VOICES | The Podcast for Singers, Actors, Public Speakers, & More
About This Show
Hosted by Alma Cook (@HearAlma), VOICES explores the worlds of singing & speaking. Find us in your podcast app today—or stick around here to browse the original blog posts, worksheets, & instructional videos crafted with performers like you in mind.
Most Recent Episode
How to get started in session singing & voice acting: Mella Barnes shares tips & experiences
4 days ago
Mella Barnes is a full-time session singer based in Nashville. As it happens, I’ve been looking to learn more about session work, commissioned songwriting, & voiceovers—so I loved having the chance to pick her brain about all of the above.
Born into a family of musicians and audio engineers, Mella got an early start in the world of session work: “I was a young teenager—I couldn’t drive yet, so my grandparents had to drive me around—but my cousins started saying, ‘Oh, I have a cousin who sings if you want her to sing this track for you.’ So my grandparents would drive me to my cousin’s studio to start doing stuff like that. And I wasn’t getting paid, so my grandparents were like, ‘Listen, we’re spending gas money to take you to these places, you need to start charging.’”
And now music is Mella’s main gig. She co-founded a company called Brainstamp that specializes in creating custom songs from start to finish—mostly, at this point, for people who want music made for special occasions like marriage proposals or Mother’s Day. Her partner takes care of the instrumentation and production, while Mella takes care of vocal arranging and the business side of things.
“I really believe that everyone has a song within them,” she told me. “But maybe they aren’t a musician or a songwriter. That’s where Brainstamp comes in.”
I asked Mella about her day-to-day and found out that she keeps a pretty steady schedule. She does most of her recording at night so that she can review and edit the next morning with fresh ears. Her afternoons are typically reserved for business stuff, accounting, etc. “It’s something I fell into, but I like having the overnight to walk away from the song and come back. I’ve always found that that works best for me.”
How to get started in session singing
I’ve done session work here and there, but I’d love to start doing more of it. I asked Mella for advice, and here’s what she recommended:
Don’t use Craigslist to find session work. It’s a flooded market, and you’ll often find that people aren’t willing to pay you.
When playing shows and open mics, announce that you’re available for sessions. Songwriters who need vocals for their demos sometimes scout open mics for singers who would be a good fit.
Mention session w