Enhancing Vocal Performance Through Culture Fusion – Carla Rigolin Hassett

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Winter 2015 Singing Competition Finalist, Carla, has performed with many famous artists and has sung for TV and film soundtracks, including Rio and Rio 2.

Singer/guitarist Carla Rigolin Hassett has performed live or recorded with Billy Idol, Gino Vannelli, REO Speedwagon, Christopher Cross, Solomon Burke, Mike Patton, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, Sergio Mendes, Enrique Bunbury, and actor/musician Gary Sinise.

As a session singer, Carla has sung on countless commercials, TV shows, and films, including Rio and Rio 2 (with Janelle Monae). In 2012 Carla backed up Caetano Veloso, Natalie Cole, Nelly Furtado, Seu Jorge, Lila Downs, and others at the Latin Grammy Person of the Year show honoring Caetano Veloso.

We asked her more about what obstacles and triumphs she faced while working her way into the music industry.

A video from Carla's YouTube channel

One influential singer, and what it is that makes them stand out to you?
Brazil’s Elis Regina, though no longer living, can obliterate language barriers with the emotion her voice conveys, and her perfect intonation and ability sing in the pocket of any groove make her the standard that I aspire to.

Biggest challenge to breaking out and sharing your music with new people?
Transitioning from the background, at first, felt comfortable and appropriate, but the closer I get to really finding my artistry as a soloist, the scarier it feels to perform.

Something that’s worked for you in reaching a larger audience?
Last summer I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, which taught me the value of putting myself out there and churning out consistent content even when I thought maybe no one was paying attention. In the end, I got a lot of new supporters and fans.

A performance FAIL?
I never look at any performance as a fail, only as an opportunity to learn something I don’t already know or don’t know well enough.

I never look at any performance as a fail, only as an opportunity to learn something I don’t already know

A performance SUCCESS – and why…?
When I can perform without anxiety or fear and get to that wonderful Zen state where I’m just pure, unobstructed expression, then I’ve succeeded. Singing is such a physical, athletic feat, the tiniest mental doubt or emotional fear can send your body into a protective mode that tightens muscles, squeezes the voice, and blocks optimal vocal performance.

Favorite Vocal Gear and why?
Because I usually play guitar when I sing, I love TC Electronic’s Harmony Singer. I’ve used it long enough to know when it works best and when to avoid it, so it makes a really big impact when I kick it in in just the right places.

A musical lesson you’ve learned the hard way?
I once forgot my guitar on a gig so now I go through a checklist of everything I need before leaving the house.

A vocal-singing lesson you’ve learned the hard way?
I used to blow my voice out a lot and it took me a long time and the right vocal coach to learn how to not over-sing.

Watch the video that made Carla a finalist

A few ingredients of a memorable vocal performance?
Dynamics, phrasing, pocket, intonation, surprise, and ultimately, trusting your technique and letting go.

Most important lesson you have learned about social media?
Take an inventory of your social media and Google yourself from time to time to make sure, if you can, that what’s out there continues to reflect you and your brand in a positive way.

Most important lesson you have learned about vocal health?
Train with a great coach, stick with it, and always vocalize before singing so you can warm and stretch the instrument.

I had some formal music training, but learned mostly on the job and by just doing it a lot

A question you wished we asked you – and your answer?
“Tell us about your music education?” – I had some formal music training, but learned mostly on the job and by just doing it a lot. But now I’m a returning college student grabbing some new skills and wrapping up a degree in producing music from Berklee College of Music Online.

What is an area of your singing work/career that is a little (or a lot) unique or different that you could elaborate on.
As I evolved from mostly background and session singing to finding my own voice, I discovered that embracing my Brazilian heritage and allowing it to musically mesh with my American self was the key to my uniqueness. I’ve benefitted with more work and a deeper feeling of artistic satisfaction. I’m also a bit of a nerd and feel comfortable with the technical side of music. I have a small, but well equipped studio in my home and often record myself remotely for producers, composers, and songwriters. I’ve also produced, recorded, and edited vocal sessions for other singers on record projects and films. I think being a singer with recording and engineering skills gives me an advantage over non-vocalist producers.

See articles from the other finalists or enter the singing competition yourself!


Carla Hassett Bio

Active in LA’s live music scene, Carla Rigolin Hassett performs as a soloist or leads a trio and quartet that perform bossa nova, jazz, and MPB (Brazilian Popular Music). She won an Independent Music Award nomination in 2010 for a track that she produced and performed with Mike Patton (Faith No More). With a 2016 tour in the works, Carla is finalizing production on her crowd-finded album, +Blue, continues to perform in Los Angeles, teaches at the Silverlake Conservatory of Music, produces other vocalists, and is earning a degree in music production from Berklee Online.

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  • Mary Deros

    Love the happy carefree voice when Carla sings! It is pure pleasure to hear her perform!!