5 Ways to Become a Vocal Artist Who Makes It

Originally published in Voice Council Magazine

Recording artists are under so much pressure to present themselves as unique – says Lis Lewis.

Lis Lewis spends much of her time in rehearsal and recording studios, helping get the best performances out of major recording artists such as Rihanna, Miguel and Iggy Azalea.

In this wide ranging interview, she explains the pressures that artists are under when trying to find their niche.

If singers want to sell records they must create an artist out of themselves. They need to carve out their own path and create something that is new. Artists are pressured to continuously mould their identity under the watchful eyes of the public.

1. Be Prepared for Psychological Pressure

An artist is often both narcissistic and self-hating. Some days you may be feeling “I’m amazing, nobody can touch me or tell me what to do. I’ve got it all”. Other days you may be feeling “I don’t know who I am, all my ideas are tripe and I’m an idiot”. Somewhere in between, you can find a healthy balance.

The psychological pressures on an artist can be everything from depressing to elating. These pressures can also weigh upon your instrument too – your voice is affected by your mental state.

The singing voice is important, but when you are a recording artist, you are doing much more than just singing.

2. Be Authentic

Lis and Rihanna at the American Music Awards

Lis and Rihanna at the American Music Awards

Material, image, branding, performance and production all come together to create your authentic, artistic vision.

There are extreme examples like Lady Gaga and Madonna, but even if you look at Beyoncé or Ariana Grande – they have carved out a spot for themselves physically, musically and emotionally. You don’t have to be extreme in your artistry.

You should be authentic – but you may need to question whether your authenticity is big enough or strong enough to enable you to become a successful artist.

3. Make Sure the Music Fits You

Recording artists have collaborators, producers and managers, but in the end, it’s their name, their face, their voice and their body standing on stage representing who they are. They must decide which ideas to take from their collaborators and which ones to throw away.

If singers don’t write their own material, they need to find the right songs which have to fit them perfectly. It can’t just be a good song, or a great song, it needs to be a perfect song.

4. Polish Your Own Artistry

Record labels used to invest a lot of time and money in developing young artists, but this hardly ever happens now.

An artist needs to go to the record label pretty much fully developed. This means that they must submit a fully produced album that is near completion, and all it needs is marketing and distribution. They should also have a strong social media following.

Record labels are very unwilling to spend money on development. They want to see the finished product when you walk in the door.

5. Enjoy the Artistic Journey

How long does it take for an artist to develop? That’s the million dollar question. Some feel like they’re always developing (which is how they should feel) but there isn’t a time limit. I’ve seen people do this in a matter of months.

I knew a girl of 12 years old. Her parents threw their whole livelihoods into helping her become a singer. She got signed to Disney Records at 14 and has been recording her own amazing songs. She played the legendary Whiskey A Go-Go in Los Angeles when she was 13 and had to go in through the back door and leave as soon as she was done because she was under age. She’s on a roll!

Some people take years. There are so many stories of people who have been knocking about in the industry for years and suddenly they’re famous. Of course, it isn’t sudden at all, they’ve been working for years.