David Stewart on Singing & Effects

Dave Stewart Fea 560

His music career spans three decades and more than 100 million album sales.

Many of us will never forget David Stewart’s collaboration with Annie Lennox in the ground-breaking pop-rock duo Eurythmics.

Behind the scenes he’s produced albums and co-written songs for Bono, Bryan Ferry, Gwen Stefani, Tom Petty, Katy Perry, and Mick Jagger.


Now, David Stewart speaks to VoiceCouncil Magazine:


What is one key to having your music stand out in a song-saturated market?

“Flaunt your imperfections and you will be a star, my dear.”

Is that your own quote?
I think it was Oscar Wilde, but maybe it was me…

Dave Stewart Text01Does using vocal processing count for being original?
Well, you have to step back and look at the whole piece of work you’ve created. If the end result is amazing piece of work then the answer to your question is “yes”. I think of Holgar Czukay from the German band “Can” who has experimented with looping and of “Kraftwerk” and “Daft Punk” who have done great work with their vocal processing.

On the other hand…?
If you are just processing your voice to make it sound more in tune, then this is not an original process. Part of the creative endeavor is to create a sound; a unique mixture of processed audio is a part of this.

How are you using effects these days?
I continue to use all sorts of effects to create unique and arresting sounds that become integral to my song creations, using echo chambers, weird phased guitar sounds and even recording my voice after it comes through a small speaker.

Dave Stewart Text02Give us an example.
At the beginning of Ringmaster General I am singing with the musicians in the same room – you can hear the drums come through my mic. Then, there’s this dramatic change where we go from my mic being the only mic on in the room to 37 other mics kicking in. My engineer said, “How are we going to fix that?” But I liked it. You move from this weird mono sound to this huge, full-fat stereo. It works.

How might singers start thinking outside the box in terms of their musical “feel”?
I always like to juxtapose things. There was a day I turned to Annie Lennox and said, “…why don’t we start writing these songs where have an icy cold feeling with a soulful vocal?” This resulted in a cool electronic sound coupled with Annie’s very human voice quality. To this idea we added other dimensions about how we would dress and present our song visually – just take a look at our videos such as “Sweet Dreams” (Are Made of This) to see the results.

You’ve presented workshops on songwriting – what is one piece of wisdom you feel is very important for singer-songwriters?
I want to stress that songwriting is not about sitting alone in an empty room waiting for inspiration to hit. It is about living life, fully in the moment. You dive in head first into anything anybody ever said to you, or any day that stands out in your memory—even a single word can inspire an entire song. You work with your whims.

David Stewart is one of many contributors to The Ultimate Guide to Singing

Dave Stewart BioDavid A. Stewart‘s music career spans three decades and more than 100 million album sales, including his collaboration with Annie Lennox in the groundbreaking pop-rock duo Eurythmics. He’s produced albums and co-written songs for Bono, Bryan Ferry, Gwen Stefani, Tom Petty, Katy Perry, and Mick Jagger. His latest solo album is The Ringmaster General. www.davestewart.com