Check out this kindly guidance from a vocalist who’s been there.
American soul singer Madeline Bell is still performing at the age of seventy.
It was one of those rare occasions I went to a concert without the intention of portraying an artist.
But with her youthful looks, beautifully expressive face and elegant gestures, I had no choice but to paint her. (see full sized image below)
I began to wonder: in such a demanding and fickle industry how a vocalist can survive?
How can you earn enough and stay healthy enough to survive the perils and pitfalls that end the careers of many vocalists prematurely?
Would Madeline tell me?
Madeline and Money
Luckily she’s an open person and as we sat down at a café, I asked her how she has made a living for so many years…
Madeline explains: “I have always found a way to earn money by singing, one way or the other. I’ve never turned down any singing related job, as long as I get paid for it, and it’s respectable. So I did TV jingles, worked as a radio DJ for the BBC, did backing vocals for famous artists like Dusty Springfield, Cliff Richard and Elton John…”
“But it’s hard. I still don’t have much money, unless I’m touring. Then my salary goes straight into my bank account and I have no time to spend it.”
Listen to Your Parents
Besides saying yes to any honorable gig, what advice can Madeline give young singers in order to achieve a long and lasting career, just like hers?
She stops and thinks for a few seconds and then responds: “I don’t want to sound like a grandmother, but emerging vocalists should listen to their parents more often.”
She stresses the values we were all brought up with.
“Please be polite, cooperative and dependable, so people will enjoy working with you. Control your impulses, so you won’t indulge in alcohol and drugs. And never trust someone blindly, so you won’t sign a contract too eagerly without fully understanding the impact of the small print.”
Madeline also believes that singers should never show too much skin: “You want to be known for your talent, not your boobs,” she says.
Of course we all know these common sense rules, but we are often tempted to ignore them, endangering our promising careers.
Madeline’s words made me think about my late father, how he once told me that I was neglecting my finances – he was an accountant.
He was right. I still need to muster all of my self-discipline to send invoices and check payments each morning before I start painting.
When I do this, I can focus more fully on my art.
Instead of reacting against well-meant advice, we’d be far better off wondering if there is some truth to what is being said.
And then, finding a strategy for addressing the forces that hold us back.
Sometimes when I slip back into old bad habits, I let my eyes wander over to that painting of Madeline…
Petra Tool is a Dutch artist and artist’s coach. A gifted portrait artist, she explores the personalities of gifted performers, interviewing them about their talent, passions, the problems they face, their insecurities and secrets of their success. You can find more information on her website.
Heartfelt – 70×90 cm – watercolour – Petra Tool