Infectious managing editor Joe Ballard recently had the chance to speak with fast-rising New York-based soul singer/songwriter Vada March. In this exclusive interview, Vada speaks candidly about auditioning for American Idol and The Voice, what it’s like competing with a lineup full of metal bands, plans for a brand new EP, and much more.
I have to start by saying congratulations on achieving First Place at the audition round for Stand Against Suicide’s Battle of the Bands competition! Can you tell me a little more about the upcoming final in May and what it means to you to help raise awareness for suicide prevention?
Yes of course! The final is going to be on Saturday, May 9 and it’s just going to be me and six other bands. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be the only female and the only acoustic artist in the whole thing. It’s a bit intimidating being the lone singer-songwriter amongst so many amazing metal and hard rock bands, but I am incredibly excited to perform.
Raising awareness for suicide prevention is so important to me. Suicide affects everybody at some point in their lives, unfortunately, in some way, shape, or form, so it’s extremely personal.
I had no idea that it was mostly metal bands you were competing against! Playing for that kind of crowd and taking first place, you must have made an incredible impression. Were you nervous at all knowing you’d be performing for a crowd that was mostly watching metal bands?
You know, I had actually done this battle a couple years ago with a band I was with before my current project. It’s such a great gathering of local artists and it’s really amazing what such a small area has to offer. But yeah, before I went on, there was this great band playing and they were awesome. The whole crowd was so into it because they were all metalheads, and I was standing there with my guitar thinking “Oh my god, what have I done?” [laughs]
But when I got up there and played, it was really great. Some of them actually came right down to the pit and sat down, and I saw a couple lighters even though that’s frowned upon in that venue. It was really cool, and I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive group of musicians.
Staying on the topic of auditions, I know you’ve previously auditioned for The Voice and American Idol a few times. Can you tell me a little bit about those experiences and what lessons they taught you for the future, if any?
Of course, I’ve learned so much from those! The first time I auditioned for American Idol and The Voice was in 2012, and I had just graduated high school. I knew that I wanted to do it from the time I was very young but I didn’t really have any perspective of what the industry would be like outside of a very small town, because I’m from an incredibly tiny area.
So going to those auditions, the first couple times I was really excited, I was ready, I wasn’t really sure what to expect but I had read so many articles and blog posts about how they go down. The first couple rejections were a little harder to move forward from than the more recent ones but you have to take it in stride. You meet a lot of really cool people, and everyone there wants the exact same thing that you do, so it’s really nice to have that sense of community even though you are competing for a spot against each other.
I’ve learned that you just have to stick to your guns – be confident in what you do, and don’t let this girl over there who’s got this crazy voice affect your performance, because there’s only one you. And if you stick to your guns and do what you do, then it’s not going to matter.
As far as the audition process goes, did you find that there were any major differences between the two shows?
Yes! With American Idol, you step up to a table with three other people so there’s four of you, and there’s usually one or two producers there. You each step forward, you get a chance to introduce yourselves, say what you’re going to sing and they might ask you a couple questions. Then you sing your piece but they can cut you off at any given moment, after five seconds or 30 seconds, regardless of what you have to offer to that song, if you’re going to be a sound-alike [or] if you’re going to do your own thing and mix it up.
But with The Voice, you are taken into a specific room with one or two people in front like Idol, but it’s a private room. There’s ten of you that go in together, and everybody steps up, you get to sing your full verse and chorus without getting cut off, and everyone’s very supportive. You clap for everyone when they step up, clap when they sit down, and it’s overall a much more effective audition process in my opinion.
And finally, as far as auditioning for Idol, The Voice or any televised competition, what advice would you give to young aspiring singers who maybe aren’t sure if they want to take a chance in front of the whole country?
Just do you, and don’t worry about anyone else. Remember that in the end, only one person can win. It’s a place that is so difficult to get to, but you should also be confident enough in yourself and your own performance so that you can be happy with what you accomplish and can walk away proud of what you’ve done.
You’re also currently competing in the Vans Warped Tour’s 2015 Battle of the Bands for the chance to perform at the Darien Center, NY date on July 15. What would it mean to you to win that competition and perform alongside such an eclectic mix of artists on Warped Tour?
To win that competition would be so incredible! I know that’s so cliché to say but it would just mean that all of these things I’ve done – the small gigs, the open mics, everything like that – it would just be the ultimate accomplishment at this point in time. And just to be able to say “I played a set on Warped Tour,” when that tour already has so many incredible artists in their lineup…
To have that type of experience and play for all those new people, that’s the biggest thing for me. As a singer/songwriter, I write things that are real, I write things that relate to my life, that relate to the lives of people that I know and love dearly. So it would be really special to me to be able to play what I’ve written and [share] my stories with people who have no idea who I am. That’s my favorite part of playing shows in different areas – that you get to connect with all these new people. So yeah, it would mean a whole lot to me if I had the opportunity to play on Warped Tour.
Now I know you have plenty of past experience performing in bands and as a solo artist, do you have a particular preference for one over the other?
[Pauses] I had fun when I was playing in a band, because we were mainly a cover band and I got to sing a lot of classic songs; it was so much fun being able to go out a bar and play “Simple Man” [Lynyrd Skynyrd], and hear lots of people in the crowd singing along.
But I have to say that I do love playing solo, but it’s so different playing a cover versus playing an original because people don’t know it yet, and they maybe don’t get as excited or hyped up. So I have to be confident in what I’ve written, and be confident that I can portray it to all of the people watching. So they both provide very different types of challenges, but I enjoy them both.
Switching over to your own music, you’ve released a lot of acoustic singles while also doing acoustic covers of rock songs such as Paramore’s “Ain’t It Fun” and Radiohead’s “Creep”, with all of them receiving very positive reviews. When the time comes to record a new album, will there be some rock elements in your music or do you plan to stick to mostly acoustic elements?
As of right now, most of the stuff I write is acoustic because it’s just me. So I’ll write things or co-write things with other artists who play piano or play guitar, and that’s the main reason that everything’s been acoustic – just not having a group put together to record in a studio setting for a full band.
But there are especially a couple of songs that I put on the Warped [Battle of the Bands] site – “Fairytales,” which I released as an acoustic single, and a new one, “Downpour,” that I co-wrote with my friend Ryan – are definitely ones that I hear full band/rock. Especially “Downpour,” that one has such a powerful rock kind of hook to it that it would almost be wrong to not give it the full band experience!
But I do see and feel most of my songs as being mostly acoustic, maybe some light percussion in the back. I like all types of music and so I pull inspiration from so many different genres, so I feel that, when I have the opportunity to record an album and put out a mixed and mastered product, it definitely will have more full band/rock elements involved.
Speaking of covers, you recently did an excellent cover of “Uh Oh” by Kat Robichaud and the Darling Misfits that was even recognized and promoted by Kat herself. What is it about Kat and her music that inspired you to cover one of her songs?
I admire her so much, first of all, because she was uninhibited and she didn’t hold anything back in her performances. I loved that, and I loved how she sang Alanis Morissette, she sang Awolnation’s “Sail”…so when she released the news about making a new record, I thought “I have to be a part of this.” So I immediately joined in on the Kickstarter and when I got the album, I heard “Uh-oh” and I thought “Oh man, this is so great, it’s so catchy,” and for lack of a better term, it’s so balls-to-the-wall. I just thought it’d be so cool to cover that.
So I contacted Kat on Twitter, not expecting to get a response, asking if I could get the chords for that song because I really wanted to cover it. And within a day or two, she replied to me asking where to send it to my email address and then we corresponded a little bit as I was working on it. She and her husband were both so nice, and I still can’t believe that she shared it [the cover] everywhere, that was just so surreal.
Isn’t it awesome when artists really take the time to correspond with their fans like that?
Yes, and it’s so cool – when an artist writes songs, it’s very personal, so the fact that she [Kat] took her song that was so personal to her and was so willing to share that and excited to see someone else’s interpretation of what she was feeling at that time in her life is just really cool.
I think it takes a lot of guts to be cool with hearing someone else sing your song. I’ve had a couple of my friends who have co-written some of the songs with me, even just hearing them sing some of the lines, it’s gratifying but it’s also kind of scary because it’s almost your baby. But she was so supportive and so nice the whole time, she’s just a wonderful person.
Despite covering such a wide range of artists, the one element I think those covers and your originals have in common is the sense of classic soul that drives your voice every time. What artists and/or albums influenced you the most growing up?
Growing up, I listened to a lot of Statler Brothers, a lot of Eagles and Beach Boys, and Billy Joel was a big one. So I think that growing up and being exposed to so many different types of music from so many generations was a big factor in how I sing, how I write and how I feel things altogether. And being brought up in such a tight family environment and such a great community kind of plays into that, so it’s a combination of many different things.
Aside from performing in all these competitions, what else do you have in store for 2015? A little birdie tells me there may be a new EP on the horizon soon…
I’m really hoping so, yeah. I’ve written a lot since I’ve put out anything else and haven’t been in the studio since maybe 2013. I definitely had a small hiatus because I had a lot of other things going on in my life that I wasn’t as inspired to be a musician, and it was a really tough time. But I came through it and was inspired to start writing again, so I’m really glad that I came out of that and everyone’s been so supportive.
I’m very interested in doing a new EP, I’ve been playing lots of shows and performing in competitions so I’m excited to get working on some new things for people to listen to!
I know we touched on this a little bit earlier, but when the time to record does come, do you plan to have a full band with you or will it be a mostly acoustic setting with you and the guitar?
I’ve spoken with a few friends about potentially being a studio band for me. I’ve picked out a few people who are extremely talented musicians, and I’ve played them some of the songs, and they’ve heard them and liked them. So if I were to – or when, because it’s going to happen – when I record new music, I think I’ll definitely try to connect with them and see if we can get some full band stuff going. I think that’d be such a new element and such a different thing for people who have only seen me acoustic live and people who have only heard my acoustic stuff on ReverbNation, YouTube, etc. so I think it’d be really cool to release something really full and awesome-sounding, because I think we can make something awesome out of the ditties that I’ve written up. [laughs]
Oh man, I’m getting excited just hearing about all this, I love it!
I’m excited too! I’m really anxious to get back in the studio so I’m trying to make things work out as quickly as possible and I couldn’t be happier with how much support I’ve been getting lately. It’s just all been happening rapidly and after being stagnant for a little while, [but] from late last year to this year, has just seen so many elements, so I’m incredibly grateful for how things are going.
Thanks so much for taking some time out to do this interview! Any last words for all your lovely fans and the Infectious Mag readers out there?
I just want to say thank you for taking the time to get to know me a little better. And if you’ve been around for a little while, thank you so much for sticking around for the journey. I know there’s been some times that haven’t been as eventful as others, but I strongly believe I can make you all proud and keep things going so we can all have a good time, so thanks a ton!
Vada March is a versatile singer/songwriter from upstate New York whose artistic style has been favorably compared to the likes of Ed Sheeran and Alanis Morissette. You can check out her excellent cover of Paramore‘s Grammy-winning hit “Ain’t It Fun” in the video below.
Vada is currently competing in the Vans Warped Tour‘s “Battle of the Bands” for the chance to perform a set at the Darien Center, NY date on July 15 and is currently one of the highest-ranked female artists in the competition. Be sure to visit her official Battle of the Bands page and if you like what you hear, you can vote for her simply by playing and/or sharing her music on social media.