TRICKS OF THE TRADE: Vocals – Lucas Woodland (Holding Absence)

Credit: Gravity video

Over the past few years, Holding Absence have managed to acquire a devoted and passionate fanbase behind them, whom champion their mantra of “You are everything” to promote the value in self-love and worth.

With these lyrics penned and voice by their talented vocalist Lucas Woodland, who joined the band in 2016 after the disbanding of Falling With Style, we spoke with the frontman about what lead him down the path of a vocalist, advice for beginners, and what he does to minimise and recover from any vocal damage.

Frank Sinatra was a big one when I was younger. I loved how rich his voice sounded. I feel like the next dude who really introduced me to good singing was actually Adam Levine from Maroon 5. ‘Songs About Jane’ was one of my favourite albums as a child and his voice was brilliant on that record.

I’d say the vocalists that impress me the most would be Thom Yorke (Radiohead), Dustin Kensrue (Thrice), Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance), and Frank Black (The Pixies). I could talk for hours about those four.

Also, Jonathan Higgs from Everything Everything is wild, Susanne Sundfor is brilliant too, and Rory Rodriguez from Dayseeker has a beautiful voice with such range, and control, whether he’s belting or breathing melodies out. He’s great and I really respect him as a vocalist.

Honestly, I don’t really have preference in terms of “styles”, etc. As long as the band and singer have got it down and I can believe in the music, I’m all-ears. I guess that’s why “Indie” is the only genre I’m not hugely into, because it often seems a bit blasé and lazy to me.

I actually started out my music career wanting to drum, but my first ever band toying with who was going to sing and I always kind of felt more natural at it and then I just stuck at it.

I’m completely self-taught. I had a handful of vocal lessons in school for free, but that’s like comparing driving around a car park with your dad to actually having a driving lesson. Everything I can do, I taught myself. It’s something I’m proud of, but as I grow older, I do worry I should know more about exactly what it is I’m doing.

In my opinion, the first step is just naturally enjoying singing. Singing can be very stressful sometimes, losing your voice, touring for months, warming up for ages before shows, etc.

Find what your voice is best at, naturally. Like I said, I used to sing Frank Sinatra at karaokes when I was like 12 but it totally doesn’t compliment my voice, so I moved away from it. Don’t force yourself to be something that you’re not.

I do feel like the greatest teacher in this situation will be yourself. Trust yourself, respect yourself, and practice hard. You’ll learn more than anybody could teach you.

Final pointer, and the most important thing, ALWAYS, is confidence. You need to believe you’re going to hit that note or you won’t. Just believe in yourself and your voice, and even if you aren’t perfect, you’ll hit that note with more conviction and it’ll sound better.

I did spend my first year or two of live music covering songs. I think that’s important, rushing to write music for a voice you don’t understand will probably not help you really grow.

Sometimes the classics are the best, but, honestly, as long as it’s within range and fun to sing along to, those are the best ones. ‘Jesus Of Suburbia’, ‘Sugar We’re Goin’ Down’, etc. are wicked songs to just jam to.

I can’t drink on tour, I can’t shout, and I can’t talk for too long or it exhausts my voice. Keep talking to a minimum, sleep well. They’re incredibly hard to do on the road, but it’s super important to be really gentle with yourself in-between the shows.

I drink SO much water mid-show. Like, whenever I get a moment I will gulp the shit out of some water. It’s really important to keep that puppy hydrated while you’re performing.

Routine is important too, maybe a hot drink every morning and while warming up, etc.

I have always sworn by honey. Since day one honey, lemon and hot water in a mug has always been all I ever needed to warm-up with and to heal my voice.

I’ve done the same 15-minute warm-up for the last 3 years now. It’s a short audio of a guy walking you through subtle warm-ups, scales, etc. I actually got it from our manager, so no idea where it came from or who the guy even is, but it’s always done the absolute trick for me.

As long as you’re warming up in a varied way, and doing it routinely too, I think that’s the most important bit.

A big part of healthily maintaining your vocal chords is just not doing the damage in the first place: always warm-up and don’t push too hard in the first place. I’d hate to tell anyone how to do their job, but just listen to your body. If you feel like you’re going too hard, you probably are. Back down, give yourself time to recover and carry on. Whether that’s missing a line in a live song or taking a few days off. Your body will let you know when something’s up.

Rest is vital. Also, drink loads of water. It’s really hard if you’re stuck in the van all day, but it’s vital your vocal chords are hydrated.

If you are in a sticky situation, aside from honey, I always used to use Soothers/Vocalzones, but I will say, they mask the pain rather than actually remedying it. A good night’s sleep and a day’s vocal rest will normally neutralise my voice, at the very least.

The diaphragm is the weapon most vocalists don’t realise they have. Whenever I play shows, I come off stage feeling like I’ve just done 100 sit-ups. I think everybody’s relationship with the diaphragm is different – some people overthink it and others don’t even notice.

Just be conscious of how you’re pushing and projecting, as it gives you way more control when you’re sentient to what you’re actually doing. Another piece of advice is, on a general fitness level, try strengthening your cardio game and your diaphragm control and breathing will naturally be better.

Holding Absence‘s self-titled debut album is out now via SharpTone Records.

You can order the album online from the label’s webstore (here), iTunes (here), Amazon (here), and Google Play (here).

Are you in a band? Do you own a label or PR company? Are you a tour promoter? Do you run a festival? 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.