Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1089

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Feature

Annabel Williams: Voice activated

Annabel Williams @bluesandsoul.com
Annabel Williams @bluesandsoul.com Annabel Williams @bluesandsoul.com Annabel Williams @bluesandsoul.com Annabel Williams @bluesandsoul.com

Blues & Soul Magazine caught up with vocal coach to the stars and incredible voice in her own right: Annabel Williams. With a client list that puts Beyonce’s black book in the shade, lead vocal coach on two of the biggest shows in the UK: X Factor & Britain’s Got Talent, this lady is certainly one to be reckoned with in the music biz. With two shows and a special vocal masterclass at Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho in August, we decided to catch up with the vocal master herself.

Your client list is like a who’s who of top artists. How did you get into being a vocal coach?

I always loved coaching alongside singing. I always found that I got a lot out of it. The most rewarding thing is seeing people improve. I started out coaching Amy Winehouse when I was 19 and she was 16. And that’s where the whole celebrity vocal coach thing started.

You’ve been the official vocal coach for X Factor for the past 7 years. How did you get into that?

I put it into the universe! I decided I wanted that job and that it was perfect for me. There was a lady named Jo Perry who was working on X Factor and I was coaching her girl band Stooshe. She put in a good word for me... I had a 5-minute interview with Simon Gavin, The Head of Music and 7 years later, here I am still doing it!

What have been your highlights?

Definitely my first year because I had the likes of James Arthur and Ella Henderson. But every year brings something different. I always love doing the arrangements on the show and making a real moment in each contestants song. It’s my job to make sure that everybody has ‘a moment’ and a performance that is worthy of them getting through to the next week.

How do you deal with, shall we say, the 'less talented' singers?

This is the brilliant thing about music. You don’t have to have an amazing huge range or belting voice in order to create an amazing emotional performance. Being a great singer isn’t about having all the notes and all the range - it's about making a connection to a lyric and delivering a performance that’s emotive and connects with the viewers. If you find the right song, the right key and the right notes you can easily help anyone who is struggling with the more demanding techniques and skills.

You are an artist in your own right, what is your style & genres of music?

I have always been massively into jazz, soul, r’n’b and blues. So the music that I perform is a mixture of all of those genres. I do however like all aspects of music which is why my taste is so varied. I also love classical and have a secret love of rock, so all my influences come out in my performances. So you’ll find me performing a mixture of songs by all my heroes, such as Etta James, Chaka Khan, Tedeschi Trucks and Bonnie Raitt.

You’ve been a backing singer with some incredible artists, who are your favourite artists you have worked with?

I spent about 4 years doing backing vocals for Ceelo Green. That was an experience! I absolutely loved doing backing vocals for Michael Bolton, Angie Stone and Nile Rogers. A real pinch me now moment would be that I’ve spent the last couple of years working with Jennifer Hudson. She’s incredible - a true talent. A ridiculously amazing singer. Its been a real honour to do backing vocals and vocal arrangements for someone as amazing as her. She’s a superstar.

You have a unique method of singing, can you give us an idea of how it works?

Yes, I absolutely do have a unique method of singing. I don’t use any particular methodology. The method I use is drawn from experience during the 22 years I’ve been doing this. I started out singing with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra and that’s where I really honed my craft, not only improving myself as a singer but developing myself as a musician. You had to be able to read music and that was my real training ground. Over the years, whether it be through coaching, touring, doing lead or backing vocals, working as a session singer or doing Big Band such as NYJO, those experiences have blended together and I now use them in a unique way, which has now become ‘The Annabel Williams Method’.

What can people expect at the masterclass?

This masterclass is a pure representation of me, what works for me as a session singer, backing singer and lead vocalist. I will include simple but effective methods and tips that I use in my day-to-day life. It won't be shrouded in overcomplicated jargon. For me, if its simple and it works then there’s no need to make it more complicated! Singers will walk away with a better understanding of their own individual voice and how to further themselves with excellent technique.

Also, we get to see you sing at Pizza Express Jazz Club too - can you tell us a bit about the shows?

The Pizza Express Jazz Club on Dean Street is one of my favourite venues to play. The staff are always welcoming, I always sell out and it’s a great little intimate venue. Plus I absolutely love Pizza Express – The American (pizza) is my favourite (laughs)

I’ll be singing a collection of my favourite artists with my 9-piece band. The aim is to get everyone on their feet, having a good time, listening to good music. There’s a mixture of old and new and I can now exclusively announce that my very good friend Noel Sullivan will be joining me for a special song or 2. There are only a few tickets left and I’m very excited!

And lastly, you know we are going to ask you this. What’s it like working with Simon Cowell?!

Honestly, he’s wonderful. He really looks after you and he knows what he’s doing. I don’t have enough good things to say about him. I’m not just saying that! (laughs) I learn more from him every year and I can't explain to you how well he knows the music industry. I’m learning from the best!

To book a place on the masterclass taking place 12-3pm 21st August at Pizza Express Jazz Club email bex@annabelwilliamsmusic.com

Click the link below to buy tickets to see Annabel at Pizza Express Jazz Club 20th & 21st August 2018.
Words SIMONE STANSWICK

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