The Possibilities of Technology
The use of the loop pedal allows McFerrin to conjure complex tracks from her a cappella harmonies. She states that her approach to singing is influenced by the use of technology mostly in terms of how she sequences her songs: “When I compose these pieces, I make all of the layers and then I have to figure out what order I’m supposed to sing them in – not only from an interval standpoint of what’s the easiest way to find my next note – but also how can I build this so it sounds most interesting.”
In addition, she appreciates the convenience of the loop pedal for touring: “I just have the one pedal and it fits in a backpack – everything I need to perform fits in a backpack”. Its use offers her a lot of room for experimentation: “I’m able to use my voice in a more technological realm outside of any other instruments, so I think it’s pretty cool.”
The Voice As An Instrument
With a cappella recordings, there are no produced beats to build on, so McFerrin starts from scratch and creates that base herself with her voice. For her a cappella tracks, she records each track twice, doubled and panned. As a result, for some of her songs such as “Insane”, which has ten layers, twenty tracks need to be recorded, not including the lead and background vocals.
Also when singing more traditional songs with lyrics rather than a cappella, the singer regards her voice as an instrument: “It’s the first instrument, the one we get to carry around with us all the time. So, there’s nothing that I don’t approach from the standpoint of it being an instrument.”
The Calming Powers of Singing
What McFerrin loves most about singing is that music helps calm her mind down and brings her into the present: “Being on stage and singing is one of the most present feelings that I have”. Feeling connectivity with the audience is a big factor that plays into this. “There’s nothing like getting that feedback back and sharing that energy in the moment”, she says.
Currently, McFerrin is working on a non-a cappella record, a five song EP produced by her brother. We’re excited to see where her path will lead her in the future!
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Read the full interview with Madison McFerrin, which was published in SHURE’s LOUDER magazine here.
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