Ron Anderson's list of clients reads like a veritable who's who in the entertainment industry. The vocal coach has worked with everyone from Alicia Keys and Lenny Kravitz to Axl Rose and and Neil Diamond. And it’s not just musicians who come to him for his expertise. When actors with no vocal experience need to prep for movie roles involving singing, Anderson is their go-to coach — he even spent seven months preparing Tom Cruise for his role in the 2012 musical Rock of Ages.
Impressive credentials aside, it’s clear that Anderson’s success can be attributed to one thing: his teaching technique simply works. How else could you build a career that’s lasted over 40 years in the notoriously dog-eat-dog entertainment industry?
We recently talked with Anderson about working with celebrities, how technology has hindered the music industry, and who he thinks will be the next big thing. And budding singers, take note of Anderson’s vocal pointers and how his app can help you ace your next audition — it’s not every day you can get advice from such a seasoned pro!
JustLuxe: Can you talk a little bit about your background?
Ron Anderson: I began singing when I was four years old and at the age of seven, I had my own radio program for KLON school district in Long Beach, California. After the radio program was over, I was originally selected for the very first group of the Mickey Mouse Club, but my parents wouldn't allow me to take it — they didn't want me in the entertainment field at all. And that's how it all got started.
JL: When you were first starting out, did you have a big break or was your success more gradual?
RA: It was more gradual than anything else. I mean, there were some good things that happened — I won some competitions, but that was later on when I was 18 or 19.
JL: If someone completely new to singing comes to you for voice lessons, what's the very first thing you start with?
RA: The very first thing I start with is the breath. The breath is the engine. If the engine isn't running properly, nothing is going to run properly. So I start to teach them the proper breath. Then I start working on where the resonances are going to be coming from. So that means the entire body is the instrument, not just your throat. It comes from the head, it comes from the chest, and it comes from the throat as well, but we keep the throat basically out of it.
JL: Do you have other ground rules you make sure to cover for newbie singers?
RA: Yes, especially if it's a non-singer who has never sung before, there are a lot of ground rules that we'll cover. We'll cover diet, we'll cover basically everything — how much sleep, what has to be done, what the chances will be to be successful. I mean, I'm not going to beat around the bush, I'm going to tell them the truth.
JL: You've worked with countless stars. Does any one experience stand out to you as a highlight of your career?
RA: I'll name a couple; Axl Rose and Chris Cornell. Axel came first, and he studied with me for 12 years. And then Chris Cornell was sent to me by Axl, when Axl discovered him up in Seattle with Soundgarden.
JL: How do you think reality shows like American Idol and The Voice and have impacted the music industry?
RA: I've worked with American Idol for five years. I prepared the final 10 for the tour. I think it's a really, really good program, both American Idol and The Voice, and actually all of the singing programs, because it's really bringing this industry to the forefront. People who really want to sing are now really looking into singing — and singing well.
JL: Is there any singer or celebrity you haven't worked with that you'd like to?
RA: Yes, and I was supposed to work with her; Adele. But they ended up cancelling the tour in San Francisco before I got a chance to work with her.
JL: What makes you drawn to her?
RA: I just think she's got a great voice. I think she's a very, very good singer. And very creative.
JL: You help actors with no vocal experience prepare for singing roles in movies. Was there any actor you worked with that truly surprised you with their talent?
RA: Yeah, there were two really — Tom Cruise and Chadwick Boseman. Tom Cruise I did Rock of Ages with. It was a seven month process, every day. I would go in the morning to get his voice placed, and then I'd come back and teach during the middle of the day. Then again in the afternoon, I'd go back to Tom's house and work with him for another three or four hours. So it was about seven hours a day with him. And with Chadwick, he had also never sung before — neither Tom nor Chadwick had ever sung before. I did the [upcoming James Brown biopic Get on Up] with him.
JL: When it comes to making a career out of singing, what is more important? Having raw talent or having proper training and technique?
RA: Actually, both. The raw talent will grab the audience quickly, but if you don't have the technique, the voice will never last. It's a very rough industry and there's no forgiveness — you cancel [a performance] and you really have a problem.
JL: How has technology helped (or hindered) your job?
RA: I think what's happened is that we now have Pro Tools, we now have Auto Tune. When I started out, we had two-inch tape and we had to splice everything. What has happened is that now singing does not have to be as accurate or as good as it should be, because everybody knows they can rely on Pro Tools and tuning. So I think it has hindered singing a great deal.
JL: Can you talk about your app VoixTek and how it can help people's singing?
RA: The app is very versatile. It's an app that places the voice and places the registrations where they need to go. It helps warm the voice, so if you're auditioning for anything, you can do it before the audition. It's convenient, because it's portable and what happens is it gets everything in place once you've gone all the way through the 10 exercises.
JL: Who do you think is the next big up-and-coming singer?
I think it's going to be Matt Sanders, who is also one of my students. He's from Avenged Sevenfold and he's the next Chris Cornell.
JL: What do you see in him?
He has an amazing voice; it's just incredible. I mean, he had his voice damaged and we fixed the damage and that took about seven months. And now, the voice is just climbing like there's no tomorrow — it's unbelievable what he can do with his voice now.
Check out Ron's official site for exclusive peaks at the many singers he's helped, from Jared Leto and Alicia Keys to Maroon 5 and Paramore!