Saturday, April 16, 2011

Whooooo are you? Who-oo....oo-oo?

So how often do you ask yourself this? Who are you?

I am Lo Barreiro. Daughter of a Cuban father and Puerto Rican mother. Raised in the tropical heat (in temperature and attitude) of Miami, Florida. A Florida State University Seminole. And currently a Bostonian, singer, writer, a cappella producer, lover of all fried potatoes, and slightly obsessed with bright colors and floral prints.

So what does this have to do with a cappella? Well... nothing really. Except that sometimes your group needs to do just this! You often get lost in what you want be or achieve that you forget to see and discuss who you actually are. For example, when your group is just so trendy and edgy in look complete with spandex and mesh and then you walk on stage and sing the boppiest song off Sara B's latest album. Ummm discrepancy much?

A story for you:

I have recently put together my own all-female professional group, Musae. I decided to find the best of the best in female a cappella singers and just create some vocal awesome. Before we ever rehearsed we had all these great ideas. We wanted to be a SONOS-esque, super trendy, super smooth group... and we arranged and picked songs like it. Before we knew it (and still before we ever sang together) we had a repertoire almost entirely made up of slow tempo chill songs filled with add 6 and add 9 chords. We were going to be hott!

We're all over the country, so our first rehearsal was going to be in the same weekend as our first photo shoot. Again, we wanted to be oh so trendy and  have an almost Boston hipster vibe to go with our rather chill and "duh, we only listen to Mozart and dubstep" music. Lots of layers, almost muted and neutral tones, and just too cool for school. We had this in the bag.

Finally, all of the Musae ladies descended upon Boston in mid-March and it was far too much fun... until we started singing. We attempted our first already arranged slow song and to be honest... we sounded like dying cats. What? These are the BEST female vocalists in a cappella and nothing clicked...NOTHING! I knew this couldn't be true and so it was time to figure out who Musae was.

We are Musae. We are six very loud and very different women. We are everywhere and come from everywhere like Miami, Boston, Texas, Oregon, Atlanta, New York City, and California. We are the girls that choir directors always said were too loud and find that overloading microphones is just  a regular occurrence. We are also the goofiest, funniest, and silliest group of ladies you will meet and can't ever take ourselves too seriously even when men literally chase us down the street. (This actually happened.) What the hell were we doing singing slow, soft, chill songs and trying to wear neutral tones? That's just not who Musae is!

So, later that day we turned to disco, pop, soul, and dance tunes and our photo shoot was full of bright colors. There seems to be at least 4 girls belting at any given time in our arrangements and we totally capitlaize on how obnoxiously loud we are.

So, see what I'm getting at?

I think every group can take a step back and check that your image fits with your music and your music fits with your image. Also, you don't have to be the same group you were even a year ago. You may have grown up, dealt with some tough things, are generally happier... it doesn't matter. But a cohesive image is so important to the success of a performance and group or you risk leaving your audience confused.

One of the best examples I've personally seen is the group Fork, or as I like to call them "Finnish A Cappella Rockstar Superheroes". Seriously, this fighter jet of an a cappella group gives Charlie Sheen a run for his money for how much #winning they're doing in the image department.

From the moment they walk on stage, each of the four members of Fork (in their leather, mesh and thigh high boots) just embody "bad ass" and never let go of that image. They are intense from belting sopranos to pounding bass and make you feel as if you're at a legit rock concert. When you meet and talk to them off the stage, they are the sweetest, most intelligent, and most inherently musical people. It's then that you realize that their entire group persona is a very calculated image leading to much of their success... and they know it.

So who are you? Are you the cute boppy group or the in-your-face group? Who is your audience? Do you only want to sing top 40 tunes or tunes that are not so mainstream? Or do you want to sing mainstream? What are your strengths and weaknesses? These and so many more are questions you need to ask in deciding your repertoire, how you're going to approach arrangements and even what you're going to wear. Just think about it... or get "Who are you?" stuck in your head... or both.

Until the journey continues...

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