Life as a backing vocalist – Nwabisa Meth
10 September 2015
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Hello and welcome to Old Mutual Live Radio, my name is Aphiwe Manono and we are in conversation with Nwabisa Meth who is a member of Joyous Celebration. She’s a backing vocalist and also a jazz musician. We’ve spoken about how she found herself in the City of Gold as a musician and the pros and cons of being a backing vocalist.
Nwabisa, I want to speak of some of the challenges that you have faced as a backing vocalist, be it with an artist that you’ve worked with or maybe within the group. What are some of the things that you have come across and that left a bad taste in your mouth?
Getting payment can be testing
Nwabisa Meth: Aphiwe, it has to be about money. You know, you find people that will make you wait forever for money and even when you call to find out what’s happening, it’s like you are bothering them. Even if it’s someone that you have worked with on this side, before they are an artist, on this side of being a backing vocalist. I always assume that people who have gone through this path, which is this side of being a backing vocalist, they would make better artists because they know the challenges that they went through.
But somehow it happens that they become even worse than everyone else and there are artists who would look down upon other people and forget the fact, forget that those people that they looked down upon, they played their music. So without those people they are basically nothing because it’s because of them that you are sounding the way that you sound and somehow they treat those folks badly.
AU: I was actually having a conversation with another backing vocalist earlier and he mentioned that people don’t realise that it’s 90% of blood, sweat and sometimes tears, of trying to get a song write for a particular artist or you know, whatever you’re doing. 10% is what the outside sees, what they think is glamorous, you being on stage with your outfit and you know.
Would you say this is correct and what are some of the reasons behind this, what are some of the things that people don’t know about the music industry that they should know before getting into it?
A lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes
NM: People don’t know, they just assume just because you are on that stage looking all hot and all glamorous, they think you are getting, I don’t know, millions. But you actually spend more than the money you are getting paid. Because you care about the way you look, because that’s how people perceive you, from the first time they lay eyes on you, before you even sing.
They look at you and they have something to say. You have to make sure that you look the part. You end up even spending more money than what you will be getting. So it’s not all glitz and glam and high up there.
AU: If you were to give advice to someone who is thinking of pursuing a career in music, what would it be?
NM: Honestly, I would say they must know exactly what they want, I would say, that’s the best I think, advice. You must know what you want to get out of it and it must be your passion, you must be passionate about it. Because when you go through all these challenges, when you look back, you look back and still know why you are there.
AU: So you need to be passionate about what you do as well.
NM: Yes, and understand that there are challenges like these and these, that we have mentioned.
AU: All right, Nwabisa, thank you for taking the time out to speak to us on Old Mutual Live Radio and we wish you all the best for your future and in your career.
NM: Thank you so much Aphiwe for having me.