Monday, September 30, 2013

Nashville band Leagues bringing infectious sound to Chicago

Photo by Eric Brown


After carving out esteemed careers on their own, singer Thad Cockrell, guitarist Tyler Burkum and drummer Jeremy Lutito have come together to form Leagues, a band that continues to create a buzz.

The band's debut album, "You Belong Here," debuted on Billboard #1 on the Alternative New Artists Chart and the first single, "Spotlight," is featured in a national ad campaign for Bose headphones.

Nashville band Leagues,, will bring its infectious sound on Oct. 10 to Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Hall, Chicago.

The Dig and Tall Walker also are on the bill. The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are $15, available at

I had the chance to talk to Cockrell and Lutito about the band.

Q - Great to talk to you. The band has been named one of "15 Music Artists To Watch In 2013." In forming the band, what were your goals and do you think you achieved them?

Thad Cockrell - I think our goal was to find something that not only captured our imagination, but of the greater public. The idea of it not being just for me or just for you but for the big "us". Something that will connect us. 

We want nothing to do with irony or cynicism. There is this great documentary on the husband and wife duo Eames that had a huge impact and they set out a goal "the best for the most for the least". 

Bravery is a good and dying thing. Starting this band in our 30s was risky for us on lots of levels and it isn't like we had piles of money and we were bored. 

It was an intentional journey. So when there has been the kind of response as there has been toward the music, we feel very encouraged. 

Q - One of the things that I like about the CD is that it roams through a lot of musical territory and is not a one note album. What were the band's goals in sitting down to make the album?

Cockrell - We feel music before we hear it. And we have in a sense let that be the starting point. I think we wanted to make music that gives us lift. 

Something to sing with, to and at each other and if dancing breaks out, all the better. That being said, we believe a "pop" song can be a powerful thing so while we're at it, let's try to actually say something in the lyrics. 

Artists are in a sense reporters.

Q - The album veers in a different music direction than your solo efforts, which had more of a rootsy sound. Did you intentionally want to do something different? Have your fans accepted your new sound?

Cockrell - Yes, I intentionally wanted to do something different and creative. I grew up and still listen to absolutely all kinds of music and to box that into a corner would only be partially true.  

As far as the fans I have no idea. I hope they do. 

However, they might not have any idea what I'm up to with Leagues. But there have been a good many fans that have followed me through the journey for which I'm thankful.  

Q - Jeremy, you've worked with a variety of musicians over the years, including Backstreet Boys, Jon Foreman and Jars of Clay. Why do you think you are in such demand? How have you grown as a drummer by working with so many musicians?
Jeremy Lutito - I'm not sure it was about being in demand as much as I made myself available and was willing to cut my teeth working hard as a hired drummer. I've most definitely grown from playing all kinds of music in many different situations. 

I had a fortunate start as a drummer and have been fortunate to have my career shift into more creative areas that I personally get a lot more out of as a musician.  It was exciting to be asked to be a part of others music. 

Especially when they were great people and the music was quality. But as time went on I realized I had to build something that I had true ownership in, which has become Leagues and much more.

Q - What's next for Leagues? Do you see this a side project or a main project for the three of you?

Lutito - We will be touring this fall and next spring. Hoping to make some new music this winter. 

This is definitely not a side project. We've given so much of our time and effort to Leagues. 

We all believe it would suffer if we didn't give it our all. We're out there to win hearts and connect with people. 

This record we put out in January is still so new to us. We want to see it get to as many ears as possible.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Compelling new duo Love Over Gold coming to Chicago


Listening to "Fall To Rise," the new CD by the group Love Over Gold, is like hearing two souls occupy the same space.

Love Over Gold,, is a new collaboration between esteemed singer-songwriters Pieta Brown and Lucie Thorne. They are sure to perform songs from the new album when they open for Mason Jennings on Oct. 4 at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.

The show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets are $28, available at

I had the chance to talk to Brown about Love Over Gold.

Q - Great talking to you again. Of course, the name of your new duo with Lucie Thorne is Love Over Gold, which is also the name of Dire Straits' fourth album.

I know that you listened to Dire Straits growing up and that you toured with Mark Knopfler. Is the name of the band an homage to Dire Straits?

It's true I used to rollerskate around the apartment complex I lived in with my mom in Birmingham, Ala., listening to Dire Straits on my headphones, and Mark continues to be an inspiration, but the name of the band is LOVE OVER GOLD because Lucie and I both love that phrase! Tell me a better one...consider it our graffitti to the world!

Q - I understand that you met Lucie Thorne during your first tour of Australia. Did things just click musically between the two of you?

Lucie and I clicked as friends first. When I saw Lucie play a live solo show at the end of my first tour there, I felt a musical spark and I reached out to Lucie after I got back to the States.

When I went back to Australia the following year Lucie sat in with us on our sets and it was very fun. And it rolled on out from there.

Q - You've said you wanted to blend two voices into a singular sound on "Fall To Rise." Do you think you were able to accomplish that?

Yes, I do. In exactly the way I was hoping. Blending is truly its own art form.

Q - The two of you will be touring in Australia later this year in support of the new album. Do you think that will be an extra special occasion because it is Thorne's homeland? How do audiences overseas compare with U.S. audiences?

I have toured with Lucie in Australia before, but just separately on the same bill. Lucie sat in with us on a couple of songs but that is a different deal. 

So, I think it will be fun to sing these new songs together there. And the spark really started there, so it will be meaningful in that way. 

I found the audiences in Australia to be very cool! I really enjoyed the openness and enthusiasm I experienced there before...But I feel like the people that come out to the shows in the States are especially cool too!

Q - Why was it important for you to record "Fall To Rise" in your native Iowa?

We recorded Fall To Rise in Iowa because Lucie was able to stop in Iowa on her way to tour Europe. We started writing songs separately...and sent a few back and forth over the big wide Internet...but all the pieces crystalized when we were in the same room, which happened to be my kitchen! 

The creative process was very natural because of the underlying musical chemistry between me and Lucie. You don't come across that kind of musical chemistry every day, and so I've really enjoyed having the chance to try something with it.

We did both exchange lyrics and melodies. Some songs are Lucie's lyrics with my melodies at the core and vice versa. And a couple songs are both of our lyrics and melodies merged! 

And then we each put a couple of our own songs in the hat to try recording together, too.

Q - I understand the both of you started writing songs around a kitchen table. How did the creative process work? Did you both exchange lyrics and melodies?
The creative process was very natural because of the underlying musical chemistry between me and don't come across that kind of musical chemistry every day, and so I've really enjoyed having the chance to try something with it. 

We did both exchange lyrics and melodies. Some songs are Lucie's lyrics with my melodies at the core and vice versa. 

And a couple songs are both of our lyrics and melodies merged! And then we each put a couple of our own songs in the hat to try recording together, too.

Q - One song in particular, "Then We Were Flying," came together very fast, and the two of you recorded it live in one take. Why do you think the song came together so easily?

Each song has its own life and magic if you ask me. That one just really happened all the way. 

That is Lucie's lyric and my melody.  And the melody came in like it was chasing the lyric.

I reckon the lyric has a lot of natural music in it, because I only read the lyrics once (actually standing beside a tethered hot air balloon if you can believe it!) and started singing/humming the song.

The melody was as clear as day to me, somehow. We worked out a few of the chord changes together later with our guitars after I started singing Lucie the melody I was hearing, and the song just wanted to live. 

We recorded it the next morning, live in one take, as you mentioned. That is already one of our favorites to sing together too.

Q - What's next for you after this tour? Will you be working on some of your own music? Would you like to do more projects with Lucie Thorne?

I have my own album recorded, mixed and mastered.  It's an album I'm extremely proud of that was recorded out at Justin Vernon's studio in Wisconsin. 

It will come out early next year sometime.  And I'm truly looking forward to touring behind it! 

Lucie Thorne is a true pal and a friend in the music too, so I imagine this recording we did together is a beginning. Not to mention that "No Boys Allowed" can be pretty fun!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Remembering "Svengoolie" creator Jerry G. Bishop

Rest in Peace, Jerry G. Bishop, the original Svengoolie, who passed away Sunday at the age of 77.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Chicago area musician Josh Stockinger presents captivating folk rock on new album


The name HorseThief itself conveys an air of mystery.

On his latest album, "Horses and the Paranormal," The HorseThief blends rock, folk and elements of psychedelia in a captivating fashion that will likely appeal to fans of such bands as The Lumineers and Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes.

The HorseThief is the musical persona of Lombard resident Josh Stockinger. I had the chance to talk to him about the recording of "Horses and the Paranormal."

Q - Good talking to you. What goals did you have for "Horses and the Paranormal" and do you think you achieved them? Were you trying to build on your previous efforts?

Thanks for your interest, Eric. The record was an ongoing project for about three years, and there were times I felt like giving up.  

But I'd say I accomplished my main goal by seeing it through to the end. I feel good about that.  

Musically, I wanted to incorporate more instruments than I used on my first release and continue to explore and express sounds and ideas that interest me and reflected a state of mind. Really, the songs are just momentary reflections from a guy in a basement.  

I do it because I love music and want to throw something honest on the pile.  

Q - Once again, you play all the instruments yourself. What are the pros and cons of literally being a one man band? Is having total control over a project worth all the extra work? 

HorseThief started as a one-man operation because I hadn't played music in years and didn't know any musicians in my area. Since then, I've become friends with several musicians, and we've worked together on recording projects here and there. 

But HorseThief feels personal, and I've intentionally kept it that way. I like to be alone when I write and record because I feel less self-conscious and more open to making mistakes and working through them.

On the downside, it can be painful, like looking in the mirror too long or hearing your own voice on an answering machine. You have no other minds or talent to help build a song and you're constantly forced to face your own limitations. 

It can be kind of harrowing, but that's a good reason to do it.

Q - What is the story behind the HorseThief name? How does the name represent your music?    

I grew up in a small town in southern Illinois and once heard a friend use the term "horse thief" to describe another buddy who stole his motorbike, which cracked me up. These were guys who loved John Wayne movies, vandalism and road-tripping out in the country. 

I always liked how the phrase had something of a "that bastard" ring to it, while at the same time coming across old-fashioned and clean, so to speak. Anyway, I thought of it again when I started making music and the songs turned out to be more soft and rural than I'd envisioned, though somewhat dark. 

To me, the term "horse thief" reflects both negativity and sensitivity. One friend of mine described it as a romantic insult, and I liked that. It also reminds me of home. 

Q - Who are your biggest musical inspirations and how do they figure into your music? 

That's a tough one because, even with music I don't necessarily enjoy, I find it fascinating to hear how someone else does it, and I own thousands of records that I listen to around the clock whenever I get the chance.

To me, just being in the presence of music can be inspiring. I'm a big fan of musicians who aren't afraid to forge their own paths. At the time I recorded the album, I was listening to a lot of Jonathan Richman. 

I don't sound anything like him, of course, but I took away from his music a stronger desire to be consistently and unapologetically sincere. I always tell people it's difficult to sound like yourself. 

But that's what I aspire to do with HorseThief.

Q - How would you say your music has evolved over the years?

Between my first release and the new record, I thought the songs became more developed and the performances were better. At the same time, I wish I had taken more risks and been more adventurous, both musically and lyrically.  

I also learned a lot about recording, having switched from an 8-track to a computer program between projects. As for the HorseThief sound overall, it's dramatically different from the punk rock I played during and after high school.

Q - How would you describe your music?

I guess HorseThief thus far has primarily been rural and somewhat brooding folk-based music. I've tried to incorporate texture and psychedelic elements here and there, maybe some spaghetti western-ish allure and rock. That said, I don't have my mind set on a certain sound.

So far, this is just what has come out. I think I might switch gears entirely for the next project.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you music fits into it? 

I wish I was more involved but, to be honest, I'm largely out of touch with any local music scene these days. As a record collector, I've worked my way through a lot of the great blues and jazz and rock to come out of Chicago over the years, but I'm way behind on contemporary stuff.  

That said, I've made a point in the last several months to try to get out and meet other local musicians because I want to be more engaged. I want to get out of the basement. 

Q - Do you have any plans to perform your songs live? Would you form a band to perform them live? 

I don't have any current plans to play live. I am interested in starting or joining a band but, if I did, it probably would be separate from HorseThief. And, hopefully, loud. 

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations? 

I never really thought about it like that. The dream right now is to keep doing music in whatever form that takes and, hopefully, progress. 

I have a lot of ideas and am interested in other people's ideas. The trick is making them happen and keeping up with the daily grind.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Luray to bring lush folk influenced sound to Chicago


These days, it is more common than not to hear a band incorporating a banjo into its music.

But there are few bands casting the banjo in such a beautiful light as Washington, D.C.-based Luray, which just released its debut album, "The Wilder."

Luray,, will perform Sept. 18 at The Burlington, 3425 W. Fullerton Ave., Chicago. More information is available by going to

I had the chance to talk to frontwoman Shannon Carey about the band.

Q - Great to talk to you. Of course, your debut album, "The Wilder," was just released. In sitting down to record the album, what were your goals and do you think you achieved them?

I wrote the songs for "The Wilder" in about nine months, after a pretty long drought of no songwriting, so each one was like a gift. I recorded detailed demos for all the songs in my basement in Alexandria, Va. (and then D.C. after we moved there), and sent them along to my brother, Sean.  

When we got to Sean's house to record in Eau Claire, Wis., it was pretty intense because we only had five days to record the baseline vocals, banjo, and electric guitar. When I sat down that first day to record, I just prayed that I could get it right without too many takes!  

Sean honestly did an amazing job recording and producing the record, and I am very proud of the final product and I do think it captured the original spirit and feeling of the songs.

Q - The album was produced by your brother Sean Carey, probably best known for being a member of Bon Iver. What made you want him to produce the album and what do you think he brought to the table? Was he easier to work with because he is your brother? 

Would you consider him or Bon Iver to be a musical influence?

I think one of the main reasons I wanted to work with Sean was his solo album, "All We Grow."  I love the simplicity and beauty of the songs, and the way he orchestrated and arranged them, they sound so pure and lovely.

I thought that if I could write the songs on banjo, and he could produce it, we could make something really interesting and surprising to people's ears.

Both Sean's solo work, and Bon Iver have influenced my sound - I like the way they affect your emotions and put you in a certain mind space.

Q - "The Wilder" has strong family ties on it. Your other brother, Colin Carey, is also featured on it along with your husband, Gabriel Wisniewski. Do you think the record was easier to make because it features so many family members?

Yes I do think it helped make the arranging and recording process very comfortable, and it allowed all of us to give ideas. Most of the songs were already written with all the parts being played on banjo, but we needed to reinterpret the songs onto the other instruments (upright bass, keyboard, vibes, electric guitar, drums) and that took a lot of experimenting.

Sean did a lot of it after Gabriel and I left Wisconsin, actually. He would send me rough cuts and we tweaked them over email and Dropbox and Skype over about six months.

Q - I understand that you took up the banjo while living in Northern California in 2006. What drew you to the banjo in the first place and what have you tried to do with it on this album?

I was drawn to banjo for its percussive quality and the unique texture it gives any song. My ears would perk up whenever I heard a banjo, whether it was in country, bluegrass, rock, folk - you name it. 

One night in California, I had a dream that I got a guitar for Christmas, but I was really heartbroken in the dream because I wished that it was a banjo. When I woke up, I was convinced that I needed to learn banjo.

So I found a teacher and started taking lessons.

On this album I am attempting to layer banjo, with more banjo, with strumming, with ethereal vocals to create a unique sound and feeling. I was experimenting with using banjo to play outside the bluegrass and country style, almost as if it were a guitar.

It's funny how hard it was originally to break the bluegrass style of playing banjo. I remember talking to my brother Sean about this a few years ago when I first had this thought, and he said to me 'just strum it!"

Q - There seems to be so much interest in the banjo these days and so many bands are using it. Why do you think there is so much interest in using the banjo as a main instrument in a band?

Yeah, I've noticed that too - that the banjo is used more and more in both indie and mainstream music, and I think it has something to do with just being in style right now, and also the way the timbre of the banjo catches your ear.

I must not be the only one who feels intrigued by the sound of a banjo.

Q - There also are a lot of Americana or folk bands on the music scene these days. What do you think it is about Luray that separates the group from other bands that could be put in the same category?

I think that it's great that so many people are making variations of folk music today. I grew up listening to the really popular folk singers of the 70's that my parents loved - James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Simon and Garfunkel - these artists share an earthy, laid back, and super honest style that I think has influenced me. 

I think a lot of bands now combine so many genres and influences from their personal background and taste, and what you come up with is often not categorizable. For me, I am hugely influenced by folk, and also by bluegrass, country (my dad was in a country and western band when I was young), but also more layered and ambient styles of music like Frou Frou, Grizzly Bear, Radiohead and Sigur Ros.

I think what sets us all apart is that we all have something unique to say with our music, and we each have a different collection of musical influences even though we may be using the same instrumentation.

Q - Bon Iver has achieved considerable success. Would you want Luray to match the success that Bon Iver has achieved? Do you think that being an indie artist has given you more creative freedom?

I made of list of all the factors that are important to me in releasing this record, and artistic freedom and flexibility was my first priority. 

I decided to experiment with different genres on "The Wilder" – if you’re not really a fan of bluegrass, but you are drawn to some of my more ambient feeling songs, you may be exposed to something you’re not used to listening to, like the ukulele for example.

Q - What are your short and long-term goals for the band?

I'd like to tour as much as we all can this year and share our new record. Long term, I'd like to just keep playing at great-sounding venues and meeting new friends and bands, collaborating with other musicians as much as possible, and definitely working on a new material that continues to excite and challenge us.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Montreal band to bring pop magic to Riot Fest


The pop genius of Montreal quintet Stars shines through on the band's latest effort, "The North."

Stars will likely treat Riot Fest concert goers with a few songs from the new album when it performs Sept. 14 as part of the massive Riot Fest music event in Humboldt Park, Division Street and Sacramento Avenue, Chicago.

Stars,, will perform from 1:30 to 2 p.m. on the Rise Stage. Riot Fest, which will be held between Sept. 13-15, will feature a diverse lineup of artists, including Public Enemy, Violent Femmes, Blondie, Mission of Burma, Pixies, The Replacements, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Danzig.

Tickets are available by going to

I had the chance to talk to Stars singer Amy Millan about the band's latest album.

Q - Great to talk to you. Of course, the band will be performing at Riot Fest on Sept. 14. I know you guys performed at Coachella earlier this year. What do you like about performing at festivals?

Seeing the other bands.  Having that kind of access to some of the best new and old bands. At Coachella I got to watch Nick Cave and then Promise Ring. Then I got to hang backstage with Lee Scratch Perry!!!

Q - I imagine that you will be playing a lot of songs from "The North," which was released last year. Some people have said that the album represents a return to form for the band. What goals did you have for the album and do you think you achieved them?

We love pop music. We just want to write the best pop song we can. 

Like any job, you are influenced by what is happening in your day to day life. "The Five Ghosts" is a beautiful but sad record as we were in mourning when the record was written. Time went by and we were quite cheerful when the songs for "The North" were written. 

Maybe that's what initially drew people to the album.

Q - As part of your fall tour, the band is releasing two songs that were outtakes from "The North." Did they just not fit on the album? Did you think now was the right time to get new music out to your fans?

The band loves those two songs.  It was a massive point of contention with some of us that they weren't on the album, but feelings were rest assured with the promise of a well timed release further into the tour cycle.

We wanted "The North" to be concise and to fit on two sides of vinyl, not the four sides you see so much these days. In this climate of Internet access, releasing singles is simpler and an exciting way to reengage the audience, especially for the fans who are always waiting in the wings to hear and support new music. 

These were never B sides just thrown away, they were strong songs that needed to wait to make their place in our catalogue.

Q - You co-produced the album yourselves and once again turned to Tony Hoffer to mix "The North." What do you think he brought to the table when he worked on "Set Yourself On Fire" and what did he bring to the table this time around?

Tony always brings a fresh interpretation to the music that we've had our heads stuck in for too long. He's the gleam machine. 

He has some kind of sparkle knob that makes all the subtleties and textures of the music come alive.

Q - It seems like most of the band members are also busy with other projects as well. Is it hard getting the band together to work on music and to tour?

We are all 100 percent dedicated to Stars. We're also all really close friends. 

It's in our down time we end up doing other projects, but it's really all about Stars for all of us.

Q - The music business has changed drastically since the band first started. The band released 2007's "In Our Bedroom After The War" on iTunes two months before its scheduled release date in order to prevent it from being leaked online. Has the digital age made it easier or harder to be a musician? 

Both I'd say. There is just complete over saturation on the one hand but on the other hand if you can penetrate, you can reach people all over the world with one click on your keyboard.

Q - It seems like bands in Canada are more willing to work with each other, more so than in the United States. How would you say the music scene in Canada is different from the American music scene?

I don't think that's true. Wilco, Beck, Flaming lips, Tortoise, Sea and Cake, Jay Z, Kanye, these are all great American artists who are constantly innovating and inviting collaboration. 

It's rare to meet assholes backstage. Generally people in bands want to have a laugh and a drink and maybe a toke. We all usually have that in common.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Chicago musician Julie Meckler bringing intoxicating vibe to scene


On her debut album, "Queenshead," French songstress Julie Meckler grabs listeners with her intoxicating voice and doesn't let go.

Meckler will celebrate the release of "Queenshead" with a show Sept. 26 at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave., Chicago. The Blue Ribbon Glee Club and Roy Ivy are also on the bill.

The show starts at 8:30 p.m. and tickets are $10, available at

I had the change to talk to Meckler,, about her new album.

Q - Great to talk to you. Of course, you will be celebrating the release of your debut CD, "Queenshead," with a show at The Hideout. What goals did you have for the album and do you think you achieved them?

The first goal was to finish it, print it and release it, really. Everything was new for me in the making of this album. 

Also, to be truthful and genuine through the whole process. It took us three years to make "Queenshead" and yes, I'm really proud of it!

It's a very personal album. It was a very specific time in my life, and the album sounds like my life - joyful and dark, groovy and languid, American but so French.

Q - The album is drastically different from the album you made last year with garage rock band Rambos. Should people be surprised that you have many musical sides?

No, people shouldn't be surprised. Or, if people are surprised I suppose they'll be surprised every time they see my name. 

I'm a music lover. I have no boundaries concerning genres, styles, time-periods for music that I'm listening to and what I like to perform. 

I think you can tell on the record that my voice is very versatile. I met my husband when we were both playing in the West African music Chicago band Le Orchestre Super Vitesse. 

My next project will be very different from this, and I don't know exactly how, but that's something you can count on! Everything is open.

Q - On "Queenshead," you cover the song "Soul Love." Why did you want to want to cover the song and what do you think you added to it? Would you call David Bowie an influence?

In the beginning of this project the band was just me and Brett Bakshis. We would hang out and play my songs and also sing some other tunes and try to twist them and play with them to create new material. 

I should mention that Brett loves to sing too. We love some of the same artists (for example, David Bowie of course, PJ Harvey, The Pixies, Jeff Buckley, Portishead...). 

With "Soul Love," I don't think we added something to it, necessarily. I think we used the original song (really just a memory of the original), as raw material - Brett created the bossa nova guitar style for the song, I experimented with the vocal lines, later Will Phalen had the idea to add some harmonica to bring in some Americana feel. 

On the recording we also added Kurt Schweitz on upright bass to have a more traditional groovy, jazzy, bossa nova bass line. When we perform the song I'm never thinking of the original version and actually, most of the time people don't recognize it at a David Bowie tune.

Q - You document your fear of being deported on the song "Deportation Blues" and now thankfully you have your Green Card. Should the process be made easier for people who want to want to live in the United States? What was it like being able to return to France this summer?

Immigration is a hard subject, which is very often treated and talked about with statistics and numbers - where I think we always need to see the human part of it. To emigrate - to leave your country, culture, family and friends is always a very radical and painful decision. 

Yes, I think the U.S. but not only the U.S. - the Western countries -  should improve immigration policy, especially towards people asking for political asylum. I don't believe in borders. 

People should be free to go  and live wherever they want. Children don't understand borders. We shouldn't either.

Returning to France this summer (for six weeks!) was a journey extremely rich in emotions: Reconnecting with my friends one by one, catching up, realizing all the beautiful friendships I still have after five years of absence, meeting their kids for the first time, seeing my Grandma who is 85, introducing my husband to my people, introducing my other home/country/culture to my non-French-speaking husband. was great! But, it was also great to feel that Chicago was my home and that is for sure where I want to live. I'm happy to be back.

Q - One Chicago publication called you one of the "15 Chicago Artists To Watch." Did that surprise you and put a lot of pressure on you? What are the names of some other Chicago bands that you admire?

Since I'm not from here sometimes I don't really get the importance of certain things like being recognized by media and press. I'm happy to be noticed, but It's usually the people around me that are even more excited about these kinds of things. 

So, I didn't really feel pressure. We just continued working and keeping our heads in the recording process...lost in time - It was such a long process. 

Through my husband James I've been able to meet many incredible jazz musicians he's playing with like Matt Ulery and Rob Clearfield. My friend Jeremy David Miller - those people I really admire their creativity, their musicality, and their groove, all in different ways.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you fit into it?

I see the Chicago music scene as a talented, big community of very open, nice, and curious people. It's because of the welcoming support of musician friends that I've been able to start playing music, create a band, play live shows, record an album. 

I'd like to think that what I bring to the scene is a freshness, and a spontaneity in my way of perceiving and dealing with music.

Q - What made you leave behind your life as an actress and do you think you made the right choice?

Tough one. I wouldn't say I left it behind. 

I'm still on stage performing just in a different way. Now, all I have to do is really be myself out there on the stage - a sublime me - and sing. 

Singing is really the moment where I'm truly myself. But, I love acting and dancing - I'm still a performer and always will be, whatever stage I'm on.  

I hope I can be a part of some European theater/dance projects in the future, continuing to live in Chicago - we'll see what comes. I wish I knew how to bring more dance and theater into my live shows, but I already do try to envisage the visual aspects of the show through decor, special lighting, costume, toys and figurines I have on stage. 

I've also even started thinking about some makeup for the band.

Q - You are married to the trumpet player in your band, James Davis. Is that hard being in a band with the person who you are married to? How do you make it work?

James and I met playing in Le Orchestre Super Vitesse in late 2009. At that time my band was already in the recording process. 

The core of the band (Brett Bakshis, Will Phalen, and Shawn Rios and me) had been playing together for at least a year already but I always wanted a trumpet player. And then I met James - with him everything is just easy. His trumpet and horn arrangements completed some existing songs little by little, first on stage then on the album. 

I think you should ask him how he makes it work. He's such an incredibly talented musician and composer. I'm so lucky that he wants to play with me!

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?

Working with a Balkan Fanfare. Also, Arthur H.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Irish musician Damien Dempsey headed to Chicago


Irish musician Damien Dempsey has been called one of the greatest songwriters of his generation.

Dempsey,, will perform Sept. 4 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Hall, Chicago.

Nicole Maguire also is on the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, available at

I had the chance to talk to Dempsey about his latest album, "Almighty Love."

Q - Great to talk to you. The last time I talked to you, you had just released your 2007 album, "To Hell or Barbados." How do you think your music has evolved since then?

It’s become more personal and less historical, although there is one historical song on the album about the Highland Clearances in Scotland.

Q - You posted a letter to your fans about how difficult it was coming up with the songs for "Almighty Love." I thought you were quite honest in the letter, probably more honest than most musicians would be. Did you feel compelled to write that letter to your fans? In retrospect, does the album live up to your vision for it?

I wanted to let the fans know why the fifth album was taking so long. They were waiting with baited breath for it which was great in one sense but terrifying in another because the songs weren't up to scratch for a few years. 

I really didn't want to disappoint them with a wish washy offering because I know how much the lyrics mean to them,and me.

Q - People have called you one of the greatest songwriters of your generation and that you are a real working class hero. How does it feel to be described like that and do you find it hard living up to the hype? What would you like for people to take away from your music?

People call me all sorts of things so I try not to live up to anyone's hype whether good or bad, but I would hope people take away positivity and spirituality from my songs and the fact that there is always hope and your never alone.

Q - You recently opened for Bruce Springsteen in Ireland. He also is seen as a voice for the working class. How was that experience and do you consider him to be a musical influence?

A true gent, and one of the greatest living poets. He's a great inspiration, the true love that emanates from him on stage is the bar we musicians should reach for and attain to in my eyes.

Q - In your songs, you address problems facing Ireland and the world. Do you think there aren't enough musicians these days talking about the issues of the day? Who are some other musicians that you admire?

There are loads of musicians talking about these issues but they're being pushed more and more to the edge and out of the public eye. Kids want fast food fast access, no brainer, visually pretty sexy chewing gum music.

I reckon the best music is in the Third World and it's helping and healing people, and that great music would help a lot of mentally distraught disillusioned folks in the First World.

Q - Of course, Sinead O'Connor appears on "Almighty Love." I understand she has been a musical mentor to you. What do you think she brings to the album?

She brings the spirit of everything beautiful about the voice. You want the real deal in popular music, look no further than Sinead, a goddess, ha! She might bust me for calling her that!

Q - In recent years, you have dabbled in film, earning rave reviews in the movie "Between The Canals." Do you need both in your life? Do you ever see a time in your life where you will step away from the music world and just do acting?

Art eases our journey through this life, it's good for the soul and good for getting you out of your own head space.

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?

I'd love to go around the world playing with indigenous musicians and record what we did and make an album