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Mister Tim – Going Solo with VoiceLive 2 and VoiceLive Touch
Boldly going where no solo vocalist has gone before, Mister Tim is a solo vocal live-looping singer, songwriter, and performer who actively pushes the boundaries of the size and scope of sound and stylistic impact that can be produced by just one person and one microphone. Mr Tim proudly uses the TC-Helicon VoiceLive 2 and VoiceLive Touch to complete his sound and inspire new directions.
I have songs that were written based around cool sounds I found in the VoiceLive 2′s presets.
“Music was always around me while I was growing up. Mom and Dad played and sang in a folk music-like group together in the 60’s. Our family parties always included music on both sides of the family and my siblings all played in the band or sang in the choirs at school, so music just felt natural.
Showing a decent amount of aptitude for music, I attended the University of Utah where I switched from French horn to voice. I eventually attended the University of Colorado to study for a Master’s degree in choral conducting. All the time I was in school, and the few years between, I was creating, directing, and singing with a cappella ensembles (the most well-known being moosebutter), as well as with bands (ska, oldies, folk, bluegrass), in music theatre productions (Forever Plaid, murder mystery dinner theatre, specialty shows), and doing things like improv comedy training and drumming on junk (a STOMP-like percussion ensemble I started called The Bucket Brigade). Since 2005 I’ve created about a dozen new award-winning a cappella acts, including my solo live-looping project. My solo act came about because I wanted to gig out more than the singers in my groups did. I don’t play guitar or piano like most songwriters, so I had to find a way to be able to perform solo. Live-looping was the way, and it’s been very good to me. My myriad of other groups came about just because I am a compulsive group-starter.”
Recently, Mister Tim has been using the VoiceLive 2 and VoiceLive Touch to create and enhance his vocal sounds, “Greg Barker from VoiceCouncil Magazine told me about it when he was interviewing me about the moosebutter “Star Wars” video. At that time I was developing my solo show, and it was a revelation to have this amazing box that gave me a whole new palate of colours to work with. I’ve been actively following TC-Helicon and the VoiceLive products since then, so when I saw the Touch I went bonkers… schemed and schemed until I could get one, and I do not regret it.”
He continues, “The VoiceLive 2 radically changed what I was able to do as a solo performer. I was doing live-looping, but I was very limited because all my songs sounded the same. With the VoiceLive 2 I was suddenly able to change my sound, add textures and effects and create new and fascinating sounds that broadened the range of what I could do. I have songs that were written based around cool sounds I found in the VoiceLive 2′s presets. I have songs that work because of ‘tricks’ I can do with the VoiceLive 2. And all my songs just sound better because of the great VoiceLive 2 effects. With every song I sing solo, and most I sing with my groups, I slap the reverb and delay FX on to make it sound better.
I frequently use hard-tuned effects to create pitched drones, and sometimes as a ‘pitch pipe’ feature. I also use lots of filters, radio-like effects and HPF/LPF settings to give variety to the all-vocal loops. I can’t overstate how important it is to have more control over my sound on stage. I am a do-it-your-selfer, I taught myself audio recording, editing, live sound engineering, graphic design, video editing and more so I could do all these things myself. Being able to make great sounds and have total control (if I want it) over the FX in my performance… pretty sweet. The VoiceLive Touch appears that it will be just as, if not more, important to me if for no other reason than the looping ability is OUTSTANDING. Not to mention that the touch controls are sweet, the stand-mount system is brilliant, and the onboard sounds are fantastic.”
We asked Mister Tim how he would categorise his style of performance, “A cappella music is hard to categorize, since it is its own… thing, but it’s not really a genre since you can sing any style of music a cappella. I write and perform, solo or with groups, pop, rock, jazz, world, funk, classical, contemporary choral, and all kinds of mixes and matches of all of the above. My solo work tends more toward indie rock/funk, but there is a lot of acoustic singer-songwriter in it, even though I’m not really ‘acoustic’ and I don’t play an instrument.”
Mister Tim cites a vast range of influences from which he draws his inspiration – “Mozart, Bobby McFerrin, Midnight Oil, Hot Chip, The Moody Blues, Wynton Marsalis, The Beatles, PDQ Bach, The King’s Singers, Take 6, John Phillip Sousa, and countless composers whose music I’ve played/sung through the years in symphonic bands, jazz bands, orchestras, music theatre, and choirs.”
With regards to being a looping artist and what important staple skills this requires of a vocalist wanting to perform in this niche, Mister Tim expressed, “There are fundamental skills like internal time, ability to stay in a pitch centre and harmonise accurately with yourself – these are absolute givens. Unless you can do those things you can’t even claim to be looping. Other skills that make looping more than a gimmick would be the ability to think about a mess of different things at the same time, the ability to come up with repetitive songs that are still interesting and find creative ways to produce variety within tight constraints; ability to monitor your own volume levels and adjust as you input different loops. Also, the ability to make the often tedious activity of building loops seem interesting on stage.”
The VoiceLive 2 radically changed what I was able to do as a solo performer.
Mister Tim’s journey definitely takes him into a variety of performance situations, “In the last two weeks I’ve done an open mic night for 10 people, a recital hall for 30 people, school classrooms for 20-150 people, a college auditorium for 600 people and a community theatre for 50 people. I’ve been writing constantly since 1995, so writing is just part of my life. I carry a voice memo recorder around to record ideas, I spend hours at the computer notating, editing and developing songs. And I spend hours at the P.A. system, loopers engaged, working out sounds and ideas. I also listen to a ton of modern music, and write after the manner of things I hear that inspire me.”
When it comes to Mister Tim’s general philosophy on music, life and performing he wisely responded, “Anything good is accomplished in the doing. If you want to learn to write music, write music. If you want to learn how to perform, perform. Seek out guidance to help you improve in these things, but you don’t learn how to do them by learning about them, you learn how to do them by DOING them.
There is so much great music in the world, I sometimes get discouraged because I don’t want to contribute mediocrity, and I don’t want to waste my time doing something someone else is already doing. So I’m very careful that everything I write and put into my shows is meaningful to me, is something that I feel is unique to what I have to say about the world.
There are no rules: if it works, it works, whether if follows a formula or not. I want to be entertaining and to take an audience on a journey. I’m never going to be a Top 40 radio star, so why should I waste my time writing or recording that kind of music?
I also feel a deep connection between the ridiculous and the sublime. Comedy can teach important concepts. Serious music can have an element of humour. I think most intelligent people can handle the dichotomy of comedy and drama, and can deal with musicians spanning the range of human emotion from light to dark.”
You can keep up to date with what Mister Tim’s up to by connecting with him via the following links:-