In a male dominated genre, it is always refreshing to hear a strong, powerful and poetic woman. For New York's Rebecca Hart, she is just that. Sometimes playing with her band The Sexy Children, Hart is a show stopper and will have your eyes locked in on her beauty but ears opening to her amazing sound and voice. Think of her as a cross between the aggression of Patti Smith and the tenderness of Tori Amos. Whether she is fronting a band or just by herself, this artist knows how to get the attention of a room. I had the opportunity to speak to Rebecca about what its like coming from New York, her influences and style. Take a look at someone who could be your new favorite artist, Rebecca Hart.
Your style is so unique and fruitful. You combine so many different genres, who are some of your biggest influences?
RH: OK here goes. (with the usual caveat that "influences" doesn't necessarily mean "sounds like".
Joni Mitchell (you gotta acknowledge Big Mama)
Rickie Lee Jones
Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem
Theater has always played a major role in your live sets and music. Why is this?
RH: I was born into a theatre family and was in my first play at nine months old. My folks are both Theatre professors. I can't remember a time when I wasn't acting, when Theatre didn't seem like the most important thing in the world. I also can't remember a time when I wasn't making up songs and singing, though I didn't start on the guitar til I was 13. I've always been at home on stage (cue that Decemberists song), and probably because I was an actor first it's the live show that matters most to me when it comes to music.
Aside from making music, you act as well, which do you prefer more?
RH: If there was one I loved more, I'd have chosen it by now. I've always done both, and my life is sort of about living where the two intersect.
You have been releasing records on and off since 1996. How have you changed as an artist since your start?
RH: Musically I'd say the changes have been about paring away, stripping down. My first band came out of the "jam" scene in Providence RI and at that time it was all about playing as much! as many notes! which was how my writing style was then too. A million words, no space to breathe, a few different time signatures over the course of one song. Over time I began to ask myself, "What am I trying to say, and how can I just, you know, SAY it? How can I write poetry that's direct but still a lyric, not a conversation? How can I let a real Melody emerge and stand on its own?" That kind of thing. Also, I used to be too scared to talk to the audience at all!!
And now it's my favorite part almost.
How did you get linked up with The Sexy Children?
RH: In 2006..? I had just finished Crash & Strum with a bunch of sessions players and a hired producer and I wanted to play the songs out the way I heard them, with that full rock-band sound. I couldn't afford to hire "guns" to come in and do gigs consistently, and I also found that setup really demoralizing. What I wanted was a true collaboration with other artists, to create a sound WITH them. But, basically, I gave up on that and started doing mostly solo shows. Then there was one gig - ironically, for the mostly spoken-word series at Bar 13 (LouderARTS) - where I wanted a rhythm section. A friend referred me to drummer Dan Barman who he knew from the Drum & Bass Collective, and Dan suggested Matt Epstein on bass. We played in the corner of Bar 13 w/Dan on hand percussion. I liked them right away because they learned the
songs so fast! :-) and effortlessly and were fun, chill guys. We played more shows, then we formed a band with a guitarist from England for a while named Stuart Mason. He moved back to England and I went to Ireland for a month or so on tour. When I got back , Matt said, "I think my friend Dave Lott from my other band (LICORICE) should be our guitar player", and then he was. I really lucked out. It is true I think - it always happens when you stop looking. :-)
Your last record "Crash and Strum," was released in 2006, is a follow up in the works?
RH: Well, actually this year the Sexy Children and I put out a live EP called "Live at Joe's Pub" from our SOLD OUT debut show there in February 09. It's available on iTunes, from CDBaby, and at all shows. But we've also had an offer from a small startup label to start work on our first studio recording in spring 2010. (I'm spending Jan - March working on a play out of town!) We'll let you know ...
Over the past year or so, more people are starting to take notice to what you have been doing. Time Out New York mentioned "an impressively well-textured voice and a band that brings a potent dose of downtown NYC heat," how do you respond to this acclaim?
RH: By saying "YAY!!!" That writeup made us feel we were finally putting down roots in the NY scene. It was the same year we sold out Joes, that we played BAM, the Knitting Factory mainstage ,and Webster Hall (studio) for the first time. A good year.
Which song of yours means the most to you and why?
RH: I'd say "Planets" is pretty close to my heart because I feel that's where my writing style began to really 'turn' and mature. I feel it's a success in the "clean, direct, but still poetic" department. I like the phrasing; there's no loose ends or anything extra and I'm proud of that. And it's kinda
For anyone that has never listened to you before, how would you describe your style and sound?
RH:Deeply poetic, funky, bluesy rock that doesn't take itself too seriously. It hangs out with the folk tradition sometimes but really doesn't live there anymore. I don't know. What would you say? I heard "Alt-Country" recently and it horrified me at first but then I was like, "that's cool."
Special thanks to Rebecca and Allison Prouty for the interview. For more info on Rebecca Hart check out http://www.rebeccahart.net/