Melissa Harding is a multi-faceted singer/songwriter and a concierge Vocal Coach and Stylist based out of Los Angeles, CA. With a background of 20+ years of vocal training in theater, classical voice, pop techniques, and major touring, Melissa helps touring vocalists harness their unique vocal power and learn to sing effortlessly so they can be reliable in the studio and on stage, night after night. we talk about all your favorite pop and rock vocalists. Of course, I bring up my Janet and JLo, but we talk Celine Dion. We talk Pink, Steven Tyler, Dave Grohl, Mariah, of course, Michael Jackson, Billie Eilish, Adele. The list goes on.
Multi-Passionate Artists with Vocal Coach & Stylist Melissa Harding on your Favourite POP/Rock Singers
www.melissahardingmusic.com Instagram @melissakharding (Personal Page) Instagram @melissahardingvoice (Coaching page!)
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My guest today is Melissa Harding. She is a multi-faceted singer/songwriter and a concierge Vocal Coach and Stylist based out of Los Angeles, CA.
With a background of 20+ years of vocal training in theater, classical voice, pop techniques and major touring, Melissa helps touring vocalists harness their unique vocal power and learn to sing effortlessly so they can be reliable in the studio and on stage, night after night.
Melissa works privately with a broad range of singers of all styles, providing focused coaching for vocalists working on an extended tour, recording in the studio, an actor preparing for a special performance, or at home developing a healthy vocal routine for long term maintenance.
Melissa is also an active singer and creator, releasing her latest single “Paper Suit” in February 2022, now streaming everywhere!
You will love this conversation because we talk about all your favorite pop and rock vocalists. Of course, I bring up my Janet and JLo, but we talk Celine Dion. We talk Pink, Steven Tyler, Dave Grohl, Mariah, of course, Michael Jackson, Billie Eilish, Adele. The list goes on. And so it was a fun conversation, and I’m sure that you will love it.
[00:06:08.340] – Melissa Harding
My background as a kid was in musical theater, so that was really, like where my love of performing started. And I’m really talking about old movies. Like, they’re really old ones. Gene Kelly. My crush on Gene Kelly was so big, I just thought he was the coolest. And at the time when I was a kid, he was I’m 35 now, but when I was like a three year old, four year old growing up on these films, he was the coolest to me. So that was what I grew up on was like really traditional musical theater and that kind of music. And so I always had a draw towards singing that was always first for me. And I think it wasn’t really even that. Like, I started singing and had some miraculous voice. I was just loud and I just had what my mom called pipes. I just had pipes on me. So I was just a very excited singer and truly like, my career of singing started from that initial choice. My mom had to just put me in lessons so that I had somewhere to put that energy. Right? Yeah. To be honest, I was a really committed student right away.
[00:07:20.750] – Melissa Harding
I maybe didn’t do my math homework, but I definitely practiced. You know what I mean?
[00:07:25.760] – Diane Foy
Yeah. Was your family creative musical?
[00:07:29.470] – Melissa Harding
You know, it’s funny because as I’m working on I’m working on a creative project about my father’s passing right now, and I comment on music being in the house just growing up, even though neither of them technically, I would say, pursued the creative arts, they were both creative just in life, and they both sang. So I have vivid memories of my mom singing. I’m leaving on a chat plane when I was a kid and knowing that song because she would sing it and she would sing to us all the time. And so did my dad. We would actually have to kind of urge him to sing because he was a little bit of a closeted singer. But when he did sing, he had this, like, really beautiful bass, so he would old Man River. He has luscious voice. So neither of them saying professionally, but they sang around us, and they never discouraged us from being creative. Both my sister and I both were. We just naturally gravitated towards theater and music and choir, and we both took lessons, and lessons eventually led to starting an acapella group. So we did that all through high school.
[00:08:44.480] – Melissa Harding
We were like, gigging, you know what I mean? We were in caroling groups and getting paid for it, actually. And it was pretty cool to be doing that already at like 16 and 17.
[00:08:56.510] – Diane Foy
Did you just always know that’s what you were going to be doing for a living, or was there ever a decision of, okay, that’s actually what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.
[00:09:05.720] – Melissa Harding
You know, this is where I think my parents would say they maybe could have led me towards College more, but I was a little bit rebellious when it came to just going off to school, and I decided I want to go to La. And I think they were both just kind of from San Francisco Bay Area. So I grew up up north, but they were kind of like that’s big. What does that mean? But my goal was I’m going to come down to La and I’m going to become a working singer. I didn’t know what that meant, but I just wanted to sing, and I wanted to perform, and I didn’t really want to only do musical theater. So although that had been a huge part of my upbringing, I loved being on stage. I loved musical theater, but I was a California girl, so I didn’t really plan to go off to New York right away. So I just came to Los Angeles, and the strange thing was that they just encouraged me. They said, as long as you go to class and start doing some schooling, you can go experiment, you know what I mean?
[00:10:12.110] – Melissa Harding
And that’s kind of what I did. So I came to Santa Monica College, which is actually a great junior College here in Los Angeles. A lot of people from SMC go off to UCLA or USC, so it’s a great transfer school. Not that I did that, but I did theater there, and I studied, and it really led me that time, to be honest, to becoming a coach, to becoming a vocal coach. And that started very, very young for me, and it sort of just fell into my lap. I was in a children’s theater company growing up, and when I moved to Los Angeles, they started the Southern California branch. The daughter of the director I grew up with was like, I’m going to start a theater company. And he said, yeah, Melissa is down there. Get her to come vocal direct for you. I’m like, I’m 18. I was so young, and she asked me to come help with the vocals. And I came in to a group of 30, 40 kids, and I became their vocal director. And it happened when I was 18 years old. I had a really good year I was able to take a Broadway musical and break down the score and teach it.
[00:11:22.470] – Melissa Harding
And so I fell into teaching very young. And so as an artist, I’m very proud, but also very lucky, I think, to say that I’ve never really waited tables and I’ve never had those types of jobs because teaching came into my life literally when I was a College student.
[00:11:40.410] – Diane Foy
Right? Yeah. Usually people come to it later in life, coaching after they’ve had some other career.
[00:11:47.570] – Melissa Harding
Right. And that was the thing that was interesting is that teaching then became it’s become this very normal part of my life. I think that I’ve always had an ability to just recognize style or certain things that are going on within a singer’s voice. And it just started from vocal directing. And then people started asking you, will you train me privately? I like working with you. And I was like, oh, well, if I’m going to do that, I need to continue my training. So it led me to kind of become a bigger I used to be just like a musical theater nerd. And then I became like a voice nerd. It wasn’t just musical theater. It was everything voice. It was, how do I sing rock? How do I sing gospel? How do I sing country? How do I use my opera training to then do this or this? There’s all these different things. And so that time in my life, I would say, is really when the part of me that discovered singing through musical theater and pop music became more and more obsessed with pop and rock and the Beatles and Fleetwood Mac.
[00:12:52.990] – Melissa Harding
And it became the time that I was really discovering my love of music.
[00:12:57.330] – Diane Foy
[00:12:58.120] – Melissa Harding
It was kind of an interesting time being 18 and living on your own and kind of finding your own influences that are now going to shape what you become. I didn’t know I was going to be covered in tattoos. This was the time where that started. It just became, like my discovery of, like, what do I really care about? What do I really care about?
[00:13:19.530] – Diane Foy
What kind of music were you listening to when you were a kid?
[00:13:23.130] – Melissa Harding
Oh, man. Besides musicals, it was musical theater. It was a lot of Fleetwood Mac. I can see my mom, like, vacuuming to her Rumors record with her big 80s glasses and, like, sweatsuit. She always had these vinyl, like, sweatsuits, and she would be vacuuming and listening to that. We listen to a lot of Neil Diamonds. My first love, I would say, was Neil Diamond. My first concert ever was Neil Diamond. I love him a lot.
[00:13:52.900] – Diane Foy
Still, you know, your story is more for someone my age, not your age. Your influences are like, I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and it’s like, but no, you didn’t.
[00:14:07.890] – Melissa Harding
My house, right. The thing that’s so funny is that even though, like, music at the time, I was saying we did discover this music. I will say that I did discover Mariah Carey and some of these other 90s that were really during my early 90s childhood. I was born in the late 80s, so early 90s was a lot of Whitney Houston and there was this different wave of pop and Michael Jackson and different singers. So we did listen to those. I remember sneaking into my guest room to try to catch the Michael Jackson You Are Not Alone video because I thought he was so handsome in it. So we had our different discoveries, but our parents there was a lot of the older stuff. Now also, just to say this, anyone listening? My parents were 22 years apart, so my mom was in her 30s when she had me, my dad in his 50s. So we had some influences of music that were older as well. One of my favorite folk groups that my dad raised me on was the Kingston Trio. And I still love and listen to them. A lot of Beach Boys from him, Sailor.
[00:15:11.630] – Melissa Harding
So he really liked that, like ocean pop music. But yeah, honestly, even though we didn’t listen to a lot of Beatles, I discovered the Beatles when I was an adult and went down a rabbit hole. So it’s been a lot of my own discovery too, because I just love music just as an artist myself. And as somebody who then went into songwriting, I started really diving into some of that older music when I got older because I wanted to understand how Simon and Garfunkel wrote those lyrics and those stories that were so interesting to me from usual is a different time of music.
[00:15:50.630] – Diane Foy
I always study different periods of music, too, because I go through the 50s phase, then the 60s phase and rediscovering old music and then discovering Blues and going back even further, how they tie together jazz music and how it all evolved, it’s so fascinating. And as a vocal coach, I would imagine different vocal styles from the different eras. And her 90s, you had all the female powerhouses, the Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey. It’s like people with the insane voices.
[00:16:25.420] – Melissa Harding
You know what? It’s an interesting thing being a fan and then becoming a singer because I will tell you that you’re hitting it on the head because I was raised with all those singers. And I remember just belting out along with Mariah Carey’s cover of Can’t Live. And I was singing so loud. The thing that’s so interesting is as a voice coach, what I’ve sort of learned as I’ve gotten older and have studied more styles and things is that we’re all different. So it’s one thing to be a fan listening and belting along. But when you’re actually becoming an artist and trying to figure out what your voice does really well, the artists that we love are the ones in a lot of ways that they’ve figured that out for themselves. So we sort of feel safe in their hands in the sense of like when I watch Taylor Swift sing and I use her as an example all the time, it’s not about that powerhouse thing necessarily. She’s not trying to hit all the rifts and the runs. She’s not trying to hit notes that are beyond her means. But man, is she trying to tell you a story, and man, does she connect to her audience.
[00:17:37.710] – Melissa Harding
And so it really goes to show that it’s not so much about how impressive it is. I just watched this great movie, Coda, and the choir teacher in it was talking about Bob Dylan, and I always liked talking about Bob Dylan, that his voice is sort of like sand and glue.
[00:17:53.990] – Diane Foy
[00:17:55.200] – Melissa Harding
It’s a great reference. It’s not about it being pretty. That’s not why we listen to him. Right. So there’s a story there, but Mariah Carey’s got a story, too. It’s different styles, different things within each style. And what you said is so true. I love going back. And I remember taking a great class in College. It was the history of rock and roll. And man, we spent time talking about everything, like, well, back into gospel and Blues. And it really got into this. Like, what did Little Richard do? What were these people doing that were really sort of changing the sound of rock and roll music? And how do people growl like that? And how do people do these things with their voice? And it’s so wildly different depending on where you are. And as somebody that personally was on a heavy rock tour, I’ve seen people do crazy things on stage, but it’s them figuring out the way that they emotionally communicate things. And that’s what makes it powerful is that raw emotional quality and being able to let go. And as a vocal coach, that’s what I try to help people do. It’s like, yeah, you need to know how to take care of this thing so that when you go on stage, you can do it and just go for it.
[00:19:11.860] – Melissa Harding
And you’re not going beyond your means. You’re not killing yourself, but you’re freeing your storytelling. You’re freeing your ability to use this instrument to connect to an audience and tell a story, because that’s your job. Yeah.
[00:19:25.930] – Diane Foy
And I think when I coach artists, it’s more than just the voice always. And you can think about because Canadian Celine Dion, we love Celine, but she had a very different look. Everything when she was young, before she hit it big in the States, in Canada, she only sang in France. She would be on much music and big frizzy curly hair, just like no style at all. And I remember seeing her when her first English album came out, and she was on all the talk shows, and she would be like, I dreamed from a young age I would see people on the Grammys on the Oscars. I would see Barbara Streisand, and I want that. And she just claimed it. I want that. I want that. And she had this. I will do whatever it takes. And to see her evolve as she got more popular in the States, more money, more advisers, and she did learn how to be a more classy dresser.
[00:20:39.150] – Melissa Harding
And that comes with the cash, too.
[00:20:41.220] – Diane Foy
Yeah, exactly. Did English immersion where she learned how to speak English in like a week.
[00:20:49.930] – Melissa Harding
It’s always been kind of wild. The thing I love about her, she loves fashion, she loves these things. And she’s funny. Oh, my gosh. When you see her talk live, I saw her in Vegas once, and she is an exceptional vocalist. Right. And there’s a deal there. And this is something I’m always telling people. There’s a willingness there to own that skill and to know exactly what it takes. A lot of that type of singer, a lot of their life revolves around that instrument. It’s a hard instrument to carry around. It’s not you don’t get to be out partying at the cost of your voice. She has had such longevity in her career, and it’s partly in due to just her own discipline, but also her own awareness of what makes it powerful. What’s fascinating to me about Celine Dion is that and I always say this, and people are like, really? I’m like, you got to really listen. Right. But she and Michael Jackson, great examples of vocalists who are not very loud. Yes. They’re belting. Yes. They’re doing all these very commanding and dramatic things, but in a very controlled means. When they go there emotionally, it’s not them screaming, it’s them very passionately putting something into a position not to the detriment of her voice.
[00:22:12.980] – Melissa Harding
Right. We can all get tired. But she’s an unbelievably skilled singer. And man, I have to say, I love when she sings in French. It’s my favorite.
[00:22:22.670] – Diane Foy
[00:22:24.910] – Melissa Harding
She does it at her shows, and it’s so special. She’ll sing like a French jazz song. And she’s just the coolest thing. It is the coolest thing to see people sing in their native tongue. It’s so special. She’s so cool. I can talk about her all day.
[00:22:44.390] – Diane Foy
I love all the big female vocalists. So, hey, let’s continue down that.
[00:22:50.040] – Melissa Harding
I love it. I love it. I love it.
[00:22:52.870] – Diane Foy
My girl is Janet. Janet Jackson.
[00:22:55.150] – Melissa Harding
[00:22:55.740] – Diane Foy
And she doesn’t really have a strong voice, but it’s cool. But it’s cool.
[00:23:03.530] – Melissa Harding
She uses her strength when she wants certain moments, but she’s got a sweetness there.
[00:23:09.420] – Diane Foy
Quiet. It’s a quiet, softer voice.
[00:23:12.830] – Melissa Harding
But she can still be fired. Like, I love scream. Right. You got to be tough, right? It’s not loud. You got to be tough. She is like there’s a little bit of a sweetness there, which to me is powerful. That’s the thing is it is powerful. It’s a different kind of power. Yeah. That’s what’s cool. I love that you brought up Janet Jackson. She’s underrated because of Michael. People don’t look at her as having like, she’s not Michael Jackson. She is a Jackson, though. And she has got some she’s my girl. Yeah.
[00:23:48.730] – Diane Foy
Because how you love someone for more than just their voice, because I’m her biggest fan. And I would say she doesn’t have the strongest voice, but she knows to work with what she has. And it’s more about her songwriting, her dancing, her personality. What she’s all about, she’s all about female empowerment and being strong. And all of that is why you love her and you’re committed to her.
[00:24:18.700] – Melissa Harding
[00:24:19.170] – Diane Foy
So there’s so much more. And also, I love JLo. And again, she’s also not known as the best singer, but she’s not going in and she works her ass off to become a good singer.
[00:24:33.190] – Melissa Harding
Right. And it’s her whole show. Right. And I think Brittany is a great example of that as somebody who there are so many singers nowadays. This is not to dog everyone, but there are so many singers nowadays that just go sing to track, because half the time it’s just because they’re doing so much with their bodies that they need to double their choruses or do something because they’re just going to run out of breath for 2 hours. But Brittany is a great example of that. It was about female empowerment. It was about feeling strong and the choreography and all of the show. You’re not going just to hear Britney Spears sing. You’re going to see the full show.
[00:25:11.110] – Diane Foy
Yeah, well, that’s the difference between people like Brittany and people like Celine Dion. You go to the show for different reasons.
[00:25:20.090] – Melissa Harding
[00:25:21.450] – Diane Foy
When I first saw Janet, I’m like, I know she lip sings. I don’t care. I want to see every dance move. And then I actually have been surprised that she actually does sing live. And same with J. Lo.
[00:25:31.110] – Melissa Harding
I was surprised that she sings live more than people would know. And that’s the thing is, I think it’s like that’s why people get up sort of like not upset, but they’re not they’re snacks or whatever. It’s like, you know what?
[00:25:43.290] – Diane Foy
Now if Celine Dion came out and lip synced, I might have a problem. I would have problems with that show.
[00:25:51.550] – Melissa Harding
We’re here to see the magic of Celine vocal chords making sound. Yes, totally true. It’s totally true. And that’s the thing is, it is you become very aware of when you’re on tour, especially you become so aware of how difficult it is to be a singer. And when I was on the road, I was on the road with a band called 06:00 a.m. And the lead singer, that band, James Michael, is a very dear friend of mine, and he sang live every night, and I coached him on the road and kept him as healthy as I could. But there are times when things happen and they’re just out of your control and I’ll give you a great example. My 30th birthday, we read this rock tour in front of 800 people that day at a Stadium. And he had 104 degree fever. So by default, it does not even matter. Like, if he was healthy yesterday, his whole body was inflamed. His whole body was inflamed. So the vocal cords are inflamed, throat’s, inflamed the neck, the chest. Everything is just puffy and hot. And I remember him looking at me just with desperation in his eyes.
[00:26:57.180] – Melissa Harding
After he got in his cortisone shot, the rock dock came, they call it. Yeah, they do everything they can to get your body to despair a little bit. But as somebody who will not sing to track, he had to go out on stage that day with 104 degree fever and just hope for the best. Yeah, that is not a fun feeling. Let me tell you, when you’re a vocalist and you realize that you cannot deliver what you want to deliver, and you can’t hand your guitar to a guitar tech and nobody’s going to fix your drums and it’s sitting in your throat and there’s just nothing you can do about it. There’s nothing harder than that.
[00:27:35.540] – Diane Foy
And then the pressure of it’s not like you can’t go to work.
[00:27:42.450] – Melissa Harding
It’s the money to cancel a show, right. It costs everyone else to disappoint everyone.
[00:27:49.290] – Diane Foy
I think I saw the Celine Dion documentary of her on tour, and there was one time that she the doctor even said, you go out there, you might lose your voice forever.
[00:27:59.200] – Melissa Harding
You might ruin it for the next show, the next show, the next year. Oh, my gosh. It’s just so sad.
[00:28:04.980] – Diane Foy
It’s the stress of like, but then you disappoint everyone who’s traveled to come see you. You got thousands of people, then you’ve got thousands of people that are working for you. Like, it’s so much pressure.
[00:28:20.670] – Melissa Harding
What can you do, right. It’s so hard. And that’s the thing is people kind of will come down on singers. I just saw an actor I really like. His name is Darren Chriss, and he’s about to go to Broadway in a new show he posted on Instagram, and he said to everyone coming to the show, I apologize ahead of time. I will not come out to say Hi at the stage door. Sometimes actors will come out and they’ll sign programs, and people get so disappointed when those actors don’t come out and see them after the three hour show they just did. Right, yeah, I have to go home and not speak. I have to rest. And that’s the thing, too, is that that piece of it can be tough, but it’s part of the job. You just have to be aware of your body and what it needs from you. And honestly, as a working singer, like, to any singers that are listening, this is the most important thing is getting to this point of just true awareness of what you can give. And I always tell my students, voice is like a piggy bank.
[00:29:20.890] – Melissa Harding
And this doesn’t come from me. This was an analogy one of my teachers gave me, but it’s literally a piggy bank. And you have so much cash to spend. And if you overspend, the piggy bank is empty, and therefore it does not give you anything more. Right. So if you don’t know how much is in there. And that’s the thing about Celine Dion. She knows. She knows 1000% when she wakes up and starts doing whatever she does to get in tune with her body. She’s Celine Dion. She knows exactly how Celine Dion is supposed to feel and sound. And if it’s not in her control, there’s actually risk involved. Right? That’s what you’re saying. There’s a risk. And that’s really tough.
[00:30:02.050] – Diane Foy
You could lose your whole career.
[00:30:05.070] – Melissa Harding
One show your voice a year. Yeah, right.
[00:30:09.010] – Diane Foy
That’s such a risk.
[00:30:10.780] – Melissa Harding
It’s a huge risk. And when you are the one having to actually execute that decision. Shawn Mendes did a documentary. Same thing happened to him. He’s like in Rio or somewhere in the middle of a place that he not normally would be thousands of people. And he’s on the phone with Eric Vitro, his vocal coach in La. He was very famous. He’s worked with everybody. He’s been around for 30 years, 40 years in La, I don’t even know. And he’s not that old. And he’s telling him, Sean, you can do it, but you probably will not be able to risk in the next five days. So it’s going to cost you more. One show, it’s going to cost you more. And it’s just that sucks. It literally makes my heart sink. I just hardest feeling disappointing anybody. And that’s the thing that’s tough about being a singer.
[00:31:03.660] – Diane Foy
It just is. Yeah. Because on the other hand, I’ve been in the scene of the rock singers where you party all night and it’s just part of the lifestyle. But yet you want to be a superstar. How do you get through to people like that of what they’re risking?
[00:31:28.270] – Melissa Harding
Well, what were you going to say? Go ahead.
[00:31:31.770] – Diane Foy
Yeah, I don’t really have a question. It’s more that feeling of like it’s a misconnect from you say your dream is to be the famous person, the Pink touring the world, but your actions are not taking care of the voice, not taking care of your body and your health.
[00:31:57.380] – Melissa Harding
Yeah. Well, you know, and that can come from different things. I would say some people and I always use Julie Andrews as an example from The Sound of Music. And I don’t know everything about her case, but from what I know, when she had vocal surgery and then could not sing. And I don’t know if you know this story, but she did sound in music. She won Oscars My Fair Lady. Not My Fair Lady. What’s it called? Mary Poppins. She was married and then she did My Fair Lady on Broadway, and she’s doing all these shows and shows and shows and shows. It’s not even that she just destroyed her voice, but she sang so much that things can build up in there. You can get calluses or you can get a polyp or a nodule or different things can happen to the voice. But her surgery just didn’t go well, and so she didn’t come out the other side of that, being able to do the things she wants to do. Now, some people have had lots of vocal surgery. Steven Tyler Arrowsmith has gone under the laser or whatever multiple times. But it is partly because of the style that he’s singing, what I will say as a vocal coach myself, and this is going to be me going into my dorkiness around vocal technique now.
[00:33:14.890] – Melissa Harding
And that is not to say that I’m a perfect student either. I just want to say that for the record, as much as I teach this stuff, it’s one thing for me to see things on another person. It’s always hard to teach yourself. So I’ve always tried to continue studying. But when it comes to voice, when it comes to rock music and pop music, the thing about that world is a lot of these artists that are in it did not, like, go to vocal school or something to be on Steven Tyler. Right. He just is Steven Tyler.
[00:33:44.600] – Melissa Harding
And so, like, walk this Way, like, the stuff he’s doing, it’s sort of how he talks and how he does all it’s just energy mixed with voice mixed with songwriting. He wasn’t really taught how to do that. He just did it. One thing that all of those singers could benefit from is some sort of routine around that. And that’s the one thing that is sort of, I think viewed as to some rock singers would be viewed as, like, dorky to, like, care. Reading Dave Grohl’s book, one of my favorite rock musicians of all time and one of the most talented people in this business, in my opinion. But he’s not a vocal guy in a sense of warming up. He said something in the book about, like, I usually have two drinks as a voice teacher. That’s like, no, but you know what? It works for him. And he’s not the guy that’s losing his voice every day. He’s always been able to create a really cool scream sound. Now, technically, for anybody that doesn’t know much about the vocal cords, you have your vocal cords that make sound and phony. And then there’s this other thing over the top, the thing that actually covers them when we swallow your false vocal cords and rock singers like him, that stuff is your false vocal cords.
[00:35:07.040] – Melissa Harding
That’s not your true vocal cords making that sound. It’s actually this other thing constricting above it. So he’s figured out how to do certain things. Is he a perfect singer? Gosh, no, but he’s not trying to be. So he’s been able to have a very long career and figures out how to do that. I’m sure he’s been tired before. I’m sure he’s had vocal issues before, but it’s not stopping him from doing his job. I think a lot of people in that position, if I could sum up the biggest issue for everyone, it’s volume, because the thing is you can do cool stuff. And just like Celine Dion does, just like Beyonce does, just like Michael Jackson did. But you’re not singing with so much volume. And I use Michael Jackson as an example because he growled a lot. He would do, like, he would do cool things with this, like, all these sounds. It’s not like he was trying to be, like, perfect vocalist, but he wasn’t screaming. And rock music, there tends to be more screaming. There tends to be more volume. Just sheer volume. And that’s something the singer I worked with on the road for 06:00 a.m..
[00:36:19.820] – Melissa Harding
We talked about his voice is like Freddie Mercury. He’s got wide melodies and a lot of belting, and it’s a beautiful voice. But, man, can you feel pressure to just be louder, louder, louder.
[00:36:32.080] – Melissa Harding
Got to check that. You got to really check. I mean, Celine Dion probably had moments like that, too, where she just one night, you oversight a little too much, and you’re like, oh, I got to watch it on that song, right? Yeah. It’s not a feeling of not being passionate. It’s watching your volume. So that volume is not equating passion. That’s a different thing. Volume is not passion. There’s a lot of things that, like a Janet can be incredibly passionate, but their go to is not to be super loud. Billie Eilish is a great example, right. Not loud all the time. This girl is one of the most powerful singers in the music business right now. She sings in a whisper certain song, I’m not your friend. It’s so small and so cool, so intimate, so powerful.
[00:37:17.380] – Diane Foy
Draws you in.
[00:37:18.330] – Melissa Harding
It’s not about volume, though, right? Like, she’s not trying to sing your ear off. Part of what makes it special, I think. And I never want to throw her under the bus, but I bring up Adele often because to me, that’s an example of a voice that could really benefit from just pulling the volume back a bit. Right. Such a powerful singer. She’s such an emotional and beautiful singer. But when she goes up to her high belt, it’s like at a ten for her.
[00:37:44.390] – Melissa Harding
And I think that it’s exhausting. And certain singers, they can do that over and over again in the studio. But when it comes to singing live, that can wreck us. It can just make us so exhausted. And she’s had surgery before already, and she’s young, so it’s like it’s actually avoidable. That’s hard is over time. It can be avoidable. If you learn to do certain technical things that do calm your vocal cords down. But you have to watch your behavior. It’s watching drinking. It’s watching all of the things that you know can kill you. So when I get invited to a birthday party at a bar and it’s the day before I have some big vocal session in the studio, you’re probably not going to get me at that bar for more than 30 minutes to an hour because I have to excuse myself so that I don’t over speak for the next 2 hours and then try and go do my job the next day. Doesn’t make sense.
[00:38:38.390] – Diane Foy
What I’m saying, it’s like, yeah, priorities. You got to sacrifice some things for what you really want. I think that’s also what I coach on is figuring out what it is you really want. What are your priorities? Especially if you’re multipassionate. You got a million things you want to do. You can go in a million different directions. And so if you are very clear on your priorities, what it is you really want, what you’re working towards, then it’s easier to say, okay, I can’t be out every night. I have to pick and choose the events and the people in your life. They got a deal or just no, it’s nothing personal. It’s like I have this amount of time for my friends on Saturday.
[00:39:36.410] – Melissa Harding
[00:39:37.280] – Diane Foy
That’s it. That’s all I got. The rest I have to work on my own thing and start sacrificing as well.
[00:39:42.810] – Melissa Harding
Yeah. And I think that was kind of like when you said, if you want to be Pink, how do you get there? And you know what I always think of is that book. Can I curse on this? Sure. Not to say a curse word.
[00:39:54.660] – Diane Foy
But I just have to remember to tag it as I won’t even say it.
[00:39:58.690] – Melissa Harding
But the subtle art is not giving a F**K. Did you read that book? Did you read that one? I can’t think of the name of the author off the top of my head. I’d have to look him up. Yeah, I think I did read it. Subtle art is not giving a f**k. But he talks about that in the book. He’s saying, I may say I want to be a rock star. What does that actually mean? What does that actually take from me? What does that actually require me to do or be able to control? And so for J. Lo, it’s having a fit body girl can work out. But that’s part of her job, right? She does that training because she knows exactly what it’s going to require on stage. And I think to friends of mine that I know a girl, really fantastic Broadway singer that I worked with many years ago for a very brief period of time. But she was playing Alphabet and in wicked, and she talked about how her diet, her sleep, everything revolved around those eight shows a week, eight shows a three hour show like, man, it gets down to your physical body.
[00:41:04.320] – Melissa Harding
It gets down to putting into it your hydration. I’m always telling students that even if you’re not an athlete, cardio matters for breath. I’m jumping on my trampoline and just trying to activate my lungs and feel my body. My voice teacher of many years is the touring vocal coach for Bon Jovi, and she works with him. And she always told me that he ran on gig days. He always was out running before the gig because that’s one of his ways of just connecting so that he can be Bon Jovi every night and go on stage and run around that stage at his age and still deliver that show. Yeah. So, yeah, JLo, is she staying in the shape so that she can keep doing it and doing it?
[00:41:51.710] – Diane Foy
That’s why I admire her, really? Is her work ethic so tough? I think I have a pretty good work ethic, but nothing compared to her. I’m like, yeah, no, I would love to be J Lo, but I don’t have that. I don’t have it in me.
[00:42:08.300] – Melissa Harding
Me either. I love to perform, but I don’t want that same. I can’t do what she’s doing. I love to sing and being multi passionate, I think that’s also important to figure out, like, where do you want to go? And as a singer myself, I could be on Broadway someday. That could come into my life at some point. I feel lucky that I’ve toured all over the world through singing. Voice has taken me to places I never thought I would go. So I have had my moments of feeling like a rock star on a big festival stage, and that’s a really cool feeling. But to be honest, audiences are audiences, whether they’re 20 people or 100 people or 80,000 people. And I found that as I’ve gotten older, it becomes more important to figure out which situations really bring you the most joy. And to me, that’s doing so many kinds of gigs, not just the big ones, but I love singing at weddings. I love going on a cruise ship and doing a Broadway concert. I love doing things that may not be Broadway, may not be on a major tour, but it’s about the energy in the room.
[00:43:19.650] – Melissa Harding
It’s about storytelling. It’s about using the instrument to do lots of different things. And that’s important. It’s not all about being famous. It’s not all about being a star. I think for some people it is. But for some of us, we have to figure out whether we really give an F about that.
[00:43:37.070] – Diane Foy
Yeah. It’s again, some things I coach on is figuring out what it is you want and your core values and what your why is because it’s so important.
[00:43:50.190] – Melissa Harding
[00:43:51.070] – Diane Foy
Why do you want that? Because you might say, oh, yeah, I want to be the rock star. I want to be the super famous guy. But if your values and core values. And why is maybe a little bit smaller? Maybe you value security, family, steady income. That is not the life for you then, right?
[00:44:16.670] – Melissa Harding
It’s so true. It’s exactly what I was saying to my partner. We’ve been together two years. We were gone from La but came back and found a cool house. And I’m really like, I don’t know if I would go on a world tour again. I’m not interested actually, in touring around the country in a musical because that wouldn’t allow me to be here in my home. So it’s changed. It is. It’s figuring out perspective. And these things can change in a performance career 100%. Now, somebody like Pink or one of these artists, they make a living on tour. So that’s part of their job is leaving home. And sometimes that’s for I’m reading Dave Girl’s book, like I said, and he talks about that when they all had kids, there was a point where they decided as a band, we don’t go out for longer than two weeks at a time. And they made a two week rule that if they were going to go out, but two weeks is still a long time. At half a month, you’re gone. It does require that. And I was saying that to my partner. I love coaching, but I am a performer.
[00:45:27.410] – Melissa Harding
And right now I’m really missing performing coming out of the pandemic. And I’ve been building my coaching business. And it’s funny, the year before the Pandemic, I was telling everyone, let’s work virtually, and nobody wanted to. And then we’re all working virtually. But, you know, I don’t want to go on tour. And I was telling him, I think I’m going to start doing cruise work again. I think I’m going to start doing those jobs where I can go away for a week and then come home, maybe a week there. But yeah, you have to figure out your priorities, because truly, the other piece of being multi passionate is that if you’re passionate about life, I also want to live my life. I want to be with my dogs and go on a hike. I want to enjoy a nice dinner with my partner without my phone going off. Truly, to me, the other stuff is only valuable if I’m able to maintain the value of the home. That makes me also feel fulfilled. Yeah, it’s really important to figure it out.
[00:46:33.530] – Diane Foy
It does take time and cruise ships. You still get to perform, you still get to have fun, and you still get to make people happy. Who cares who those people are?
[00:46:47.280] – Melissa Harding
It’s the most joyful thing, to be honest, to do some of those gigs. Like one of the gigs I’ve done quite a bit is with some girlfriends of mine that started a group called Lady Luck. And it’s all, you know, Frank Sinatra sort of, you know, we do that life and like, you know, really old fun songs traditional standards and things. But, man, do people love that show, man. These people come out every time and say, thank God you guys are keeping this music alive. It’s so good. And to do that with a ten piece band with horns and it’s so fun. It’s so fun. I love live music. I love hearing people play instruments. And so for me, being in a live band is kind of the jam. Being able to sing in front of a bunch of musicians just as a vocalist, that’s just so fun. Yeah, I love and like, I’m not even a cruiser. That’s the funny thing is I’ve never been on a cruise before. I worked on a cruise. And now I like them all about the cruise life.
[00:47:49.070] – Diane Foy
I’ve never gone.
[00:47:50.990] – Melissa Harding
When I do one, I will invite you and then you’ll come book it and then come watch my show and we’ll have a cocktail.
[00:47:58.190] – Diane Foy
Many cocktails. Well, you’re the singer. You don’t get to have as many.
[00:48:02.290] – Melissa Harding
But after the show, I can have as many as I want. Because here’s the great thing about cruise life. You only perform one day.
[00:48:08.730] – Diane Foy
Oh, yeah. You don’t have to perform every night.
[00:48:11.600] – Melissa Harding
No, because if you’re on a cruise, they’re really only going to come to your show. If you’re a guest entertainer, like on a cruise for a week, they’re only going to have that guest entertainer performed one time. It’s sort of a special come see the special show that we’re doing. Sometimes it’s a magician or this or that. But when we do those, that’s kind of the fun thing. It’s fun. You get a free cruise on a cruise.
[00:48:35.990] – Diane Foy
Yeah, that’s a good deal.
[00:48:37.830] – Melissa Harding
I like that.
[00:48:43.230] – Diane Foy
We’ve mentioned Pink a few times, and I loved hearing one time on an award show, someone on social media said something about her lip syncing. And I was like, oh, do not say she lipsyncs, because she does not.
[00:49:02.130] – Melissa Harding
Because I remember not lip syncing while she’s flying through the air.
[00:49:05.980] – Diane Foy
Well, I think that’s why they just assumed she’s lip singing because she’s flying through the air. And I’m like, no, I remember that she talked about that where she works with a vocal coach who punches her in the stomach as she hangs upside down and sings.
[00:49:20.370] – Melissa Harding
Trying to get her to keep her the thing that’s weird about vocal support and I know people can’t see me, but I’m describing this to you, but it really is this idea of, like my teacher used to say, literally when I was young. And this is a weird analogy. But imagine, like, a baby in your belly sort of weight. The weight, like the physical expansion of the body. Even if you’re a man, imagine there’s a baby in your belly. But like, truly, your whole body with voice needs to become this athletic open. What my teachers say is like build a brick wall, but it’s really openness. It’s not a clenching sort of feeling. It’s an expansive sort of feeling. And so a lot of teachers, we will put our hands on you, get you to feel what it feels like to not use the muscles of the neck or of the chest to force something to happen, but to actually find the true support, which comes much lower in the body. We’re trying to get our pelvic floor along. We’re trying to get our side ribs open. We’re trying to get our back to expand.
[00:50:27.600] – Melissa Harding
It’s all this space. It’s physical space. And our bodies are all different sizes as well. So when you’re also doing something athletic at the same time, she’s having to clench muscles to do other things. So her voice teacher is like, but no, don’t forget great and breathe. Because when you breathe, when you’re doing a sport, saying it’s a different feeling than also having to maintain a connection in your vocal cords, that’s actually a different muscle working and you’re not breathing when you’re using your cords. Right, right. She’s insane.
[00:51:06.030] – Diane Foy
Yeah. Because I don’t know if I’ve seen it, but when she said that, I pictured her hanging upside down and someone punching her in the stomach as she sings.
[00:51:16.410] – Melissa Harding
She’s so wonderfully assertive and strong. I just love her energy as a vocalist because she always say, but you got to be in the driver’s seat of your own voice. You have to be the boss. And I don’t care what you’re talking about. It can be a song you wrote and it can be about something silly, but you’ve got to mean it times 1000.
[00:51:39.750] – Diane Foy
[00:51:40.300] – Melissa Harding
And that’s the thing. It’s like if that’s the point. And she comes out with every song, whether it’s a ballad or Dear Mr. President or whatever, she’s saying, she says things with such fire, and she just cares and she cares about every aspect of the performance. She’s just cool.
[00:52:00.690] – Diane Foy
I love my ladies.
[00:52:02.450] – Melissa Harding
Oh, my gosh, she’s just such a cool woman. I just think she’s awesome and she’s a mom. So she’s like a tough mom. And she sets a great example for women in the business because she’s always held herself with just a real authority and a real strength around her business and just how she is as an artist. She’s so cool.
[00:52:23.860] – Diane Foy
Yeah. I love her wonderful. Well. I always ask, what is your why? What is my why do you do what you do?
[00:52:39.830] – Melissa Harding
I think of it in two sides in terms of singing. My why has always been storytelling, always, and has even more so become about that as I’ve gotten older, the more I dive into art, just as a lover of art. I love stories and I love a great film and I love a great song and I love a great performance, whatever it might be. And that’s why because I’m fueled to tell stories as a singer. I think I always tried. I think I always wanted to be like a big Celine Dion type singer. And it’s funny, as I’ve gotten older, actually simplified more like I like being a little more intimate in my storytelling. But I think that’s also what’s fun about it is you can do so many different things. So my why is also my curiosity around, just continually enjoying exploring voice and singing. And as a coach, I love seeing people have, AHA, moments with voice. There’s so many things that seem sort of unachievable or out of your reach. And I love teaching people and getting them to see and feel what makes them unique and what makes their voice unique.
[00:54:01.390] – Melissa Harding
Because if Bob Dylan can be a famous singer, we all can. It’s just actually like, what is he saying that is connecting what makes him unique. There’s something about you. It’s not like anybody can be an artist now. So it really is figuring out what you want to say and figuring out how you want to use your voice. So when I can help somebody kind of break through a barrier that’s stopping them from doing something that they’re totally capable of doing if they just think a little bit differently, you know, that’s fun to watch people kind of go, oh, I can hit that note. I’m just thinking about it in a way that’s making it hard for myself. I’m just thinking about it in a way that’s completely coming from fear. Let’s eliminate the fear. Let’s eliminate the questions and then see what you can do. That’s fun to me. So that was a long winded answer.
[00:54:58.640] – Diane Foy
That’s all good. So where can people find you online on Instagram? What’s happening?
[00:55:06.170] – Melissa Harding
I actually have two Instagrams now, so one of them is just my normal, everyday page. I’m at Melissa K. Harding, and that’s one L, two S’s. Melissa K. Harding and Harding, like, Tanya Harding. Should we bring her up just to make sure? Do you remember the old Tanya Harding stories? Don’t worry, not related. And then my voice page on Instagram is Melissahardingvoice. So I just started that one, and I’m starting to kind of put some fun things out there. And then my website is Melissaheartingmusic.com and there I post. That’s where you can book private lessons with me. And I’m also going to do my first group workshop coming up, which will be fun, like a really basic understanding your voice workshop for 2 hours. It’ll really be about mindset around voice and breathing work and things like that. A lot of meditative work and things because we have to so get in tune with our bodies in order to use our voice. So I wanted to do that. So, yeah, you can find email@example.com. And yeah, I’m easily accessible on Instagram. So if you find me there, I’ll respond to you because I use it every day for coaching and things.
[00:56:15.750] – Melissa Harding
Yeah. Thank you so much for having me on because it’s been just really a blast talking to you.
[00:56:23.520] – Diane Foy
Yeah, this is great. I love talking about all the female Divas.
[00:56:27.380] – Melissa Harding
Oh, we love it. I can talk about singers all day long
[00:56:31.530] – Diane Foy
Yeah. Cool. Thank you so much.
[00:56:34.900] – Melissa Harding
Thank you so much.