10 Questions with ... Renee Grant-Williams
March 31, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
For the last 30 years I have lived in Nashville TN, coaching voice and working with well-known entertainers, among them: Miley Cyrus, the Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Christina Aquilera, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, and Martina McBride.
I also present communication skills programs, and created and taught a course in public speaking for the Barnes & Noble Online University. My book Voice Power: Using Your Voice to Captivate, Persuade, and Command Attention (AMACOM, NY), was endorsed by Paul Harvey and selected by Executive Book Summaries as one of the best business books of 2002.
I've appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Bravo, CMT, GAC, MTV, BBC, and NPR, and quoted by and written for or appeared in print publications including Cosmopolitan, USA Today, Esquire, Elle, TV Guide, US Weekly, Southern Living, New York Times, New York Post.
My current project is a cutting edge membership subscription website for singers and songwriters. www.MyVoiceCoachOnline.com. I'm especially excited about my upcoming April 13 all-day Vocal Master Class seminar for singers. After presenting it annually for ten years I took a five year break before I was persuaded to present it again this spring
1. Hi Renee! You are known as "vocal coach to the stars." Can you tell us a few of the recognizable names you have worked with?
Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Jason Aldean, Dixie Chicks, Huey Lewis, Miley Cyrus, Scott Stapp (Creed), Martina McBride, Linda Ronstadt and Bobby Weir of the Grateful Dead plus hundreds of others.
2. Those are some pretty impressive stars! How did you initially hook up with such high-profile artists?
When I first moved from New York to Nashville I worked with John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and then some NYC pals gave me a recommendation to the Public Theater and Linda Ronstadt and Gary Morris when they performed together on an opera. And from there it's all been referrals.
3. You teach a vocal master class in Nashville. Tell us a little about that. What types of things do you teach, and are there prerequisites to attend such a class? In addition to vocal lessons, do you help students get connected in the industry?
The Master Class is titled "Fearless Solutions for Singers" It's an all-day 9-5 intensive seminar for singers. During the day I'll be teaching the same techniques I've taught my star clients. And a lot of esoteric tips and tricks that I usually can't cover in a normal lesson. In the afternoon we'll have a special panel with producer Paul Worley (Big & Rich/The Band Perry), songwriter Frank Myers (I Swear - John MIchael Montgomety), Dean Sams (Lonestar) and Sherod Robertson (publisher Music Row Magazine) about "This New Business of Singing," where we will discuss options for signers in this rapidly changing business. We will end the day with an evening performance showcase from 7:30-11:30 where each attendee will sing at least one song and receive two evaluations from heavy-hitters in the music business.
4. On television, we see it all the time - singing reality shows hold auditions, and people who think they are great singers turn out to be the opposite. Is there a way for one to tell if they are actually a good singer or not (before potentially embarrassing themselves in front of an audience)?
I suggest to my students that they A/B themselves. To record themselves singing a popular song. Listen to their recording and then to the original artist. Listen back and forth until they can honestly say a radio station would play their version as likely as the original.
5. In your opinion, who are some of the best vocal performers in Country radio? Do you feel that a Country singer has an advantage or disadvantage over those in the Pop (or any other) format?
Sugarland, Jason Aldean, Martina McBride, Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks, Alison Krauss, Faith Hill, Montgomery Gentry, and Carrie Underwood.
Country music has expanded to embrace almost every other genre of music. There is something in country music for almost anyone.
6. Who are some of your biggest success stories? Can you tell us a bit about their journey?
I've had a hand in so many careers that it's difficult to choose. But when I worked with Tim McGraw he was pushing too hard and as soon as I got him over that he developed the laid-back sound that serves him so well.
Miley Cyrus had her last session with me the day before they left to go to Hollywood to work on the Hannah Montana show. I would say she's been quite the success story.
7. Who is one star who you would LOVE to work with? Who are some of your professional influences?
My apologies. I'm not inclined to answer this, I don't' want anyone to interpret it to be that I feel they need help. I will tell you though that my favorite singer I'd like to meet is Jennifer Nettles.
8. How important is it for you to be based in Nashville, around so many aspiring and professional performers?
Here I can be a big fish in a small, but important, pond. In San Francisco and Berkley I taught primarily classical music. In New York it was show tunes and cabaret, in Nashville it's mostly country and rock. I think being familiar with so many styles makes me a better teacher.
9. What are your thoughts on Country music's "sound" throughout the years? Each decade has sounded so different! Do you feel that vocally, one decade reigns supreme over the others, or has true talent always been inter-woven throughout the years?
I don't know if this era reigns supreme but when Patsy Cline and Roy Orbison were around there was some pretty darn good singing. The singers today are awfully good too. Each decade has had its super stars and I can't wait to see what's next.
10. What is the biggest piece of advice that you would give to an aspiring singer who dreams of moving to Nashville?
Realize that you are no longer an individual, but a business. This is one of the main subjects of my upcoming April 13 Vocal Master Class, where my special panel will discuss recent changes in the music industry and how a singer can incorporate these changes into their career plan.
Also, Trisha Yearwood said it best: Get Good or Go Home!
1. If you could trade jobs for one week, what other industry would you like to work in?
I would like to work in film and television. Maybe have a steamy romance with George Clooney?
2. What are some of your guilty-pleasure television shows?
I love Survivor, Justified, Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Son's Anarchy.
3. Who are some of your personal favorite singers?
Sooooo many! But to name a few: Steve Perry, Carrie Underwood, Roger Waters, Mick Jagger, Jennifer Nettles, opera singer Maria Callas and two relatively unknowns, Nashville local singer Mandy Barnett, and Toni Price in Austin