Monday, October 27, 2014

Mastery As A Daily Challenge

Why is it SO damn hard to do a little practice every day?

       I have always resisted daily practice in my own life and career.  Mostly because it is so damn uncomfortable to have to face learning something new. It means admitting I'm not good at something. Sound familiar? Practicing something we're not good at means facing ourselves with the truth.
          It still does freak me out, but I have gradually become more accepting and understanding of the process. How? By doing the really scary uncomfortable act of practicing a little bit every day. Things that are new to us always feel difficult until we get comfortable with the new information. Eventually the materials you are looking at stop being "something I'm bad at" and become "something I'm working on".
But of course that takes practice.

           Daily practice is recommended for vocal technique because doing a little bit everyday means it's going to become a habit eventually (like the gym or yoga or cooking for ourselves etc). When we wait to have a really big session say once a week we run the risk of being overwhelmed by how bad we're doing and having to walk away. Or having it be cancelled for a variety of reasons which wrecks havoc with our confidence as see our "mastery" gradually slipping further and further away.

        Regular voice technique sessions are the way to build up confidence. In our craft. In ourselves. It's all about ego after all.  Those who get ahead, in the Arts, in Sports, in Life show us that "facing our fears" everyday is the way to gradually build up real confidence in what we are doing. That confidence shows up, on stage, in rehearsal, in the studio… and in our business dealings. Others can feel our increased mastery just as we do!

So, what is keeping you from daily mastery?

Private Voice Sessions with Micah Barnes

Upcoming Workshop Nov 30th with Micah Barnes

Micah Barnes on Twitter 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Interview with former Nylon and multiple Juno winner Billy Newton-Davis!

First a bit of history, what years were you a member/ what albums did you record with the guys?
I was with The Nylons “I believe from 1991-1993.
I recorded “Live To Love” with them. I think it is a very cool and modern collection of songs.

How did you come to join the group?
I was with the same management team that The Nylons were with at the time. Marc Conner’s became very ill and died. I auditioned and the guys asked me to join. I knew the group as well. I did some wardrobe for them, and brought in several stylists so they were familiar with me, and my work. Marc’s shoes were tuff to fill, but the guys really embraced me. Working with them changed me as a performer.

A Capella has it's own set of challenges. What was your experience/growth like in that area?
My Dad was a singer. He use to rehearse with his Bud’s on Sunday afternoon’s. They sang A’capella. So I am very accustomed to the sound and feel of that genre. My growth came when I started to train my voice on a regular basis. I had serious voice issues. I had to learn to just pull back. I was from the New York stage, and you had to belt. I learned less is more!

The Nylons have always maintained a busy touring schedule, were there adjustments for you in handling the physical regime?
Yes I had to learn how to travel. I had to lock myself up in hotel rooms because touring was fun and we went to some very exciting and exotic places. Silence, sleep, hydration and nourishment are the key.

Are there any secrets you can share with us that you have used for maintaining vocal, physical and spiritual health?
Vocalizing faithfully! Doing some kind of physical exercise. Reading books of all kinds re: my spiritual journey. Lemons heal my voice!

Are there any concerts or experiences that stick out as particularly memorable from your Nylon years?
Yes when we performed in my hometown of Cleveland!
What song would you say remains a special Nylons memory for you.
I love the chestnuts...!! Of course and always! I love “Grown Man Cry”, and I love Don’t Look Any Further”......

The Nylons form a special brotherhood or fraternity?
Yes I think it is a very special group of performers that become Nylon’s. You are encouraged to be yourself, but it is a family affair. We all have a sense of each other, and we all get each other. To see us in rehearsal is something special. Claude is a great leader!

  What are you looking forward to the most in these upcoming shows?
To be singing with one of the greatest groups in the world. It is an honour for me to be a part of one Canada’s treasures! And I like all of these guys a lot!!!!

Billy will be joining The Nylons along with Micah Barnes and Mark Cassius for a reunion concert Friday May 30th as part of the SING festival at the Distillery inToronto!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

An interview with Broadway Star and former Nylon Mark Cassius!

Micah: First a bit of history, what years were you a member/ what albums did you record with the guys?
Mark: I was a member from 1997-2005 I recorded 2 CDS, "A Wish for You" (2nd Christmas album) and "Play On"
How did you come to join the group?

I believe I was recommended by arranger, Charles Cozens and casting director, Stephanie Gorin.The group found me as I was finishing the Toronto run of "Ragtime".I had thus far dedicated my career to Musical Theatre and was ready for a change.
A Capella has it's own set of challenges. What was your experience/growth like in that area ?
I had spent many years as a choir boy in my youth, rediscovering "blend"  with such stylistic variety, was one of the most exciting challenges.

The Nylons have always maintained a busy touring schedule, were there adjustments for you in handling the physical regime?

Because of the rigors of my prior theatrical years, I was pretty ready for the physical demands. My love of travel made me adapt with ease at first to the frequent weekend jet aways, but it did eventually start to wear me down.
I had to get careful with rest and how I spent time off.

Are there any secrets you can share with us that you have used for maintaining vocal, physical and spiritual  health 

Vocally, when I have nothing to sing or say, I stay quiet.
Physically, I exercise using full range of motion, stay connected to my body, for it is the vessel that carries my junk.
Spiritually, I watch and pray. I don't know who God is, but I've realized that faith doesn't require that knowledge.

Are there any concerts or experiences that stick out as particulary memorable from your Nylon years?
Whenever we went to Madison, Wisconsin, which was where I made my Nylons Concert debut, something magical would happen.
There would be magic in the air that I just can't explain.
Our Holland tours were pretty extraordinary too, old world charm mixed with new world adventure.

What song would you say remains a special Nylons memory for you?

Two come to mind right away "Kiss Him Goodbye" and "Up on the Roof"

The Nylons form a special brotherhood or fraternity,  what are you looking forward to the most in these upcoming shows?
Reclaiming and re-establishing same. Experiencing the timeless treasure that is making and sharing our music. Being in harmony.

Mark will be joining The Nylons along with Billy Newton Davis and Micah Barnes for a reunion concert May 30th as part of the SING! Festival. Tickets available at
 In June, Mark will be starring in The Drayton Entertainment  Production of "Damn Yankees", role of "Mr. Applegate" (The Devil)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Climbing Mountains


When the mountain in front of you seems too steep to climb we can end up feeling helpless and desperate and overwhelmed.
 Sorting through the details of a career there will always be times you will be feeling desperation.. and fear that you are in danger of losing your dreams.

Successful artist are often driven by this fear but the difference that they do something about it on a daily basis.  Successful people face fear head on… and one of the most effective ways is by creating and sticking to a regime of self improvement and deepening our skill sets whether that be outreach to potential business partners,  practice on our instrument, song writing, physical exercise, vocal practice etc
                                           Perfectionist Don't Practice

We can't stand to be bad at something. It can be so acute a feeling that we never even give ourselves a chance to get better at it!  It's important that we don't get tangled up in fear and let it stop us from the step by step daily work that is needed to grow into the artist you are seeking to be..Daily work on ourselves creates an inner core of security and self assuredness knowing that we have done everything in our power to be ready to meet our dreams.

What can you do right now that will take you one step closer to your goal?

 There are times in our careers that involves very steep learning curves, like when we have a new manager, a new label, a new musical direction, a big opportunity to get ready for. You want to have the habit of slowly climbing up the mountain as part of your tool kit. That will mean your used to learning new skills and feeling a little overwhelmed. It will ensure a better outcome to whatever opportunities come your way.

Is your voice where it really needs to be? Are your songs as strong as they need to be? Are your performances really the most successful they can be?

This business moves fast and we don't have time to catch up with it sometimes. As soon as we climb one mountain another emerges to challenge us! We may always feel a little overwhelmed a little insecure and a little rushed. Thats the nature of the music business. We have to make friends with that fact.
However you can make your climb easier.. by taking little steps everyday.

Want to work one on one with coach  Micah Barnes ? The next Singers Playground Workshop in Toronto is March 30th! Please get in touch at

Monday, February 17, 2014


Used to be the labels decided who you were going to be in terms of public perception and the branding of an artist. These days the artists and their team are responsible for creating and expressing their own brand identity...and communicating it to their target audience in creative ways!

 When we are looking to solve basic issues of brand identity it's a good idea to see how other successful brands have been built,(usually song by song, video by video, tour by tour etc.)
I would suggest this homework assignement to help you move towards more clarity in this area.

First think of who has been a breakthrough artist in your style of music in the past few years. Someone who has done a good job of marketing their brand..Some obvious examples would be Katy Perry's Teenage Dream in Pop or Kasey Musgraves "Same Trailer, Different Park" in County.


Your Homework assignment (should you wish to take the challenge!!) is to analyze your chosen artists hit album track by track answering each of these questions below.. by the time you are done you should have a much better sense of how the brand identity has been achieved and helped established the artist in their market.

Ready? Lets GO!!!!!

1)What is this song about? Subject matter?

2)What are the details in the lyric that bring the listener into the artists world and make us feel like she's somebody that we know and care about?

3)How does the production arrangement details help the song express the subject matter?

4)Who is the target audience for this song (race, age, interests,style of music etc)

5)How does this song build the "story" of who the artist is as a person and what they stand for?  What new aspect of their personality does this song express?

6) Did the "look" of the artist change over the course of the album marketing?
If so, how did each new look add to the communication of the artists brand?

For those who wish to explore these issues in a more in depth way, I am coaching a Career Strategy Workshop Sunday Feb 23rd in Toronto where we will be looking at the bigger issues involved in identifying YOUR brand and helping you figure out the first steps of communicating that brand in the market place. Contact me at


Monday, January 20, 2014

Marketing 101 for Artists


Career strategy coaching is one of my passions. I find that many artists have no idea how to think about marketing themselves and end up stuck without momentum in their careers. Here are a few simple pointers to get you thinking about marketing.

"Why do I have to worry about this"? I can hear many of you saying to yourselves.I know, it's confusing, we're bad at it and it takes time away from what we love to do..making music..right?
YES all that may be true BUT without knowing at least the core elements of how to market ourselves our music (and our careers!) we will join the millions of other artists who cant figure out why their careers aren't going any where.

                                          WHO IS YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE?

What is the single most important thing an artist needs to know about Marketing? 

  Its simple. Who is your audience?

Thats the number one question labels, managers, producers and agents will be asking you when you are seeking their support and help.

Knowing who your audience is will help you (and your potential team) make all of the important decisions. Decisions like what should you wear in your photo…what venue should you be performing in…what other artists should you be performing and recording with..and a million other details all of which stem from the simple fact that you are a brand. A brand that you need to understand or you won't understand how to communicate your music and expand your audience.

Your job isn't to figure out everything about how to market yourself but you wont be able to start working with a team that can help you until your thought about exactly who your fans are going to be.

                                                 Who is your Audience now?

I don't mean who would you LIKE your audience to be.. I mean when you play shows and look out at the folks who have come out to hear you what kind of folks are actually coming out? Besides your family and best friends and if thats ALL who's coming out then you need this Blog more than you thought :)

IF you and your band play rock n roll and your audience is young men who like to drink beer and party and rock out then your marketing will look very different from the Jazz Diva whose audience may want to sip fine wine and dress for an expensive meal in an elegant bistro. Right?
These two acts appeal to a different age range with very different passions and interests  (and a VERY different pocket book!)…and consequently your pictures, online postings, video's, posters, newsletters, web site etc EVERYTHING THE POTENTIAL FAN SEES OR READS OR HEARS about your act will have to target them in specific ways that attract them to both you and your music.

                                       WE DECIDE IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE!

These days everybody is taking in mountains and acres of information every which way and we decide if something is of interest to us very very quickly. The wrong "indicator" and we have already decided that this music isnt of interest to us. So what they first see and what you present about your act is very very important.....
.......ESPECIALLY VISUALLY!! Those details of design and art direction are all elements of "branding" that we have to consider when looking to create a sustainable career in this business.

Sounds like a lot of details to handle doesn't it? Sure. 

Your job isn't to figure out everything about how to market yourself..its always better to have support and help with this important part of the creating success in the music biz....
 but you wont be able to move forward working with a team that can help you until you've thought about a few of these basic questions..

Starting with exactly who your fans are going to be? And what do they care about?

Please contact Micah Barnes for information on one and one skype and in person bookings!

Official Singers Playground Website

Performance Workshop Feb 22nd Voice Technique Class and Career Strategy Seminar Feb 23rd

Saturday, January 18, 2014

HILARY WEAVER on "Preparing To Tour"


                              "The best time I have ever had in my life"

Recently Singers Playground client Hilary Weaver had the opportunity to join Danny Fernandes recent tour of Ontario, Canada. Having worked extensively with Hilary on her voice technique and career strategy over the past few years I was impressed with her determination to make the most of the career opportunity. We recently sat down with the up and coming rock pop artist to discuss how she prepared for the shows.

Micah: For those who don’t know you Hilary..  what kind of music do you make and who is your fan base?

Hilary:I am a pop/rock singer songwriter based in Toronto whose influences are to Demi Lovato, Kelly Clarkson and Pink. My fan base is mostly a younger audience of 12 to 25 year olds. 
You are already an instinctive kick ass live performer but this touring opportunity came up fast for you didn’t it?  

This tour experience was a very last minute decision and offer. For this tour I had less than a month to prepare for a 9-show tour opening the show for the already established Danny Fernandes. 

Had you been doing live shows in the month’s prior?

No I hadn’t, the last show I had done was probably back in January of 2013, so almost a year later. 

Yikes.. thats a long time since you had been on stage. What were you the most worried about in terms of getting ready?

I was worried about so many things! I am a huge perfectionist and am extremely hard on myself. So when it came to preparing for this tour I was worried my vocals wouldn’t be up to proper standard, I was worried I wasn’t going to have enough time to get in some kind of shape to be able to do a show night after night and also how I was going to look on stage. 

You must have felt very rushed to have to decide about all the various things like Clothes, Fitness, Voice, Material, personal of the Band, rehearsal time etc!

You have to think and decide about everything! Even the finest details have to all be figured out. The one thing I had to do for tour was figure out 9 different outfits for each individual show, including jewelry and shoes. I had to make sure I was running and getting my cardio up so I wouldn’t be out of breath on stage. Every single day I had to vocalize and run through the songs for the show and practice exactly what I was going to say between each song. Figuring out the band and making sure we were all-together and had no mistakes. Let just say there is a lot to think, decide and worry about. 

The 'brand" or identity of an artist is expressed so many ways but none more importantly as in what clothes we wear on stage.Can you tell us the process of deciding about your outfits for this tour?

I would have to say the timing for this tour was quite good. Before for my CD Release I had gotten a stylist to help me and move me a little out of my comfort zone and I thank her for that because she actually helped me find my style in that one session. That’s why I was able and confident to do all the shopping for tour myself. My theme was very much old vintage rock and roll / musician shirts with lots of leather and studs. So I did about 3 bottoms and 2 leather jackets, with 9 different musician shirts. Dressing yourself is a lot about knowing who you are and expressing that with what you wear, and being confident doing it! 

Sounds like you smartly chose to focus your fans on the music you play and a powerful image.
What about choosing which material you were going to perform for this tour?

Picking the songs was the easy part! We had a certain length of time for our set so we picked what we thought would be strongest songs. Debated back and forth on the order and finally decided to do an  Up Beat – Ballad – Up Beat as our approach. 

What about deciding what kind of band you were going to use for this tour. Of course finances are often a consideration here, what with travel and accommodation costs.

For this tour, being an indie artist, money was very tight. We had many factors to figure out as for what might look best on stage and present me in the best possible way as well as weighting out the cost. As I am sure a lot of you know hiring musicians are not cheap! We thought at first a guitarist and keys with track would be good, and then it was like well maybe drums and keys with track are better. It was a big toss up. You had to think about the fact that drums are a big instrument to take on tour with you and would guitar be the best? We finally decided that the best thing would be to just have keys for an economical perspective and then the keyboardist can play the tracks on stage herself as well. Even though I usually play with a full band. 

What specific daily preparations did you make in terms of bringing your card and vocal chops up to speed?

Vocalizing and cardio would be for 40 minutes a day at least. I really had to make sure I was on top of that everyday because I had such a short time to get ready for such a huge gig! I also needed to actually run the show exactly how I was going to do it and exactly what I was going to say between each song so I didn’t have to think about it. You see a huge difference when you do all of those things. 


How did the tour dates go for you overall?

The tour went absolutely amazing! It was probably the best time I have ever had in my life. It was definitely a highlight in my career. I proved so much to myself and to others, that I was actually able to do back to back shows and handle my first tour! 

I know the tour was hugely successful for you and built a new fan base for your music across Ontario, what would you do differently next time in terms of prep?

Of course I wish I had had more time to prepare and be in even better shape then I was on tour, but that was the circumstances. Next time I probably would spend the extra money to have a full band on tour to have a better real and live show. But honestly otherwise I don’t think I would have changed really anything. 

What advice would you have for other artists who are doing multiple tour dates?

The best advice I can give is from what I have learned from my own experience. Give yourself enough time to be in the best shape overall with your voice, doing your cardio, and getting your band together. Be extremely organized even down to the littlest details and make sure everything is set in place so there is no stress or anything to worry about. I did all my planning right away and didn’t waste any time at all. The best thing I can say is you know yourself best and you know exactly what you need or at least you should! Make that a priority and everything will fall right into place. 

Check out Hilary's world online (see below) and watch for upcoming career strategy, voice technique and performance workshops at Singers Playground at   Singers Playground
Micah Barnes