Saturday, 16 March 2013

CYNTHIA ERIVO is in the ESPspotlight...

Flashback roughly two and a half years, to a time when Yours Truly attended a sold-out Mike Hough concert at O2 Islington one warm July evening.

Before I had even entered the packed out auditorium full of 'Houghlians', I heard the most amazingly beautiful, female voice that I had come across in quite some time. She launched into a rendition of Frank Ocean's 'American Wedding' that still sends chills through me when I recall it. I never forgot the name - in fact from that moment forward, I have just been waiting for the perfect opportunity to get her in the #ESPspotlight.

This young lady is a force to be reckoned with folks. She's got pipes that can lead you into danger if you let them. The epitome of talent in the recording arena, and also on the nationwide stage - she's fresh off the Sister Act tour, where she played the lead role in the stage production, under the helm of none other than the legendary Ms. Whoopi Goldberg herself! I'm not keeping you from her a second longer - Miss Cynthia Erivo kicks off Performance Week for March Music in the ESP spotlight...

Welcome Cynthia! I'm really excited to finally have you on, having been blown away by your performance supporting Mike Hough over a year and a half ago! Thank You for your time. I'm going to dive straight into the good stuff...

1. For those unfamiliar, would you please introduce yourself and what you do in your own words?

Cynthia Erivo

Well, My Name is Cynthia Erivo and I am a singer and an actress who has played many venues all over the UK as myself and a plethora of other characters including Deloris Van Cartier (the Whoopie Goldberg role) in the UK and Ireland tour of Sister Act.

2. You’re a RADA Alumni – as a former Stage School Child myself, I think you view and approach Music differently once you make that transition from listening to performing. What would you say is the most valuable lesson in the classroom and how does it compare with the biggest lesson you've learned since getting ‘on the job’, so to speak?

Well RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) isn't a stage school it’s a Drama school and focuses on acting and the art of it, singing is something I've done since I was 5, so listening and performing go hand in hand, listening is what makes a good performance, at least that’s what I think.

I learned pretty fast that being on stage, doing a show, acting, singing is all about communication. Putting your message or your point across and being willing to accept the reply from whoever's on stage with you, or whoever's in the audience. If what you do is one-sided, you might as well not be there.

You are very kindly kicking off ‘Performance’ Week in my month-long, March Music Special, so thank you for that first of all. Aside from wanting to talk more about your talent anyway, you are the perfect person to start with though, because you cover two areas rolled into one. You've supported American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino not once but twice on tour, and you also played the lead role of Deloris Van Cartier in the UK & Ireland Tour of 'Sister Act', under the helm of the one and only Whoopi Goldberg – we'll come to that in a second!

3. First - Stadium vs. National Theatre Tour. Can you describe those experiences? Did they compare in anyway? What were the biggest contrasts apart from the obvious?

Well to be honest, they are both as scary as each other; you're in front of thousands of people and you are LIVE!!! No hiding! I think I love the thrill more than anything and the energy you get from a live audience it’s electric; it means that every night is different and it keeps me on my toes!!!

The only real difference is what I'm doing on stage and I guess when it’s just me, I'm completely exposed.

4. Those were two, very big names that you worked with in quite a short window of time. Please talk through your experiences with both, what are some of the lessons that working with professionals of their calibre has taught you, and how have you applied what Fantasia and the incomparable Ms. Goldberg taught you in your career to date?

Honestly, I only met one of them - Whoopie, she told me to "rock it and have fun", so I did.

Fantasia rushed past with her bodyguards, on and off stage and said nothing, so that gig, I did for me and I swore to myself that if ever I did a concert I would make a point of meeting the support acts, because that job is hard and scary.

I learned that hard work, kindness and fun go hand in hand.

One of the things I use this blog for, is to shine a realistic light on what it really takes for aspiring artists to reach their goals. It’s all very well seeing the glitz and the glamour, but there is little highlight on the tougher parts.

5. What did you find most difficult about performing in both avenues and how did you overcome those issues? Is there anything that you wish you would have handled differently?

When it comes to the theatre the hardest thing is keeping up your stamina and staying well, which at first glance seems simple, but when you're on 8-9 times a week, it's hard and you learn how to make a conscious effort of maintaining both!!

The confidence to ask for what you need took a while to rear its head, and I mean from asking about the sound to what you need to keep you and your voice healthy, these things are important! Just as important as graciousness (which by the way is extremely important).

I wouldn't handle anything differently. If I did, I wouldn't have learned anything.

To grow you have to learn.

Another area that doesn't have a lot of focus for aspiring artists is Management. I get a lot of enquiries from some very talented people who didn't start out from the professional route. They have the talent, but have no idea how to get started.

6. How did you go about obtaining both bookings? Can you talk through the process of securing your representation? Did you find them, or vice versa? How many did you go through? In a nutshell, what’s involved in the signing process?

I went to a Drama school, drama schools tend to put on plays and/or showcases - that’s where my agent and I found each other; she takes the bookings and keeps me on the straight and narrow. Up until recently, I took all my music bookings but now, for the meantime, my agent handles it all.

So I guess for music, I'm 'unmanaged' but managed. Management is a relationship so it’s really about finding a connection and building on it, when its right, you’ll know. 

7. We’ve established that you’re also an unsigned recording artist. How do you juggle that whilst fulfilling stage commitments too? Do you have to put one on hold to focus on the other or are you doing them simultaneously?

I work hard, so it all runs alongside each other, simultaneously.

8. This one’s for me personally! As I mentioned earlier, I've seen you perform and caught quite a few of the performances you've done online now as I got down to the business of research. I heard a lot of different styles and influences in those!

Please name 3 artists who have influenced you and in what way they’ve affected your style?

Brandy - vocal gymnastics
Annie Lennox – haunting melodies
Aretha/ Ella – vocal power and control

So much more but you only asked for 3.

9. With the experience that you've gained since graduating, what’s the biggest word of advice that you can impart to those starting out now, and what you tell yourself if you could go back to when you started out?

Be yourselfdon’t be afraid to know and say what you want and enjoy yourself.

I’d tell me to embrace my vulnerability it's gotten me a long way.

10. Finally, what’s next for you?

More writing, maybe a little single release, can’t say anymore than that or I'll get into trouble, but you’ll know soon enough xxx...


And there you have it! With massive thanks to Cynthia for gracing the blog.

You can connect with this extremely talented Miss and find out her latest news via her Social Media Catalogue:

Catch her next live performance at Vocals and Verses: Two Year Anniversary on Wednesday 24th April - full details are available via the Facebook Event Page.

Don't forget to check in tomorrow for the latest 'Lost In Music' Special AND the chance to win yourself some goodies courtesy of lil young me...

Until the morrows folks!
ES ;)