The other day I posted a ‘bootleg’ recording from about 2015. Hearing that reminded me that I made a big decision as a singer round about then. I started singing in my own accent.
For years I had done what lots of British rock singers do and sung in an American accent. Partly this was habit, partly this was to make things easy as there really are some vowel sounds that sing better with that accent.
Singing with my own accent is one of several things I try to consciously do with my singing voice these days. I also try to avoid techniques that sound overly forced and unnatural like too much vibrato. I try to maintain a speechlike quality, while not getting away from the fact that it is singing not spoken word.
It feels more honest. I think it also helps my voice sound like me, rather than trying to sound like someone else. Rock music is full of ‘good’ singers who all sound the same.
These decisions aren’t without their drawbacks. My first print review referred to my ‘mockney’ accent. It isn’t ‘mockney’ it is my actual accent. I can only assume that the reviewer was so used to hearing American sounding voices they were confused.
A review of my album Demon expressed surprise that my slightly speechlike approach fit the music. Apparently not considering that this might be deliberate choice (A mistake 95% of reviewers seem to make is to assume that the musicians were trying to accomplish something that they weren’t).
However, when I listen to my music now I can confidently say that it sounds like me. I found my songwriting voice on my second album, Ironbark. I found my singing voice three years later on Fit the Fourth.
(While we’re at it, I found my attitude to recording only on Demon, after years of trying to sound like someone else, it is that album that sounds closest to what was in my head).
Do I have a point? I guess that singers should sound like themselves. The most successful signers are not best by any technical measure. Many of them are technically bad. But they all sound unique. And almost all of them are divisive with as many detractors as fans. So I shall continue to attempt to entertain and alienate in equal measure.
Anyway, here’s the song that got me thinking this: