Prague-based musician Alasdair Bouch coaches Czech singers on the pitfalls of English

The local singer-songwriter has spent the pandemic producing material for his first solo effort since 2014.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 01.04.2021 08:34:00 (updated on 01.04.2021) Reading time: 4 minutes

Local singer-songwriter Alasdair Bouch is releasing his first solo material since 2014, with the first two singles already out and an EP called Desolation Peak coming on April 2. While music has been his full-time passion for 11 years, he also works as a vocal coach to Czech singers. In total he has spent 30 years fronting bands and played over 1,250 concerts.

The wait for the new material was not supposed to be so long. Bouch began work on it right after his 2014 album Go Forth! was released. He made 13 demos with producer Geoff Tyson, and then decided to redo them with another producer, Steve Lenz. It took moths to find the right backing musicians, but then studio renovations, water damage, and finally a theft at the studio kept pushing the album back.

“The studio was robbed clean. Steve had done amazing work – the album was almost finished – and I feared it was all lost. Mercifully, the thieves had presumably considered my album worthless, because it was the only thing they didn’t take! By this time, thanks to my poor time management, we were both busy with other people’s projects, so I cut my losses and shelved the album,” Bouch said.

The pandemic in 2020, which shut down live music, gave Bouch time to think about his songs again. “It’s hard to pick up momentum when all the wind has gone out of a project, but a stripped-down acoustic EP seemed manageable. One of my regular collaborators, Thom Artway, had set up his own studio, The Artway Record Booth, and kindly offered to lay down a couple of my new songs. Then I returned to Geoff Tyson, completing the circle, finished two tracks from the lost album, and the ‘Desolation Peak’ EP was born,” Bouch said.

The EP is described as a solo effort, but he did have help. “I subscribe to the DIY principle – I recently shot, directed, and edited a video for the EP’s first single, 'Out of My Mind' – but sometimes that work ethic can hold you back. No man is an island, and sometimes less isn’t more,” he said.

Aside from Tysom, Lenz, and Artway, he thanked bassist Ondřej Jurásek, pianist Jirka Vidasov and Anna Beckerová, who sings on the second single, “Storm In A Coffee Cup.” “It is truly a group effort,” he said.

Both “Out of My Mind” and “Storm In A Coffee Cup” can be streamed on the music site Bandcamp, and will soon be available in more formats.

Music has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember. “I sang in school musicals, and my parents encouraged me to learn the trombone as a child – only because there was randomly one in the house – but I got nowhere with it,” he said.

Once he discovered classic 1960s and ’70s rock he was unstoppable. “I picked up a guitar and almost immediately started writing songs. … I got deep into blues and soul, played in folk clubs, and started making money from my own music at university, but it wasn’t until I moved to Prague that it became a full-time job. Vocal coaching, writing music and lyrics for other artists, then holding songwriting workshops followed on naturally from there,” he said.

Being a vocal coach happened by chance. “Back in 2010, I had been teaching English in Prague for some years, when a friend asked if I could help a well-known local singer in musical theater. She had to sing some pop cover songs on her album, but barely spoke a word of English” he said.

“The label had this sweet, modest girl singing some quite racy lyrics, and though I tried to politely explain in Czech what the songs were about, in the end I just had to teach her phonetically. I was thrown in the deep end, and it was quite the learning experience for both of us,” he added.

Coaching isn’t just teaching correct pronunciation or stress. “Many of the non-native speakers with whom I work have to pick up new techniques or learn to use muscle groups in unfamiliar ways. In most situations, they … have to root out years of unconscious bad habits, retrain so-called ‘lazy’ behavior or correct poor language schooling,” he said.

Bouch focuses focus on fluency, accent, and ensuring general understanding. “I share certain techniques that might help enable them to create a fuller or more natural sound or performance. I don’t try to change the color or tone of the voice per se – after all, this is what gives each singer their own recognizable character. But I do encourage them to find their own voice, building on their strengths, rather than simply emulate Lana Del Rey or Kurt Cobain,” he said.

Every spoken tongue has its own idiosyncrasies, according to Bouch. “I have learned to recognize (and practically come to expect) the same mistakes from Czech singers, so I’ve developed methods to deal with those,” he said.

“A typical example would be the voiced ‘th’ sound being pronounced as a ‘d’ sound. One challenge that arises with almost comic regularity is ‘world’: my clients love to use this word in their songs, but pronouncing the open-mid central unrounded vowel with this dense consonant cluster can be a real struggle for them,” he said.

He usually accompanies his clients to the studio to help ensure they deliver their best performance. “I went to a speech therapist as a child for a pronounced lisp, so I have learned that it takes patience, compassion, willpower and, most of all, practice to get the desired results. Much of my job comes down to building self-confidence, and I see it more as empowering my clients than purely ‘teaching’ them,” he said.

Bouch’s recent collaborations include Debbi, Lake Malawi, AquaBabes, Jakub Ondra, Mydy, Dommi, Thom Artway, and Lenny. In total, his collaborations and co-writing have resulted in millions of streams and views on YouTube, and have appeared in film, theater, and advertising.

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more