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Monday, November 1, 2010

Georgia native bringing her sweet songs to Chicago's Elbo Room this month




By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Straddling the line between folk, rock and alt-country, Cyndi Harvell's songs are a refreshing departure in today's music scene.

The Georgia native will perform Nov. 15 at The Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Tickets are available at www.elboroomchicago.com.

I had the chance to talk to Harvell about her music and what it was like meeting famed producer Jack Douglas, who is a fan.

Q - I know you performed at last month's CMJ festival in New York. How was that experience?

It was great. It was a pretty full club. John Howland and I did a 20-minute acoustic set, and it was great.

Q - It's been a busy month for you. Your new CD, "From The Echo," was released last month. What kind of goals did you have for the album?

With this album, we just wanted to make the best album we could, the best batch of songs that we could, and do our best with touring around the country.

This is our first tour of the East Coast and across the country, so we are just trying to reach as many people as possible with it.

Q - I imagine you are playing a lot of the new songs on the tour. How are the songs translating live?

So far, it's been great. We recorded the album with a full band.

Just for the sake of tour budgeting, we wanted to keep it as low cost as possible, so we are touring just as a duo, but it seems to work out really well.

For some things, it worked out even better, because you can hear lyrics more clearly and you can hear the guitar melodies.

Q - You've probably heard your music described in many different ways. How would you describe your music?

I usually say it is folk-rock, with sort of an Americana twist. It's kind of hard to put a genre on your own music.

I say folk because it is sort of centered around stories and good lyrics.

Q - Just listening to the album, there's a lot of variety on it. You can't call it all folk, or all rock. Is that what you wanted to do with the album? Or is that just your natural way of writing?

I think it's just the natural way I write. You don't want to write the same song over and over and over again.

Q - It seems like your move to the Bay Area was a good career move.

Yeah, for my career and just for me as a person. Before that, I was living in Athens, Georgia, which was a great music town. That's kind of where I started and where I grew up musically.

I started there with open mikes and my first band and getting used to performing for an audience. After moving out to California, I ended up meeting musicians who I worked really well with and meeting the right people that had helped my last couple of albums. It was a good decision.

Q - What was it like meeting Jack Douglas, who has worked with everyone from John Lennon to Aerosmith? What advice did he give you?

He was very encouraging. He really liked the songs, and he thought we had potential to go somewhere. He hooked us up with this producer named Jim Greer, who we still work with.

Q - What did he bring to the table?

The main thing, I think, is that he really believes in the music. And he gave ideas that we wouldn't necessarily think of, or me personally.

Q - Are there other artists out there that you admire what they are doing?

My favorite artist currently who has influenced me a lot is Neko Case. She's kind of like an alt-country queen.

When I discovered her and her music, I was like, this is cool. This isn't the country pop stuff that's on the radio today that I'm not a big fan of. This has a country flavor to it, but it's good writing and good songs.

She's sort of been a nice influence and inspiration to me.

Q - Do you see yourself fitting into the alternative country genre?

Not necessarily. I think some of my songs are more pop-rock. There's a song on this album that somebody described as an R&B song. I don't think of myself as an R&B artist, but I guess if you just looked at that song, you might think that.

I think my music is friendly to alt-country ears. People who like alt-country I think would like my music.

Q - It seems like music has always been a big part of your life, ever since you were 6 years old and made mix tapes for your Barbie dolls.

I would make up little musicals with them, instead of just playing with them in the traditional way.

I didn't grow up in a super musical household. My family didn't play any instruments, and didn't know a whole lot about different kinds of music.

But from the time I was little, I liked to sing.

Q - Do you remember the first concert you saw?

I do. I was 18. It was a band I was really into, Guster. I was crazy about them in my later years in high school.

I grew up in a small town, and there was no live music around. So when I went off to college and moved to Athens, Georgia, it was the first time I was able to see live shows.

They put on a great show. They were funny, and kind of quirky. And they played good songs.

Q - Where do you see yourself five to 10 years from now?

Well, I hope I'm still making music. This being our first tour, it's kind of like testing the water and seeing how it goes.

We hope after this tour that we're going to be able to book another tour. I'd like to record as many albums as possible.

The music just keeps coming, so I don't think there will be a shortage of albums in the future.