Pilot's David Paton speaks out about fears of losing voice during lockdown and the speech therapist who saved his career
A chart-topping singer who has toured with Sir Paul McCartney and Kate Bush has credited a speech therapist with saving his singing career after he feared losing his voice in lockdown.
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David Paton, frontman with Pilot, wrote the hit songs January and Magic in the 1970s, and had been touring with his band when the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown hit.
At home in Edinburgh, he became hoarse and feared losing his voice.
Concerned what was behind the change, he contacted his GP.
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Specialists found the abrupt halt to his singing, after years of continually using his voice professionally, had weakened his vocal muscles.
Highly specialist speech and language therapist Georgina Parkinson from NHS Lothian introduced the 72-year-old to vocal exercises to help rebuild them.
She said: “David is almost like an Olympic vocal athlete. He’s got really good endurance and obviously had been singing for years, before he suddenly stopped using the voice the way he had been using it, due to Covid-19 and lockdown. This can affect the voice as much as overusing it.
“We have been working to get the muscles to come together in a smooth, more efficient manner and this has been really helping with things.
“We’ve been using lots of different vocal techniques to try and improve the durability and consistency of David’s voice.”
These include making different vowel and consonant sounds, buzzing, chanting and using having him use his voice through a straw.
The singer has been attending monthly speech and language therapy sessions, via video consultation, and now his voice is stronger is planning a world tour with Pilot.
He said: “There was a sense of relief, especially after the first session and doing some of the exercises.
“I noticed a benefit right away. Now my voice feels much stronger. Obviously I am a bit older and that will have an effect, but I am delighted with the progress I’ve made.
“Opera singers tend to do warm-up exercises whereas musicians like myself usually just walk up on stage and start singing which, I know now, it’s not a great thing to do. Because of these sessions, I realise the benefit of doing the warm-ups and vocal exercises I was given.”
His pop career has spanned five decades and included tours with pop legends such as Kate Bush, Sir Elton John and Sir Paul McCartney. He has also sold 50 million albums with rock outfit The Alan Parsons Project.
He added: “I was in Germany and I was meeting an agent who wants to do a lot of gigs. I was a bit worried because she was talking about worldwide, not just in Europe or the UK.
“It’s a bit of pressure on me to realise I’ll be the front man on all that stuff, so I want to be in the best health to take it on and have confidence in my voice. I love writing and I love touring, and these sessions have given me that confidence.”
He said seeking help was a vital first step and recommended others who have experienced a problem with their voice to do the same.