Write Away Magazine - July Edition

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The Lyric writers magazine

Paul Sykes

WHAT MAKES SINGING

AMERICAN SONGS

DIFFICULT WHEN YOU’RE

NOT AMERICAN

Australian music has always been

highly influenced by American tracks.

As a young boy in the early 80’s, my

elder siblings were at the clubs shaking

their ass to Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind &

Fire, Nile Rodgers and Chic plus a million

other songs from the USA. Even my decision

to be in the music industry was made

In 1982 when I went to a gospel concert by

an American artist called Leon Patillo.

To put Australia in perspective, California

alone is home to 40 Million people whilst the

whole of Australia that is about as big as

the USA has only 24 Million.

Ourmusic and media is very much influenced

by American culture. Strangely so

sometimes. Through the internet and social

media, we’re tied in with American politics,

art, movies, music and culture like never

before. Many of us know more about Trump

than our own politicians. Australians will

find themselves having heated online

debates about topics like abortion, not

because it’s on OUR political agenda but

because America is voting on it. We even

know about guys like Ron Paul, Pelosi or

Bernie because we listen to shows like the

Joe Rogan podcast.

Okay, but what’s this have to do with

singing and vocal technique. Well, if you’re

American - nothing.

But if you live outside of the USA, it can

cause a very interesting vocal issue -

accents. Given the pervasive influence of

American music on Australian culture,

many of the songs we sing have been

released by an American artist with an

American accent. Us Aussies are left with

two options. Either sing it like the original

version in which case we have to overlay an

accent that isn’t ours or sing it in an

Australian accent which sounds bloody

stupid.

Americans are lucky. You never have to

worry about this. When Lynard Skynard

sing Sweet Home Alabama, they sing with

the exact same accent they talk in. When

black America sings their R&B or Hip Hop

songs, they too sing it with the exact accent

they naturally talk with.

Because our mouths have to move in an

unnatural way to us, this can cause a physiological

identity crisis that can make forming

words awkward. It’s a big issue and one

which would be completely off the radar to

anyone living in the USA.

Occasionally I may instruct a client to sing

with an Australian accent and invariably

their vocal technique falls into line quickly

because the feeling inside their mouth is

now familiar.

Aside from the technical aspect of forming

words, there’s also the stylistic identity crisis.

Some folks just sound more American

than Americans, Eg, Gaaaard instead of

God. Some folks put a southern drawl on

everything even when it’s not needed.

Then there’s the awkward experience of

having a spoken word section in the middle

of the song…. If we’re singing American,

do we talk in the song American or do we

go back to an Australian accent? Very common

issue in modern churches. If we stay in

an American accent, it sounds fake and

hilarious. If we move back to an Australian

accent, it sounds incongruent to the rest of

the track.

To understand what I mean, pick one of

your favorite songs and try to sing it like an

Aussie… It’ll mess you up for sure, yet this

is what everyone outside of the USA has to

navigate. I hope this has given you a little

insight into an unusual vocal issue that

you may have never encountered before.

http://vocalprocourses.com/

http://www.facebook.com/vocalpro.com.au

Instagram.com/vocalpro.com.au

06

www.writeawaymagazine.co.uk

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