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John Waite on Singing


Acclaimed artist of the Babys and Bad English reveals the tips and tricks behind his vocal success.

English-born crooner John Waite took the helm as lead vocalist with The Babys and Bad English.

But it was his 1984, no. 1 solo hit, “Missing You,” that perhaps showcased the singer at his most memorable.

Now, he reveals to VoiceCouncil Magazine how he keeps his voice in check.

What are a few ingredients that go into a memorable vocal performance?
A good show is one where the band locks together and flies. I’ll improvise around the melody and lose myself. You become the song. The wall comes down. You’re free.

WaiteText01What is the most important lesson you have learned about vocal health?
Mucinex is indispensable. If your vocal chords are drying out and sore, it’s God’s gift. Water … lots and lots of water. No alcohol stronger than a small beer, maybe. I usually pass on that, too. Sometimes, we all have half a pint of Guinness as a toast. Clasp hands, go out there and kill ‘em.

What tips or tricks do you have to keep your voice in shape given busy recording schedules, live performances and tours?
Sleep. Nothing works better, and nothing’s harder to come by on the road. The adrenalin keeps you wide awake until near dawn. You can’t take Valium, as it affects you’re vocal chords.

Have you ever worked with a professional to help maintain your singing voice? If so, what’s one lesson you’ve found invaluable?
I tried seeing someone twice and it made no difference whatsoever. I don’t think it’s all physical. It’s the soul.

What would you recommend for singers to try to improve different aspects of their singing?
One thing I always do is turn off the air conditioning in my hotel room. It’s the most serious threat. Never sleep with it on, and if you can crack the window open to let clean air in, do it. Always ask for a room where you open the window.

Some singers have good vocal health and technique but really struggle to find their unique voice. What advice would you offer them?

I never copied anyone. I couldn’t. I’m a one-trick pony. If I ever did anything around my family growing up that was borrowed, they always pointed it out. It was thought of as stealing.

WaiteText02Name one influential singer, and what it was that makes them stand out to you.
That’s like asking what you’re favorite album is. It’s almost impossible to explain what touches you when you’re young.

How would you describe your style?
I sang the way I sing now the way I sang then. It was a mixture of Irish folk songs and the blues. Celtic music has kind of atonal drone and blues is really no more than three chords. When I first heard The Beatles, they were (for me at least) coming from that place. African American music was seminal. Otis Reading, Sam and Dave, Sun House and Etta James … all have a kind of unvarnished humanity that speaks to me still. Who can say what it is? To me, they are like brothers and sisters.

As you look back on your vocal work what would you say was an important landmark(s) in singing more effectively?
Being in the moment. You’re telling stories, and if you’re any good, you have no defenses. Sing the truth. Let go, but pace yourself.   Give them yourself.

WaiteProfileJohn Waite was lead vocalist for The Babys and Bad English. As a solo artist, he scored several international hits, including 1984’s “Missing You,” a no. 1 hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and a top 10 hit on the U.K. Singles Chart. See www.johnwaitethesinger.com





06036018.JPGMegan Gloss is a vocalist and writer based in the United States.

  • Roojam

    Now that sounds like real advice from a real deal.

    I’ve had to separate myself from sharing rooms with one bandmate because he cranks the a/c to “eleven”. I found out long ago that that meant death to the next days vocal performance.

    Another bad deal is having moving air on stage, as in fans, ceiling fans, whatever. I saw a pro’s rider once that demanded “no moving air” and thought, hmmm, there’s probably something to this.