Vocalist Versus Singer Songwriter

There are more than a few well known songwriters who rarely if ever sing their own songs if they can help it. I remember hearing Neil Diamond being interviewed one time and stating he did not want to be a singer, but that he had to sing his songs because no one else would. As a songwriter I am often asked why I don’t work more on my voice to aid my songs in having a better audience. Years ago I received some vocal coaching in the studio and it helped that particular song have a better performance. So, I recognize that I certainly could benefit from working on it. But in the end my whole composer inner voice shouts out to me saying “I’m not a vocalist.” Now I can sing, but I’m not a vocalist and I am ok with that; more than ok, I actually prefer it.

When I was in high school I knew a young lady who had a voice like a songbird when she was younger. It was this natural thing of beauty which slowly died as she spent more and more time in choir. No offense to many fine professional choir directors, but in the case of this young lady my ears could slowly hear the music in her dying, until it was entirely gone. What came out by the end of senior year was beautifully enunciated and well projected notes carrying nearly perfect pitch and tons of proper breath all spent in conjuring up a nullity. To me it was a sad waste.

When I hear Randy Newman singing some of his wonderful songs I thank God he did not attempt to change his voice to suit his audience… it is quirky and alive. I don’t live in fear that I would lose myself if I tried to improve my voice, and I suppose it is better now than it was years ago, but still I am very wary about prioritizing myself into songwriting or composing rather than into becoming a vocalist. Heaven forbid.

Meanwhile I don’t know if I will live long enough to have a genuine vocalist ever properly take a song of mine and record it themselves. Perhaps one day.