February 7, 2024

Ep #3: Talent or Training: What Makes a Successful Performer?

If you want to make it in the entertainment industry, whatever you’re trying to achieve, how far can you go on natural talent alone? Some performers have impressive natural gifts, but in truth, you can teach pretty much anybody to sing. So, is natural talent more important than training?

If you have a dream inside of you and you feel pulled toward performing but you aren’t sure if you’ve got what it takes, today’s episode is for you. In my experience, natural talent will take you so far. But a career as a performer will throw unexpected challenges your way, and your talent alone might not be enough to get you through the toughest times.

Tune in this week to discover why natural talent will take you so far, but if you want to have a thriving career where you get the gigs you really want, you need a little extra help. I’m sharing the most impactful thing my first coach said to me, showing you how to treat yourself like a business and create a career that’s in alignment with what you want, and you’ll learn why some level of training is a non-negotiable for performers.

To celebrate the launch of the show, I'm giving away three singer’s essentials baskets to three lucky listeners who follow, rate, and review the show. Click here to learn more about the contest and how to enter!

What You will discover:

  • What I learned as a child from studying the best performers in the business.
  • How natural talent took me pretty far, but it can’t prepare you for everything.
  • Why, as a performer, you are a vocal athlete.
  • The biggest differences between natural performers versus vocal athletes.
  • What changes when you have a coach in your corner as a performer.
  • Why starting training now will save you challenges in the future of your career.

Listen to the full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:


Welcome to The Confident Performer, the only podcast that guides ambitious, driven performers and entrepreneurs to show up authentically and confidently both on and off stage. If you are ready to make an impact in your life and community and start living your most amazing, empowered life, you are in the right place. You already have what it takes to make it, you just need to see it. And I’m here to show you how. You ready? Let’s go.

Hi, this is Amy Adams and welcome to episode three of The Confident Performer. Today I’m talking about natural talent versus training and what that means in the entertainment industry and how far you can truly go just with your natural God given or however universe given talent, whatever you believe in. It’s very interesting because in coaching I worked with a lot of different people who have an amazing gift naturally. And they will come to me, a lot of times they’re very young. And it’s very cool to kind of see how they kind of navigate their natural abilities.

And it’s very fun to kind of tap into what their possibilities and what their truest and greatest potential is and their overall capacity for greatness. And then I’ve had a number of people ask, “Can you teach anyone to sing?” And the answer is, yes, pretty much. So when people come to me and they say, “I have always wanted to sing and I just, I don’t know if I’m any good or my uncle told me that I sound terrible and to never sing. And so I just kind of stopped singing when I was younger.” And they really kind of committed to whatever their uncle said, that being the truth for them, and they just stopped pursuing their love or their interest.

And in that, I always love working with those types of people because you get to see what they’re made of and almost that big giant beautiful worthy dream inside of them. And I want to encourage, if you have that dream inside of you, if you have that almost kind of the heart pull, or the calling of, hey, you should try this because you may be really good at it. Or you may be mediocre at best. You really love it and you’ve never gotten professional training, so how do you actually even know?

And when I was a young artist, almost for the first 24 years of my life, and I started professionally performing when I was 16. But the first 24 years of my life, I truly had no real professional training. I remember I went to a few lessons when I was younger and worked with a wonderful, really sweet coach, his name was Don Chase, and he was one of the first people I’d ever worked with when I was really young. And then we really truly could no longer afford his services.

And so it was one of those things that I just kind of told myself, you know what? I’m going to study and I’m going to kind of teach these things to myself. Because I have to learn on my own independently because our finances, they wouldn’t allow for me to do it any other way. And so I studied Celine Dion, and I studied Whitney Houston, and I studied Mariah Carey. And I literally listened to them, morning, noon, and night. I studied Julie Andrews.

I studied the nuances of how they used their voice and there’s certain components of where the voice resonance was coming from. And it was magical when I was a kid to kind of study that. And then to later learn those concepts and truly what they were as an adult was really, really, really fun. But I mentioned the kind of natural talent, God given talent training is a lot of times people would say, “Wow, you are really, really talented.” And I kind of would be like, “Oh, thanks.” And they would instantly ask, “Are you trained? Are you professionally trained?”

And I actually had a relative sense of pride and, “No, I’m not professionally trained. This is my natural talent. This is what God gave me.” And I talked in my earlier episodes about highly practiced skill. And it’s very interesting because how far can natural talent take you? Well, I had to learn that the hard way. And it wasn’t until I had my first injury, my first vocal injury when I was 25. And I remember I was on tour, the North American tour for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I’d actually signed a two year contract. And about nine months into that two year contract, I vocal hemorrhaged.

And I was singing in San Antonio, Texas. And it was basically a blood vessel kind of popped through my vocal folds and vocal hemorrhaged. And during the rehabilitation process for that was when I really had to kind of learn and realize, natural talent can take you pretty far. I mean, I had made it to the top 10 of American Idol. I had done some great things professionally since I was 16, but never for that long haul.

And so when you have eight shows a week and you’re flying on a Monday, and you arrive, and you get to work straight away and you’re flying and traveling. And I actually had a baby at the time. So I had traveled with a nanny and a four month old and it was really hard. And kind of learning that angle and learning that lesson the hard way was probably the most pivotal moment of my career, and I am grateful for it.

But it is one of those things where I work with artists so much and it’s one of the first things I focus on is the overall vocal health. What does it mean to really, truly nurture and grow and train a vocal athlete? Because that’s what a professional performer is, you are a vocal athlete. And it is incredible when you can see someone who’s gifted and talented and really that highly practiced skill comes into play.

And you’ve been training artists since they’re five years old, six years old, seven years old. And that’s obviously very young to train because the vocal manipulation of the folds and muscle utilization and all the things that go into it. You can’t necessarily do active manipulation when the kiddo is that young. But it’s really kind of fun to just kind of see what the natural God given talent is and then to work with artists who are just incredible vocal athletes.

Now, the year that I was on American Idol was season three, and talk about vocal athletes, Jennifer Hudson was one of the most amazing vocalists on our season and incredible and obviously her accolades of success now. Anybody that knows any industry things are very aware of her and her capacity for greatness and excellence. And then Fantasia Barrino, which actually she has a movie coming out and absolutely watched her. I remember when I was on tour, certain parts of the night I’d have to be on a number nearing that and right after that.

And I would watch her from the side of the stage and every single time she would perform, she would give it all. And it was just, I mean, I found myself a number of times, I mean, we did what’s called one night bangers where you’re just in a different city every single night. And you get on the bus, tour bus and you’re driving in and you’re in one city that night. And then you wake up and you’re in another city the next day and then you do a show. And she was phenomenal. She is phenomenal and just a super, super, very kind, also genuine person and really, truly, I think a magical person too.

Anyway, so obviously catch that movie that she’s in The Color Purple produced by the one and only Oprah. But anyway, those types of individuals I mentioned, just straight up vocal athletes and brilliant, brilliant vocal ability and skill and just impressive. So when you’re at that level and that status, that kind of sustainability, being able to maneuver, manipulate and still actively sing very healthily is so important.

And that is what I want to encourage each and every single performer. If you are listening to this podcast and you have not found a coach, find a coach. One of my favorite things that my first coach ever said to me was, “Treat yourself like a business, get paid like a business. Treat yourself like a hobby, get paid like a hobby.” And when you take pride in who you are and what you’re trying to achieve in your dreams and what you wish to accomplish, the excellence will follow with consistent work and training, the excellence will follow.

And again, I referenced it again in an earlier episode. When you are going toward your goal and you don’t stop, you don’t give up, then you make it. Do you make it? You make it. That is the most exciting thing. And every single person’s career is different. Every single person’s career looks different. And outside looking in, it looks like a certain thing to you, but you never know the offers people have received. You never know the offers people have turned down. There’s actually a few different reasons I won’t do specific shows. I won’t do certain jobs.

And everyone will have this kind of internal kind of either guide or compass or desire or platform. If you’re living in alignment with yourself and your honest true self and you commit to, you know what, I’ll pretty much do these types of roles, but I will never do something like that. It’s kind of cool to kind of maintain your career and even navigate your own career in that way. And you really end up doing the things that you love doing because you can say no sometimes and that’s a fun place to be in.

Now, the natural talent versus training. I am always going to be an advocate for training. And it is because when you’re nursing that vocal injury or you’re rehabbing the vocal folds, you’re relearning how to speak. I mean, I had some of the best individuals helping me. I had my doctor, Dr. Sugarman in Beverly Hills. Dr. Burke actually at UCLA, did my surgery and Carol Tingle was my rehab specialist for vocals. And it’s so wonderful when you have a team just nurturing you and kind of loving you and supporting you back to health. It’s really, really wonderful.

But those types of things you’ll never even have to face if you begin that training early. If you begin the rigorous training that is necessary, especially to do this as a profession and to really, truly take yourself seriously and nurture your body. I do want to make one mention. I always encourage a steam, a nice healthy steam on your vocals. I don’t necessarily encourage nebulizers.

And the nebulizer solution or the saline solution goes directly into your lungs and sometimes the particles if the machine or whatever it may be is not as clean as it could be or sanitized appropriately. There are particles that can get in the nebulizer and actually get in your lungs and transfer to the lungs. And sometimes there’s been great cases where they have given people pneumonia. And there’s been a story of a soprano where it ruined her career. And that’s just stuff I don’t ever recommend or encourage for ongoing.

Now, steaming, I absolutely recommend a good steam. And I typically will steam my vocal folds before performing and it’s so wonderful for the vocal fold lubrication and just the overall just kind of any of my sinuses that are activated or allergies or allergens that are kind of sitting in my nasal passage or even potentially in my throat. I am able to kind of get those out with a good steam right before my warmups and right before my stretching before a show. So keep that in mind.

I know the nebulizers are ultra popular, so I mean I absolutely may not be throwing out a popular opinion. But sometimes what’s popular is not always right, people. So anyway, keep that in mind.

Now, in following your journey, decide, hey, am I going to try to do this career thing? Am I going to try and jump in? And should I go and go to college for this? Or so many people have told me, going to a college like this is kind of a joke and my mom and my dad don’t take my love of the arts seriously or my Aunt Janice is always asking me, “When are you going to get a real job?” And it’s so funny because I’ve actually had people say, “What else do you do?” And I obviously now, being back home and loving my community because I love my community so much. I do so many things in my community.

But performing, I mean, that was my life, that’s what I did and that’s how I made my living and that’s what I still do. And so I just strongly encourage you, if that dream is inside of you and it lives inside of you, you deserve to go and try. And I always want each and every single person to know, again, your dream is yours and you are worth your dream. You are worth following it, chasing it, however that may look. It does not have to look like the person’s next to you.

Or I went to school with this person, and we always sing in the school plays together. And so she’s going to this college, and I have to go to this college. And then she gets into a program, and you don’t get in. And I’ve had some artists say, “Oh, my gosh, it feels like my life is over.” And your life is really truly just beginning at that moment. And that kind of a journey jolt is so good for you. It’s so good for your growth and it’s so substantial for what is next in your life, in your personal journey, because it will never look like anyone else’s.

I always say comparison is death. And so truly do not compare yourself to anyone. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is the person you were yesterday. Being better today than you were yesterday is the only focus you should have. Now, I have so many more kind of loves and topics and things that I cannot wait to share and continue to share on this podcast because we can go super deep, and we can get to the heart of the matter. I always reference, I’m not a small talker. I don’t do small talk. I don’t sit and talk about the weather. It’s naturally just not what I like to do.

And so I actually sometimes would rather just sit and watch people talk amongst themselves. But if we’re talking real talk, I am all about that jive. So stay tuned for more episodes. And really, we jump in, we get to the heart of the matter. And I always will tell you every single day, you wake up if you have a dream inside of you, if you have a calling, if you have a desire to even try a thing. Everything in life is an idea. Everything in life is made up, it is all made up. And I always say, no matter what because it’s made up, write your own way. It is so worth it.

Thank you for tuning in. Please be sure to like and to share and to do all the things and go over to amyadamscoaching.com. Find out more information about the podcast and episodes that we have in the future and the continued growth. But please, just share, any performer that’s in your life, this may be helpful for them. And the journey is truly not a race. It is a marathon at best. And it is just so important that each artist knows they are on their own individual journey, that is like no one else’s. Thank you so much, take care and be well.

To celebrate the launch of the show, I'm going to be giving away three singer’s essentials baskets. That’s right, count them three, to three lucky listeners who follow, rate, and review the show. It doesn’t have to be a 5-star review, although I sure hope you love the show. And if you don’t, I’ll absolutely haunt your dreams, I mean in a fun way. I want your honest feedback so I can create an awesome show that provides tons of value.

Visit amyadamscoaching.com/podcastlaunch to learn more about the contest and how to enter. Be quick! You don’t have long. I'll be announcing the winners on the show in an upcoming episode.

Thank you for listening to today’s episode of The Confident Performer. If you want to learn more about living your truth and showing up as your most authentic, beautiful self, visit www.amyadamscoaching.com. See you next week!

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