Britt Connors felt it deep down in her soul. She knew she was born to make music and her audiences are glad that she followed her calling. As a certified Pilates instructor, she’s learned how to use her voice effectively, practiced her guitar chops, and written some wonderful songs. Life is good for Britt Connors.
To learn more about Britt Connors, check out her website.
Here’s a video of Britt Connors singing with her band Bourbon Revival.
Your biography states that you came back from college in Ithaca, New York with the dream of becoming a singer-songwriter and playing at Boston-area clubs. Had you dabbled with singing and playing during your years at Ithaca?
I went to college only knowing I wanted to sing… somehow, some way! I had never written a song and never learned guitar but had played piano since first grade, mostly to learn some theory and make learning songs easier. I majored in vocal performance and sang mostly classical music, art songs, some opera… even though my idols had always been singer/songwriters and jazz singers! I was really lucky that my teacher for all four years at Ithaca loved jazz and some pop and encouraged me to branch out beyond the normal classical repertoire, so I got to incorporate that into my curriculum and recitals instead of always feeling the outcast that I was in the opera and classical world. But, graduating with a degree in vocal performance certainly doesn’t get you a job, and I felt totally lost when I was finished. I taught voice lessons for a year with very talented kids and teachers in Ledyard, CT and I think I learned more than most of my students. I enjoyed it on many levels, but I knew it wasn’t my calling and that something was missing. I was dying to learn to write songs and perform, and I knew that some of my favorite people had gotten started in the Boston music scene… so I up and moved with no real plan, hoping that proximity would somehow breed inspiration!!
What musical inspirations did you have as a singer and as a songwriter?
I grew up singing every word to just about every James Taylor tune I heard… I was definitely drawn to strong melodies and harmonies by CSN(Y)… but I also love to rock. A good groove is as important to me as a good melody – I loved Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Linda Ronstadt, Bill Withers… Eva Cassidy had a huge influence on me in the way she was able to interpret a song and deftly switch from heart-achingly beautiful to bad-ass rocking blues… Then, I started to pay more attention to song craft and fell in love with Ellis Paul, Jonatha Brooke, Martin Sexton, and Deb Talan (of the Weepies) to name a few.
You’re the first certified Pilates instructor – musician I’ve ever interviewed. From what I understand about Pilates, there’s a big emphasis on breathing which I’m sure must have helped you in your singing career. If you had some words of wisdom to bestow to those learning how to sing, what would you advise them about breathing?
Great question. Yes, see above about “no plan” when I moved to the Boston area! Having danced through my youth and knowing I had a strong interest in fitness and movement, I got certified to be a personal trainer then fell in love with Pilates. There is definitely an emphasis on breath, and the funny thing I realized after doing it for a while was that my Pilates teaching felt a lot like my voice lesson teaching. With core strength in Pilates or “core” technique in voice… comes freedom. I essentially lost my singing voice for a depressing year and a half before releasing Warmer Season, and I had to go back with an incredible voice teacher to relearn some things about breathing myself. It’s given me a deeper understanding about both Pilates AND singing along with the realization that many singers tend to over-breathe and almost hyperventilate! We all gotta exhale strongly sometimes 🙂
How did you get involved with the Compaq Big Band where you sang jazz and American songbook standards?
If I recall, my mother saw an ad or heard through the grapevine that they were looking for a vocalist, so I auditioned and got the gig. I doubted myself going into it because even though I knew many of the songs and had grown up loving jazz and “torch” singers, I had a pretty small voice. But, we sometimes rise to the occasion, and I think singing over a 20-piece band brought a lot of confidence and felt quite powerful sometimes!
Fast forward and you’ve now got two albums of your own! What have you discovered about yourself as you’ve written and recorded and played your own songs before the public?
Oh man… what HAVEN’T I learned?! At first I think I felt painfully vulnerable… I just love songs so much, but I can’t sing one if it doesn’t move me. It felt easier at first to hide behind other people’s written emotions. But, then I opened Pandora’s box, and it’s been the best therapy to write and record, even if the song doesn’t seem like it’s about me… it’s fascinating that when I think I’m writing about one situation or person or relationship… other experiences seep in and I realize the song has something completely different to say. My favorite thing is when listeners tell me that one of my tunes hit them in a way I didn’t expect.
Are you a disciplined writer? Do you challenge yourself to write often?
Writing is both the most fulfilling and the most torturous task for me!! I find that I can’t make myself write when I’m too busy with my Pilates teaching role or even the “business” end of music. I have to make spaces where I have a whole lot of time and can set aside my business mind and delve into musical creativity. I do try to do some sort of writing most days, even if it’s stream-of-consciousness blabber!
Is guitar your instrument of choice? Do you play anything else or aspire to play anything else?
I’ve played piano all my life (though I should use the word “play” loosely!), but when I discovered the guitar, it opened up a whole world for me and it’s my writing instrument of choice. And, I now have an electric guitar in my possession and am quite enamored… so, watch out 🙂
If you had to describe your music in one sentence, what would you say?
How ’bout it’s got a little bit of everything, so I’ll sum it up in one word: “Y’all-ternative”.