Do you have a signature sound? No? Better get one…

24 Sep

One of the biggest compliments I’ve ever gotten is when another singer asks me to produce them. It means a lot when people love what you do. The only problem is that when they say, “produce me,” it really means that they want what I consider to be my “signature sound.” A sound developed from my early childhood years spent listening to my mom Louise, Aunt Mary and Uncle Jimmy (at the time known as Whitney, Whitney & Whitney) harmonizing while rehearing for a gig or recording date, followed by 15 years singing in my 9 member family group, The Whitney Family. Topped off by a 1991 tour with Ray Charles as a Raelette (and singing the most difficult part, the 4th harmony). All of these influences converged in my little head, and now I sound like “Me,” an amalgamation of all that incredible harmonic foundation. It’s mine, and no, you can’t have it…

Remember back in the day when Babyface was THE go-to producer? Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Babyface. The only problem to me was that when you heard an artist he produced, you immediately knew it was his production. Why? Because they all sounded like him. And he sang on all their tracks. Cool I guess if that’s what you want. But why sound like him, when you can sound like you?

In these cookie-cutter singer times, I look for the originals. I’m old school. I remember when the WHOLE IDEA was to have your own sound. Remember when there was just ONE Stevie Wonder? Now so many male singers try to emulate him – all sad seconds – who, if they’d just sound like themselves, may actually be “special,” and not just a Stevie wanna-be.

The Raelettes - Paula Moye and Tracey Whitney

Raelette’s Paula Moye and Tracey Whitney Ray Charles 1991 tour.

When I toured with Ray Charles, I roomed with another Raelette, Paula Moye. Paula had a very distinctive way of doing her eye makeup. So unique in fact, that her boyfriend at the time didn’t want her sharing her secrets. “Don’t let them see you do it,” he told her. To him, that made her special. And she was absolutely lovely! But Paula’s secrets were safe with me: I had no intention of looking like anybody but Tracey…

It’s GREAT to love other artists! Necessary even. Others influence us ALL. The trick is to not be lazy, and get sucked into sounding like them. It takes effort to develop your own signature style. But it’s worth it. Otherwise, people will always say things like, “wow, you ALMOST sound just like Stevie.” And who wants to “almost” sound like Stevie?

Let me know how you’re making it in the music business! I’d love to hear your story.

Until next time, much love…



Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Music


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3 responses to “Do you have a signature sound? No? Better get one…

  1. Rodney Redden

    February 18, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    Informative and inspirational do you produce other artists?

    • makingmusicmyway

      February 18, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Rodney – I produce and arrange vocals!

  2. Robert J. Carmack

    February 23, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    Reblogged this on Hipster Sanctuary and commented:
    MY Good friend Tracey Doing her thing in the Southwest


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