Jai Ramage is a freelance Vocal Coach working in TV, theatre and the music industry. TV work includes ‘The Voice UK’ (BBC/ITV), ‘The Voice Kids’ (ITV), ‘Little Mix The Search’ (BBC) and ‘Change Your Tune’ (ITV). She has coached several successful pop artists and bands from the start of their creative journeys through to world tours and multiple albums, including artista like The Vamps, New Hope Club, The Tyne, Lucy O’Byrne and Tom Speight. She also coaches performers for leading West End roles and consults for several top theatrical agents. Jai is a Certified Master Teacher in Estill Voice Training and has a Masters degree in Professional Practice specialising in Vocal Pedagogy. She also manages female artist Flo Gallop and indie band Coral Palms. Her passion is empowering singers to move their careers to the next level by helping them reach their artistic and technical potential.
You are a Vocal Coach in the TV, theatre and music industry - how does the way you work differ from each field and do you enjoy one area more than another?
They are very different fields to work in and the demands on the singer differ hugely. In theatre the singer is usually playing a role so is preparing songs in a way that the director wishes them to be performed. They will also play many roles in a career that all require something different vocally. In the music industry singers need to be unique, distinctive and have a recognisable style and sound so there is more artistic freedom. They also need to be evolving versions of themselves too to keep people interested in them. On the reality shows the singers can be from all genres and our work is fast paced with them. Across all fields there is the thread of maintaining vocal health. I don’t think I prefer one over the other: I like the tradition, history and the artform in the theatre, the creativity and artistry in pop and the diversity of styles in TV. I find them all exciting environments to work in.
You have studied music and then moved into Vocal Pedagogy - what inspired you to take this particular route within the industry?
Just because you are good at doing something doesn’t mean you know how to teach other people how to do it. I was teaching performance and repertoire in a performing arts school in my early thirties and realised that I didn’t really know how to teach singing technique. In fact, I realised that I didn’t really know ‘how’ to sing, even though I had been doing for years. I had no idea how the voice worked and how we made sound. I felt that to be able to give the students the best guidance I could I needed to educate myself. I went on a course that introduced me to physiology of the voice production system and was hooked. I spent the next 15 years studying intensely to Masters level in voice science, research and pedagogy. For someone who was not interested in school beyond music and dance classes this was quite a change of direction and a massive learning curve.
You have been a Vocal Coach on talent shows like ‘The Voice UK’ and ‘The Voice Kids’. ITV - how does coaching adults differ from working with children in a high-pressure environment like this?
Most of the children don’t see it as high pressured. They see it as exciting. They can’t wait to get on the stage under all the lights and sing. They are used to learning so they soak up all coaching like sponges. This can make their development throughout a series huge which is very satisfying. They genuinely just want to sing because they love it. Their focus is so simple, so clear and effective. As adults we complicate everything, overthink it and often miss the ‘why’ we are doing it. You often have to get the adults in the right headspace before you can coach their singing. I enjoy working on both shows because adults and kids need a totally different approach to get the best out of them.
You also offer career coaching and artist development - how do you help singers and songwriters to move their careers to the next level?
In a bid for perfection singers and songwriters often procrastinate or let imposter syndrome take over. A singer’s instrument is part of their whole identity and their song writing a communication of their feelings. They are constantly leaving themselves open to criticism. It is very exposing. Alongside generating creativity and expression, in this day and age they often have to be all other roles too. Now there is the ability to self-publish, self-promote, self-market they are often trying to do all of this on their own. Having someone else break it all down into manageable chunks and give them some structure, direction and support can get them unstuck and move them away from overwhelm.
What has been your favourite project you have been involved in to date and why?
That is too hard…any project where the singer has achieved a success. Whether they have smashed a gig at the 02, posted their first YouTube cover, won a TV show, written their first song, landed a West End role, however big or small, they are my favourite projects!
From your own experience, are there any disadvantages / advantages to being a female Vocal coach or does it not make a difference to you personally?
I don’t think it makes a difference to me personally. Although, I am often in predominantly male environments in the music industry so you have to be able to hold your own and be up for a bit of banter. Maybe strength of character is more significant than gender.
What are you currently working on (if you can share) and how has all the upheaval of 2020 changed the way you are working?
Lots of the artists I work with have had tours cancelled so that part of my job is on hold for a while. Working online has enabled a lot of my work to continue though just in a different way. I am very grateful that we had fast speed broadband put in about a year ago as without that I would’ve been lost. I have even coached some recording sessions remotely, it’s amazing what technology allows you to do and a pandemic introduces you to! I am currently working on the auditions for Series 5 of The Voice Kids, a lot of which we have done online. I am about to start a new TV job early next year which I can’t talk about but is very exciting. I also manage a female singer called Flo Gallop and an indie band called Coral Palms who both have single releases out very soon so pulling that together is quite a process.
What type of music do you love listening to in your free time and do you have a favourite artist/band?
I love voices that are distinctive and unique, when the singer can be identified by their voice alone. Often the beauty is in the imperfection. For singing to be emotional it has to be authentic and emotion is not always pretty or perfect. These days I am drawn to male voices, I think because I can listen without comparing it with how it feels in my own voice. It gives me a separation from it. I love singers like Passenger and Hozier. I love that honest folk influence.
How do you unwind and how important is self-care to you?
I live in the countryside so I love to run with the dog and breathe in the fresh air. I don’t run fast or far and don’t try and beat any personal goals. I just love being out in nature, with no headphones! I must be the only runner who doesn’t want to listen to music. I love my job and am a bit of a workaholic so self-care is often neglected. That makes my morning run even more important.
If you could invite any 5 people (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would you invite?
Gene Kelly. I grew up on his films. I used to watch them with my Gran and Auntie Betty. He was so talented, charismatic and innovative, I would love to ask him what he would create with the technology available now. Ella Fitzgerald. She would have to sing for us though. I would love to hear that voice in person. Margot Fonteyn. She is pure class and I’d love to ask about her time in the Royal Ballet. Julie Walters because she would make everyone laugh and break the ice. My 14 year-old daughter as I don’t think I could deny her a chance to be in the room with such legends. It’s very showbiz. Can I invite political figures the following week?