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Music for education & wellbeing podcast [29] TRANSCRIPT: Annabel Williams, vocal coach and vocalist.

AH: Hello, it’s Anita here and welcome to the latest podcast. In this episode, I’m talking with vocal coach and vocalist Annabel Williams. Annabel has been head vocal coach for X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent since 2012. And she’s coached loads of well known vocalists including Alison Moyet, Amy Winehouse, Ellie Goulding, Katy Perry and Yungblud. She’s also worked as a backing vocalist to many well-known artists and had sell-out shows of her own. I thought you’d be interested to hear a bit more about her musical progression route. And how she now not only coaches the stars, but has also found a great way to spread her enthusiasm for helping everyone to sing, and to thrive through singing. So welcome Annabel. It’s brilliant to have you here. Thanks for making the time to chat.

AW: Thank you. Hi Anita, thanks for having me.

AH: You’re really welcome. It sounds like it’s an incredibly busy time for you at the moment because you’re working on a new Simon Cowell show, I think, is that right?

AW: Yeah, so I’ve just gone from finishing a new series of the BBC game show, I Can See Your Voice, straight into Simon’s new show, Walk the Line. So I’ve been incredibly lucky with dates. It doesn’t always work out that way. But for some reason, this time, it did.

AH: Brilliant. Well, I’ll crack on with some questions, if that’s all right. 

AW: Yeah. 

AH: And to start off with a lot of people I work with in music education and community music, spend a lot of time thinking and working on joined-up progression routes for young people. So I always start by asking people, how did you end up where you are today?

AW: I think it’s a really interesting journey in that I’ve sort of gone around the houses a bit, and I look back, and I’ve done so many different things. And I think all of it came together to help me with the experience that I hopefully pass on to people that I coach. So for example, I started singing from the age of 11. I was classically trained. Then when I was 15, I started singing with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, who I was with until I was 23. And then throughout my whole 20s, I was pretty much on the road as a backing singer backing up some amazing artists, whether it’s in choirs, or my own, or two or three of us as a section, and then really, everything changed kind of in the vocal coaching point of view about 10 years ago when I turned 30 and got the head vocal coach job on the X Factor. So it’s been a really interesting route. And it’s been lots of different things. And I kind of, I’m so grateful for all the different various experiences and that I didn’t just stick with one thing, because I feel like I’ve earned my stripes.

 AH: Yeah, so it sounds like you wanted to be a musician from a really early age. Is that right?

AW: Oh, yeah. I mean, actually, from a really, really early age, I wanted to be an author. And I wanted to write fiction novels, which now sounds so weird. I think I always had a love of language. And yeah, when I was really young, I used to write a lot of poems and short stories. But my parents were musicians, and so music was always, always around us. But I think I was painfully, painfully shy. And so as much as I felt like, I always knew I was going to have singing in my life, and I always loved singing. I think from a really early age, I definitely didn’t have the confidence to think that I could do it as a profession. Because I thought you had to be really outgoing and really funny and very comfortable being in front of a big group of people, which I never was. So I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. I also never really had that kind of clear vision in my mind of exactly what route I would go down as a singer anyway, which I think is probably why I’ve ended up vocal coaching. Because I never set out to be a vocal coach, but I also never set out to be a session singer or to sing in the West End, or to be a recording artist. So I think because I never had that strong pull of ‘where exactly do I fit in the music industry?’ perhaps that’s why I ended, because the vocal coaching very much happened by accident, and was always kind of alongside my career as a singer. But I always loved it, but I never realised how much I was going to get out of it, and how much it was going to shape my future.

 AH: That’s amazing. So you’ve kind of followed your nose really, being open to opportunities rather than thinking, I definitely have this goal and this is the route I need to take?

AW: Absolutely. I don’t think I’ve ever really been, I mean apart from a couple of instances I can think of where I’ve gone, ‘This is what I want to do’ as in ‘This is specifically what I want to do right now, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get there’. I think it’s more been, ‘I want a career in the music industry, I’ll do whatever it takes’, you know. When I was studying music, I had five different jobs because I get bored so easily as well. So rather than having one job in a pub where I’d work there every night, when I was 18 I had five different jobs in five different bars because I got bored so easily. So I really liked the variety and, and I think, because I’ve always been kind of like, everything excites me, everything interests me, I’m a bit like a sort of excitable puppy that just wants to try everything that’s possibly worked in my favour, because it’s meant that I’ve tried loads of different things, you know. As I moved to London when I was 18 to study music, I just wanted to sing of course, I knew I wanted to sing. But again, I still didn’t really know whether I wanted to teach,  be a backing singer, be a lead recording artist, as I said, so it was just really like, well, let’s just keep going with everything. Just get your fingers in as many pies as you can until you work out exactly what you want to do.

AH: Good advice for young musicians. And where did you study?

AH: Well, I studied at, it’s now called BIMM, but it was Vocal Tech at the time, which is part of Tech Music Schools and was accredited by Thames Valley University, which is now I believe, University of West London.

AH: Ah, okay. And then after you left there did you, so you’re talking about jobs, did you have to sort of, you know, do session work and balance that with jobs in pubs, and did that go on for very long?

AW: Absolutely. Well I mean, session work, I wished I worked in a bookies. [Laughs] I did everything, I honestly can say. I studied in Ealing and I worked in the Cafe Rouge there and I had to clean the toilets. This is where I can look back and say I’ve genuinely earned my stripes because I have done it. You know, I’ve grafted, I’ve worked hard. And I think it is important that young people are encouraged that they can do whatever they want, but as long as you know, it’s, you know, hard work does pay off. And it’s okay, if you don’t know what you want to do, because I certainly at 18 didn’t say, ‘Right, I’m going to be a celebrity vocal coach’, you know, it absolutely didn’t cross my mind. Yes, I always taught alongside I think because I’d studied music for many more years than my classmates in my uni. So I was sort of helping them on the side. And, you know, that’s kind of how it started. And then I’d run this jazz workshop on a Saturday morning for the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. And so that’s really how it all started quite by accident. But when I have new clients now who are the similar sort of age you do get the ones who want everything now of course, you know. I have that instinct in me, I want everything now and everything really, but it is really important to know that you can achieve anything you want if you put your mind to it, if you work hard enough. And you know, yes, it means you know, I had to do loads of gigs for free, or for hardly any money, I had to lug around my PA system and send a million emails to a million different venues to try and get myself a gig just to get some experience of singing, you know, to sing in dives where your feet stick to the floor. But I don’t regret a second of it because it was so much fun. And I learned so, so much and that’s all part of it. I think it’s really important as a vocal coach to have gone through all that. You certainly, you know, you need to have the life experience of being out there and gigging as a singer and going through what your clients go through, which is why when I’m working with my clients, pretty much any scenario that they ask me for advice on I’ve been through.

 AH: That’s so important, isn’t it when you’re mentoring or coaching somebody else that you can kind of understand the situation. And so you started doing a little bit of informal teaching coaching during your time in the Youth Jazz Orchestra? 

AW: Yeah, so I started at the National Youth Jazz Orchestra when I was 15, painfully painfully shy. I really, really was thrown in the deep end, I really was, I mean, I was a very shy, overweight teenager who really didn’t think she deserved a place in the music industry. If I’m completely honest with you. Which looking back, I just, I feel like I wish there’d been sources like this, like what you’re doing where you have people, you know, giving advice and saying, ‘Actually, it’s okay, you’ll be alright. You’ve got to find yourself and you will be alright’. I was painfully shy and didn’t have any confidence, and I would turn up to these rehearsals every week. Which were really good for me because I got totally thrown in the deep end and I was the only singer that would turn up and we’d sing and rehearse with this 23 piece Big Band of amazing young musicians all aged between, sort of 15 and 23. So intimidating, and just they would all rehearse in a big square. So you’d have five trombones on one side, five trumpets on the other side, five saxophones on the other and then the rhythm section would make up the fourth side, and then I was plonked in the middle. 

AH: Oh.

AW: And, you know, it was so great, it was so great for me. And Bill Ashton, the amazing bandleader who started NYJO 40 years previously, or something. He just took me under his wing and was like, he’s such a character. He would sort of go, you know, ‘Go on’, and we’d do gigs. And he’d introduced me and I’d come out and sing and when I sang I became alive. I was very, very happy singing in front of people. But the second the song was over and I then had to introduce the next song I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole. And I do hear that a lot with singers, they do get that, you know. I think any singers listening or might be listening and think I’m really comfortable singing, but I hate the chat. I hate the talking bit. And I was exactly the same. And all I can say is like anything, the more you do it, you get better at it. And I would go to gigs, and I would watch, you know, my friends and other singers. I remember watching Natalie Williams for the first time. You know, she’s one of my best mates. But at the time, I didn’t know her. And I watched her on stage. And she was so comfortable and relaxed and funny on stage. I just thought I’m never going to be like this. And the fact is, that’s okay, you don’t have to be funny. You don’t have to be relaxed, like, you just have to be yourself. And I think that’s the most important thing, you know, and if you’re awkward, be awkward, and I think the more you do it, you will start to relax into it. But being yourself really is key. And you don’t have to be as funny as the next person. Or as glamorous or as you know, comfortable chatting as the person you’ve just watched. I think going to gigs is really important. And watching and learning for sure.

 AH: Yeah. Oh, that’s really lovely advice. So was there a moment when you thought I want to teach or I want to coach or a moment when an opportunity opened up for you to develop those skills? 

AW: Yes, definitely. When I was, as I say, all through my 20s I would be working as a backing singer. And then I started coaching for sort of the major labels. So I was working for Warner’s, Polydor or Sony. And I was coaching this amazing girl band that had just been put together called Stooshe. And they were put together by Jo Perry, who’s an amazing manager, singer, songwriter, and put them together herself and came up with the whole concept of the band, and brought me in to vocal coach them. And then, about when I was about 28, Jo got a job on X Factor as a part of the A&R team. And I’d already watched X Factor at this point, watching it going, ‘That is my, that’s my job. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing’. I know I’d be good at it, I’m confident that I’d be okay at it. If they would just give me a chance, that would be my dream job. And I think that’s where I really probably actually, even thinking about now as I’m talking to you, realising that that’s where I, probably one of the first times where I went, ‘That’s something I want to do’. And I went for it. And I was working with an amazing artist called Rumer, who is a brilliant singer-songwriter who I really look up to and admire. 

AH: Oh, yes.

AW: Yeah, so we were on the road. And I put it in the universe. I said, ‘If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen’. Two years later, quite out of the blue, I was on tour with Rumer and we were doing the jazz festivals. So we were doing Montreux Jazz Festival and all the kind of major jazz festivals in Europe and traveling around and I got this phone call from the head of music on the X Factor, saying we need a vocal coach. And I was like, ‘Hallelujah!’. I’m like running around all excited. And basically he said, ‘Look, we just you know, we need a vocal coach, can you pop down to the office, meet me for coffee’. I met up with him. He’s an amazing, amazing guy. He basically changed my life, his name is Simon Gavin and he’s the head of music on all these shows. And he took a punt on me because I hadn’t done TV vocal coaching before and it’s very, very different. Very different, especially when the TV show that you’re working on is live TV. So he took a real chance on me. We had a coffee, he said, ‘What do you think of the show?’, I said, ‘I think it’s terrible. I think you need me’. He said, ‘Brilliant, you’re hired’. So he hired me for a weekend, he hired me for boot camp, which was in Liverpool. And I did my first day James Arthur walked through the door, my very first contestant I was absolutely bricking it. Because there was all these cameras on me and microphones and people in the room and important people and producers and James Arthur walked in with his guitar. And I basically had to take the floor and lead the session. And it was sort of sink or swim. So I had to really dig deep and fight and find my voice. And so I did those three days and then they offered me the series and that was 2012 and I’ve been doing it ever since. I got Britain’s Got Talent from that as well. And it’s just snowballed. And I’m just so grateful for every single day. It’s just amazing. I still cannot get over what I do.

AH: It sounds like you’re absolutely where you should be in your life and your career. It’s amazing to hear, you know, the way you talk about it is fantastic. 

AW: Thank you.

AH: Just a few steps back from that though. How did you make that transition from being a singer, being in a jazz orchestra, doing your degree and then teaching and coaching? Did you learn teaching and coaching in your degree?

 AW: I don’t think there is, I don’t think you can learn how to, maybe there is a place I don’t know, to learn how to coach as such. But I always taught alongside, and I think you know so many musicians do just to make a little extra money. And from like 18, 19, I started a jazz workshop at the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, where I basically got singers along and would teach them the songs. And it was a really good experience for me. And, you know, I remember I had a friend of mine who I was at college with, and we would be in our keyboard skills class. And I’d been playing the piano since I was 11. So I’ve done all my grades. And I was explaining something to her and she basically said, ‘Oh, my gosh, you explained it so much more simply, can I like, pay you to sort of teach me at home, like once a week’. And so she paid me a fiver an hour. And I was like, this is amazing because I started teaching her and a couple of other friends and was making a bit of extra sort of beer money and, you know, rent money and that sort of thing while I was at college, and I always loved it, I always loved it. So I always did it alongside. I did it, as I say, when I was at what is now BIMM, when I was in 1998/99, when I was 18, or 19. And then I actually ended up teaching there when I was 26. So when I was 26, I started teaching there, and I did that for about, well I did that until X Factor, so probably four years. And those were four of the best years of my life actually, because the teachers there are brilliant. Because they’re all jobbing musicians and singers, I think that’s really important when you are studying, to be taught by people who are in the industry, who are current, who are relevant, who are doing it, who are writing with artists, and who are recording and playing for artists. So you’re getting such amazing experience firsthand. So yeah, that was probably the stepping stone as well, because I’d kind of taught privately, taught for labels, as I say, this Stooshe band, bands like that I was doing vocal arrangements for that sort of thing and coaching and then yeah, coached at BIMM, and from that came X Factor.

AH: So going on to X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. We’re all pretty aware that part of the appeal of the shows is the characters, their stories, the drama, the Good Cop/ Bad Cop judges, and it’s you know, it can be like a car crash sometimes can’t it? And we see and read a lot of the cutthroat side of it. So I wondered, are there any aspects of the whole experience that we don’t get to see that are more positive, like I’ve always wondered if there are support mechanisms or other opportunities for the people that aren’t successful, or the people that are struggling?

AW: Well, the first thing I will say is that the duty of care on these shows is absolutely amazing. Don’t believe everything you read like it, really, they are really, really looked after. And that’s something I’m proud of, you know, I’m proud of the fact that I’m part of a team where no one’s forced to sing anything they don’t want to sing, no one’s forced to wear anything they don’t want. Like, obviously, there’s a team of experts around them. So you know, you have the best stylist going, ‘This is my suggestion for you’, you have the best music team going, ‘This is my suggestion to you’. But ultimately, it all comes down to them. And I think that’s really important that people know that every decision that’s made is down to, ultimately, the contestant’s choice. And that’s something that, you know, that comes from the top that comes from Simon, it’s really important to him, that what people are singing on stage is something that they love. Of course, they can help and we can … because some people are amazing singers that have no clue what to sing. So in that situation, of course, then we can get involved and go, ‘Well listen, try this’, and they’ll go, ‘Oh my god, amazing. I hadn’t even thought of that’. Which is actually what I probably would prefer is somebody who still doesn’t really know, well, certainly at that earlier age where I would have fit as a recording artist, I definitely would have wanted the help. So that help is there if you want it. But I think what I really love about working on the show, and kind of what people don’t really see is these contestants just grow and flourish in such a short space of time. And it is such a bootcamp course, in everything to do with media, being a musician, being a recording artist, they learn so much. I think it’s so clever, you know, they get media training, they get vocal coaching, they get choreography, you know. They have an input on everything, and it’s really, really clever, and it really sets them up. Like they all think they want to be in this crazy industry. And actually it just gives them those tools to be able to cope with, you know, when it’s hard because it’s hard for absolutely every single person in the industry without a doubt. No matter how successful one gets, there are definitely downsides. So they really help prepare them for that. And I love the fact that I get to work with you know, I get to form these relationships with them. And I get to meet people that I would never ordinarily have met in my life, especially on Britain’s Got Talent because, you know, you get to meet people like Colin Thackery, who won Britain’s Got Talent at 89-years-old. And you know, I would never have met him in a normal walk of life. And then here we are, I’m still coaching him and we’re still friends and he’s still going strong.

AH: Oh, fantastic. 

AW: It’s, I just love, I think the thing I love most about it is the people and the people that I get to meet. You get to make some real friendships and some really amazing connections and they’re really brilliant characters. And like you say, you know, there are a lot of, it’s a television show, so of course they can’t cast 10 of the most boring people they have to cast people that are interesting, that people want to watch. And so therefore, if they’re casting interesting people, that means we’re getting to hang out with them and grow in relationships with them, and that’s so much fun, I really feel lucky to do that.

AH: I guess there’s no getting away from the fact that the music industry can be cutthroat. And that’s what they’re entering, and if they want to enter that they need to kind of have a bit of a taste of that beforehand. And in terms of some of the, you know, the way the judges give them feedback, it does seem harsh.

AW: Yeah. And I think, I mean, it is. This is it, you know, I said it to a client a couple of days ago, to a client’s mum, it is hard. But you know, and if you work hard, and if you’re savvy about it, if you’re clever, and you know what you’re doing, and you don’t give up and being criticised doesn’t put you off, then great. But you’ve got to make sure you’re mentally strong enough for it. And it’s the ones who aren’t mentally strong enough who really struggle. I mean, how are you going to know though?, this is the thing. So I think it’s a really, it’s a very hard industry. And it’s one of the hardest jobs in the world, but it’s also the most rewarding job in the world. Without a doubt. 

AH: Yeah.

AW: How amazing to be, you know, singing for a living. Even for me, you know, I get onstage as a singer, or as a backing singer still now and, or go and coach on a new show, you know, I started Walk the Line last week, and I just looked around, and I’m listening to amazing singers all day, every day, and this is my job, and I get paid to be here. I’m so lucky. 

AH: Yeah. 

AW: So I feel incredibly, incredibly lucky to be in a position right now where I actually get to work with young people and people of all ages. And not only help them get better at something that is in their gut and their belly, and that they’re absolutely passionate about and they love. But also watch their confidence grow and watch them flourish and watch them find a way of dealing with any anxiety or mental health issues that, you know, singing is for sure, a device that we can use to deal with those very, very natural emotions that go through us. So it’s nice to be a part of that, it really is.

 AH: I’ll go on to talk about your app, actually, in a minute, because that very, very sort of strongly links with that whole idea of mental health. 

AW: Yes, it does. Yeah. 

AH: Is there any kind of, or as part of your coaching even, do you help people with that aspect of mental health and wellbeing and dealing with challenges and dealing with feeling vulnerable in singing and all that type of thing? And do those shows provide any of that type of support?

AW: Yeah, I mean, the shows do for sure. I don’t know what they call them, therapists or counselors on site, always. But quite often, that’s a role that I’ll fill because they know me really well. I think it’s really, it’s such an important subject to talk about. And I think it’s great actually, that so many people now are talking about it and making it a subject that’s not taboo, so that when you do have those moments of anxiety, or despair, or sadness, or paranoia, you know that it’s okay, and everyone else is going through it. And I think that’s something that it’s taken me a very long time to work out. And I now know and it’s a really nice feeling to be in. But it’s great to be able to pass that on to the younger ones. And take social media, which is hugely impactful on their mental health. Of course, they all come offstage and they go straight on to their social media and check it. And it’s live, so they check, which I can completely understand. I totally get it. And I found myself grabbing the phone going, ‘Please, just like take the moment in, just can we just take a moment. We’ve just sung on Saturday night on live television, just take your moment for a second’. But of course, they really do, you know, and if they get great comments, and it’s, ‘Phew, I did well’, and if they don’t … But the thing is, there is always going to be those negative comments, you cannot get away from it. You’re always going to get trolls, which from what I see on Instagram, so many people are campaigning doing really good things and talking about it and trying to get you know, laws put in. You’ve got Bobby Norris, you’ve got various supporters of Love Island and Katie Price, and all those things that are going on, and with what happened with Caroline Flack, you know. I really feel like the social media community, as a whole, comes together and is really trying to stamp it out. And I think, I hope, it is getting better. But for sure, you know, even 20 years ago, when I was touring with artists regularly, that there just wasn’t that and it wasn’t that extra pressure. So it’s really important to learn how to deal with it. And to accept it. I’m the same, you know. You’re always going to get people you know, with my app, my app is getting great reviews, great ratings, you get some people that will put a rubbish review, just for the sake of it and it hasn’t got this etc.. Never mind what it hasn’t got, it’s an app with some vocal warm-up exercises on it, and it’s a tenner. Really it’s just an extra tool. So you’re always going to get the odd one and you have to just accept it.

AH: Yeah, well, let’s go on to the app because I think this is brilliant. It’s really lovely. 

AW: Thank you.

AH: You’ve created something that can help so many people at so low cost. Because obviously a lot of people who might want to be singers, to pursue that as a career, or to just do it in their spare time, or maybe to support them with their mental health because we know singing is such a great way of improving wellbeing and maintaining wellbeing. So it’s great that you’ve created this. So tell us about it. How did it begin? Where did you start with the idea?

AW: OK. Well, I’ve had the idea for years actually, mainly because working in the kind of way that I do, quite often, you know, I don’t always have a room with a piano and speakers and all that lovely luxury environment. And you know, I’m quite often warming celebrities up in the toilets backstage or in a dressing room. And I just thought there’s nothing that I can quickly go to. So I would have my laptop and I have a little portable speaker. And everything on YouTube, I found to be, you haven’t really got anything that’s got everything in one. So my initial reaction was, Sorry, my initial thought was, I want to create a tool for singers that they can use wherever they are, that they could have with them, whether they’re in the car driving to a gig and warming up, whether they’re an artist or a backing singer backstage in their dressing room, getting ready, putting the lashes on, putting your face on, while you’re warming up at the same time, and you’ve got me talking you through the exercises, make sure you do this, make sure you lower your shoulders, lift your cheeks, open your mouth, take a nice deep breath, blah, blah, blah, giving you guidance, like I’m there as though I would if I was there coaching you. And then what I basically realised is that I’d, without even realising it, I’d made my own, created my own methodology. Because everybody I coach would say to me, ‘I’ve had singing lessons before. I’ve never ever had this before. I’ve never been explained this to before’. And I thought, ‘Really?’. And I realised a lot of it I’d kind of worked out on my own, working in live TV having to get instant results with sort of minutes and hours and days rather than weeks and months. I started to think, because I get contacted by so many young people who want one-on-one sessions, and, you know, whether it’s financial reasons or availability, like it doesn’t always happen and, and I wanted to create a source that was available to everybody. So it kind of covers two different things. Well, it then covered two different things, which was I wanted to make something which was accessible for young people of all ages of beginners. You know, if you’re a teenager, if you’re in your 50s, or 60s, or whatever age you are, if you think – because there’s so many people that think I just love singing, I just love it. And I’ve always had that in my belly. And so many people love to sing, I wanted to create something that people could not be afraid of, because I find that some of the online sources can be slightly intimidating. I was taught in a really intimidating way, in my younger days, and I wanted to create something that was really approachable and easy and fun. You know, something that was like, ‘Wow, I’m not even realising that I’m actually working on this. And I’m still improving it because it feels like fun’. So I had already created a bunch of exercises. And then this led me on to the next thing that I wanted to make the exercises like a Bruno Mars album, you know, really fun with horns on and backing vocals and amazing arrangements. And not just to a piano, which I personally found wasn’t particularly inspiring, it just felt like a boring warm-up. 

AH: Oh, that’s really interesting.

AW: Yeah, my husband’s a trumpeter, you know, and we kind of like set about, and he came up with his horn lines and put loads of backing vocals on and my amazing producer Nate Williams his name is, he’s an amazing artist in his own right. It’s collectively we came up with the backings for these exercises that I’d been using for years myself, that I’d created. And suddenly we had an album of exercises. And then I had 18. So there’s currently 18 exercises on the app, and I did for male and female keys, so that you can just go into the app and it’s very, very simple. There’s loads of exercises with each exercise is a video and that video is me explaining how to do the exercise correctly. Then you go to the exercise, and you play it and you just sing along and you’ve got me kind of talking throughout, and you can revisit that video as many times as you want. And now, where we are now, so the app’s been out for about a year and four months, it’s gone really, really well. It’s been the number one paid app on the Apple music charts pretty much most days, which is absolutely blowing my mind. Nearly 5000 downloads. Yeah, it’s been sort of constantly like trending app of the day on Apple stores and Google Play stores and things like that. So now we’re about to put a subscription with it. Which basically means there’s going to be two tiers, gold and silver, for everybody that’s already bought the app for £9.99. I didn’t want them to have to pay any more. So they will keep what they’ve got for life on their phone. And then basically I’m adding a whole bunch of new stuff. So I’ve got 10 new exercises in male and female keys. There’s loads of riffing exercises because so many people want to work on their riffing, their runs and their agility. And even if you can’t do those, there is now a tempo slider which means that you can slow each exercise down or speed it up depending on your ability and your level. So there’s loads for you to do on there. But most importantly probably for me and this new phase of the app is I’ve created some anxiety reducing breathing exercises, which I use in my day to day life working on live television. You know, quite often they’re about to go onstage, you know, it’s such a lot of pressure for the singers to go on stage and sing on live TV, sometimes they just need to do a little bit of breathing before they go on. And I use this amazing technique called the 7/11, which is really simple. You breathe in for seven, through your nose, and you breathe out for 11 through your mouth. And what it does is it taps into your parasympathetic nervous system, which basically means it relaxes you, it’s that fight or flight feeling when you’re, that feeling of when you’re really anxious, and your breathing is really shallow. And it’s all getting a little bit too much. It’s the opposite of that feeling, that feeling when you’re lovely and relaxed, and Zen and calm. And it really just stimulates that nerve to make you have that feeling instantly. And it works pretty much instantly, so there’s that exercise on there – sounds like a challenge, doesn’t it? But I’m really excited about that exercise. And then there’s just some really lovely morning daily breathing exercises, which anyone can do. So it’s now opened up to non-singers who can use this app purely for mental health reasons. And you know just five minutes of mindfulness doing these breathing exercises will really, really help. So my plan is to keep adding to the app.

AH: Oh, it’s fascinating and I can’t wait to go in and have a look at it because I sing in a community choir. I’m not a brilliant singer, but I love it. 

AW: Oh, amazing. That’s perfect, yeah exactly.

AH: Yeah, I’m going to use it, I’m definitely going to try it.

AW: I love that. I love the fact that you’re like, ‘Look, I’m not amazing, but I sing’ and you do it. And that’s the kind of message I want to spread is that if you enjoy singing, if you love singing, get in a choir. Find out who your local community choir is, get some singing lessons, get the app, do what, you know, look online, do some online things if you’re unsure or, you know, do whatever is right for you. But get singing because it just makes you feel so much better.

AH: Oh, I can absolutely agree with that. Community choir in our local town is absolutely the highlight of my week, that feeling you get when you sing with other people is amazing.

AW: Isn’t it, it’s the best feeling.

AH: I know you’re really short of time because you’ve got a dash off to coach somebody now. 

AW: I do my love, sorry. 

AH: That’s all right. And finally, can you share either one insight or a practical tip or a recommendation that might be helpful for people listening?

AW: I think the thing for me, that really drives me, and you know, I coach other vocal coaches and I’d probably say the same thing to them. When you’re coaching somebody, the best thing about that person is themselves and their own unique sound. So I think it’s really important to encourage that person to grow their own sound. And yes, you know, we all have influences. And we all listened to various singers. And it’s important that we don’t sort of try and copy the sound of the singers that we like, but use them as an influence that there’s a certain vibrato or a certain tone, or a certain riff or lick or something that they do to use it as an influence, but ultimately, to let them be themselves. And for example, for me, I don’t teach anybody in exactly the same way, every single lesson I teach is completely different. Because everyone that I teach is different. And that’s the beauty of it. And that’s what, that’s what’s so brilliant about music, and that what artists offer us and having that sort of eclectic mixture of artists around us is brilliant for us as listeners and as audience members. So I would just encourage any vocal coaches or if you’re a singer, yourself, just be yourself. If you feel like you don’t like the sound of your own voice, that’s okay, I know exactly what that felt like I went through that myself. And you have to get to a point, record yourself, listen to it back, you have to get to a point where you go, this is what I sound like. If there’s certain parts of your voice that you don’t like, then you can change things you know. You can change, there isn’t just one way to sing something. So really explore your own voice. Get to know your own voice as well as you can. Try various different techniques and styles and see what works for you. There isn’t one correct answer. That’s the thing. So really it’s a fun journey, exploring and trying different things and trying something that you think you would hate. When I was at college, I was forced to do classical, pop, soul, r&b, rock, and when I got to the rock module, I thought I’m going to hate this module. I loved it. I absolutely loved it and I learned so much from it and even if you learn from whatever it is that you’ve tried that you don’t want to do it, at least you tried and you still got something from it. So no experience is a bad experience. And I would just say please don’t forget to just be yourself, that’s what makes you unique. And that’s going to make you the most attractive as an artist to your audience. 

AH: Good advice for participants and tutors as well. So that’s really great.

AW: Thank you.

AH: I’ve just realised that we haven’t said where we can find you and what the name of your app is as well.

AW: Oh, the easiest way to find me is on socials which is The Vocal Coach Official. So everything is The Vocal Coach, my website is The Vocal Coach(dot)com and the app is called surprisingly, The Vocal Coach and it’s available on Apple and Android if you just type in The Vocal Coach, it’s white with a little gold symbol and you’ll find it there.

AH: Thanks so much Annabel. It’s been lovely meeting you.

AW: Thank you so much Anita for having me. I really enjoyed talking to you.

AH: Oh, lovely, and have a good coaching session. If you want to read more about Annabel and about her app and website, I’ll share all sorts of links and resources in the show notes. Thanks for listening.

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