Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"The Voice" contestant Rebecca Loebe making her mark on and off TV

Folk singer Rebecca Loebe admits she didn't think she had a chance of getting on the show "The Voice."

She was wrong. Loebe earned rave reviews during her appearance on the show last year, and is getting ready to release her third full-length album, "Circus Heart," set for release on Sept. 18.

Loebe, www.rebeccaloebe.com,  is bound to play songs from the new album when she performs Aug. 28 at S.P.A.C.E., 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston.

Anna Vogelzang also is on the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets range from $10 to $18, available www.evanstonspace.com.

I had the pleasure of talking to Loebe about her latest activities.

Q - Your new album, "Circus Heart," will be released on Sept. 18. In sitting down to make the album, what kind of goals did you have? Did you want to build on your last two albums?

My main goal in making Circus Heart was to open up my mind to new possibilities - I was working with a new group of people and I wanted to let go of previous habits and preconceptions.

Without realizing it, I had created a set of rules for myself in terms of what I did and didn't do in the studio (in terms of instrumentation and arrangement possibilities, mostly). 

Before my first conversation with Matt Sever - aka Matt the Electrician - aka the producer of the album, I made a conscious decision to let all of that go and to just follow the songs where they lead.

Q - You turned to your fans again to fund this record. Does that make putting out an album even more special for you, knowing that people will pay for you to put out an album?

Absolutely! It's incredibly touching to know that people support what I do enough to buy the album on the promise that I will get it done, eventually, with their help. It's also very motivating!

Q - I'm sure that people have described your music in many different ways. Do you find it hard to describe your music to people who might not know you?

I do find it hard, and sometimes frustrating. I've found that different words mean different things to different people, depending on their history and the context in which they've encountered that word in the past. 

One person could think 'folk' is the best music in the world, the other could think it's a dirty word, and both could be huge Joni Mitchell fans. You know what I mean? That's why I started calling my music "Post brontosaurus indie folk/crunk." Also because I was getting jealous of punk rock bands that get to describe their style using tons of hyphens.

Q - On the album, you cover the song "Bad Reputation." What did you want to do with the song? Would you consider Joan Jett a musical influence at all?

I would consider Joan Jett more of a life influence than a musical influence. I remember trying to make out with a boy in middle school, while "I Love Rock 'n Roll" played from a nearby jukebox. 

She gave me confidence. A decade later, I got to see her play at 4 in the morning in an airplane hanger in New Hampshire, where I was volunteering for the Howard Dean campaign. 

She was traveling with his campaign and, even though they were running very behind schedule and didn't land until after 3 a.m. she got out with her band and played a short set to the crowd of volunteers. In short: she is a total bad ass. 

I wanted to cover "Bad Reputation" because I like the message; I like the fact that she says 'I couldn't care less what you think of me,' over and over and over again. 

I think it should be required listening for little girls! As with most songs I cover, I knew from the outset that I didn't want to bother singing it in the style of Joan Jett - she already nailed that! Matt and I worked to tell the story of the song from the point of view of a different character.

Q - Speaking of cover songs, your versions of "Creep" and "Come As You Are" were well received on the show "The Voice." Why did you want to be on the show and what did you learn from the experience?

Funny you should ask. At first I didn't want to be on the show! Since it was the first season and noone had heard of it, the casting directors were inviting a lot of working musicians to audition, and when they reached out to me I wasn't really interested. 

I don't watch a lot of TV and, not to sound ungrateful, I haven't traditionally been a huge fan of reality singing competitions. 

The casting folks had also asked about a few friends listed on my website, and I didn't want to turn down the invite on the behalf of everyone, so I went just for the experience of meeting some folks in the entertainment industry. 

I felt pretty confident that they wouldn't choose me, that they didn't put folk singers on national singing TV shows, and it turns out I was wrong. I misjudged them. 

That's a big lesson I learned - keep your mind open! I also feel like I got a quick primer on some of the differences between the music industry and the entertainment industry. Turns out they are entirely different fields with some overlapping similarities, but a lot of profound differences.

Q - There are now several music talent shows on TV. Are there too many of them? Are they just another way for up-and-coming musicians to get their music out there?

You know, who's to say what is "too many"? There could be some new format that hasn't even been thought of yet that comes along and blows them all out of the water...I think that the more platforms we can create for artists and artisans to share their work, the better!

Q - I understand that you have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. Can social media be a double-edged sword when it comes to musicians trying to get their music out there? Can it be a case of sensory overload?

Ohhhh, I sure do! Don't you? I think social media is a double edged sword for EVERY carbon based life form, for anyone trying to keep up with the speed of the culture we have built for ourselves while also trying to fill our basic needs of eating healthy, breathing deep, sleeping enough, spending time under the sky, interacting with other humans in a meaningful way.

It's hard to make time. One of my biggest concerns about Facebook and other social media platforms, besides the fact that they take time away from practicing instruments and reading books and hanging out face to face, is that they can create an environment in which we are all advertising to each other, and what we're advertising is ourselves. 

We only share what we feel is our best news or cleverest ideas, and as a result we get a skewed stream of information from those in our networks. I think this answer is a case of sensory overload :-)

Q - What are your short-term and long-term goals?

Short term  - I want to get through this breakneck CD release tour schedule I have crafted for myself this fall without going absolutely insane! And without my car breaking down.

In the near future, I'm hoping to be able to hire folks to help with some of the business stuff that I have been frantically trying to cover on my own as I get my career off the ground. Ideally, I'd like to share that work with people who are better at it than I am, so that I can spend a little more time writing songs, practicing instruments and working on musical/artistic stuff.

Long term, my goal is pretty simple: I want to build a career that is emotionally and financially sustainable, performing original music for audiences who connect with what I do.