’s a big thing I’ve been learning over the last while.
Looking after your voice is more than simply warming up before you sing. It’s about being mindful of your speaking voice, keeping stress levels in check, resting and relaxing mentally as well as physically, nourishing your body, refilling your creative cup regularly and having personalised daily vocal care practices.
Learning and maintaining fundamental singing techniques from a vocal coach that specialises in the style of singing that you are into will take your singing to the next level and keep your gig fit and ready for every performance opportunity.
Cherie Mathieson is a singer, vocal coach, artist development mentor and the founder of Big Notes Get Votes. She helps singers build confidence in their vocal ability, develop their signature sound & discover their artist identity. Check out the website & the social platforms for singing tips & tutorials.