REBECCA FRAME w/ ESQUELA

Rebecca FrameHow did Esquela come together?

John ‘Chico’ Finn and Keith Christopher have a long history together. And so, when John wanted to start his own band, it only made sense for Keith to be his partner in crime. While recording Esquela’s first album, “The Owl Has Landed”, I was invited to do some backing vocals. Soon thereafter, Chico asked me to take over lead vocals. Todd Russell, a friend of Chico’s from high school, was a perfect fit on drums for the evolving band. Chico asked me if I would be interested in playing mandolin, which would have tricky since I have never played this instrument.  But, my friend Matt had.  So, enter Matt Woodin. At some point it was evident that we would need a fill in guitar player, since Keith was busy with other projects. Enter Ira McIntosh and Brian Shafer. Early on we had some other players from the city, who were great guys, but it just worked out better for it to be upstaters.

How does the song writing process work for you guys? 

Chico gets inspired by either a funny story from a friend, an article he’s read, or a documentary he has seen, and of course life experience and puts a pen to paper. Sometimes, with the help of Keith, he records a rough draft and sends it my way. I usually stick to the melody he had in mind, but I get to play around with it a little. Later the band gets together and fleshes it out.

 

Esquela has a late 60’s vibe, what’s Esquela about to you?

Does it have a 60’s vibe? That’s cool. Esquela is about getting together and being free to create in whatever way we see fit for each song, and have a good time doing it. Maybe that’s how they did it in the 60’s too.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to singing and what do you hope to put across personally?

I guess I just want to do justice to the songs. And try to convey the feel as best I can.  I wouldn’t say I have a philosophy, I just love to sing.

Esquela_cover (2)Where can producer Eric Ambel’s influence be heard most on Are We Rolling? versus the debut, The Owl Has Landed?

I can’t really say anything about the Owl. I just showed up at the studio in Oneonta and laid down the vocals and the rest was up to the fellas.  But with are we rolling it was awesome to work with Eric in a more intimate way. He took more of a directive role. He’s smart and kind of sneaky. hahaha. example: Eric knows that I like to belt out songs, which can be a good thing, but sometimes it’s a little much. so for take one he would tell me to give it all I got (just like I like to). then for take two he would ask me to take it easier and softer, which was a little challenging for me because that’s not how I usually “attack” a song. I think we ended up using more of the second takes. They sounded better. He was right. But, he was cool about being right. It was a good learning experience for me. Also, we have a lot of guitar players in the band. Brian, Ira, sometimes Matt…..so I think Eric helped sort out the chaos of who would do what when. Honestly, while they were doing their thing I was bullshitting with Chico and Todd, so who knows what REALLY went down.

What was the first record you ever bought and what’s your favorite thing about it today?

The first album I bought was the Body Guard Soundtrack. I mean, Whitney? come on! she is (was) incredible.  her voice can move you in a way that no one else’s can. simply beautiful and strong.

Who are your musical heroes?

Chico. he just goes for it. I wish I has his courage when it comes to sharing his work.  you want a famous hero? too bad. I stick with my decision.

When did you realize you could actually sing?

Hmmm…when I was in grade school, my friend had a recorder and we sat on my living room floor and sang “This Used To Be My Playground” by Madonna, which is funny because we were soooo young but we were sooo dramatic about it. then we started our make believe band and would use picnic tables as our stage. I guess the dream was there early. but I guess high school was when I found that I actually had some talent for real.

Was there someone early in your life that encouraged you?

I don’t know if encouraged is the right word. influenced works better for me. My father played the piano every night while I was falling asleep, all the women in my family sing, my sister showed me the awesomeness that is classic rock, and also looked the other way when I stole her SWV and En Vogue tapes. My mom would tolerate me playing her Beatles albums over and over…and over again. I had a wonderful teacher in high school who called me ‘songbird’. that’s encouraging….

It’s said singers get better with time; how do you separate the best from the rest? 

I’m not sure if i agree with that totally. i mean, refining your skills, takes work and time, and yes, you get better at it the more comfortable you are with what you are doing. but, when you are starting your musical journey there is so much enthusiasm, and hope, and drive, and passion. and those things can kind of fade. i think what separates the”best” from the rest, are those who can hold onto the passion that they had at the beginning.

NATALIE GELMAN

1.0 – Are you happy with how the new EP, Streetlamp Musician, has turned out?

I am! The songs are great to start with and the production and players performing on it are top notch. It has a diverse range of songs and I think I’ll be performing all of them for a long, long time.

2.0 – What are your plans if any for the release?

I’m taking it slow to make sure I’m doing everything right. It will be a soft release  and I’m going to start touring it towards the end of this year and more next year. I am hoping my friends and fans love it enough to share with their circles of friends so it finds a home in a lot of peoples music collection.

 3.0 – Which song on it do you have the strongest emotional relationship with, or are they all dear?

It changes over time. They all have been close to me at one point or another. The most emotional song for me is “One More Thing” but the one I have strong love and respect for is “Most The While”.

 4.0 – Do you have a formula when it comes to writing or is it more free-form? 

A melody and some lyrics will come to me at first and then its my job to uncover what the song is about and focus it moving forward. I also try not to give up on the song or judge it prematurely. I don’t have a formula exactly but I do try to capture everything I think is interesting and inspiring in notebooks and in files on my iPhone. I’ll refer back to those often when I’m looking to write and when I’m looking for a spin on a song I’m already writing. I work really hard on my lyrics to try to be as clear as I can in saying exactly what I mean to and honoring the message of the song. That process is tedious and involves a lot of revision most of the time.

 5.0 – What were the songs that you recall impacting you as a kid? 

I don’t have too many songs that impacted me as a kid because I grew up studying classical violin and piano and my mom played classical music at home. I did eventually get a Lisa Minnelli CD and Madonnas Like a Virgin album and listen to those repeatedly. I also started listening to the hit radio station in NYC and liked musical theater like Gilbert and Sullivan and Disney songs that I was studying musically when I started singing.

 6.0 – What was the first song you learned to sing and play on guitar at the same time, by who?

I was already writing songs when I decided to learn Jewel’s “You Were Meant For Me”. I had only been playing for a few months at that time and I learned the plucking, the harmonics and everything. I still cover that song at shows.

 7.0 – Is there an influencing artist that you consider your ultimate muse?

For a long time early Jewel was my primary muse. I’m now really inspired by Patty Griffin. I think she writes stunningly beautiful songs and stories and sings them amazingly. She’s an underappreciated gift.

 8.0 – Why led to your leaving NYC for California? 

I left for a variety of reasons, a lot of them too personal to mention in this interview but definitely available in the songs on my record. NYC, and the people surrounding me there kind-of broke my heart. I also had an opportunity to record out here with a great team and it just made sense to get out to Los Angeles and dive into it. I came out thinking I might be back by the Fall but the record took longer then expected and then one thing lead to another and now I live here and love it. I still get back to NYC a lot and miss it so much sometimes. It will always be my home and I love the energy of the city. I’m so proud to have grown up there.

 9.0 – You recently performed in the subway in New York; has that experience changed at all from when you started out busking in the West Village or is that what Streetlamp Musician is all about anyway? 

I didn’t start busking in the West Village. I actually started in Times Square and tried to avoid ever playing too close to home. I didn’t really want to run into people I knew though I always do when I play – usually quite a few folks actually.

Anyways, it has changed because it’s become more crowded. And, as I get older and as the economy has changed people are less likely to tip artists down there now. I still think it’s the best way to hone your chops and start to build your fan base as a young artist. I’m lucky to have made it into the MUNY program that’s run by a part of the MTA who manages the subways. They give you permits for bet spots and times as well as the right to amplify your music. It’s a great community to be a part of and it feels more like a legitimate thing that we’re doing together to make the subways more interesting and special. The buskers and street artists are so vital to the city and it’s spirit.

Streetlamp Musician is about the West Village changing in the past few years as much as it’s about me wishing more people would listen to me when I’m laying my heart out on the line. The city has to change but I wish the West Village was more of the neighborhood I grew up in with artists and bohemians. It’s way too expensive for interesting characters to live there anymore and all the mom and pop shops that had been there for generations were pushed out because rent got too high. My godmother blames the Village getting too popular on Sex and the City and I think she’s right.

10.0 – What’s the worst gig situation you have ever found yourself in? 

The worse ever was at a place called The Guitar Bar in Savannah, GA. I set up a show there for their opening night while on my first tour. Everything sounded good from the owner in follow up and checking in a week before the show right up until I got to the venue the night of the show and the owner told me that they weren’t going to be opening that night. My drummer was from Savannah and we were expecting a lot of people so we rescheduled for the next night and now were co-billing the show. We called 30 people to tell them about the switch and ended up playing a house concert that night instead.

The next day we went to the venue and they were complaining that they still didn’t have their liquor license and hustling to finish painting, put things away etc. I saw painters tape all over the floor moldings that needed to be removed so I started helping with that and got to the moldings in the bathroom when I realized they had no toilet paper. I asked the owner if they did and he was overwhelmed and said no so I offered to get some thinking he would pay me back. I went across the street (aka highway) in the dark to get some at a deli and loaded it into the bathroom.

The place opened that night and a ton of our friends came out. The show was amazing right up until I went to go take care of being paid before leaving. We had worked out a 50/50 split of the door deal and I had brought out 30 people at $10 a person. So the band should have made $150.

He handed me maybe $20 or $40 and said he was sorry, they didn’t have their liquor license blah, blah, blah. I quickly found out that he needed all the money from the people I brought in to pay the other act who was a friend of his who has flown in from CA when he paid the other guy $250 right in front of me. The other act hadn’t brought out anyone. I told him that wasn’t okay, we had still driven for hours to be there, had helped them out so much and brought in a lot of people and had a fair contract, yes, the payment details were in writing and it was signed. After a ton of arguing I ended up just leaving and just was so mad that he was making this my issue and just left.

I just looked them up and that place is finally closed. I can’t believe they actually stayed open for 4 years or so. What a nightmare.

MATT MAGUIRE

1.0 – Are you happy with how your debut Larabee EP Expose A Little Wire has been received?
I am happy. I didn’t know what to expect when I made the decision to release the songs.  It’s been a pleasant surprise to have total strangers listen to the songs and react to them in a positive way.  I’m hoping more people will get to hear the songs as well.

2.0 – Did you have specific goals in mind for the release? There was no master plan for the release of Expose a Little Wire other than to follow in the footsteps of other DIY musicians.  It’s a tricky time in the music business because somewhere along the way people began to assume that music should be free.  So financial goals are difficult to assess.  The main goal is to put the music out and make a connection with people.

3.0 – Are there any plans for a full-length follow up to the EP? There are definitely plans for more recorded music.  I’d love to record a full-length album.  I will probably put out a single or another EP before a full-length because I have songs in the can that I would rather release than hold onto for too long.

4.0 – Do you have a philosophy when it comes to recording?  My philosophy on recording is to get a song to a point where you feel as though you could listen to it forever.  The most frustrating thing about recording is to put in the time, effort and money and come out with something that you can’t stand to listen to.  From a sound perspective, I like classic 1960’s and 1970s recording sounds and styles because on the whole those sounds have staying power.  There’s nothing sadder than to put on a 1980s recording that you loved at the time and realize that the 80s big drum sound ruins the track.  I wish I was more technically oriented so that I could have a better working knowledge of the recording process.  That’s something I need to work on going forward.

5.0 – Your video for “Little Liar” has a great old school vibe & look, how did it come about? Thanks.  I saw other videos that used old footage from various places and came across a neat website that compiled stuff that was no longer covered by copyright, so it was fair game to use.  In searching through the archives I found pieces of a film called “Coffeehouse Rendezvous.”  It was really cheesy but I liked the overall look and feel of it.  Parts of the film were originally shot in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, not far from my house, so I used those bits and pieces as a nod to my hometown.  Throw in an iMovie editing feature, and you have yourself a video.  There, I’ve given away all of my video creation secrets.

6.0 – When did you get hooked on rock & roll? what songs early in life left a mark on you most? Probably by age 5.  I am the youngest of five children and I used to sit in my room for hours playing my older sisters’ records – hairbrush microphone in hand.  That stack of 45s was full of Motown, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, The Foundations, The Monkees and The Beatles.  From the stack of 45s I think The Foundations “Baby Now That I Found You” got a lot of play.  Seriously, how can anybody resist the “ba da da da” background vocals?  A little later I would say that Elvis Costello’s “The Angels Want To Wear My Red Shoes” left a big mark.  That song was really my introduction to The Byrds because of the jangly guitar sound.  Nick Lowe’s Labor of Lust album in it’s entirety is fantastic as is Please Panic by The Vulgar Boatmen.

7.0 –  Have your tunes always had a twang to them or did that develop over time? I think the twang developed over time, but I was always drawn to the twangy stuff by The Monkees did (Papa Gene’s Blues, What I Am I Doing Hangin’ Round), Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe.  I also had some old Faron Young records as a kid.  I suppose that sound keeps kicking around in my head.

8.0 – Do songs come easy to you or are they labors of love that have to steep before being ready for prime time?  The songs couldn’t come any slower if I tried.  I wish that I could be one of those writers who can bang out song after song.  I am always amazed when I hear someone say that they went into the studio with 30 new songs and whittled it down to 10.  Once written, however, the song structure doesn’t tend to change drastically.

9.0 –  Is there anyone in your life, outside the band, that you trust as sounding board for new material?  I have a friend from high school, Gerry, who used to help manage my old band.  He’s listened to everything I’ve written since I started playing.  His opinion matters because he knows good music and he understands what makes a good song good.

10.0 – Dreaming late last night you got a call from ‘Mr. Bigg’ about a summer tour, what act are you going out in support of?  It would have to be Elvis Costello, but only because he was touring with the spinning wheel of songs from the entirety of his career.  So many great songs.  And because this happened in a dream, all of the fans at the show would become Larabee fans.

COLIN GILMORE


1.0  How does your new release Goodnight Lane differ from your previous releases? It feels and sounds much more like I intended it to.  For one thing, I had musicians playing on it that had played the songs with me live before we recorded.  Also, I’d never worked with Lloyd Maines and he added a very strong touch.

2.0  What do you feel co-producers Lloyd Maines & Eric McKinney bring to your music? Eric I’ve worked with on previous recordings and by the time we recorded Goodnight Lane, it was pretty clear we’d found a good groove.  He has great taste and a sharp ear.  Lloyd’s parts on the album, although having a country feel, were powerful enough to help the album transcend genre and time.  Also, with Lloyd being from Lubbock and Eric being from Big Spring, the spirit of west Texas was in the air.

3.0  How many songs did you come in with? All ten songs were songs I’d written and played live before recording.  “Essene Eyes” and “Teeth, Hair and Eyeballs” were ones I’d written a long time ago and had all but forgotten.  The players on the album had a big part in resurrecting and redefining them.

4.0  Did you go in with an overall direction in mind or does that just happen as a record takes shape for you? I went in with a direction in mind, but the direction got twisted and reshaped, for the better.  I think Lloyd had a lot to do with that.

5.0  You collaborated again with producer Scott Mathews on “Circles In The Yard” – was that tune a hold-over from the Black Wine EP you did with him? “Circles In The Yard” was a song Scott and I recorded after Black Wine. Out of the blue.  Didn’t know what to do with it.  I was going to re-record it but I just love that version and I love working with Scott.  Even if it makes the credits confusing, it was worth it.

6.0  Do you have a philosophy when it comes to touring? Eat at least one good meal every day, and once in a while, if possible, try to sleep, change clothes and take a shower.

7.0  Which numbers do you think you will be playing live on tour? I’ll be playing all the songs live.  “Essene Eyes” only for occasions where we have the right configuration.  It’s hard to pull off solo.

8.0  Has the advent of SXSW changed the scene in Austin over the years? It has immensely. Some may disagree, but I think it’s put a huge spotlight on the Austin music scene, without causing it to become an industry town.  With the spotlight comes many of the troubles that musicians in big cities face, but in the end we have to deal with that the best we can.

9.0  What was your very first guitar? Do you still have it?  It was a 1980s Fender Telecaster 52 reissue.  Still got it and still love it.

10.0  What day did the world stop and spin the other way for you? Or is that coming in 2012?  Hard to say.  I think I was standing on one of the poles when it happened.

Photo by Kim Maguire.  Visit www.ColinGilmore.com