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Because of his uncanny ability to help artists find their true identity and sound, Storm Gardner has been called an “Artist Whisperer.” He has worked with dozens of superstars and performed over 600 songs for the TV show Glee. A finalist on the X Factor (UK), he worked with Tom Cruise on Rock of Ages, singing 16 of the 19 tracks in the movie. The last few years, he has worked as an Artist Advisor, Performance Coach, and Casting Producer for American Idol. A Grammy-nominated songwriter, he currently mentors Simon Fuller’s music group Now United, as well as Lola Lennox (the Eurythmics) Annie Lennox’s daughter.
Why is it important for artists to have their own identity and sound?
Shakespeare said, “Life is a stage.” For artists that’s especially true. If you want to succeed, you must come to life with original thoughts, style and attitude. The best artists enlighten the world.
What process do you use to help artists?
I go back to their childhood––that’s where their personality forms. I try to help artists unlock their true voice and identify what’s holding them back, because being an artist is a 24-hour job. Not everyone can be a pop star, but you can have a career if you can find what makes you special. It’s a collaborative process. My goal is to make them leaders.
What’s most critical in establishing an identity?
The way you look, dress and present yourself, artistically and musically, is the most important weapon you have in life. We study the greats, but then have to let it go. Artists need to ask themselves “Who am I?”
But many artists reflect their influences. How do you get around that?
That’s one of the most exciting parts of the journey. It’s been said that “all artists steal.” You need to learn how to listen with your ears and eyes. Influences can help you, but they can also get in the way. You need to add your own personality and perspective to make what you do special and unique.
How do you deal with an artist’s weaknesses?
I believe strength lies in weakness. Vulnerability is sacred. You should celebrate it. That transformation process is the most exciting part––making your weakness your strength.
How personal is your approach?
I had an identity crisis when I performed on Glee. I was singing everyone else’s material and didn’t really know who I was. That inspired me to help other artists find themselves.
But, many artists just want to fit into the music scene and would love working on a show like Glee.
An artist’s job is to stand out––and not fit in.
How can artists incorporate their identity into their live show?
When you study the great ones, you’ll notice that they command a room before they perform. They are the star and everyone knows it. You need to focus on your posture, your movements and how you walk across the stage. It’s a visual thing as much as a musical thing.
Is there a method that you utilize?
Yes… it’s called the “Storm Method.” S is for silence––how do I fill this sound? T is for think about it. O is for observe, R is for relax. And, finally, M is for manifest––what is the actual sound you want to project.
How does that process evolve?
Once we have a good idea of an artist’s identity, I will invite them to perform with me in a safe environment. I encourage the audience to support them. My goal is to give them the confidence they need to engage a crowd.
What kind of artists do you work with?
A lot of them are singers. But I also work with musicians. In fact, I’ve worked with a harpsichord player and I’m currently working with a drummer. All artists, no matter what they do, need to have their own identity and sound.
This is a tough business… and artists are sensitive. How can artists deal with critics?
Criticism is not judgment. You do need to be self-aware and objective about your art and performance, but you can’t let someone else’s opinion sway you from your mission.
How can artists convey their identity in their live performance?
Artists need to understand that they are entertainers. Simply playing your music live is not a performance. Artists need to cover what I call the “Three E’s.” When you perform, you need to be Enlightening, Entertaining and Engaging.
What advice would you give aspiring artists?
Now is the best time for artists to break out of their shell. Don’t be afraid to be controversial. You need to make your audience remember you… Do NOT play it safe. •