Sing Sing: Antony Hegarty's Vocal Tips

Music Features Antony Hegarty
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Sometimes, when his performances are really on, Antony Hegarty enters a transcendent state “where you just feel like you’re aligned with all the stars and the heavens, and everything is exactly as it should be.” But those moments haven’t come easily. Hegarty—whose tremulous voice has become one of indie music’s most instantly recognizable sounds—says he learned to sing by emulating his favorite vocalists, and by continuing to sing even when it seemed he did not have the gift. On the verge of releasing Antony and the Johnsons’ startling new album, The Crying Light, Hegarty shared with Paste some soft-spoken, faintly British-accented singing lessons. —Nick Marino

SING NOW, WORRY LATER:  “A lot of artists that I know get really paralyzed in weird self-negation and self-criticism too early in the creative process. And it’s a battle for me—it’s a battle for everyone—to not censor oneself while one is still in the process of emerging. You just have to take the risk and emerge, and then later on—much later—you can decide whether it’s valuable, in your opinion.”

GET SOME NERVE: “If you create something and you’re really ashamed and embarrassed by it, oftentimes that’s a good sign. You’re taking a risk, but you’re challenging yourself to be more vulnerable or to put yourself out there. In that vulnerability is great strength.”

STICK IT TO ’EM: “If you just imagine your criticism, and you put it into a little bundle of sticks and you place that bundle of sticks a foot away from yourself, that space between you and that bundle of sticks is your creative space. How far are you gonna put it from you? You could set it a mile from you, and you could dance all around the countryside. Or you could glue it to your forehead and never be allowed to take a breath.”

BE PERSISTENT: “The only reason I’m a good singer is because I kept plowing away. I kept singing. I just kept trying at it. I got a report card in second grade that said, ‘If only his prowess matched his enthusiasm,’ for music. There’s no secret recipe for these things; it’s just about giving yourself permission. Creativity, it’s the essence of being a human being or being a manifest creature—every step we take, every word we utter is a creative gesture.”

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