Michelle Mutyora

Michelle Mutyora. Photo: WinkiPoP Media

An interview with Michelle Mutyora

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Michelle Mutyora, winner of the 2018 Sydney Eisteddfod Senior Singer of the Year,  reveals what singing means to her sense of cultural identity and why she chose to sing ‘I Am Changing’ from the soundtrack for ‘Dreamgirls.' 

Tell us why you love singing.

I love singing because it’s a huge part of of my cultural identity. In Zimbabwe (where I was born), music is what drives everything from ordinary day to day activities to the most special events. I feel that my love of singing comes from this intrinsic connection with music and its ability to create joy and a strong sense of community.

Who inspired you to start singing?

My first CD ever was Kelly Clarkson’s 2004 album ‘Breakaway’ and she really is the artist that inspired me to sing. My first performance in front of an audience was Kelly’s ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ which is a huge pop-rock song that really made me step out of my comfort zone. I was mesmerised by the way Kelly Clarkson could hit the high notes and the low notes so effortlessly whilst still rocking out! Another singer that really inspired me to start singing was Jo Jo. She introduced me to the world of R&B style singing which is now my favourite genre!

Which other performers do you most like to listen to or watch, and why?

Beyonce and Michael Jackson are my all time favourite performers to listen to and watch. Growing up with their iconic dance moves, songs and overall passion for what they do really inspired me to keep pushing myself as a performer. Recently, I love listening to artists such as Solange, Amber Mark, Matt Corby, Ariana Grande, SZA and Lauryn Hill.

Tell us about one of the songs you chose to perform for the Final.

One of the songs I performed in the final was ‘I Am Changing’ from the soundtrack for ‘Dreamgirls.’ I chose this, as I felt that I could entirely relate to the lyrics and the story that Jennifer Hudon’s character ‘Effie’ tells in the film. Finding who you are as an artist isn’t easy, as it involves being vulnerable in order to convey the message you’re trying to get across. The song underlines this journey of personal transformation whereby Effie is confident about undertaking this new growth on her own, but she also asks for a helping hand to keep her grounded. This emotional vulnerability is what I felt the most.

What did you do to prepare for your performance?

To prepare for my performance, I practice my set each week in my singing lesson with my singing teacher. I also practice my songs at home in front of a mirror, so that I am aware of how I am moving. My preparation also involved watching other performances of my songs done by other people and really delving into the lyrics and the story that is being told in each song.

What is the best piece of performance advice you have ever heard?

The best piece of performance advice that I’ve ever heard was that if you don’t feel the story your telling, then the performance isn’t true.

What have you learnt about yourself through performing in Sydney Eisteddfod?

Performing in Sydney Eisteddfod has definitely increased my confidence levels on stage, as I’ve had the freedom to choose my songs and perform a set that I am truly passionate about and have worked hard on. It has also given me the opportunity to take something away from each performance that I can improve on, whether it’d be breathing, mic technique, nerves, or pitching.

What would you like to achieve next?

At the moment I am working on writing and producing my own music in order to hopefully start releasing it towards the end of the year. I’m ready to hone into my creativity and put everything I’ve learnt in the past 10 years of my singing life, into my own work.

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