Following her recent introduction to Tristan Bouchard, EP writer Laurabeth Evans caught up with the man himself.
LB: Are you a self-taught musician or did you have any music lessons when you were a child?
I think like most arts, it’s a combination of self-teaching and being taught. I started taking classical piano from the age of 8 or so and continued on through college. But the jazzier side of my work was definitely self-taught, even though a real pianist by now would have sought out a jazz teacher. As for voice, I was trained on and off for a few years as a child, but eventually grew tired of it and wanted a more unique style to suit the songs I was writing at the time. So most of my voice, I would say, is self-taught, but with a working knowledge of the fundamentals.
LB: Is there anyone that has helped you get this far, anyone you’d like to thank?
The list just goes on and on, but I can vividly remember the first time I ever sang a song I’d written at the piano for my best friend. It was a very big moment to slowly crawl my way out of a practice room and into the performance arena. So I’m very thankful to her for being so encouraging and non-judgmental (even though I wasn’t particularly good at the time!) And she’s since become a very important figure in the album artwork, even co-directing the ‘I Will Not Go to Paris’ video with me.
LB: Are there any projects you are particularly proud of?
I wound up discarding the word pride from my day to day life (though, I’m only human and of course it’s a hard habit to break), but in regards to my own satisfaction, I am pleased with the ‘Little Nights’ EP as a whole. And sure there are things here and there I would have done differently, but the quick pace of the process and producer forced me to make in-the-moment decisions I would not have made for another year or so. But ‘Guess I’ll Never Know Why’ is definitely the closest to my vision of how the songs should be.
LB: If you were to sum up your style of music in one sentence, what would it be?
30s songbook throwback alternative.
LB: Are there any bands that you feel influence your music?
Oh my goodness, way too many to name. But the earliest artist that really changed the way I view music was Kate Bush. While we aren’t very similar artists by any means, she gave me a conceptual idea of what the artist can do. I realised I could write about anything after listening to her, as I’m sure all musicians do, regardless of whether they like her aesthetic.
LB: To follow on from that, any favourite musicians and why?
Again, just so many. Lately it’s been all about Cuban and Brazilian music. The Afro-Cuban All- Stars, Jobim, Compay Segundo… their energy is just infectious, but tied with a brilliant technical mastery. They just seem to have a lot more fun than Americans musically as play is so important to their output. And listening to them was such an antidote to the usual alternative white people rock I liked for years. And Billie Holiday lately has been such an inspiration to my phrasing and artistic integrity.
LB: Are there any collaborations you would love to do in the future?
Lately I’ve been very interested doing harmony- layering my voice in as many different and unique ways as is listenable. So I would love to do those kind of sessions for other artists; I don’t get to utilize it much in my own stuff. And I’m such a private person that I doubt I would ever feel comfortable asking anyone I admire to collaborate. I’m too chicken!
LB: You talk about raising money for your next album and donating part of the money raised. Can you tell us more about the project and initially what made you start it?
Well, about three years ago now, I witnessed a traumatic accident as a student in Boston, Massachusetts. From there, I developed PTSD, with which I’m still working through. McLean Hospital (where a proceed of the money raised in the campaign) is a local mental health research institute that has been at the forefront of assessing and treating various mental illnesses. It only seemed natural, because the album took much of its inspiration from trauma and healing, that I should somehow give back.
LB: Have you completed any other charity work?
All of my siblings wind up helping my parents out in some way or another with their charity work in Haiti. They erected and run an orphanage called the St. Francis Xavier Haitian Orphanage Foundation (http://sfxhaiti.org/) that has done incredible work throughout the years post-earthquake. I’m planning on visiting and helping out there in the near future!
LB: What’s the next step after the release of your album, and where can we see you next? …Any UK tours, we hope?
It’s a tricky thing to plan, especially because I don’t have a strict deadline on when the album is to be completed. It could very well take me another year. And only when that’s done can I begin planning a serious tour. Meanwhile though, I am performing around the US, but don’t know if it’s realistic yet to be in the UK! Don’t think I have much of a name there yet!