Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Chicago musician Quinn Tsan working on new EP, performing June 12 at The Hideout

Quinn Tsan has firmly immersed herself in the Chicago music scene after relocating to Chicago in 2008 to sing backup for Joe Pug.

Tsan, who co-leads the group Medicine Women, has released a debut single called "Love of a Painter," and is working on her debut EP, "Good Winter." Tsan will perform June 12 at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave., Chicago.

Jones, Johnny Lewis and Female Basic also are on the bill. The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $8, available at www.ticketfly.com.

I had the chance to talk to Tsan about her current activities.

Q - Great talking to you. You are working on your debut EP, "Good Winter," which is set for release this summer. What should people expect from the EP? Is there a story behind the EP's title?


I think that people should expect something eclectic. This EP was kind of an experiment. 
Everything so far has just been me and a guitar until I went into the studio and started messing around with sounds and arrangements. Dorian Gehring and Liam Cunningham produced it, and they had so many ideas from the start I knew we were going to end up with something very dynamic.

Q - You relocated to Chicago to sing backup for Joe Pug. How did that opportunity come about and what did you learn from the experience?

It was pretty casual. I’d been interested in moving to Chicago and my brother had a spare room in his apartment.

He was playing drums for Joe at the time and they were looking for a singer to join the band. One thing I learned is how to adapt my voice to another’s. 

It’s easy for two people to sing together but being aware of your timbre and how to manipulate it to make a solid harmony is another game altogether. Joe was always particular about how he wanted things to sound, which I appreciated since I didn't have a lot to improvise in the beginning- the direction was helpful. 

Also that was really my first taste of seeing the songwriting process, from a songs creation to developing with a band to performance.

Q - You were classically trained in dance. What made you want to become a musician?

I wanted to be a musician before I was interested in dance but for whatever reason, dance felt more accessible. I wasn’t much of a writer growing up and I was certain that meant I wasn’t ‘supposed’ to write songs. 

But music was always more attractive. When I was a freshman in high school, I took a couple of music classes and for a project I rearranged “Barbie Girl” into a dark, kind of freak folk song. 

That was kind of my first taste of musical composition, but I didn’t take it seriously enough at the time. When I started singing with Joe, I had pretty much decided that I’d just be a back-up singer as long as bands would have me. 

Then I met Rachele Eve, who really inspired me to start learning an instrument. I started with a ukulele, then bought a guitar in February 2013 and have been writing since.

Q - You're originally from Minneapolis. How does the Chicago music scene compare to the music scene in Minneapolis? How do you think your music fits into the Chicago music scene? Are there other Chicago musicians that you particularly admire what they are doing?

To be honest, I’m not incredibly in touch with the scene in Minneapolis. One of the reasons I’m so fond of it though is the creative community’s prominence. 

I feel like everyone I know in Minneapolis is an artist; whether a musician, dancer, painter, poet etc.. Everybody works or has other primary things going on, but everyone seems to have their hands in some kind of creating, or at least huge support of those who do.

Chicago’s music scene has really come up in the last few years. The community I’ve been lucky enough to fall into is super multidisciplinary. 

Actually, most of my friends or people I see day-to-day are actors, writers, or dancers. A few people I really admire.. the ladies of Celine Neon, Sima Cunningham, the guys from Marrow, Exit Ghost, Ryan Joseph Anderson, Gia Margaret. 

I could go on. These folks have so gracefully established themselves as professional musicians and are just so skilled in what they do. 

It's really exciting to watch everyone progress and sustain their lives doing what they want to do.

Q - You are also involved in a project called Medicine Women with Jessica Marks. Describe the project. How did the collaboration come about? Do the two of you have any short-term or long-term projects?

Jess and I were blindly introduced via email by Erin Kilmurray. She invited us to collaborate on a musical piece for the annual Fly Honey Show to be billed as "Naked Ladies Singing." 

The intention was to arrange a cover into a three part harmony and we each brought a song, I brought "Minnie the Moocher" by Cab Calloway and Jess brought "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails. 

The arrangement worked really nicely, it was received well at the show and we continued to get invitations to create new works for others. Simultaneously, girls had started approaching us about wanting to join in and sing along and it grew from there. 

Jess is also an actress, among many other things, and right now she's working on a show in Texas so we're on a brief hiatus till she gets back. When she returns we'll start working on our next piece for the Fly Honey Show, applying with Jess and Eve Rydberg's company the GoodNight Ladies to the New Orleans Fringe Festival, and starting a collaboration with the Neo-Futurists to debut in the fall.

Q - What are your goals for the rest of the year?

To get this record done. And take a vacation.