For this week, this fan talent segment is on Becca Chii, who is a British aspiring singer-songwriter, dancer and model, she posts covers of songs ranging from Korean to Japanese and of course, English.
On her YouTube account, she has posted covers from Girls’ Generation, T-ara, Ukiss, 2ne1 to even Frozen! Below the video covers, there is a Q&A session which Becca was very generous with providing such in-depth answers which looks at how she got into doing covers, overcoming problems she faced with performing in-front of a crowd, her future plans and giving advice to those who may be interested in making covers.
Where are you from?
- Basingstoke, born and raised ^^ It’s about an hour west of London. Most of my family is from the North-East (near Middlesbrough) but my mum is South African.
How did you become interested in singing and Kpop?
- I was looking for the soundtrack to Final Fantasy X when I stumbled across a load of J-pop (including BoA, who was the link to K-pop). I liked several artists but I was captivated by BoA, really. The way she could sing and dance, and looked so happy and energetic doing it. I had no idea how, but I really wanted to do what she was doing. I didn’t actually sing at all, back then, so I wasn’t interested in singing when I first got into K-pop. I used to print out the romanised lyrics, though. I’d follow along as I listened, almost singing in my head.
Why did you decide to start making covers?
- Well was a shy kid and suffered a lot from anxiety so I never used to sing or perform when I was younger. I ended up on a BoA forum (boajjang) and saw other fans posting covers. I did some quick recordings on my computer and decided that I would post there just to get advice from the other singers on how I could improve. I was terrified of posting and thought I sounded dreadful! But people were very kind and helpful, they never put me down or told me I sucked (even if I did). So I kept posting, mostly because I wanted to improve (I’m still trying! ^^). I quietly hoped that if I got good enough I could somehow move out there and become a singer, in spite of my being Caucasian xD
Who are your favourite singers and favourite style of music?
- I will always have a soft spot for BoA, for obvious reasons! TVXQ/JYJ as 5 were my all time favourite group, I’m a sucker for vocal harmonies and they had some really stunning acapella arrangements as well as their addictive upbeat tracks. Jaejoong is my favourite male singer, he was the one that drew me into TVXQ during their Rising Sun era. Other favourite singers include SNSD’s Taeyeon, IU, Ailee, A-pink’s Eunji, and Younha. I’m apparently very biased towards female singers haha.
I don’t know that I have a favourite style, ‘pop music’ sounds too broad but really I like most things within that bracket, whether it’s dancey, ballady, or whatever. Anything that makes me want to sing along, I suppose! 😀
What sort of equipment do you use when making covers and how long is the whole process of singing, recording and editing the videos?
- When I started I used the internal mic on my dad’s laptop, and windows sound recorder xD These days I use a USB condenser mic (I’d recommend Samson C01U if you’re on a budget, my current one is MXL .007). I play the instrumental through one side of my headphones, and keep the other side off so I can hear my own voice clearly.
- I have always mixed on MAGIX Music Maker, but no one else has ever heard of it xD It’s like cubase, but cheaper! I love it. I use Adobe Audition for noise removal, dynamic processing (evening out volume discrepancies) and chorus fx, and MAGIX for everything else.
- It depends on the complexity of the song as to how long it takes. I think f(x) Red Light took me almost an entire day because I recorded so many harmonies for it. Others might only take a few hours. I enjoy the challenge of doing all the backing vocals for a song though, I mixed down a version of Red Light with just the vocals because I really liked the harmonies on that song. Mixing is very time consuming and pretty draining so by the time I get to putting it in a video editor I tend to make a fairly simple video to accompany the audio, often just a little photo edit or something. The quickest videos are obviously live/gig vids, I just stick a title on and upload!
What sort of reaction does you usually get from people who watch your videos/or people you tell that you make videos on YouTube?
- The response at the beginning was very different to the response I get now. On account of my anxiety, when I told people I wanted to be a singer they usually thought it was ridiculous. For a long time I simply wouldn’t tell people I posted covers online – I wasn’t very confident in them and would have felt embarrassed if people I knew ‘irl’ were to find them. As for YouTube comments, I received some positive comments, some constructive criticism, and one very dedicated hater who went through all my videos going ‘BUUURRRGHHHHHH YOUR VOICE MAKES ME PUKE PLEASE STOP UUUGHHHHHH’ xD
- These days I’m more comfortable in myself and less afraid of people and their judgement, so I speak more openly about it. Most people are initially surprised to hear that I sing in Korean and Japanese, which is understandable! But the response is mostly positive, my family and friends are supportive and my mum sometimes shares the clips on Facebook, which is nice 🙂 The response online is largely positive as well, you’ll always get a few people who don’t like what you’re doing but most of the people who comment on my YouTube videos offer words of encouragement. I’m always particularly happy if a native speaker tells me my pronunciation was good, as it’s something I worry about!
What do you hope to achieve from doing covers?
- My goal from the beginning has always been improvement, both in terms of quality of my singing and personally, with regards to my anxiety. I hope that other people would enjoy listening to my covers, and (as I was when I first heard fan covers) perhaps be inspired to try it themselves. For years I never sang a note, and now I can’t imagine life without it! I started posting covers 10 years ago (March 12th 2005!) and never could have imagined the things I’d experience, the people I’d meet and the progress I’d make between then and now. I’ve also always wanted to record songs properly in a studio, to have a high quality record I could show my future kids xD
Any present or future events you have / will be performing at?
- These days I gig a fair bit locally, and I’ve been asked to play Basingstoke Live for the first time this year, it’s a pretty big festival held here in the summer 🙂 I never used to perform at all on account of my anxiety (I tried once and had a panic attack, burst into tears and ran off the stage!) but after entering and winning the Korea Tourism Organisation’s Vocal Competition in 2012 I started putting myself out there a little more. I ended up being a European finalist in SBS’ K-pop Star Season 2 that year, and a UK finalist in KBS’ K-pop World Festival last year 🙂
Which songs do you plan to cover in the future?
- I definitely want to do a Jaejoong cover before he leaves for his military service! And I’ve liked AOA for a while but never covered their songs, so I might try 사뿐사뿐 🙂
I’m currently on a bit of a hiatus from recording covers as I’m in the studio (finally!) doing some original material! A producer who’s worked with SHINee and Super Junior saw my covers on YouTube and contacted me in January, he’s co-writing a mini-album with me at the moment 🙂
Any advice you would give to somebody who is aspiring to do Kpop covers or is apprehensive of putting out their videos on-line?
- Obviously I want to just say ‘go for it!’ but I know how hard that can be 🙂 My advice would be to get a friend on board first (I did this – my best friend was the first person to hear my singing). If posting online is too scary, start by recording a clip and sending it to someone you trust, and asking them for their honest opinion. If you’re on a fanforum with an active ‘member creations’ or similar sub-forum, that’s a really good place to start if you don’t want to throw yourself open to the anons on YouTube! Let people know you’re starting out and would love some advice and people should be happy to help out!
- If you don’t want to sing by yourself, try downloading Smule’s karaoke app. The songs in the songbook are all in English but if you search the kpop tag you’ll find songs that other K-pop fans have uploaded, then you can just sing all of the parts they don’t 😀
- If you post on YouTube, only pay attention to polite, constructive criticism and ignore any trolls. If your primary focus is improving just for yourself, it won’t affect you so much if someone dislikes something you’ve posted. They’re entitled to their opinion, and you’re entitled to keep right on singing 🙂
- From the technical side, a good USB condenser mic will give you a better sound than a cheap one that plugs into a 3.5mm jack port. Record your vocals by listening to the music with head/earphones and then mix it with the instrumental – that way the quality of the instrumental is preserved and you can adjust the volume of your vocals so it doesn’t get overpowered. Also, you can re-do parts much easier that way than if you were recording your voice and the instrumental at the same time!
Audacity is free to download if you don’t want to pay out for a mixing programme. There are extensive tutorials to help you get to grips with it here: http://manual.audacityteam.org/
Finally, pronunciation! You’ll probably have noticed that Korean romanisations on the internet are generally awful and very inconsistent; I found it very hard initially to match the lyrics to what I was hearing. If you’re able to learn to read hangeul, you can either sing from the original Korean lyrics or perhaps make your own romanisations that make sense to you. If in doubt about a particular word or syllable, listen to the original artist singing it a few times and try to emulate the sounds they’re making.
As of this year, she is already in preparation of an upcoming album with a producer who have been responsible for writing songs for artists such as SHINee, Super Junior, Arashi and more!
If you would like to keep up to date with Becca, here are the links!