Posts Tagged Club Passim
St. Louis, Missouri-based musician Beth Bombara creates Americana/folk songs with bluesy undertones and earthy vocals. Growing up in Grand Rapids, Mich., Bombara played in a punk band in high school The 32-year-old singer/songwriter moved from Michigan to St. Louis in 2007 to embark on a solo music career. Her musician/producer husband Kit Hamon collaborated on her moving and diverse self-titled fifth album. The recurring themes are existentialism and travel. Quite thoughtful and provocative. She’s currently on tour and plays Club Passim in Harvard Square tonight.
I spoke with Beth Bombara during one of her days off.
Amy Steele: How’s the tour going?
Beth Bombara: It’s been a lot of fun so far.
Amy Steele: How did you get into music and singing and playing instruments?
Beth Bombara: There were always instruments around my house. We had a piano and my mom had a guitar. I was just really into music and teaching myself how to play guitar. I met some kids that wanted to start bands and it was something I always remembered doing.
Amy Steele: What do you like about being a solo artist?
Beth Bombara: I like both but I like playing with a band, in terms of having more band members to play with. In some ways it’s more fun because I don’t have to carry as much weight. I can just focus on singing more and maybe move around stage a little more. I like both. They’re just different. The band aspect there’s more collaboration. Solo. I’m rarely just playing me alone. Usually I have at least my husband playing bass with me.
Amy Steele: You moved to St. Louis in 2007. How has the music scene had an influence on your music now?
Before I moved to St. Louis I was in rock bands and went to a lot of sweaty basement shows and it was fun. I guess that can tie back into why I got into playing music in the first place. It was so fun to go see live music as a teenager. There’s a raw energy and getting to be part of that was fun. I was enamored with instruments and melody. When I moved to St. Louis, I really started experiencing music in the Americana roots music genre and even some blues. It was this perfect evolution of these things coming together. Moving to this place that roots and blues and heritage. A lot of folk coming out of the Ozark mountains. Banjo players and things like that. It definitely had a big influence. Examples of bands that played a part in my evolution after moving to St. Louis: Wilco; Uncle Tupelo; and more underground bands like The Rum Drum Ramblers (who are now a part of Pokey LaFarge’s band); and the Hooten Hallers.
Amy Steele: What makes you work well with your husband, to produce and collaborate on the album?
We have different ideas about things. We come at things from different perspectives. We might not always agree but we realize each perspective is valid. Having a certain respect enables us to use that different perspectives to find the best thing for the song.
Amy Steele: What do you think makes a good song?
Beth Bombara: I feel like the best songs are deceivingly simple if that makes sense. It can’t seem too forced. Simplicity makes good songs. Lyrics that are simple and a melody that is simple but also says something in a brief way .
Amy Steele: Let’s talk about some songs. What they’re about or what the writing process was like.
Amy Steele: “Promised Land”
Beth Bombara: It describes a point in life where I thought that a lot of things are unknown. It’s kinda scary when you don’t know, to plan things, to get a vision for what you’re doing. That definitely came from a place of uncertainty. Feeling this is kind of scary but we have to go into this darkness, unknown and it’s good to do with someone who supports you.
Amy Steele: “Give Me Something”
Beth Bombara: The writing of that was interesting: I did that as a writing experiment where I gave myself only a couple of days to write and record it. It’s kind of an anomaly in my songwriting. I didn’t have a specific idea. It was more stream of consciousness. It speaks to that whole cycle of getting to know somebody and feeling like you’re close and then that’s gone and navigating that.
Amy Steele: “Great the Day”
Beth Bombara: It kind of embodies my mantra. My philosophy. My life philosophy. So many things happen in life that we can’t control. We’re going to experience happiness, we’re going to experience sadness and you have to take that all with a grain of salt and support each other.
Amy Steele: “It Slips Away”
Beth Bombara: I feel like I was in the same emotional state with that song as I was when I wrote “Promised Land.” You’re on a journey and things are a little bit uncertain. Questioning yourself. Did I do the right thing? Am I headed in the right direction?
Amy Steele: What are your greatest challenges?
Beth Bombara: It’s challenging to be a singer/songwriter but not to get stuck in that box. Especially as a female singer/songwriter people have expectations about that. I’m going to show up to a gig with an acoustic guitar or a piano. And those stereotypes are hard to shake off. It’s only hard for me in my mindset. I don’t think it effects how I write songs. It’s just something I run into sometimes.
Amy Steele: What do you like best about being a musician?
Beth Bombara: I like the spontaneity. There are a lot of different areas where being a musician is spontaneous whether on stage playing a song and something happens you didn’t expect to happen. Collaborating with other musicians. I always enjoy that. Getting to meet a lot of people.
I enjoy creating songs. I think that speaks to my personality. I think I’m a maker. I like to make things. I like to garden. I like to screen-print. All these things I like to do have to do with building things. Creating something from nothing.
When you think family business you might think law firm or automobile sales. Maybe a large restaurant or hotel chain. For Lucy Wainwright Roche, the family business means touring via vans and buses. It means that her mother and father [Loudon Wainwright III and Suzzy Roche of The Roches] and sister and brother [Rufus Wainwright and Martha Wainwright] are also singers and performers. Lucy bucked the expected and decided to get her masters degree and taught for a few years. Alas music called her back into the fold.
There’s A Last Time For Everything, her sophomore album, showcases gorgeous, lush vocals with ambitious arrangements. Lucy’s songs feel simultaneously expansive and comforting. Dreamy. She’s currently on tour and plays Club Passim in Cambridge, Mass on Sunday, November 17.
Amy Steele: What’s it like being part of such a musical family? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
Lucy Wainwright Roche: Well, I’ve never known anything besides being in a musical family and so it seems pretty normal to me. In terms of disadvantages, sometimes it’s overwhelming to be in a family business – it’s hard not to see yourself and to judge yourself in the context of the family.
Amy Steele: Yet you went to grad school and became a teacher for a while. What made you do that and then leave teaching for a music career?
Lucy Wainwright Roche: When I was a child and a younger adult, I really didn’t see myself going into music. I’d always been interested in teaching and working with children. I went to grad school for education and taught elementary school for a few years, which I loved. I ended up missing music, though, and so then I succumbed to the family business after-all!
Amy Steele: Why did you record this album in Nashville?
Lucy Wainwright Roche: I recorded this album with my friend Jordan Brooke Hamlin who lives in Nashville. She had been encouraging me to come down there to visit and to work on a few songs together. Eventually I bought a ticket down there and we worked in her basement for about 8 days straight and got the bulk of the album done. It was great to work in Nashville. My other recordings were all made close to home and it was fun to be in a new spot.
Amy Steele: What inspires you to write music?
Lucy Wainwright Roche: Oh, you know… the usual things… like heartbreak and misery. But also, I really find myself writing a lot about place and travel which I suppose has to do with the fact that I’m often away on tour and going from place to place.
Amy Steele: Can you tell me about these songs – either how you came up with the lyrics or melody or the recording process?
“Seek and Hide”
Lucy Wainwright Roche: This song is one that grew and changed the most from the demo to the recording. I love how it turned out and was thrilled to have Colin Meloy sing on it. He did a really great job.
Lucy Wainwright Roche: “Last Time” was the only song I had written for this album before the summer I recorded. I’d written this song earlier in the year and so it was kind of a touchstone to anchor the rest of the writing. All the other songs were written in the weeks just leading up to recording.
“Take What You’re Given”
Lucy Wainwright Roche: This was the last song written for the album. I was flying home to NYC on the last day in Nashville and my flight was delayed. I had wanted to write a song that was kind of meditative and circular in it’s form and I had some subject matter in mind. I walked around and around a parking lot writing the lyrics and then we quickly recorded the guitar and vocal part right before running to the airport!
Ari Hest has stage presence. Between his baritone voice, his tall stature (standing at least 6’2” by my estimation) and rugged good looks—dark hair, dark eyes– he instantly captivates audiences at first verse. If he weren’t such a good songwriter he’d just be a pretty boy with a guitar which isn’t a terrible thing but he’d never have the career longevity he’s had. Hest’s music has been featured on numerous television shows including Private Practice, Army Wives, and One Tree Hill. He’s also scored a film called Dreamriders which won several independent film awards.
Brooklyn-based Hest recently released his seventh album The Fire Plays on November 13. He recorded the album in one week in Rhinebeck, New York. It features guest vocalist Valeska Steinter [of the German band Boy] on the track “Couldn’t Have Her” and Tony Levin on bass on “Untitled Part 2.”
I’d not heard Ari Hest before as I spend most time listening to alternative music and less folk music. I appreciate superb song-writing though and that’s what you get with Ari Hest. A friend of Hest’s sends out phrases each week to a group of songwriters as a wonderful prompt and workshop with fellow songwriters. Hest said during a recent performance at Club Passim in Cambridge that sometimes you’ll write one line and that’s it and sometimes you’ll write an entire song. Several songs from this exercise ended up on the album.
On the upbeat “The Winter of Yes,” Hest sings, “I was born cynical and ready to burst . . . now I may not find a reason to smile. . . And my face is so cold that I tear, but I won’t let this be like any old year.”He sings in a dreamy and melancholic manner on Concrete Sky– “Someday, I’m gonna cut through to you, and you won’t put up a fight.” The song “Couldn’t Have Her” showcases the melodious, gently romantic Hest. The exquisite fetching song “Set in Stone” seems a throwback to the 60s. It’s a gorgeous, layered song. The entire album “The Fire Plays” is beautiful. Seeing Ari Hest live is a true treat.
Upcoming Tour Dates:
January 5 — The Barns at Wolf Trap – Vienna, Va.
January 11 — Ginos Place—Danville, Ill.
January 12 — Shedd Theater—Columbus, Ohio
January 18 — The Wildey Theatre –Edwardsville, Ill.
January 19 — Wheeler Arts Building—Indianapolis, Ind.
purchase at Amazon: The Fire Plays