Kerrie Leanord on residencies
Singer and entertainer Kerrie Leonard writes for us here in UK Cabaret on the subject of what it actually takes to be part of residency type bands at home and abroad.
So you think you can be a resident musician? In theory it doesn’t sound too difficult. Everyone always comments on what an easy life we have. Travelling the world, performing on luxury cruise liners, and in some of the most beautiful hotels, admittedly these things are true. But no-one seems to tell you about getting there. So here are a few pointers you might want to take into consideration.
Contracts range from 3-12 months, that’s a long time away from home.
You’ll need stamina, there’s no time to lose your voice. On cruise ships you can perform anything from 3-8 sets a day, each set 45 mins to 1 hour. This is 6, sometimes 7 days a week. Hotels are usually 3-4 sets a day.
The cost to get going and to maintain your act can get pricey. Sending your gear abroad will be paid for ,to an extent, but you’ll need flight cases, good insurance, and a lot of hope that it will all reach the destination in one piece. Playing so regularly will cause wear and tear, and things like sea-air and hot weather can warp and ruin guitars. Stage costumes will need to be plentiful as you will be playing 6-7 nights, so you can’t be wearing the same 2-3 outfits all the time. Also the cost of tracks can run high, when you realise how many you need.
You need a large repertoire. By large, I mean HUGE. We cover 400 songs ranging from 50s to present days. At a hotel you’ll be expected not to repeat any song over a two week period, so 4 sets a day 6 days a week could be around 240 songs a week, 480 a fortnight.
Cruises are a little different as there is so much happening at one time, and a bigger flow of people, repeating is a little more acceptable, and as we’ve worked recently with Disney, singing “Let it Go” up to 6 times a day is a must.
In regards to cruising, as resident musicians you are classed as crew. Essentially it also means that you never really leave work. You need to expect the joys of early morning cabin inspections and regular drills, as well as training, lots and lots of training. For example my Christmas day last year was spent in a seven hour security training session.
My final point is one that nobody EVER warns you about, and it sadly is a thing that can ruin careers…… the beast that is known as TRIP ADVISOR. You cannot please everyone. Imagine performing your hearts out every night, doing all of the above, only to read that you are “rubbish” or “untalented” or “the worst singer I have ever heard”. In the age of X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, everyone is expert, and once they get behind a computer there is no stopping them. All your worst fears and insecurities rolled out for the world to see. I have seen many a person lose their job over this site, and it’s wrong that people are allowed to annihilate someone so publicly for doing their job. So here is my advice? Don’t read it!
After a few years of resident work we are now back doing regular UK gigs, and have found a new love for my job. With all the downsides to it, there are the ups. I’ve met wonderful people, got a repertoire to please anyone and had some great experiences working for some of the biggest companies in the world. But is this an easy life? I think not!