We had the good fortune of connecting with Racquel Roberts and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Racquel, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I chose a career in the arts because when I was performing, I felt the most myself, like I was standing in my clearest truth. I also felt energized, turned on and excited when making music or acting. I initially entered college at UCSD as a Science Major with an emphasis in Occupational Therapy. My mom thought I would be good at it, knew I wanted to help people, and knew I could make a good living in the field. One semester in though, I knew in my bones that I wasn’t in the right place. I changed my major to Musical Theatre, with my parents’ full support.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a bad ass vocalist, with a reliable online vocal studio service and a background in musical theatre. I have sung thousands of songs for hundreds of clients worldwide, and I also use my vocal talents to breathe life into audiobooks as a narrator for Audible. Currently, I am working on my second studio album. I believe that three main factors have set my career apart from other vocalists: 1. My dad’s examples about the importance of quality work. 2. My musical theatre career and training. 3. My early establishment as an online vocalist capable of providing high quality vocals for clients around the globe. Underscoring all of what I do is the fact that I’m an aerospace engineer’s daughter. I’ve watched my dad quality-control his work so that planes don’t fall from the sky. If I hit a sour note, no one’s going to die, but because of him I have known the importance of doing a quality job since birth. I broke into my career by landing a job in the International touring Broadway Musical, RENT. I was in college at the time, but I immediately took this opportunity to be immersed in exactly what I had been working toward. The schedule was a rigorous 8 performances a week, traveling on our “day off”, and I was making more money than I could fathom at 21 years of age. I was a Swing, so I covered 5 characters. If anyone was out sick or on holiday, I stepped into their role for that show. I learned how to be On Time, and how to be flexible and consistent. I learned how to humbly take criticism so that I could better my skillset and my self. I learned how to be both brave, and vulnerable and how to simply “tell the story” that I was there to tell – without my ego getting in the way (everyone wants to show off their mad riffing skills, but does that help move the plot forward and reflect the character?). I’ve always been a big believer that audience members pay a lot of money, and they deserve the best experience possible. I followed my year and a half stint in the Benny Company cast of RENT with a time on Broadway at The Neil Simon Theatre in Hairspray The Musical. This was a 10 week job that I had booked quickly, as someone in the cast had become sick and needed to rush home to Canada for treatment. It was May, already warm in California, and I flew into NYC, where it was still quite frigid. I was in all-day rehearsals and I was watching the show at night. Due to the drastic change in climate, lack of sleep, constant exertion, and whatever other reasons, I lost my voice and didn’t know who to turn to to get help. I thought I would be in trouble for losing my voice, though I was doing everything right. I wasn’t partying at all, and I was getting as much rest as I could. I took massive amounts of ibuprofen and squeaked through those weeks. I learned how to take impeccable care of my voice because of this job. While in NYC, I booked The Lion King, in Hamburg, Germany, in German for a year! I really wanted to perform in The Lion King, so I took the job, even though I knew it would mean at least a year away from home. While in Germany, I learned that I could do so much more than I thought I could. It was very hard to be away from my family and my fiance’. Video chat didn’t exist in 2003, so we sometimes didn’t see one another for almost 3 months. We learned that 3 months was the maximum time we could go without seeing one another while maintaining a solid connection. With us both living completely separate lives, focused on developing our careers, we often lost touch with how one another was actually doing. During my time in Germany, my grandmother passed. I’m very grateful that the company responded well to my telling them that (not asking) I had to go to my mom to support her. Regarding language, in order to perform the show well, the international cast worked with a phonetics coach. I really enjoyed working with people from Brazil, France, Japan, South Africa, Jamaica, Canada and Germany. Language barriers were broken (often through laughter) and friendships were made. Eventually though, I had to come home to save my relationship with my fiance, who was also my high school sweetheart. It was hard to choose to let a good job go, for love, but in looking at the longer term, I thought this was the path to greater happiness. Choosing between tour and family seemed to be a recurring challenge and central to an early performer’s career. I came home to Los Angeles, got married, and created a Christmas album titled The Secret of Christmas. I figured a Christmas album would be marketable for years to come, (in case I didn’t learn how to market my music well right away). Through a singing gig, I was lucky to meet some phenomenal jazz musicians, one of whom was Nick Mancini, a talented vibraphone player and composer. This brilliant man with endless musical ideas became my album’s Producer and arranger. Working with him to create song arrangements showed me what intense music training – coupled with vast amounts of freedom – looked and sounded like. This was embodied in each of the musical cats he brought into the project as well. I was humbled and inspired to tears. I soaked these talented players in like a sponge. My new husband financed the entire album and this album is where I began learning how to engineer and capture my own vocals well. Musicians connect each other. That’s just how it goes. The cats I worked with on The Secret Of Christmas connected me to a new online service for songwriters who need all kinds of musicians, including vocalists. I joined a company called Studio Pros as a vocalist, cranking out vocals for songwriters around the globe, from the comfort of my home studio. I had my first baby and continued working with Studio Pros until they wanted me to credit myself under a pseudonym. I had worked hard to build my professional reputation up to this point, and I thought the clients should know who was singing for them. My ethical standards would not have allowed me to break contract and attempt to take clients away from their company, but at this point we agreed to disagree, and although it was scary for me, we peacefully parted ways. Lucky for me, my new husband was a web developer, and we now knew there was a market for selling vocals through the internet. This was around 2004. My sweet husband built functionality into my website so I could receive orders and continue working on my craft, while raising a family from home. Acting, music and technology are my foundation. My dedication to my vocal craft keeps me on top. Every song I sing has a perspective, so character-building tools are easily implemented to deepen each vocal delivery. Stepping into the many stories that so many people tell through song is more easily facilitated by using my skills as an actress. These same skills translate to the jobs I do as an Audiobook Narrator for Audible. Telling the story honestly and telling it well is a thespian’s job. And thank The Goddess for the world wide web! 95 percent of my clients are outside of the United States. I Love the differences in the ways people express their thoughts when English is not their primary language. It keeps my job fresh and inspired. Now, after having sung just about every style, from pop, to hip hop, country, jazz, EDM, commercial cuts and radio cuts in various languages, I have a wide palate of vocals to choose from as I embark on my second studio album – which will be my first album of original songs. I am so excited and ready to use my voice to elevate women, and the world through song. Working on my own music has been difficult for me before now. I can write great lyrics and a melody for clients much easier than I can for myself because the stakes are higher when the song/words are intended to be a direct reflection of me. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or offend anyone, so I kept my songs to myself. But art must come out. I walk in the light, so that concern is dissipated. The dam has broken, and the music is flowing. Stay tuned for a whole lot of great music to come in 2021.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My priority is to follow our pleasure, so this loose itinerary can shape shift to serve our desires. Thursday – arrive, relax at home, cook together, drink wine, play with the kids and recover from travel day. Friday – Beach Day. Then we’ll go to The Baked Potato on Cahuenga Blvd. in Studio City to take in local jazz phenoms like Katisse Buckingham (on sax, flute, rap, beat box and more) and soul stirring, goosebump raising John Tegmeyer (on clarinet and more). You will never forget these cats. Uh-Ma-Zing. We’ll also have one of their signature baked potatoes and drinks. Saturday – Walk the stars along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and past Groauman’s Chinese Theatre in the day. If you haven’t been to LA, this is just something to take in. You can see the Hollywood sign pretty well from here, too. In the evening, we’re off to Little Tokyo’s The Blue Whale, another live jazz listening house with exquisite drinks. When Nick Mancini, or Otmaro Ruiz are playing, you will be spiritually moved by the musicianship – moved to tears, moved to giddy laughter, moved to wanting to throw your dang shoe at them because they’re So good!! Sunday – Beach Day. And home and chill. Monday – Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade. Walking through promenade shops while being immersed in street performers (cars are blocked). We’ll lunch at a local cafe, and walk three blocks to the beach to take in a view of the waves. Tuesday – meet up with a handful of Sister Goddesses from Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts for lunch at a delicious and grounded vegetarian restaurant… Perhaps Green Temple in Redondo Beach, or Happy Veggie down the street. We’ll connect in sisterhood, meeting one another right where she’s at, celebrate eachother’s successes (small or giant), share gratitudes, and desires, and then perhaps dance on the beach with the waves that Mother Nature is showing off before parting. Wednesday – chill and enjoy favorite frames from the week. Cook, relax, watch a movie, wine, chocolate, play in the studio, whatever is in our pleasure. This leaves time for packing and preparing for her trip home.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Mom. Mom. Mom. Thank you. She’s the one person who has always, always believed in me and cheered me on – even when the odds of landing a gig were slim. I knew she was proud of me. Having that one person who consistently gave love and never encouraged me to brace myself for failure, but instead helped keep my focus on my talents and the work involved, that’s priceless and rare. Shout Out to my Mama!
Photographer: Suzanne Palyan, Los Angeles