Peter Vox meets John Farnham!
IMAGINE — MEETING YOUR HERO!
Who is your hero? Don’t reach far — just imagine meeting this one special person, who has been a major influence in your life. What would you say, how would they react? Are they anything like their image on stage and in the media?
One if these life-changing moments happened to me about a month ago.
Obviously, being a singing teacher for the past 26 years, and performing for the better part of your life, you’d always have different idols and people that you look up to as vocalist. Here, in Australia, the number one vocalist is called “The Voice”, it is Johnny Farnham.
I’ve had a lot of heroes growing up: Freddie Mercury, Aretha Franklin, Ronnie James Dio, Bono from U2, Paul McCartney, John Lennon – these are just some of fantastic people I have always looked up to. But John Farnham was the major influence, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him about a month ago.
WOULD YOU KEEP YOUR COOL, OR FLIP OUT?
I was backstage at the Croxton Park Hotel, seeing one of my students and good friends Clint Boge from THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT. RIVAL FIRE was supporting THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT that night – it was the second night, all sold out. John Farnham’s son Rob is the lead singer of RIVAL FIRE – fantastic band, I highly recommend that you check them out! They are especially great live.
To this show I took Mark — a student of mine, who is a huge fan of THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT. He’s got a disability, so I have arranged for us to watch the show from the side of the stage. After RIVAL FIRE had finished, we came to our spot – and, lo and behold! – who is already there, but John Farnham himself.
So, I introduced myself to John, saying, “Hi John, how are you doing?” And he was super-nice, replying “Good, mate, how are you? Nice to meet you!” And I blurted out, “Nice to meet you?! You’re my all-time vocal hero, the best voice Australia has undoubtedly produced to date, and, probably, will ever produce, and you’re saying it’s nice to meet me?!” Inside, I was completely flipping out, wanting to go, “I am not worthy, I am not worthy” – but common sense prevailed 🙂
I did asked him if we could take some photos, and he was more than obliging. After the photo session, I said to John, “I am so bloody nervous, mate!” And he made me feel at ease, telling me, “Don’t be nervous, I am just like any other bloke. I always have a wine, a smoke, a good laugh…” and then – well, I won’t repeat what he said after that! Anyway, after he made me feel very comfortable and relaxed, I just went “You, little beauty!” – and, obviously, with all my heroes, I’ve already thought of things that I would like to ask them as a singing teacher and as a vocalist, and I am sure that you do, too!
SMOKING, DRINKING, WARMING UP
So, my first question was, “John, do you still smoke?” And he said, yes – about four little cigars a week (wow, one of my other favourite singers, Bono, also smokes).
And when I asked him, “Do you drink much?” he replied that he has a red wine every now and then.
My third question straight away was, “John, what’s your pre-gig preparation? What do you do before the show to get your voice sounding amazing?” Turns out, he just sings before the show to warm up – that’s what he does personally. I always do some scales and then sing, but then everyone has their own routine, right? And that’s John Farnham’s – and who’s to argue? He’s got an amazing voice, and that’s what he does to warm up.
I then asked him what does he do to cool down — and he doesn’t do anything special, he basically just had water and talks – and that’s what he does after a show.
While we were conversing, he did mentioned that he had a show the night before and I said “John, your voice sounds great, it’s not hoarse… it sounds fantastic! You basically pull up well after all the shows…” and he basically just looked at me, shaking his head and goes “no problem” and I said “Wow! That was just so fantastic”. His speaking voice was great, his singing voice always pull up well after shows and that just goes to do with great technique and great support. Even at JohnFarnham’s age, I am not quite sure how old John Farnham is but I am going to be saying that he’s older than 60 but younger than 70 and his voice is still absolutely amazing.
He also told me because of conflicting schedules and touring schedules, that was the first time that he had seen his son Rob ever perform as a lead vocalist and I asked him, “how does it feel John to see your son perform and following your footsteps like you?” and he said to me “I am so proud, it was a fantastic moment for me to see Rob performing and singing up on stage fantastically well.”
And then, my dream question… I’ve always wanted to fire this off to John Farnham. For those of you who don’t know when Freddie Mercury passed away, John Farnham was the first vocalist that Queen were courting to come and join Queen and be the lead singer of Queen after Freddie Mercury’s passing. So it was obviously a question I really wanted to ask John because I know that John had recorded with Queen and does some songs with Queen and I said, “John what was the whole experience with Queen like?” and I always expecting that they obviously Queen being as huge as what they were, may have flown him over in a private jet and he recorded and met the band, it was over in England and rah-rah-rah I am thinking all of this big hoo-ha and paparazzi in him being treated like a King or a Queen but John said that he basically get some files sent over management liaise, got some files sent over and he sang along to the Queen files and there is a version of “We will rock you” which is a different version. It was actually a version that was done for John Farnham, it’s a different version to Queen’s and it’s fantastic version – you can check it out on iTunes or maybe YouTube… but he said he sang along to the tracks and set the tracks over and didn’t get the job but still, it is a great honor to be the first vocalist to be asked by Queen to try out for Queen, it was such a huge honor within itself so he must have been very proud but he was very humble when he was talking about that and his time with Queen when they were looking for a newly singer.
The main thing I know about John Farnham is that I know that he started singing early. He was a plumber and he basically just worked his way out through the industry and sung songs and then he joined solo and the Little River band and then things went on from there and just worked really hard.
One of the things that I really admired about Johnny Farnham was how his voice really dramatically improved from singing “Raindrops keep falling on my head” and “see the cleaning lady” to “Help” by the Beatles and you’re the voice and his work ethic must have been absolutely through the roof to take his voice to that level and he is called “The Voice” and he is called “The Voice” for the reason because he’s an amazing vocalist and it was absolutely fantastic to meet him. He is really down to earth and besides that he’s just a lover of music, we watched the Butterfly Effect side of the stage and he was clapping and cheering and wolf whistling saying “This band’s bloody amazing” and he had a really good time and his wife tried to drag him away from the show but he was really a lover of music and that’s the thing that you’ve got to have. You got to have a PASSION – it doesn’t matter what it is but if you love singing, follow your dreams and your dreams will come true.
At the end of the night, John Farnham came around to everybody and individually said goodbye to everybody and then he left. I was walking on air for the next couple of days. It was one of my absolute dream to meet one of my idols and I am still speechless today and it was a great experience that I will never ever forget but please always remember this – chase your dreams, practice hard and just relentless work and practice is going to get you to wherever you are with whatever you wanted to pursue. Whether that would be singing or anything else in your life but the main thing is you’ve got to practice and work really hard, believe in yourself, chase your dreams and have fun singing!
Empower your Voice!
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THE VOICE TRAINING SPECIALIST SINCE 1993