Check out our interview with one of LA’s most recognized vocal coaches Kathleen Riggs.
As an expert in her field with over twenty years’ of success, Kathleen has been lauded by world-class superstar clients such as Dua Lipa, Ozzy Ozbourne, Madison Beer, Saweetie, Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, and acclaimed managers and producers such as Scooter Braun, Rodney Jerkins, Ron “Feemster”, Trevor Lawrence, Quincy Jones, Linda Perry, Corey Rooney and Dianne Warren to name a few.
What truly differentiates Kathleen’s teaching method from traditional vocal teaching methods is that her technique doesn’t discriminate towards any one genre and can be applied to all different styles and forms of expression – so whether it’s Opera, Pop, R&B, or Musical Theatre, her method delivers the same results to singers of all kinds.
Follow Kathleen @katykmusic
Hi Kathleen, please tell us a little about you?
Hi, I’m a 38 year old, professional vocal technique and vocal therapy coach here in Los Angeles. I grew up here in Los Angeles in a huge musical family. I have six brothers and sisters. My mom was an Opera singer and my dad a successful vocal coach. It was common to see and hear Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Madonna, Ray Charles, the Pointer Sisters, Tina Turner, Luther Vandross, Barbara Streisand, En Vogue and quite a host of other singers, actors, musicians, dancers, background vocalists and then also the every day aspiring singer too, come in to take lessons with my Dad. Growing up in such a way and a melting pot of a city exposed me to a lot of different people, culture and music I probably wouldn’t have been exposed to had I come from a small town. My house was always busy with music and lots of personalities coming in and out of the house where the voice studio was. I started singing when I was very young about eight years old. I loved singing all different genres of music. I’ve always been in love with music. My Mom and Dad caught on to my singing and started training me around then. At the end of high school while all of my friends were applying to colleges to attend I started sitting in with my father, taking notes and got my first clients. The rest is history. Teaching has been my sole career for 21 years.
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Singer, Teacher, Authentic
We’re sure you have been asked this million times but how did you get in the industry?
I was born into this industry. It’s been around me since I was in mom’s womb literally. She sang to me, and was herself auditioning for the Metropolitan Opera with me in her tummy. My Dad was a vocal coach and knew I had a gift that he set out to develop early on. Then as I got older he encouraged me to use my gifts to perform and teach the vocal technique he created. He has always been my biggest fan of my singing and teaching and has been my only teacher.
Describe your process once you start working with a client?
The process of a first lesson with a new client is to get a short background of the client, hear what their goals are and where they’re at mentally emotionally with their voice currently. I then do a vocal diagnosis to hear where the clients vocal weaknesses are. And then I start getting right into building in connection, range, style, vibrato, better tone. No time is wasted. And once the student feels the difference of what is achieved by way of the exercises, a new found hope, excitement and confidence comes. It’s really so cool to witness.
Tell us about some of the big names in the industry that you have worked with?
I’ve worked with Dua Lipa, Madison Beer, Nicole Richie, Tobey Maguire, Midland, Coco O, Brian Wilson, Ozzy Osbourne, Saweetie, Vampire Weekend, Hailey Whitters and the list goes on. I also teach a ton of up and comers! And I’m so excited for the world to hear their music!
What do you look for in new talent?
Only that they work hard, show up on time, are willing to do the vocal practice necessary to build in and uphold their instruments, get enough sleep and take care of their emotional and physical health. If they do these things we’re a match and everyone benefits and more quickly. These things all work together, we’re vocal athletes.
And do you have any artist in your bucket list to work with?
I would love to work with Alicia Keys, Chris Stapleton, James Blake, John Legend, London Grammar, Andra Day, Cynthia Erivo, Florence and the Machine… oh my God I could go on and on!
Tell us about your particular method?
The method I teach builds in one’s “middle” or “mixed” voice. Usually men and women run into vocal challenges when singing from their lower to higher register ie their chest to head voice. There is a strain or break in ones voice when navigating that middle territory and my job is to blend that area so that when the singer sings there is a seamless blend, connection from low to high with out any sudden changes in quality. My father originally came up with this vocal technique which I’ve taught forever now and I’ve since added in vocal Riffs & Runs to build in style.
Did you have any problems or challenges for your business during COVID, and how did you keep moving on?
Since March 2020 I’ve been online. I was already teaching for many years via Skype for international clients and then Zoom popped off. Clients call me for vocal lessons via FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, and WhatsApp. The only thing we ever need is our voices, great WiFi, my piano and of course figuring out time zones. I am so grateful to say it’s gotten busier during pandemic. Now instead of fighting traffic to come over or trying to navigate squeezing in a session before or during rehearsals or recording gigs clients just call in. Thank God!
What is fun and rewarding about what you do? And what’s not?
Hearing people do in their voices what they thought was impossible is the most rewarding and fulfilling part of my work.
What’s not great is when clients don’t practice because I can’t move forward if they don’t and then the process takes longer. Lucky to say that this doesn’t often happen.
What’s next for Kathleen Riggs in 2021?
2021 is really to just keep doing what I’m doing. I’ll be continuing to teach online and fingers crossed back in person come end of the year. I’ll be doing tons more online vocal workshops and definitely finding myself hanging out and hiking in the desert more. I love it there.
What is your favorite song? And why?
Anything by James Brown or Fela Kuti because it gets my body moving!
Best advice ever given?
Show up, do your best, and let God do the rest!
How’s a typical day in your life?
A typical day in my pandemic life looks like waking up early, meditating, exercising, and then feeding myself and my dog Miles breakfast. Then I head into teaching most of the day. When I finish teaching come the late afternoon I settle into cooking something up for dinner and attending an AA meeting. I’m 10 years clean and sober in recovery. I then listen to an audiobook or watch a new series and go to sleep.
What is your favorite song to belt out in the car/for karaoke?
Rocksteady by Aretha Franklin because I can kill it (in a good way) and Aretha is my all time favorite female vocalist.
What is your own definition of happiness?
Waking up clean and sober, calm and happy. Loving what I do, being able to share and transmit that. Being able to show up for others. My family and friendships. All of my bills paid. My dog Miles. Quiet at the end of my days. Food and sunshine and my clean house. Yes literally.
Do you support any charities?
Yes! The Alexandria House, Set For Life LA, Dine11, and various Recovery Houses for recovering drug addicts and alcoholics all here in Los Angeles.
Where can we follow you to learn more?
Quote: One Day At A Time.
Movie: I don’t have a favorite movie but my favorite movies are documentaries or comedies. Peaky Blinders has been my favorite series on Netflix.
Travel Destination: Next stop has got to be Italy or Greece for all of the culture and yummy foods!