Rachel Kerr "Nigerian artists show humility and dedication to learn new things," singer talks about coaching Tiwa Savage, Waje, Psquare

Kerr talks to Pulse on her success in running a vocal coaching company, her success in the music business, as an artist, and finding her voice.

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Rachel Kerr at Lauryn Hill Concert Live play

Rachel Kerr at Lauryn Hill Concert Live

(Pulse)
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Watching Rachel Kerr perform live is an experience like no other.

Utilizing her voice major instrument of her set, the British singer/songwriter and vocal coach hits registers that can only be dreamed of by the best musicians.

When she sways and spins through her vocals, riffs and notes, the crowd isn’t just entertained. They are uplifted into an emotional realm of satisfaction. In that place, Kerr rules supreme with her art. And everyone becomes a grateful loyal subject.

Every set is always different for her. She might perform the same songs, but the delivery, and format is altered for greater value whenever she hits the stage.

Born in the UK to a Dad who founded a mass gospel choir, and a mother who was a lead vocalist in a Gospel band, Rachel first embraced singing in church. She also did take up violin and dancing lessons.

But singing and the boundless possibilities of the human voice has been her specialty. In 2010, she left her legal career to chase music, threw herself into the scene, opened for Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond and Marvin Sapp, performed at the the same stage as Cece Winas, and so much more.

 

Two EPs, one album, a mixtape, and a MOBO award have come for her, but Kerr continues to serve not just as a performer, but as a vocal coach.

In 2012 Kerr, founded a Performing Arts Academy called Singercise. The academy has bases in both London and Africa. And to date has provided vocal coaching to key international talent platforms such as X Factor and The Voice.

The academy has also provided vocal training for international celebrities such as Tiwa Savage, Psquare, Waje and UK girl group Neon Jungle. The Academy has also been entrusted by major UK labels such as Sony RCA to train and coach some of their new talent.

Kerr talks to Pulse on her success in running a vocal coaching company, her success in the music business, as an artist, and finding her voice.

When was the first time you realized that you had to specialize in vocal?

I’ve always had a natural understanding of harmonies, textures and the voice since I was a child singing at church. I think it helped that my Father was a choir leader and we had many choir rehearsals at my home so I was constantly surrounded by music and singing. As a child I remember teaching the other children the correct harmonies to sing. Even now when I tour with my band my backing vocalists will testify to how meticulous I am when it comes to our vocal performance.

The more I perform the more I have people contact me for hep with there own voices and before I knew it, I had a huge clientele of record labels, celebrities and aspiring singers each entrusting me to help them in some way with their vocal performance also.

Rachel Kerr play

Rachel Kerr

(Instagram)

 

How pivotal has your vocals been in your career?

It’s been mega important. I can not begin to express the gratitude I have to God for blessing me with this gift but it has taken a lot of studying, commitment and devoted practices to make my voice what it is today. A lot of the vocal techniques that I have mastered today like powerful singing, vibrato, riffs, runs & adlibs weren’t natural to me at first and were very difficult. But my commitment to being the best I could be made these techniques easy over time.

Over the years though I have had to remind myself that Rachel Kerr is more than just her voice. I am a songwriter, teacher, business woman, minister, friend, sister, wife, daughter and a human being.

This is SO important to remember because I have seen many celebrities lose themselves to what they became successful in because they had no identity outside of their careers. Not me! Whilst my vocal ability has hugely contributed to my career successes, if I decide not to sing again I am still as valuable a human being to this world, my family and to myself as I was before.

Please describe your first experience in coaching someone else?

My first experience would be as early as nine when I was teaching my friends how to sing in harmony at church. I remember seeing all the Sunday school teachers looking a little confused as to where my knowledge and confidence came from.

And also a little baffled as to how I was able to command the attention and respect of the whole children’s church class. I’m not sure if they were in support of me assigning myself as the teacher, or horrified LOL!

As a professional coach. I remember getting a call from Sony record label who had just singed a female pop girl group. Boy were these girls a loveable handful! But what I loved was seeing their growth and the awe in their faces when singing techniques that they had struggled with for years suddenly become easy for them with my coaching.

What's amazing is that over the years all my clients have become family. I have attended the weddings of nearly all of my very first clients and they too were at my surprise birthday party just last week.

To have this connection and rapport with my clients for so many years is something I don’t take lightly and am so grateful for. It’s a blessing to add to someone’s life and help make them the best versions of themselves. You then get to share so many amazing memories with them.

Rachel Kerr and Lauryn Hill in Lagos play

Rachel Kerr and Lauryn Hill in Lagos

(Instagram)

 

How did Singercise start? 

I remember being sacked from work. They called it redundancy, I knew I was being sacked hahaha! Honestly it was THE best thing that has ever happened to me career-wise. And don’t ask me how but deep down I knew it, even at the time.

After my then boss took me to a coffee shop and broke the news to me I remember just having an overwhelming sense of calm and a peace. Music was going well. I had just come back from a US Tour so deep down I knew that it would only be a matter of time before I went into music full-time. But of course a huge part of me did think, ‘what am I going to do without that financial security of a salary”?

After the meeting I went straight to my church. It was empty and cold but I literally remember lying down at the altar and praying for God’s help.

I didn’t want to go back to another job I wanted to now live in purpose. But doing what? Music was great but not earning me enough to live off of at the time.

I was so relaxed at that altar that I actually fell asleep. It was my boyfriend (now husband) who found me there after calling my phone a million times and woke me up. He told me that I had to venture into a business alongside my music career and that this business would help others achieve what I have been able to with my music.

A month later SINGERCISE™ was born, and what an amazing, miraculous journey it has been.

Not only have many of my students gone on to be nominated for many of the awards that I have won but many are now also touring the US and Africa also having quit their full-time jobs to start their careers in music. To this day I’m so grateful God has chosen to use me in the way He has and be a help to all of these people.

What is the core vision of the company?

Empowering artists all over to work to be their best selves, to achieve their dream careers and make their talent the very best it can be. 

What are the success stories so far?

Honestly there have been so many. So many. 

With my music, I have toured the world, sang for US Presidents, the UK Prime Minister, won many awards and toured with the likes of Lauryn Hill, Brandy, Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond and so many more. My Grammy Award membership I also consider a huge honour for me but honestly starting my company SINGERCISE will always have  the most special place in my heart.

Many of my clients started training with me years ago working as nurses, bankers, teachers and are now touring the world, winning international awards, signing record deals and having the voice and career they always desired.

Rachel Kerr and Peter Okoye during a coaching session. play

Rachel Kerr and Peter Okoye during a coaching session.

(Instagram)

 

I see it a success also when people are able to lose the insecurities they have suffered with for years to become the confidence, accomplished person they always knew they could be with my coaching.

But honestly bringing Singercise to Nigeria was a big deal for me. Nigeria is home period. More than anywhere I have ever travelled to in the world I can’t explain the emotional and ancestral ties I have to this country. To take something that I saw flourish in the UK and bring it to a place I truly consider as home and train celebrity and aspiring singers to become their best selves it a huge success in my opinion.

What are your thoughts on the role of vocals in Nigerian music?

Nigerian musicians are so creative in how they use their vocal delivery. In the industry we see such a variation of vocal style. From the power house soulful sounds of Waje, to the sweeter melodic sounds of Tiwa to the hiphop and reggae inspired vibes of Burna Boy.

Variety at its best!

Do you think it is a solid requirement to breaking through in the industry?

No, absolutely not. It used to be, but not as much anymore.

Many people can sing but what is important is how creative you are with your voice. Does you’re voice make people feel a real emotion? Whether happiness, joy, sadness, heartbreak etc.

The translating of such emotions in the voice is of far greater significance than just having a singing ability. It's the reason why people say ‘where have all the singers gone’ well they are still around but sometimes singers need to be more creative and start thinking outside of the box about how to allow their voices to resonate with today's industry and audience.

Unfortunately, having a great voice is just not enough, there needs to be more.

Has the advancement in music production technology proved detrimental to vocal development?

Yes and no. Yes because people shy away from having the hungry to develop their gifts like they did in the past because they rely on melodine and auto-tune softwares. But at the same time I am a fan of creativity.

We are now hearing new sounds and vibes that didn’t exist 10 years ago because music production technology has made it possible for artists to now be more creative and expressive with whatever gift they have been given.

We were not are all created to sound like Whitney Houston but I do believe it is important to use every tool accessible to you to be creative and present your gift in the best way possible.

You have worked with Tiwa Savage, Psquare and Waje, how was your experience working with each of them?

I always say this. It's one thing to be a successful musician but you have to respect the humility and devotion that people at the top of their game show when they now want to educate themselves to become better.

Working with each of these artists is the reason I say to my singercise clients globally, never become comfortable in your success there is always more to learn and ways to grow. Each of these artists continue to show humility, and dedication to learning more about their voices and this is why they continue to be at the top of their game.

If you were to have a duet with a Nigerian male vocalist, who would that be and why?

Great question. I’m a fan of Burna Boy. The vibes are on 10. Also I like Funbi and Flavor too… it's their musical creativity more than anything and intrigues me. As a natural creative I think we’d come up with something crazy.

How about future projects for you?EPs, are we expecting an album soon?

Absolutely, we are currently in the studio writing it. Looking forward to see how it is received when it is released. I’m expectant of great things.

In the end, what’s your yardstick for measuring your career success?

Rachel Kerr play

Rachel Kerr

(Press)

 

I wish I knew. My definition of success changes everyday as new things start to bare significance in my life. Life is so tricky because I have seen how commercial success doesn’t always breed joy, fulfilment and peace.

I guess I would love to have a lifestyle where everyday I wake up excited, proud of myself and feeling fulfilled knowing that everyday I am being used to my maximum potential. I’m still so young and I know by God's grace I’ve done a lot but I feel there's still so much I have to build for my future generations and legacy.

I’m not sure if you ever feel like your work is done or that you have reached your place of ultimate success but if such a feeling does exist then everyday I’m working to get closer to it. Nearly there.

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