See, performers sometimes ask a lot of their audiences. They rely on a positive response from the crowd and then feed off that energy. This back-and-forth can impact how well the show goes, for musicians and listeners alike. It’s a two-way street.
The difference between a bestower and a beggar, as Sinclaire put it, is that a bestower steps on stage already filled with his own positive energy and shares it with the audience through music.
Earlier on in his career, the Toronto-born musician didn’t always see himself as a bestower.
“I used to think of myself more as a human with a being in there somewhere,” said Sinclaire, on the phone from his home town. “You know … somewhere in [my body] is the soul. But then the notion was introduced to me that in fact you’re the soul, and you act and play your part out in this costume, your body. So once I took that on board — because it made a lot of sense and answered a lot of questions that I had — things just changed. My attitude changed, a lot.”
While he’s always in tune with the audience’s reaction when he sings, he tries to be charged up with good vibes before he even shows up at a venue for a gig. The performance isn’t going to make or break his spirit, so all day before he’s going to sing he bottles up as much positivity as possible.
“And then I just sort of share from there. That’s made a big difference. I’m not trying to prove anything. I’m just trying to share, as best I can, a fun experience. It’s almost like music therapy.”
Radiating good vibes is his way of brightening up those around him, especially anyone who sees him perform.
“My parents always wanted the classic, you know, become a lawyer, become a doctor. But in a way,” said Sinclaire, with a laugh, “I’ve indirectly lived up to their expectations.”
The road to success never really ends, you just have to stay on it for as long as you can
When he was a kid Sinclaire started his musical career with with piano lessons. His family rented one of those old, whirring, fan-powered electric keyboards and he’d bang away at it. He’d listen to his parent’s Nat King Cole and Sarah Vaughan records and they would speak to him. They awoke something inside of him and from an early age and from then on he knew he wanted to be a musician.
After a stint at York University in Toronto, at the insistence of a friend, he transferred to McGill in Montreal to study jazz performance. This was a pivotal moment. The Montreal music scene was good to him. In the early 90s, he met guitarist Bill Coon and kicked off what would be a rich, long-lasting partnership, recording a handful of albums including the Juno nominated Mona Lisa.
He’s since toured across Canada, North America, and the rest of the globe performing with plenty of big bands and big names, recording his own albums back at home, and he’s showing no sign of slowing down.
“I’m still on the road,” said Sinclaire. “In fact, I think the journey’s just begun. On the way here, I would say, my focus wasn’t always in front of me. I’m [just now] catching up.”
Landing a part-time teaching gig in the vocal department at Humber College in Toronto has been another valuable milestone on that road to success. It has forced him to step outside his comfort zone — Sinclaire’s not a trained music educator. Teaching paves yet another avenue to share those good vibes while passing down some of the wisdom he’s built up over the years.
A balancing act
Denzal from ten years ago might be surprised that present-day-Denzal finds teaching to be a rewarding experience. For a while, happiness meant making music, pure and simple. Touring, recording, adding more notches to the musician belt… There wasn’t much more to it.
Nowadays, though, despite how well his raw passion for jazz and living for the performance served him, Sinclaire strives for more harmony.
“Once it became clear that it’s not [just] the music that makes me happy, then I was happy. It’s a healthy blend. A balancing act. Most importantly, I think, is knowing that happiness comes from within. It’s an awareness. I’m sure you’ve heard often that it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. It’s very profound.”
This is where the beggar/bestower split comes into play. Being able to draw a distinction between the two on-stage mindsets, for Sinclaire, was the product of spiritual reflection and meditation, both of which now play an important role in the singer’s day-to-day life and well-being. Getting in touch with his spiritual side, personally, translated into new perspectives on his music.
He breaks it down like this.
“The two things that we do as human beings are experience and express. According to whatever perception you have of who you are, whatever your awareness is of who you are, that colours the way one responds to information that comes towards them. It affects you outlook. And so that pours into your actions and your behaviour. And music is a very powerful form of expression.”
In other words, sharing his positivity and radiating good vibes lets Sinclaire colour the way audiences react to a performance. Put people in a good mood and they’ll dig what they hear, and enjoy the music that much more. But he knows that ultimately he can’t really dictate how an audience reacts, and that’s not always the endgame anyway.
“I certainly hope that they don’t come away with any bad feelings,” said Sinclaire. “You would prefer that it’s good feelings that they go away with. [But] I can’t be too attached to that. I’ve noticed that … if I maintain who I am and generate good feelings, then the rest takes care of itself. People just vibe off of that.”
And Sinclaire vibes off it too. On-stage and off, the singer’s spiritual attunement to his music (and himself) has led him to be more in tune with happiness all around. How’s that for job satisfaction?
Bringing the good vibes to Saskatoon
Sinclaire is teaming up with old school chum and fellow McGill alumnus, Saskatoon-based musician, professor, and band director Dean McNeill, for the first performance of the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra’s second season. He’ll be joining the orchestra at the Broadway Theatre on Saturday, November 30.
They’ll be performing a mix of original tunes by both Sinclaire and McNeill, as well as covers of a few familiar tunes.
Tickets are $30/25 and you can grab them in person at the Broadway Theatre or online by following this link.