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When Race & other differences enter the equation....

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by kazamamaster, Mar 7, 2008.


  1. kazamamaster

    kazamamaster Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2005
    Richmond, VA
    Hey TB'ers....

    I have a little bit of a situation, and maybe I need some advice to this situation that isn't a problem for me, but one of my band members. Hopefully this doesn't get ugly, and let me say that I hope no bashing but only intelligent thoughts come out of this.

    Here's the situation:


    A while back, myself, a trumpeter, and a drummer started looking for a vocalist. We found one via craigslist. My ad said that I was looking for a "soulful" jazz vocalist. In the ad I listed a few influences that the vocalist might have, you know, the Flora Purim, Alicia Keys, Roberta Flack, Anita Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Lalah Hathaway; just to bring a wide range to the table. Our band was pretty much open to anything. So we found a vocalist, someone in her early 40's who happens to be white. Now, keep in mind, I myself happen to be color blind. I'm black, yet I don't see any differences between people especially in music, and people have enough talent nowadays for people not to say that's a white singer, or that's a black singer.....

    So, our vocalist comes to our rehearsal and she let's me know she's never sang R/B or any what she called "songs that obviously a black person has so much feeling/soul". I happened to be a little offended by it, and let her know that if the person has talent, they should be able to sing it regardless of color. Needless to say, we felt confident enough in her abilities to have her on board, and she also agreed that she would try some R/B stuff in the future, as long as we told her whether she sounded good or not.


    So, we've been together for maybe 3 months, doing some Anita Baker, but mostly jazz standards (something she feels comfortable doing), and after doing a gig in which the audience happened to be a little partial to standards, I mentioned to the band we should start to expand our range as agreed, and after maybe trying 3-4 songs of the old school Roberta Flack stuff, she starts mentioning again how she doesn't think she can put alot of feeling into the song, and isn't comfortable (which I happen to think is leading back to what she originally said) and she appears to be closing up on us.


    Now, I am the leader of the band, we are from different backgrounds/races, but no one else seems to see things the way she does. We go through with it if it sounds good, regardless and have bit the bullet with having to change keys to fit her range and playing mostly standards. I'm open to it, but the problem I'm facing is, playing a limited amount of music will restrict the type of gigs we get, and at this point, more gigs = better exposure.


    What do you guys think?
     
  2. werks

    werks

    Dec 4, 2007
    Milwaukee, WI
    It seems to me that this issue doesn't have anything to do with race but more to do with your singer's confidence. A cover band I was in years ago suffered from a similar situation. The singer, in my case, would not even attempt a song if he didn't think he could do it. I have been fortunate since then to work with musicians that welcome the challenge of doing something new or "out of the box" for them.

    In your case (if I were to guess) your singer sounds like she does not want to sound "bad" at all, and isn't willing to try it based on that fact.
     
  3. Since you picked her, you need to consider which songs she can interpret properly. A lot of it has something to do with her exposure as a musician. So if she says that some song is what only a black person can give soul too, she's just implying that she didn't grow up in that kind of musical atmosphere. Vocal range is one thing, interpretation is another. She may hit the notes, but she will definitely give it a different soul of which culture (not genetics, but then racial still) has a lot to do.

    From how I read it she's not being racist or anything, she's just not confident enough in songs that she didn't grew up with. Maybe tell her that this is a professional situation and that she should at least try to give life to the songs even if it's not that close to the way a black singer will do. If she can't, or won't, then you can decide whether to stick with her or try another singer.

    PS - I don't mean to bash you, but if you're offended by her confession, chances are that you're not color blind after all. From my computer screen I feel that it is just a humble confession, but of course I don't know what is it on your side of the world.
     
  4. Kenny Allyn

    Kenny Allyn

    Mar 25, 2006
    Memphis
    Yeah seems like a comfort zone thing ...

    Our singer also female, comes from an 80s pop music background but to her credit has stepped up and learned both old school blues and R&B, hasn't always been an easy process.

    Our issue lately has been more with a booking agent that wants us to be more of an all around cover band, rather than blues and R&B based ...

    :eyebrow: ... You kinda have to decide what you want as a direction for the band.
     
  5. kazamamaster

    kazamamaster Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2005
    Richmond, VA

    I guess what I meant by being offended isn't so much from a race stand point, but more so that regardless of who you are, and where you come from, if the talent and willingness is there, what should color matter?

    Say for instance, I grew up in an environment where I learned funk and R/B right? Who's to say that I couldn't learn to play another style of music that required another type of feeling? If that was the case, for me, why should it matter for another musician? That's not to say that someone has to learn it, but what I'm saying is, professionally from an eagerness to gain experience and willingness to learn more to be technically proficient at your craft, why wouldn't people want to venture and try other things?
     
  6. DanielleMuscato

    DanielleMuscato

    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    +1. Tell her to practice on her own and rehearse with you guys more, or if she's not up to the task, find someone else (if it's important to you to do those numbers that she won't do).
     
  7. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    I have two points. First is that maybe she didn't mean anything racial by the black singer/soul comment. There are a lot of great R/B, soul singers that happen to be black...and like phektus said, It might be stuff that she hasn't really been exposed to or influenced by. She could be just trying to tell you, "Hey I don't think I can pull of (insert great r/b singer's name here)".

    Second, if she hasn't been exposed to or influenced by some of stuff you're trying to introduce then she may not be into those songs enough to want to try them. I'm guilty of that myself from the last band I was in. It started out as a mix of covers/originals, then moved exclusively into covers. I didn't get to pick any of them, and didn't care for a few of them......so I started to lose interest. Covers bands can be difficult like that.
     
  8. In my opinion (and experience) there is no such thing as "color blind." Everyone sees color (race), it is where a person goes from there that matters.

    As to the OP, a professional it a shot, and the other professionals would either say yes or no, and that should be the end of it.

    A similar example would be a 40 + bunch of guys in a cover band playing Stacy's Mom. From the singers perspective mom would have to be in her 60's. Does it work, not for us, but I have seen it pulled off just fine. We tried and everyone decided it just didn't work.
     
  9. I agree. A lead singer should be willing to at least try that style. You'll know after a few rehearsals whether she has the talent to pull it off. Some people can, some people can't, but if she's not willing to try it even just in rehearsals, I would question whether she's the right singer for your band.
     
  10. CrashClint

    CrashClint I Play Bass therefore I Am

    Nov 15, 2005
    Wake Forest, NC
    DR Strings Dealer (local only)
    Here is my take, when you first interviewed her, did you give her a list of songs the band was thinking of doing? As soon as she made the comment, I would have looked at the list and picked one out that vocally would be the easiest to learn. Then I would have told her to work on it for the next week and we will meet on the next rehearsel night and run through the song with the recording to see how you do.

    During the rehearsel, you would know pretty quickly if she has the voice to effectively sing R&B. Maybe she can't sing it just like the recording, I don't know too many people who can especially when you are talking about the amazing singers and the different styles within R&B.

    So what it comes down to, if she is willing to give it her all and try to sing the songs, you have an obligation to at least try and work it out. If she refuses to sing the songs, it is time to look for a new vocalist.

    I hope this helps.
     
  11. kazamamaster

    kazamamaster Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2005
    Richmond, VA


    I couldn't agree more. The funny thing is, I've told our vocalist several times how good she is......Everyone else does too. She's really talented, yet still doesn't think she can pull certain things off...I can't stress how much I've mentioned she's really sounded good doing things out of her comfort zone.
     
  12. Dr Funk

    Dr Funk "If you ain't appearing then you be disappearing" Gold Supporting Member

    and clear from out here (pun intended). After a lifetime of bands IMHO there needs to be a leader, one who always navigates the course and maintains musical direction. Either you follow the musical path you choose or you compromise. As far as a singer you can't have a tug of war going on. I always felt if it was a front person/singer (no instrument) they need to meld within the format of the band. The exception being the person is so dynamic and vocally astute they just take over and drive the bus. I have played under all these conditions and looking back I still wouldn't change much... well, except maybe that one Chicago audition I blew off when PC left. :meh:
     
  13. I think it's one of two things:

    1) "I don't believe I have what it takes to pull those songs off"
    2) "I really don't like singing that kind of music"

    Obviously one is a confidence/exposure issue and the other is a desire issue. But you have to figure out which it is.

    If she really wants to hang in there and try, I think you as a band can work with her -- give her some stuff to listen to and see if she can make it happen. She may have her own set of blinders on and could be convinced that "Since I'm White, I automatically can't sing this kind of thing." (Which of course is rubbish -- See Michael McDonald, AWB, Jamiroquai, Lisa Stansfield, or even Janis Joplin) The key is that she has to buy into the notion that she can get it done.

    If there's a desire issue, you have a totally different situation -- and a different set of decisions to make as a band.
     
  14. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    I think IotaNet is on to something. The way the OP described the situation, it sounds like the singer has some preconcieved notions about who should sing r&b (obviously she is not into Bobby Caldwell or Teena Marie!:D)

    I think CrashClint suggestion of taking the easiest song, and having her really get familiar with it. If she keeps resisting r&b, the band needs to make a change.

    BTW, OP, the notion of being "colorblind" is a pet peeve of mine. We all notice difference, if we didn't men, would be going crazy over Rosie O'Donald, the same way they do for for Halle Berry of J Lo.:eek:
     
  15. nsmar4211

    nsmar4211

    Nov 11, 2007
    Ignore the color issue, focus on the style issue. Maybe she doesn't feel her voice can capture that style, so work with her to find something closer to the style you're aiming at thats shes ok with singing. Look at it this way.... a country singer is probably not going to be real comfy singing opera at first!

    However, lets be honest, you may be color blind but lots of people aren't. Musicians usually are (at least around here)........so it may be the audience she's concerned with. What are your crowds like? If you've got a room full of Aretha Franklin fans, and your singer tries to sing one of hers and doesn't do it 100% like they want to hear, I'd be pretty sure *someone* in that room is going to point out her color as a factor. And if she's sensitive and hears this, then that's going to be a blow because that's nothing she can change or work on and it means she's being judged not on her talent. People can be pretty rude sometimes....

    There's gotta be a middle ground for this, if you guys like her otherwise :)
     
  16. MarkMyWordsXx

    MarkMyWordsXx

    May 17, 2006
    yea its gotten totally away from race at this point. but il speak on that point

    its a difficult topic to deal with because even if race isnt a concern now, at the time when a lot of standards were written, it was. so while il agree with you that her choice of words was poor, one could argue that there is a difference in tonal qualities between different races.

    now, through blending its a lot closer today, but the bottom line is talent is talent.

    if you guys as a band dont feel comfortable with her ability, ditch her. but again, i dont see how race has anything to do with it at this point other then you associating it with her initial comment. for me, that would have been enough to ditch her regardless of race. but it looks like your at the point where shes more of a hindrance.

    in conclusion, give her das boot
     
  17. I dunno. After reading through this thread and then re-reading the OP, I think you made a wrong decision with this singer. She obviously is not a soulful jazz singer and you are trying to work around it and guess what? It's not working!

    I vote you look for a soulful jazz singer...My $0.02, YMMV,etc.

    Russ
     
  18. Although you may not, she does seem to have a race issue, namely questioning her own ability to meet the outstanding level of talent and vocal quality of some "classic" R&B singers.

    MarkMyWords said "its a difficult topic to deal with because even if race isnt a concern now, at the time when a lot of standards were written, it was. so ... one could argue that there is a difference in tonal qualities between different races."

    This is something that some people take very seriously. Personally I'll sing anything, and put my own vocal character into whatever I'm doing (no matter how white I sound:D). Though I did audition with a band once who wanted me to sing "Backlash Blues." Now how can a white woman sing that?:eek:

    KAZAMA, I say give her a chance to get comfortable with the idea of singing in a style she may not think she's suited to. If she's right, she's not right for your band. If she's willing, she may just prove herself wrong.
     
  19. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    I'm wondering why she even answered an ad specifically suggesting certain types of music if she's not comfortable singing it?? If she can't get with the program, y'all need to make a change now! Don't let it fester.

    A band I was in had a similar problem. We placed an ad specifically asking for an R&B singer with R&B singing experience. We passed on several girls and one sorta stood out so we asked her back. She sang a couple of disco songs ok at best (she has pitch problems and uses her vibrato to cover it up) and then she presents us with a list of songs she wanted to sing. Guess what was on the list? Not an iota of R&B. We told her in a round about way...."no thanks"! She actually got pissed. She had attitude and diva like tendencies and had a nasty sarcastic side anyway. I was glad to see her go!
     
  20. dreadheadbass

    dreadheadbass

    Dec 17, 2007
    england
    i think as said above that her problem is range and confidence rather than any race issues just have a word with her and ask her to try some of the other stuff with a bit of luck she'll suprise herself and her confidence will boom
     

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