We had the good fortune of connecting with Lisa Donahey and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lisa, what’s the most important lesson your business/career has taught you?
To me, the most important thing in the music business is, ‘Adaptability’. When I say, Adaptability I’m talking about two things. Firstly, I have to keep up with new technology and be aware of new trends in the music industry. Secondly, for me, Adaptability means being able to sing different styles of music and being able to say, ‘Yes’, to a variety of different projects that involve music. It could be a demo recording, voice overs, studio sessions, voice coaching, producing live events, etc. I try and keep an open mind and a curiosity that allows me to learn about different facets of our ever-changing music business.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been singing. As a teen, I was in a performance troupe called, ‘Mickey Rooney’s Talent Towners.’ Mickey, himself, actually performed with the group on occasion. He sang and performed with us and served as a mentor to us. To be on stage and sing, with Mickey Rooney, was an amazing experience. Even in my teens, I knew that I was blessed to be able to learn from a legend. Those experiences, in that group, taught me the key tenets of performing, I still use many of those skills and lessons, I learned back then, today as an adult. After I graduated from high school, I auditioned and was selected to become a member of, an elite music program at Citrus College in Glendora, California. The group was called the, ‘Citrus Singers’. It was a music program, much like that of a conservatory, where students were trained in music theory, dancing, acting and the singing of various musical styles, from classical literature to pop music. We toured the world performing and singing and it was a formative experience. It was there, that I made the decision to pursue a career in music. After completing the three-year, Citrus Singers program, I applied to and earned a scholarship to go to school at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. Going to Berklee would be an unforgettable experience. There, I was immersed in music, 24/7. I was very fortunate to be part of a community of talented, supportive, student musicians. We all had the same things in common. It was a beautiful intentional community. We were there to learn, hone our craft and collaborate on projects. I was out of my comfort zone often and challenged myself to absorb as much as I could from my teachers and fellow students. My goal was to simply, always give it my best shot. It was also the place where I would meet many of the music professionals that I work with today. Even after graduating and going our separate ways, we always supported each other and partnered on projects whenever we could. To say that I am grateful for these relationships and friendships, is an understatement. After Berklee in Boston, I came back home to Los Angeles. I had big dreams of making a living in music, but I also knew that it would take time to develop relationships in the music business and find opportunities. It didn’t happen overnight. I had to get a regular job. I found myself working for the Walt Disney Company, in the area of marketing, for the better part of two and a half decades. Having a regular paycheck helped pay the bills. Getting to work in the field of ‘marketing’ also helped me learn and adopt various practices, that I have been able to apply to my, separate, music career. I have always said that, “I work a day job to fund my creative ventures!” So, you see, I’m a dreamer, but I’m practical, too. My career has been a slow and steady one. I have found great pleasure in exploring many different areas of the music industry. I’ve always known that there are lots of different ways to sing and make a living. To this day, I try and stay open to those opportunities. I do love performing live and the immediate connection, to the audience, that it provides. I have and do perform in industrials, stage shows and theatrical tours. I’ve been fortunate to be able to work for several different songwriters and composers, by singing on demos and also singing studio sessions for various film and television projects. I’ve been able to marry many of the other professional skills, I’ve acquired, like marketing, project management and communications to support my musical ventures. All of those tools came in handy when I self-produced three albums and I rely on them today when I produce shows and concerts. I have to say, that when I began to treat my singing career as a business, a lot of things changed. I went out and created my own production company, In Tempo Productions. The goal was to be able to take on creative projects and leverage the benefits of being a business owner. As the owner of a production company, I find myself being more focused on different ways to find projects, build and maintain relationships and generate work for myself and other musicians. It has also given me the opportunity to think about how I could be, of value, to the music community. I do this by hiring other musicians for events that I produce, by helping other musicians figure out their path and by making introductions, that help connect people, in the music industry. I’ve always felt, that there’s enough for everyone and choose not to dwell in scarcity. I know we live in a world that is impulsive. We want things to happen now. I have learned, over the years, that life doesn’t work that way. I find that if I go to a gig prepared, maintain a positive attitude, deliver what the client wants and am kind and respectful to everyone I meet along the way, that it pays dividends down the road. Every once in a while, I get a call for a gig from someone, who I have worked with years ago, who remembers that work ethic and hires me for those reasons alone. That work ethic and reputation, I’ve built over the years, also aligns with my “no jerk” policy. We spend a lot of time creating and using our talents on some cool projects and no one wants to work with someone difficult, or who is not a team player. I would have to say that my music career is all about saying, “yes.” I am always open to new opportunities. I can say “yes”, confidently, because I always put in the work. I train diligently and trust myself enough to know that I can do the job. If I ever get in a situation where I feel like I might be in over my head, I identify what it is that needs to be addressed. I, then, put in the time and work, so that I can deliver what the client wants. As I look back on my 30 years in the industry, I would just like people to know that there are so many different ways to share your talent. I think that when a person is being open minded and adaptable, that it can open them up to other opportunities and new relationships they never expected. I’ve enjoyed the diversity in my work and the relationships I’ve built and I look forward to the next 30 years.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If we were not in the middle of a pandemic, SoCal has so much to offer for fun, food and entertainment. Plus, I love life and try to always pack 10 lbs. of fun in a 5 lb. bag! So, we’d have a full schedule. We’d start with breakfast a local greasy diner like the Tallyrand in Burbank. We’d, then, do a drive-by of the Brady House in Studio City (I love pop culture!). I’d then have to take then to the beach and head to Malibu. There’s something so calming about the beach. We could walk on the sand at Will Rogers Beach (I always have my fold up chairs in my trunk), and we’d sit on the sand and listen to and watch the waves for bit and crank some good music. And just breathe. I’m sure we’d be hungry after that and can go to Paradise Cove which is right on the beach in Malibu. Then, we could come back to the San Fernando Valley and nap if we needed to rest up a bit for a big night. For the evening, we could get dressed up catch some live music and Feinstein’s at Vitello’s or Catalina Jazz Club We could have dinner there and take in the talents of some fantastic musicians. I think we’d have to end the night at Coral Café in Burbank for a late night dessert and reflect on the day.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to give a shout out to my voice teacher and friend, Crystal Barron at Crystal Voice Studios in Los Alamitos. She is an amazing person and so knowledgeable when it comes to the voice and guiding singers to discover the incredible potential of their own voice. Check her out at www.crystalvoicestudio.com.