In 2012, a then 24-year-old singer / songwriter and music producer named Candice Skjonnemand from the Gold Coast won the Australian finals of the Karaoke World Championships and then jetted off to Finland for the international finals, where she placed a very close second in the world.
Since then Candice has featured in the 2014 season of The Voice Australia as a member of Team Kylie. During her time on the hit show, Candice’s performance of Katy Perry’s Unconditional won the loyalty of thousands of fans not only in Australia but across the world. Buoyed by her success, she has recently started her own record label, Pentagon Records under her company Pentagon Music Group.
With the national World Karaoke Championships again heading to our shores in search of more local talent, Natalie O’Driscoll asked Candice a few questions about her experience.
Can you tell us a little about your vocal and performance background?
I started singing in the family home and Church as a child for the love and passion, which then grew into something more in my early years of primary school once my music teacher Mrs Williams picked up on my voice during choir. Later in Primary school as my singing experience grew I began to learn piano and this helped me to begin writing songs at the age of 12. My whole family has always been very musical, dad could improvise a song out of any situation haha.
Do you remember the first time you ever sang karaoke?
I sang at Karaoke the first time when I was probably 15. My older sister Vanessa took me to a venue one day. It was a lot of fun! That’s what I loved about Karaoke, people were having fun with music and not taking it so seriously.
How did you hear about the Karaoke World Championships and what prompted you to enter?
My sister Vanessa again! She left a flyer on the refrigerator. I decided to enter because I love a challenge it helps me to grow and at that point in my life I needed to test myself.
Was the year you won the Australian Finals your first year of entering the contest? If not, how many times had you entered before?
NO! I had entered twice before, the first time I got to the state finals and didn’t even place, but I wasn’t taking it seriously that was the problem. The second time I also made it to States but I forgot my ID and the venue would not let me in!
Can you tell us about the experience of winning nationals?
It was a huge relief to feel that I had grown and been rewarded for that, I was also pretty excited about going to Finland! I took it seriously this time and it paid off.
Were there any differences in your preparation between national and international contest?
No, only that I spent whole days mentally, physically and vocally preparing rather than a few hours.
Do you have a coach / teacher / mentor you would like to talk about?
My vocal coach Sharon Rowntree from Vocal Success is an INCREDIBLE pop vocal coach! I started working with her after the World Championships however. We began working together late 2013 and she has increased my vocal range by 6 sometimes 7 semitones by introducing me to a technique called mixing. She’s also increased my show endurance from 2 hours to almost 10 hours using speech level training. Just incredible. My earlier singing coach Jennifer Williams had trained me in copious amounts of Classical techniques which means I can reach the very high notes in my soprano voice, my phrasing, confidence, posture. Two incredible women. I’ve done some experience with David Jaanz in Melbourne city as well after The Voice, David is more of a spiritual artist coach. He takes your already trained voice and teaches you to let go and feel the music, to find your identity, your originality! He’s incredible! A blessing to work with.
Who are your favourite artists to cover on karaoke and why?
Celine Dion, Whitney Houston and some Mariah Carey. I love to wow people, to really give them a show and make them feel something. These artist have those special songs that can do that. I also just love to sing them, they feel good, make me happy.. they’re passionate and beautiful.
Has anyone ever told you that you sound like someone famous?
I’ve had a few different ones, Rihanna, Whitney Houston, Eva Cassidy.. it depends on the song I’m singing, the person’s opinion. My favourite is to be told I have a unique voice, or I sound like Whitney Houston. I’m happy with either of those!
What did winning national and placing at international in the KWC mean to you personally, and what has it done for your career?
Winning at Nationals was incredible, and runner up at Internationals was out of this world! The incredibly talented women I was up against, to place second was bewildering! I had finally begun to believe in myself again.
What is the next step for you?
At the moment I’m in the middle of putting a show together, organising a tour next year, album launch (I’m currently recording my album with BigNote Productions.. incredible studio in Burleigh), and doing the usual live gigs to keep me entertained and fund my recording career adventures! I’m really looking forward to touring the Country, meeting new people and hopefully giving them a night they will remember.
_ _ _ _ _
The Karaoke World Championship heats take place across Australia in April in more than 80 venues and the Australian grand final is here on the Gold Coast in September. More at kwcaustralia.com.au.