VOCALS SERIES PART IV: MY SINGING MODELS THROUGHOUT THE YEARS.
September 14, 2020 § Leave a comment
I said I started singing in late 2009, but that’s not completely accurate: around 1992-1994, I would sing in the bathroom of my home in France, during the only couple of hours I had alone once a week. Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, the Beatles, the Pixies, PJ Harvey… That phase didn’t last very long, as I felt my calling was composing on the guitar. One of the last songs I tried to sing was @lowtheband Low’s “Lullaby”, after being blown away by their first album, which defined a pivotal year for me, in which I turned 18, left home for university and lost my brother.
I am mentioning Low not just because of that one song and album, but also because I have weirdly come full circle by singing their songs again for the past year and a half. If I were pushed to choose a “favourite female vocalist”, I would choose Mimi Parker, as her singing combines qualities that are rarely associated: pure yet deep, expressive yet devoid of affectation, skilled in the most unshowy way (how can she hold notes *that* long?). The combination of her voice with that of Alan Sparhawk makes for one of the most inspirational sounds I’ve ever heard, even from an instrumental point of view (I sometimes check on a keyboard what notes each one of them is singing, because the harmonies are so interesting). Singing their songs again has felt rewarding and soothing, an experience akin to meditating.
Back in 2010, my models mostly came from folk/traditional music, especially Shirley Collins. Was it because of the purity of her delivery, and the way that these songs can be sung without accompaniment? I also sang songs from the catalogues of Vashti Bunyan, Pentangle, Anne Briggs, Jean Ritchie. I later spent time learning Moondog songs when it seemed I might do a cover version project of his repertoire. Recently I’ve also paid attention to the wonderful twists and turns of Sibylle Baier’s singing on her only wonderful release.
While don’t think that I “import” any of these singing styles straight into my music, I do believe ultimately these threads of inspiration resurface.