Everyone who sings in public has eventually had someone walk up after a performance and say 'You sound just like (insert singer's name here)!' Many times, they are projecting one of their own favorite vocalists onto you.
But then, you may actually sound like someone else. Everyone does, after all. Sometimes we consciously copy a style; sometimes it's just our natural voice or accent. I admit to being a fairly good mimic of other singers and may fall into an imitation of them without actually meaning to do so.
I think the first time I got the 'you sound like,' the singer of comparison was Lee Hazlewood. And I can see (or hear) it. Hey, I'd be out there performing 'Summer Wine' if I could get Nancy Sinatra to accompany me.
Ha, back then I would have accompanied Nancy just about anywhere.
Who else has been mentioned? Glenn Yarbrough. Robert Goulet. Or, closer to home, the late Florida folksinger, Don Grooms. I suspect that was more the songs than the singer, as I don't hear that much resemblance.
Someone once even told me I sounded like a male Eli Perras. I guess I do have a tendency to declaim like Eli.
But I'll never have the gestures...nor the flowered hat.
We are who we are and that's who we sound like, ultimately. Yet we have our ideals and those we emulate. Not only in singing but in playing instruments, writing, the way we walk!
I remember reading a piece way back by Sartre (I think. It's been thirty years or so.) that spoke of how the invention of photography changed how people acted in public. Ever since, we have been 'posing' around others. Movies and recordings furthered this, I'm sure.
But we already had books and paintings and, well, other people so I'm sure it's been something we've done all along. As did the apes before us. Imitation is a large part of how we learn and also of how we fit into our social existence. When we imitate, we become that other person in a sense. We are making an attempt to share in his or her status.
Of course, there is also the actual appeal of their style, that something that finds an accord within us, that makes us think 'that's the way to do it!' With any luck, we have more than one such 'aha' moment and develop more than one facet of our own style.
And if we're truly fortunate, we develop a unique way of our own. One that will make someone else out there think 'that's the way to do it.'