My 5 favourite non-mainstream singers

Hi everybody!

Today I was sitting, listening to my iTunes playlist and I realized that, besides the usual suspects (Queen, Stevie Wonder, Toto, Michael Jackson, Genesis, Yes, Aretha Franklin and Jeff Buckley), my playlist was being dominated by five artists in particular, and it is my divine obligation to share their art with the rest of the world.

Now, don’t get me wrong: the title “my five favourite non-mainstream singersis not a hipster statement. Not being mainstream isn’t the reason why I listen to them. They are simply five artist who haven’t been signed by a major record label (that is EMI, Virgin, Universal, Sony or Warner), and therefore aren’t so well-known by mass audiences. And THEY SHOULD, because they’re really, really good and the whole world should know them.

This blog entry isn’t about the five BEST non mainstream singers. They’re just my five FAVOURITES nowadays. I’m sure tomorrow I’ll listen to five new ones and will fall in love with them. And when that happens, I guess I’ll just write a new entry.

So, without further ado, I’ll leave you with:

My 5 favourite non-mainstream singers

Marc Martel (Canada)

The good thing about the Information Age and Internet overall is the possibility of any content to turn viral and massive in a matter of hours. That was the case with Marc Martel.

Marc Martel is the lead singer of the Canadian christian rock band downhere, in which he spent a decade and a half. When Queen decided to create an official tribute band, Queen Extravaganza, an international audition to find its members was set, Marc sent his own version of Somebody to Love and it was universally acclaimed, not only because of his physical resemblance with Freddie, but also because of the uncanny similarity of their voices. He was, naturally, chosen to go through all rounds and was ultimately chosen as the lead singer of the band.

Besides his appearances along Queen Extravaganza, Marc has released his debut solo album, Impersonator, only four months ago. And clearly, Martel is much, much more than an “impersonator”. While yes, the vocal resemblance is uncanny, both in tone and mannerisms, this new album shows a much wider facet of his musicianship. Marc has clearly found his own voice, and while it does sound very Mercury-like at times (you can’t fight genetics, can you?), it is full with his own nuances and details, which makes him, in my own opinion, one of the best singers out there today.

I’ll leave you with four examples of his great talent. The first one is the already mentioned “Somebody To Love” audition. The second one is the well-known christmas carol “O Holy Night” (and trust me, a FABULOUS performance). A Keith Green cover follows, “Asleep in the Light“, and one of YouTube’s greatest pearls, the “Mercurotti“, his own version of Puccini’s aria Nessun Dorma, recorded in one take as both Pavarotti and Mercury. Absolutely wonderful.

Kurt Nilsen (Norway)

Kurt Nilsen is one of the singers that I’ve known for just a couple a years and has quickly become one of my favourites. Norway is a country known for his contribution to the international metal scene, specially in genres such as death, gothic and black metal. So, when Norway did their own version of Pop Idol (like American Idol, but in Norway. Let’s just call it Norwegian Idol) in 2003, no one could imagine their first winner would be a singer with a country voice. That’s Kurt Nilsen right there.

Next year, a one-off international version of Pop Idol, called World Idol, featuring winners of the various national Idol shows around the world competing against each other was aired. Kurt won the World Idol by unanimity, beating heavy favourites like America’s Kelly Clarkson and Britain’s Will Young.

That’s how he earned a highly successful solo career in Scandinavia, from which his collaboration with his norwegian colleagues Espen Lind, Askil Holm y Alejandro Fuentes stands out. From this collab was born a lovely version of Hallelujah, which made a huge impact on YouTube.

Ian Dickson, the Australian judge, said: “Kurt, you are a hell of a marketing challenge, because you have the voice of an angel, but you look like a Hobbit.” The second part is debatable, but he got one thing right: Kurt does have the voice of an angel. Warm, mellow and with that slight raspiness of country voices. A voice not to be missed.

I’ll leave you with three songs by Kurt. The first one is the before mentioned Hallelujah. Kurt starts singing after Fuentes, around the 2:00 mark. By far, the best voice out of the four. The other two are two versions of “Never Easy“, the third single from his second album, A studio version first and then a live version with Espen Lind. A delight.

John Farnham (Australia)

Fine, I admit it: I cheated. Under NO circumstance can John Farnham be considered non-mainstream, having been signed by and released albums with EMI, Columbia and BMG. With a career spanning over 45 years, several #1 singles, the distinction of being the best-selling artist of all Australia (topping AC/DC) and his best-known single, “You’re the Voice” being #1 in Australia, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Iceland and an impressive #6 in the UK.

With a vocal range seemingly boundless, with astounding clarity and diction, John has immense control of his voice, with a remarkably raspy tone at times yet turning it absolutely soft and ethereal almost at will, no wonder he was picked as the best australian voice of all times.

Why did I decided to add him to this list, ignoring completely my own concept? Because what I chose has nothing to do with John’s solo career. In 1992, Australia staged their own version (double album included) of Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar, with Farnham playing the role of Jesus. What is so special about this version? The songs are way rockier than the originals, although they take some poetic licenses regarding the chords, they veer away from the progressive rock from the original in the 70s and the more “musical theatre” style of the modern version, leaning more towards hard rock. JSC’s Jesus is one of the most demanding roles in music theatre and John did an amazing job on it.

I’ll leave you with five tracks by Farnham: The first one is the classic “You’re the Voice“, so you remember which song we were talking about. Then, I’ll give you some examples of his participation in Jesus Christ Superstar:  “Poor Jerusalem” live, the showstopper “Gethsemane“, also live, and two versions of “The Last Supper“, one live and one from the album, so you can appreciate the vocal prowess of the Aussie. This track is definitely one of the highlights of the whole thing. Either mainstream or not, John’s voice is IMMENSE. Enjoy.

Jason Raize (United States)

The story of Jason Raize is both tragic and sad. An incredibly talented musical theater actor, who was casted to perform along Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson in Jesus Christ Superstar at age 19, which led him a few years later the opportunity of playing Simba in The Lion King, one of the most emblematic and popular musicals of the 90s.

Once The Lion King was over in 2000, Jason starred his own show, Keeping It Wild With Jason Raize, where he traveled all over the world and visited exotic places like Costa Rica, Africa and Australia. By his own admission, he fell madly in love with Australia: with the land, the animals and the people. In 2003, he returned to the spotlight by voicing Dehani in Disney’s animated film Brother Bear, but nobody could foresee what it was about to happen. Later that year, he went back to Australia to rethink the direction of his career. And sadly, on February 2004, at barely 28 years of age, Jason’s lifeless body was found hanging in the shed of the farm he was working on. A tragic end to a very promising career.

Owning a warm voice, full of color and resonance, and with a distinctive baritonal quality within his tenor voice, Jason fell victim of Broadway’s maelstrom, a rising star whose light ultimately extinguished.

Out of the three songs I chose to show you, two are from The Lion King. The first one, Endless Night, is the studio version of Simba’s emotional cries to his deceased father. The second one is a mashup of both reprises of “He Lives in You“, performed live by the whole cast in Rosie O’Donnell’s show; and the last one, from the album The Paul Simon Album: Broadway Sings the Best of Paul Simon”, where several Broadway stars sing different songs from, yes, you guessed it, Paul Simon, I present you Jason’s version of Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence“. Pure ecstasy.

And the big ending. At least, but not least….

Ping An / Anson (China)

Ping An (also known as Anson) is one of my most recent unknown pearls. He was only unveiled to the world in 2012, and I’ve known him only for a year or so. Anson was one of the most remarkable singers in The Voice China, shocking the judges with his performance of the hymnic chinese traditional song “我爱你中国“, or “I love you, China“, in English.

Ping An, 36 years old today, born in Shanghai, was a well-known singer in the city’s pub circuit, until his appearance on the show rose him to national stardom almost overnight. Despite not winning the contest, the chinese audience considered the result as unfair and he is considered nowadays as the “moral and unofficial winner” of the show, performing for big audiences and on TV shows, mostly for charity. A few months ago he embarked on his first shows in North America.

His voice transcends language. I don’t know many others who can manage to excite and thrill me without understanding a single word. An angelical tenor voice, Mercurian at times, capable of the softest whispers and the most piercing screams, never losing absolute control of his instrument, and possessing a tone that just melts you. Ping sings from his heart, and it shows.

I’m going to post four songs by him. Three of them were from his appearance on The Voice: the blind audition, the battle rounds and his solo performance. The last one is a post-The Voice traditional chinese song.

An incredibly promising voice, wrapped up in a package full of humility and warmth. I wish his stay outside the mainstream is short-lived, and millions and millions of people all around the world can enjoy his art. He deserves it.

I hope you liked it! I certainly did. Let me know what you think and feel free to recommend new singers in the comments below!

Till next time!

Share : facebooktwittergoogle plus

33 Responses

Leave us a comment

  • Conniezhang on

    I am glad that you‘ve heard Ping An’s song and like it. The music is world language.
    I also heard your music, great! So cool!
    Ping An once said his heart is rock. I wish both of you can have a chance to play music together !

    • Andres Guazzelli on

      I’m glad you liked it, Connie! I’m about to release a new album real soon, so I’ll keep you posted.
      Before yesterday, I had no idea about the 金盾工程, so I didn’t know most people in China couldn’t access neither YouTube, Facebook nor other, other websites. Apparently, because of my hosting provider, my website is unaccesible for most chinese visitors. I’ll try to get that fixed real soon.
      I’d love to have him on my albums. I think I have a special part for him in my next album, if he ever agrees to guest on it 😉

  • Bambi Fung on

    Ping An/ Anson ChINA

    • Andres Guazzelli on

      Haha, oh yeah! Anson’s the best! 🙂

  • lisa on

    Thanks for your praise to Ping An !

    • Andres Guazzelli on

      Don’t thank me, Lisa! He absolutely deserves it!

  • lilyatsydney on

    I am a fan of Anson, thank you for your post, I do believe music is transnational!

    • Andres Guazzelli on

      Thank you for your message, Lily. It is my personal desire to make more and more people aware of Ping An. He’s immensely talented and the whole world needs to know about him!

  • Jian Yang on

    Thank you so much for sharing. John Farnham is one of my all time favourite.
    Ping An is the Chinese voice that I really appreciate.

    Thank you again.

    • Andres Guazzelli on

      Hi Jian! I absolutely agree, Farnham is amazing. The most surprising about him is that he was amazing 40 years ago, and he still IS. Kind of like Stevie Wonder, you know?
      And Ping… Ping is just different. His voice melts you. I can’t find better words for it.

  • Pam Batchelor on

    i certainly agree with you regarding Ping An. I have been a fan for a couple of years now. His voice and music transcends language for me too. His rich voice reaches deep into my being and resonates around my deepest feelings.

    • Andres Guazzelli on

      Thank you for your message, Pam! I have only known him for a year or so. It’s hard to explain how a voice can provoke such emotions, completely breaking the language barrier. Music truly is universal.

  • Ping An's fan in Vancouver on

    Can’t agree with you anymore. Thanks Andres! Love Ping An!Love You!

    • Andres Guazzelli on

      Love you too, Ping An’s fan in Vancouver! How did you first leaned about Anson?

    • Ping An's fan in Vancouver on

      In the summer of 2012, when I was listening Ping An’s “I Love You China” by a chance.

    • Andres Guazzelli on

      Almost no different than me. YouTube is an amazing tool for us musicians. Specially for getting the word out there and spreading it. I wish there was a way for Anson to do world tours. He’ll get there eventually.

  • sunny benitez on

    I would like to thank you for your kindness to introduce Ping An as one of your favourite non mainstream singers on your blog, I am a die hard fan and wish to support your fantastic essay. Muchas gracias !!!

    • Andres Guazzelli on

      Thank you Sunny! I recognized your name from my Facebook page. Thank you for your kind words.
      You found another die hard fan in myself. He is truly terrific.

  • Jie on

    被平安感动的人, a Ping An fan from Liaoning, China asked me to send you this:
    “Andres ,我是中国一位平安的歌迷,看到您对平安的评价(中文翻译)很激动!我不懂英语,无法用英语回复您,但是音乐真的穿越了语言的障碍!音乐是人类的天使,音乐人就是给音乐插上翅膀的人,希望世界上更多的人像您一样,喜欢平安!祝福您,平安,快乐!
    ps. 我是中国辽宁省沈阳市人,一直都生活在这里,我们这里冬天比较冷,可以达到零下30度,但是现在冬天没有那么冷了,外面总是有积雪,白茫茫的世界。平安有一首歌,我爱你,塞北的雪,就是我们这个地方了!欢迎你来我们大东北!”

  • Ivy Wenqian Yu on

    Hi,Andres! I’m one of the fans of Ping An.
    I’m so happy and proud that his voice is found
    and appreciated by you in a far foreign country.
    Will support you and your music. Good luck!

    • Andres Guazzelli on

      Thank you Ivy! As I said on the entry, he deserves to be heard by millions around the world.
      Thank you for showing support. Did you get the chance to listen to some of my own music?

  • Manny on

    hey this was a cool list! i absolutely loved it.. loved seeing singers i have never seen before and some on the list that i have (Marc Martel and Kurt Nilson) hopefully you can get more lists like this done up!

    • Andres Guazzelli on

      Hey Manny! I’m glad you liked the list. Both Marc and Kurt are amazing, AMAZING artists. In fact, I had a little chat with Marc last night on Facebook, after he shared my article on his fanpage and retweeted it. Such a sweet guy. Just like Ping, everyone should be a fan.
      Don’t worry! While I’m not doing music, I’ll be updating my blog quite often. Be sure to subscribe, or perhaps Join my Facebook page. The address is . That way, you’ll be the first ones to find out about new blog entries and list; and why not, some of my own music 😉

      Cheers from Argentina!

  • Frans Kisner on

    Hi Andres….?

    My wife (Chinese) made me aware of your web-site who mentioned our mutual friend Anson Ping.
    Reason is that I would like …just as you do….that Anson becomes internationally recognized.
    As you said already. “He deserves it.”
    For us….not only because of his great voice though as there are many with a voice worth while listening to…..
    I’d like to tell you more about him and explain the reason…. WHY !
    After having read your statement about Anson on your web-site I have the feeling that also you (like Anson) work in harmony with the spirit. Unfortunately replaced for money by most…. Please get in touch.

    • Andres Guazzelli on

      Frans, how are you doing? So kind of you to comment in here. Tell your wife I say hi, as we all share our love for Anson.
      By the way, Kisner? Are you from Bayern, by the way?
      Because if you are, then I have a surprise for you 😉


  • Frans Kisner on

    hahahaha…..I do have German blood going through my veins but that’s from a few hundred years ago so… strongly diluted so I fortunately never felt the need to raise a stretched tight arm….lol. My families origins are from Frammesbach/Hessen. Anyway…that’s history but still curious about something from Bayern though. As O just mentioned in my mail to you….our pig and dogs are dying right now…dying for a toilet that is….lol. Be back soon. Frans

  • Big J on

    Hi Andres – great to see you also like Anson’s music. I’m no musician but I was really intrigued by his performance in Voice of China and some other production after that. I think he has the perfect package to become a star of our times – amazingly gifted voice, songwriter and capability in varied music styles (rock, pop, etc). However his recent career trajectory has been a little disappointing. Excessive local marketing programs diluted his time otherwise for furthering his own music. The songs in his recent album are mostly of mediocre production (main issue melody but lyrics also lacks content) and easily forgettable. None of the songs were written by Anson himself which means no direct expression of his own view of the world. This is a shame given what he is obviously capable of. This might also have something to do with his presence in China which might be somewhat limiting in his music expression. The Youtube hit over 10 million without any promotion and his core Chinese audience is certainly testament to the potential of his music career. I hope you and some others can work together to enrich his music to where it should belong. Music needs life. Anson’s “I love China” and certain others definitely have that. But I feel those in his recent album sorely lack it. We need music that is from/for Anson, but not just another song irrelevant to him.

  • Frans on

    Hi… I can and will make a comment on Big J’s posting but first I have to mention that my Chinese LENOVO might have some build in problems or it’s something else on that pc which made it impossible giving a reply to your e-mail from a few weeks ago Andres. Such irritations really does damage to my spirit after always having to deal with it so it’s therefor that I gave it a rest and went back to my old English programmed (build by a friend of mine) pc. Your newsletter woke me up again….sorry for my little nerve break down.

    Big J.
    I understand your reaction. You mentioned that Anson composed songs. I know that he did some and he indeed has talent in that direction but as far as I know….he can’t have written that many otherwise it surely would have been mentioned to me. I also love his version of the “I LOVE YOU CHINA” song but that song has been written already some 30 or 40 years ago and that was in the period that people were still in flames for the ruling party and did everything with the spirit and not just for the MONEY. I’m sure that there are great song writers who still can write great music but…… And that’s just what Anson needs right now. I’m listening to his album almost every day and there is only 1 song I don’t like that much on it. The rest is fairly OK thought. all composed by young unknown songwriters. I heard that a new album is going to be released around June or maybe July and that he’s having his first own show in Beijing this spring as well. He has his own company so all the promotion he does needs to get earned first by him. No back up from big money behind him. The promotion and all related costs involved of his latest record had to come out if his own pocket and that didn’t come cheap and making money from a record in China….that’l be the day! He done it because that’s what is expected from artists on the way to the top but also to maintain that position after they have gotten there although he said that he done it to please his fans which in a way comes down to that direction. What actually motivated me most in Anson is his great personality/moral and that’s something many are short of nowadays. In my eyes he stands way above the rest and is the perfect role model for the youngsters. Getting him famous in the West is my biggest desire and he would be the first Asian singer who would accomplish that when that would happen. He surely has the talent for that . When that would happen….better propaganda for the Chinese than that….can’t imagine. So I’m looking for some composers who still have a heart and understand the importance of giving Anson the wings that he deserves….


  • Nick on

    The Mercurotti is one of my all time favourite songs standing alongside the great Rock anthems, and power ballads of the last century.

  • Julie on

    Thank you for posting these wonderful singers.

  • Pauline ow on

    Hi Andre’s, I read this article in late 2015 but didn’t know how to reply, till now. (Senior not IT savvy). Appreciate your favourable & encouraging comments about Anson. I discovered him on YouTube too. Has been a true fan since.
    He’s well loved in China. He is performing in San Francisco, Las Vegas & NY city this Feb.

  • Pauline ow on

    Hi Andre’s, I read this article in late 2015 but didn’t know how to reply, till now. (Senior not IT savvy). Appreciate your favourable & encouraging comments about Anson. I discovered him on YouTube too. Has been a true fan since.
    He’s well loved in China. He is performing in San Francisco, Las Vegas & NY city this Feb.

Leave a Reply