Let’s get into stage performance (OOOOOOOH)
Welcome guys n’ gals! Today we bring you KJ Rose, singer and creator of The Rose Effect – Artist Development & Performance Coaching. She has a fantastic energy so makes for a great listen if you get a chance, you invest in her investment for sure!
Most recently, KJ was the on-camera performance coach for Kelly Rowland’s BET show “Chasing Destiny” and Khloe Khardashian’s E! Entertainment show “Revenge Body”. She coached Disney Channel’s Laura Marano from the hit show “Austin & Ally” and worked with Disney talent on the shows “Bizaardvark” & “Bunk’d”, as well as Jackie “Flaca” Cruz from the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black”.
Alongside her vocalist work with artists such as R. Kelly, Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson, she helps artists hone their craft and maximise their on-stage performance by expanding their perceived capacity. In other words, becoming something bigger than they thought they could be!
The brief history
Originally from Chicago, a move to NYC saw her first professional introduction into singing as a backing vocalist for Notorious BIG, on his major album ‘Life After Death’. Her first tour came about through a chance meeting with Kelly Price, who asked her if she wanted to tour with Puff Daddy on his ‘No Way Out’ tour.
A day job at a pharmaceutical company, with open mics in the evenings, was the norm around this stage of her career. Each time she had to perform, it became quite a debilitating experience physically and emotionally. Repetition then came into play! She knew that she had to do as many open mics as she could to beat this anxiety. This is when she found she could transfer her skills from performer to performance coach.
During this time she lived and breathed the wider experiences of performance which has really helped her understand how to coach singers and performers from a personal perspective.
Who needs this?
Through her coaching, she now encounters a plethora of singers that have a great gift. The challenge they have is that they disconnect from the emotion of the song when onstage. Instead, it becomes more like ‘survival mode’ up there!
“Your job is to serve the song, to serve the emotion of the song and in doing that, the audience is served. If never really give yourself a chance to be present in it and to have real intention and a deliberate awareness, then it’s like ‘what is the point?”
As coaches, we can totally appreciate this situation. Performance opportunities for clients are rare. They may only get the opportunity to sing in front of others once every few months, and then maybe get ill right before the night. Maybe they’re about to go onstage and you hear “let’s just get this over and done with.”. We’ve all been there!! You just know it’s not gonna be a serving performance from the get go!
You may default to survival mode because you don’t have anything in your tool kit to hold on to. In this case, it’s KJ’s job to ensure the singer has access to, and can implement, a ‘safety net’ to grow further. She’s not there to necessarily give you something new, just helping to uncover what’s already present.
So what’s in the toolkit?
That’s what everyone wants to know! If KJ feels a singer has lost connection, finding a commonality between the song and performance is the first step. Forget there was an original singer! A song has to have a personal effect on us and that’s what we broadcast to the audience. Try starting with this checklist:
- Where does this experience take place in your life?
- What made you write the song?
- If you didn’t write it, what made you gravitate towards the song?
- Where did it happen, who was the person, and where were you when this happened?
…. All things play a part!
“You have to create the vision for yourself first before you can give the audience a vision. If you’re just singing it and it’s all just surface, that’s what the audience are gonna see.”
Lyrics and emphasis
Reciting and memorising the lyrics will help your connection too. Once off the page, underlining the words or lyrics that you wanna a give power to/emphasize can develop the narrative:
Is it “I LOVE you” or is it “ I love YOU”?
Then perhaps add punctuation to the phrases, those things really take flight when you perform them.
“Essentially, don’t sing AT me, sing TO me.”
Always try and apply a performance process
Included some of the above approach is a safe-guarded way to help place emotion, if that’s what an individual is struggling. Don’t forget, the narrative can always be changed as the performer grows too.
Admittedly, it’s a complex situation if the singer is being made to go to class. For example, a parent sending their child. But even to the young child that just wants to outright sing Nikki Minaj, it’s still important to go through the process as above and pull out out that “relate-ability” factor. To admit they may just enjoy singing but don’t want to make a career out of it can be the first step in freeing any feeling of judgement.
It does NOT happen overnight
Social media now means that singers now get shot from obscurity to notoriety so quickly. We hear years of the ‘process’ coming to fruition in the big artists, but the younger demographic want to get there really quickly. They’re led to believe it’s an overnight thing. But you must study! What drives the singers that they aspire to be like and then figure out why you want to be a performer, because there’s a responsibility in that.
So what about physicality? Is it necessary to assign movement if a singer seems too rigid?
KJ says yes! Take someone who’s standing with their hands by their side. Even just subtly seeing something that wants to break out is more sincere than ‘use your hand’. Bruno Mars is one particular performer. I’m sure we can agree that he is so connected to the rhythm, you can leave his performances feeling physically exhausted just watching him! Even in his slower tempo tracks, you can still see this dancer trying to come out of him. He is so invested in everything he does on a physical level.
Performing as though you have a hearing or visually impaired audience is a neat idea to try. You are restricted in the way you can tell the story! Can the listeners differentiate between you singing a sad or happy song? What does that look and/or sound like? This trick help will highlight the shifts between verse, chorus and bridge.
KJ lists Adele, Jill Scott and Sade as particular artists who master performance with a strong emotional connectivity for their audience.
“[Adele] has no dancers. She stands and there is a level of commitment that her entire body is a part of, and you can see it. She’s making a personal declaration with every performance.”.
Don’t get ahead of yourself
The whole point of the first verse is to gather information. The audience is not an ambassador for you yet! Especially if you’re a new artist. They can’t sing along with your lyrics so what can you do to make the audience a part of your story? Use the first verse for this purpose!
After setting the scene, you can give a bit more emotion in the second verse. Then, by the second chorus, we’re more on your side so you can really up your energy.
Come back to ‘you’
This all essentially starts with who you are. Why do you sing? Were you hurt and you wanna tell people it’ll be ok? Or do you hurt and want people to cry with you?! This narrative can change day to day, but breaking it down to the intention is imperative in connecting with your audience.
Even if you’re performing the same song for the 7th time that week, it’s the first time that that audience is gonna hear it. KJ will get clients to sing lying on their backs to literally change their perspective. Also, the level of relaxation and freedom and the collection of freedom you have on your back will be different when you get back up to sing. Try it out next time you sing. Make sure the floor is clean though… we’ve made that mistake enough times :-/
Find out more about KJ Rose and the ‘Rose Effect’
You can email her with direct questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
She just recently gave a performance workshop in conjunction with iSing magazine in London this summer. Keep an eye on her website for other international workshops.
Besides her one on one coaching, she does a 6 week artists development class in LA that is a partnership with an acting studio. KJ is also available on Skype for performance coaching and consulting!
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