TRICKS OF THE TRADE: Vocals – Telle Smith (The Word Alive)
May 15th, 2016
One sign of a good vocalist within the heavier fields of music is versatility. Being able to interchange between singing and screaming with such an effortless manner is not something that comes easily or quickly, but is one that Telle Smith, frontman for The Word Alive, has managed to showcase throughout the entirety of the band’s career. Latest full-length, ‘Dark Matter’, displays another step into improvement for the vocalist, and regardless of your opinion on any artist, constant improvement of their craft should be respected.
We had a little talk with Smith to see if he could share with us what made him want to become a vocalist (previously being a bassist for Greeley Estates), his inspirations, tips for warming up, as well as what to do if you sustain any vocal damage.
I don’t have a particular favourite style or delivery of vocals; great vocals are just great vocals. Within this relative genre my favourite bands would have to be Deftones, Thursday, Underoath, The Used, and Taking Back Sunday.
Likewise, the more inspirational vocalists for me would be Chino Moreno (Deftones), Spencer Chamberlain and Aaron Gillespie (Underoath), and Geoff Rickley (Thursday). Along with that, Sam Carter from Architects is one of the best in our genre. He does things that I could never do.
I just sang along to the songs and bands that I loved most. When I started jamming with friends we just wanted to sound like a mixture of our favourite bands, so I tried to take what I could do at the time and make it sound cool from there… it wasn’t very cool in the beginning.
There are no tutorial videos or in guides in particular that I’d suggest checking out online, but there are a lot more now than when I started. Just practice to your favourite bands at first, and then find songs that challenge you and what you can do.
I warm up anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours throughout the day. It all just depends on how my voice is, and I check it every day when I wake up. I do a mixture of scales and sounds that open up my voice and give me an idea of what I will be capable of that night or, in some cases, not capable of.
Screaming was much harder in the beginning for me, but now I feel like I have to focus on singing more. Screaming isn’t easy by any means, but there’s only so much that you can do with it and I feel confident that I can do all that I would ever want to with it. Singers can always improve.
It’s a long and difficult road, but when you don’t have to rely on two people to get one job done it really enables you to show off your versatility and add dynamics to your performances. It’s worth the extra work that it takes.
You’ll want to keep in top shape to avoid harm. Make sure you sleep 8-10 hours a night, and going to bed as early as you can after a show. Drink at least 16 glasses worth of water. Warm up your voice and make sure that your voice comes first always. Don’t overdo it. You have to listen to your body and try to remain within the boundaries of your capabilities.
If it starts hurting, stop talking. Drink tons of water daily, and make sure that you’re sleeping during the proper hours. Vocal health is all about rest and hydration, a little bit of hurting can clear up fast if you take care of your voice. If it persists, go and see a doctor! When I need to recover, I just make sure that I do whatever it takes. Some days I’m great and I can hang out with the boys, and then other days I go and take a shower, and then call it a night.
It is the key to all of your power. At this stage there are a million YouTube videos luckily for the new generation to learn from, and with something like this it is much easier to watch and learn than it is to read. Just check out some breathing exercises and how to condition your voice. There are many helpful tools out there.
I have used them to a certain extent, and Melissa is a great friend and teacher. We haven’t had a full one on one session, but we talk on the phone and she has me do certain exercises to show her where my voice is at. Those videos are almost a necessity for the up-and-coming vocalist. I highly recommend them.
Remain confident whether you are at 50% that day or 100%, because the mental aspect of your performances is just as important as the rest. Believe in yourself, and other people will too.
The Word Alive‘s new full-length album, ‘Dark Matter’ is available now through Fearless Records.
Are you in a band? Do you own a label or PR company? Want to share your experience and tips with others aspiring to do the same thing? Get in touch with our features editor, Mike Heath (email or Twitter), and we can share your tricks of the trade.
Written by Zach Redrup (@zachredrup)
Header photo credit: Rosario Gutierrez
Mid photo credit: Band’s Facebook