Taking the time to figure out who you are as an artist, and what kind of lasting impression you want for your fans visually, is just as important as the music you create and perform. I see many artists spending very little time on their image, which should be part of their overall “package.” If you want to be a successful artist, you need to look and act the part. If you expect the public to buy your records and merchandise, buy the magazines you’re featured in, pay to see you perform, etc.; you need to stand out, to look like a “star”. Be different. Create a unique image you will be known and remembered for.
Without a great image, it would be like going into the recording studio with the most talented and amazing musicians, and then recording terrible, boring songs that have absolutely no commercial appeal. The word “artist” gives us the visual of something extra ordinary, a beautiful painting, something fresh and breath taking, a work of art. You are an artist.
Think about some of your favorite artists. What kind of image comes to mind? Garth Brooks, for example, a great entertainer who took the world by storm, bringing a rock edge to Country. He was always the well-dressed artist in his pressed jeans, cowboy shirts, and cowboy hats.
How about Reba McEntire? Born in Oklahoma, then living on a horse ranch in Tennessee, Reba is the artist with the down to earth personality, western clothes and boots, and natural Southern draw, which made her instantly famous, with her one of a kind country voice. She’s the real deal, and now almost 20 years later, she is still remembered as the queen of Country music. Equally remembered is George Strait, who we could call the king of Country. Like Reba, George Strait lives on a ranch, (in Texas), rides horses, and lives the real cowboy life, and his music reflects his values and style.
When I think of Miley Cyrus, I see a confident, very talented bubbly young star with a unique deep voice. She’s an artist who is full of energy and personality. Now this teen has a fashionable image, young and spirited, fun and expressive. Miley even has her own line of clothing at Wal-Mart! They have done well with her image! An actress on Disney television, now a star on the big screen and selling records and sold out concerts all over the world. Many young girls wear Miley’s style of clothes because she set a new trend that is classy and cute, and very popular.
Some of us older folks remember Boy George. Now he had a unique image. Strange, yes, unusual, but that’s what he was trying to portray, and we were all curious about the man. There’s no question who he was as an artist. Alice Cooper was another artist with a strange image. It kept us interested to see what weird thing they would do next.
Look at Taylor Swift, the teen sensation who took everyone by surprise. Young girls love her. They feel and relate to the songs she writes and sings about. Like her songs, her image is sweet, and simple, and she’s beautiful, fun, and stylish!
Brittney Spears was the all American, multi-talented singer/dancer, entertainer. Unfortunately, a few poor choices took away her squeaky- clean image. Nevertheless, for a while, she was on top of the world, and every girl wanted to be Brittney Spears. One thing we can learn from this artist is that it can be difficult to win your fans over and regain their trust once you’ve let them down. Therefore, what an artist says and does in public, and can help or hinder their reputation. The cameras are always rolling when you are a celebrity, and you have a responsibility to the media and to your fans. It comes with the territory.
I have a picture that was taken of Tim McGraw and me around 1994 when his first single came out, “Indian Outlaw“. He stopped at Printer’s Alley here in Nashville, TN, at a club that was called “Barbara’s”, and most people do not recognize Tim McGraw in that photo. He was thin, probably not working out regularly, nothing really special to look at. But he morphed into a sexy, well-oiled machine, with a unique image everyone today recognizes. What a difference! Tim is always sharply dressed, w/cowboy hat, nicely trimmed goatee and long side burns, an image that really works for him. He’s the singer with family values, heart-felt songs we all relate to. His wife, Faith Hill, is the beautiful blonde by his side, natural, wholesome, earthy, and amazingly stunning. They both have done well off and on stage, and have been successful on the big screen.
Who has not heard of Dolly Parton? She jokes and says, “I spend a lot of money to look this cheap.” From the wigs to her cleavage, Dolly is one of a kind, that’s her trademark. She’s funny, compassionate, vivacious, and sexy! What you see is what you get. She’s an icon, a true perfectionist and incredible entertainer. Everyone knows Dolly by her image, as well as by her music. She’s distinctive. You’ll never see Dolly dressed down. She’s a perfect 10!
When I think of Celine Dion, I think of a very glamorous, very classy and amazingly talented singer. She is the ultimate professional both in her vocal performance and in her fashion style.
What do you think of when you think of Keith Urban? To me he’s a shy, but very deep musician, a talented guitarist, songwriter and singer. His music is from the heart, and he’s real, from his simple style in the way he dresses, wears his hair, and in the emotion you feel in his songs. There’s no drama, just a humble, good-looking sexy guy with a lot of talent.
How about Martina McBride? I think of her as the girl next door. She’s down to earth, a Pop/Country artist with the rangy voice and those gorgeous eyes. She’s the singer who often sings about issues, meaningful songs that reflect her style and strong stand ton things that matter most to her.
Gretchen Wilson is a unique Country singer who brought a wild, bad girl attitude to Country music, one we had not seen since Tanya Tucker. She is an independent, out- spoken, rough around the edges, and fun party girl. Gretchen is different. She drives tractors, smokes cigars, cusses, and her image reflects her personality and style. Gretchen is no girly girl, no ruffles or dresses on this country singer!
Who has not heard of the Jonas Brothers? Squeaky clean, teen heart throbs, the cute and talented close-knit brothers who are all over the magazine covers, Disney channel, concerts worldwide, and now the big screen. They are hip and unpretentious. They are adorable. They are the boys with the virtue rings on their fingers. They are not afraid or ashamed to stand up for their values. Who says you can’t be clean and still be popular? I especially love their image! (Probably because my 12-year-old daughter is in love with Nick Jonas!)
An artist’s image should portray their personality and style, and who they are, their individual uniqueness. What an artist wears, their attitude, and their music tell a story about them and creates their unique image.
You can join us behind the scenes to take a peak of a real artist development process. Singer/songwriter, Johanna, from St. Louis, MO worked on original songs with several co-writers, then went into the studio to record a few of her songs. Then it was off to a hair and make-up specialist, Chuck Williams, to give Johanna the right look, to help with her image. Photographer Goldy Locks captures the best images in a photo shoot, and we talk with Johanna and her mom,/ Debbie, about their experience.
Watch the video we took of Johanna’s progress!
What kind of image do you want? What kind of impression do you want to leave behind? How do you want to be remembered? Do you want to have an image of someone who is classy? Trashy? Sweet and innocent? Down to earth? Do you want to be a role model? A sex symbol? A fashion statement? A rebel? Politician? A diva or drama queen? Do you want to be remembered for your unique talent? Are you an artist with a heart? An attitude? Integrity? An entertainer? Personality? Values? Controversy? What makes you different? Use it to your advantage.
Now choose the style of music, clothes, make-up, accessories, and how you want to carry yourself in order to give you the right image you want to portray.