Tony Cow­ell

For­mer X Fac­tor and BGT voice coach Yvie Bur­nett talks about her new book that ex­plains how you can un­earth the star within...

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Yvie Bur­nett, 49, a Scot­tish mezzo-so­prano turned vo­cal coach, has worked with a host of stars, from Sam Smith to Su­san Boyle. As she re­leases her book,

Yes, You Can Sing!, the for­mer opera singer talks about how to hone your singing skills, and some of the celebs she’s worked with… Hi, Yvie, do you be­lieve any­one can sing? Every­one has a voice. It’s whether you can learn to hold a tune. My book first asks, how do you be­come a singer and not just a per­son who sings? Proper singing takes more than just a good voice. It’s hard work, and you need that drive.

Who’s your new book for?

Those who just love singing and gen­uinely want to im­prove their voice, but don’t nec­es­sar­ily sing as a ca­reer. It’s also for those who want to be­come pro­fes­sional singers, and need to learn ex­actly what that takes be­fore au­di­tion­ing for a tal­ent show like The X Fac­tor or The Voice UK.

What tips can you give peo­ple who want to give singing a go?

I in­clude my tips in the chap­ter How To Pre­pare For An Au­di­tion, to­gether with some ad­vice from the likes of Gary Bar­low and Su­san Boyle. In most cases, it comes down to song choice. Learn­ing that song then be­comes re­ally im­por­tant, as we’ve seen many con­tes­tants on The X Fac­tor get the tune wrong, or sing the wrong lyrics. I also ex­plain how to con­trol your breath – and your nerves.

So how do you choose the right song?

I like a sur­prise. Some­one might walk in with a bor­ing song, but sing it re­ally well. If you choose some­thing more tax­ing, it may show a few flaws, but it will demon­strate pas­sion. There are a few songs in my opin­ion that should be avoided. Adele’s Some­one Like You – un­less you have her in­cred­i­ble voice and pas­sion; At Last by Etta James; Sum­mer­time by Ge­orge Gersh­win; and Eva Cas­sidy’s ver­sion of Over The Rain­bow. Or any­thing by Whit­ney Hous­ton or Mariah Carey…

What are your tips when nerves kick in?

It’s al­ways pos­si­ble you’ll ‘dry’ at an au­di­tion. The key is re­cov­ery. Don’t stop and apol­o­gise, carry on – even if it means you re­peat a verse you’ve al­ready sung. You can al­ways joke about it af­ter­wards!

Your voice coach ca­reer be­gan in 2005 with a call from Louis Walsh, didn’t it?

Yes. He was look­ing for a voice coach for his acts on The X Fac­tor, and in­sisted I should do it. That year, Louis had Shayne Ward in his fi­nal three, and I worked with him to make his fi­nal song, Over The Rain­bow, a bit special. He

went on to win, and sud­denly Si­mon and Sharon [Os­bourne] wanted me to coach their acts, too.

Didn’t Si­mon once text you at 2am?

Yes. I had helped Alexan­dra Burke with a song, and he texted me to say well done. I didn’t recog­nise his num­ber, so I texted back and said, ‘ Who is this?’ Then he replied say­ing, ‘It’s me, Si­mon!’ That’s when I re­alised he tends to work through the night!

It comes across in the book that you adore Louis. What makes him special?

He stuck his neck out for me. We shared a dress­ing room on The X Fac­tor, and he never acted like a big star. We just had a laugh.

You claim Leona Lewis was the best singer to ever win. Why?

She had the abil­ity and was ready to be moulded into a star. She lacked con­fi­dence, but we worked on that. She still calls me today if she needs help with some­thing.

You’re also close to Sharon, aren’t you?

She was so lovely from the be­gin­ning. I re­mem­ber go­ing back and forth to LA, and she’d say, ‘Ring me as soon as you get there.’ I thought, ‘I can’t do that.’ Then she’d call and say, ‘ Why haven’t you rung me? Come and have lunch at the house!’ Sharon’s not false. If you’re her friend, you’ll al­ways be her friend.

You coached Su­san Boyle and you’ve re­mained close. How is she to work with?

Su­san would al­ways say she wasn’t clever, but that isn’t true when it comes to singing. Mu­si­cally, she has an in­stinc­tive tal­ent. She may be ec­cen­tric, and we now know she has a form of Asperger syn­drome, but she has this abil­ity to move peo­ple. Our re­la­tion­ship has be­come in­cred­i­bly in­tense, and it has lasted so long.

In 2010, you lost your mum. Was that a tough year?

I was work­ing in LA with Sarah Bright­man when I got the call. I was an only child, so I was very close to my mum. It hit me hard. I flew home for the fu­neral, at which Su­san sang Amaz­ing Grace, then she and I flew to Tokyo the next day. I went straight into Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent. It was crazy be­cause I hadn’t had the time to grieve prop­erly for my mum. I then got a phone call to say I wasn’t needed on The X Fac­tor that year. So, yes, 2010 wasn’t a great year for me.

You then went on to work on BBC’s The Voice UK. How was that?

I’d al­ready coached Ricky Wilson and Paloma Faith, so we got on fine – and will.i.am is the fun­ni­est man you could ever meet. I also loved Kylie and Tom Jones. His voice is still amaz­ing, he could have been an opera singer!

Yes, You Can Sing! by Yvie Bur­nett is out now (John Blake Pub­lish­ing, £14.99).

Yvie can get any­one to sing… even Jed­ward!

She’s been work­ing be­hind the scenes of The X Fac­tor… … since Louis asked for her help in 2005

Gary Bar­low even of­fers singing tips in her book

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