Country Singers Share Vocal Warm-Up Tips
By Jane R. Snyder
© 2014 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.
Before the house lights dim, Country Music fans rush to their seats for a show they’ve waited weeks or even months to savor. Energy ripples through the audience; individually and as part of an assembly of thousands, everyone can feel it.
There’s energy backstage too, but it’s different. Artists and musicians have gathered not to be entertained but to deliver a show that will leave them elated and attendees begging for more. They’ve got a lot on the line, and each performer has unique ways of making sure they can hit their peak night after night.
How do they do it? Some of Country’s brightest up-and-coming stars shared their secrets.
Though still in her teens, this Georgia native takes a no-nonsense approach to her work. “Before the show, I’d say I’m just kind of relaxing,” the “American Idol” finalist said. “I use vocal warm-ups from my coach that I have on my computer and that I can do anywhere. Always, I’ll get whoever is a part of the show together — usually it’s my full band — and we all pray. If my manager is with me, we have a secret handshake, which we’ve done since my first CMA Week appearance.”
How secret is it? “It’s really like a high five, but we’ll do it and then purposely miss,” Alaina replied. “I feel like I’ve missed out on something if we don’t, like if you get up in the morning and forget to brush your teeth and then you feel weird all day long. Of all the things I do before I go onstage, that’s the most important one. It pumps me up, for sure. I always walk onstage with a smile, and our secret handshake helps bring that out. I smile from the time we bump fists to the time I get back on the bus.”
One of Rachele Lynae’s teachers at Belmont University conveyed to her the importance of warm-up techniques. “Before we even get to backstage prayer, I start doing lip trills to whatever music is playing,” Lynae said. “Sometimes, when we’re just pulling up to a gig, I’ll put on some music that has a really big range and do lip trills, like blowing bubbles into water, and some basic intervals to loosen up a bit. It’s a really good way to get my vocal cords warmed up without risking any kind of injury.”
While still in high school, Lynae learned from a producer to make sure she is just as relaxed physically as vocally before performance. Since that time, her pre-show routine has always included neck and arm stretches as well as Rockettes-like leg kicks to prep her entire body.
The most important moment before making her entrance, though, is when Lynae gathers her band to hold hands in a prayer circle. “We thank God that we get to do what we love,” she said. “We ask God to help us totally rock it. And finally, we ask that it would bring him glory.”
After that, as everyone leaves just before show time, the singer will stay backstage alone and continue to do some vocal and physical warm-ups plus some private prayer. “Then,” she said, “it’s time to rock!”
Before each appearance, Lisa Matassa does her own hair and makeup. A self-described “low-maintenance kind of girl,” she spends time alone listening to her favorite artists as she gets dressed. Then she moves into a more spiritual mode.
“I have a true belief that God gives everyone a gift in life,” she explained. “I’m so grateful to be in this position, so before each show, I pray and I thank God above for everything he has given me.
“I always wear this cross and this crystal bracelet that I got on a field trip with my son,” she added. “I never take it off. In my video for ‘I Will Always Love You,’ which I sang right after having laryngitis, you can even see me twist the cross on the bracelet for luck. Before I sing, I kiss my cross, I touch my bracelet — and I go out there!
“Because I’m classically trained, I do a lot of facial exercises — massaging under my tongue, along my jaw lines, my cheeks, opening my mouth and stretching my neck,” Matassa continued. “I make what my band calls my ‘motor-boatin’’ sounds, plus trills and breathing exercises. Then, right before I go on, I have a couple of swigs from a mini bottle of Fireball and I’m ready to go.”
Cinnamon whiskey may not be for everyone, but listening to Matassa’s crystal-clear, operatically formed voice, it obviously works for her. In fact, audience members in the know have surprised her by tossing Fireballs onstage as she sings.