singer-songwriter

Quick Q and A with Nobody’s Girl

What’s not to love about three fabulous singer-songwriters getting together and jamming and creating some of the most heartfelt harmonies you’ll ever hear?  Nobody’s Girl is indeed a supergroup out of Austin, Texas.  Rebecca Loebe has a half dozen albums to her name as well as a much-heralded appearance on TV’s “The Voice;” Grace Pettis has a well-established career as a solo artist as well as a member of the Grace Pettis Band and knows her way around songcraft for sure, and Betty Soo’s musical accomplishments show her range from edgy rocker to sensitive soul singer to Americana at its best.  This trio is definitely a force of nature.

Nobody’s Girl is appearing at the me&thee in Marblehead, MA on Friday, November 16.

Learn more about the band on their website.

Check out this video of their song “Waterline.”

How long have you three known each other?  

 Rebecca Loebe: We met each other at the Kerrville Folk Festival in 2008 and have kept in touch over the years, occasionally playing together in different combinations. When we decided to go on tour together last year it clicked immediately!

You have Kerrville Folk Festival in common.  For those who aren’t familiar with this legendary annual event, please describe what it’s like and how life-changing the New Folk competition is for so many musicians!

BettySoo: Dalis Allen, the producer of the Kerrville Folk Festival, proudly says that songwriting is the heart and soul and the main focus of Kerrville. She believes songwriters do important work that makes a difference for good in the world. With that in mind, it makes sense that wherever you wander in the campgrounds, there are song circles happening all day and all night at different campsites all over the ranch. People from different walks of life, incomes, and ages gather in small circles, sharing their songs and listening to one another. There are signs around the festival grounds that say, “It can be this way always,” which is the perfect summation for the hope that infuses interactions there. It’s a strikingly supportive and trusting environment, and so it makes sense to me that so many lifelong friendships are forged there.

When I was part of New Folk in 2008, I was pretty new to songwriting competitions. I had no idea what to expect from the other writers, the audience, or the judges. I’ve never been a very competitive person, so I dreaded going and having to be part of a contest. That said, not being very competitive by nature was probably what made Kerrville such a wonderful experience for me. Almost all of us camped together (thanks to Deb Rouse & Lindsey Lee, who host the New Folkers every year), and many of us became very good friends, as well as fans of each other’s music. By the time the weekend was coming to a close, I remember wanting the “win” for all of my new friends as much as I wanted it for myself. We’ve all returned to Kerrville many times over the years, and it’s wonderful to see this same dynamic play out year after year, and it’s visible — even from the judges’ bench.

The three of you grew up in the “south” — Texas, Alabama, and Georgia.  How, if at all, has that affected your musical style and sensibility?

Grace Pettis: We are Southerners for sure. There’s a common Texan thread first and foremost. All three of us “came up” musically in the Texas music scene- at Kerrville Folk Festival, where we met, in the clubs in Austin, where we live, and across the state, where all three of us tour frequently. BettySoo, in particular, brings the Texas influence. She grew up in Spring, Texas, right outside of Houston. It’s not an accident that she plays the accordion!

Rebecca and I both grew up in Atlanta, so I hear a lot of that too. Atlanta is the R&B/pop/gospel thing that both of our voices do sometimes. I hear it in our writing too; in the grooves and internal rhyme. It’s part TLC, part Indigo Girls.

I also grew up in rural Alabama, in a mountain town called Mentone, and I hear that too. 90’s country on the radio, the Drive-By Truckers (thanks to my brother Rayvon), the old piano hymns my grandmother loved, and of course, my dad’s music. It’s the reason I’ve come to love classic country. Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn. Dolly and Loretta aren’t from Alabama but they’re from little Appalachian towns like the area my family’s from. So that’s in there too.

What’s the best thing about playing together as a trio?

Rebecca Loebe: It’s hard to pick a favorite thing, but I have to say that when our three-part harmonies hit full tilt for the first time each night, I honestly get goosebumps. Other highlights include: sharing instruments onstage, singing from a broad range of perspectives and influences, and getting to spend two-thirds of the night just in awe of the two women with whom I’m sharing the stage. We have a lot of fun together onstage and I think that makes the concert a fun little party.

When you first started you were calling yourselves The Sirens of South Austin.  What prompted the name change to Nobody’s Girl?

 Rebecca Loebe: We’ve all been friends for a long time, and thought it would be fun to go on tour together, so we booked what was supposed to be a one-time, three-week long tour. Once the shows were booked, we thought it would be a good idea to write a song together so we could have a big, fun, group closer.

We got together for a writing retreat and things really clicked – we wrote three songs in 36 hours! Afterward, we played the tunes for the folks who owned the recording studio where we were writing, and they offered us a record deal. We were shocked – we hadn’t even played a gig together yet!

We gave it some thought and decided to accept the offer, so we wrote a couple more songs recorded an album together… At that point, we realized we didn’t have a band name! The name “Sirens of South Austin” is what the tour was going to be called, but didn’t really work as a band name (too long, too geographically specific, there are already lots of other “Sirens” bands, etc) so we put our heads together and came up with Nobody’s Girl and here we are!

You have just released a new EP called “Waterline.”  Your press says that it’s more Pop than Folk but …. really, what is “folk” anymore?  The genres have all morphed into each other which isn’t a bad thing (to open-minded music lovers anyway). if you could describe your music in terms of influences, who would you cite?

I love that Louis Armstrong once said, “all music is folk music; I ain’t never heard no horse sing a song.” I believe in those words. Music is an important language, and it can be universal, and it can be tribal. We tend to feel comfortable with music that is similar to what we heard growing up, whether it was in our home or in the greater culture, but unlike some other things in life, I believe humans have an easily-accessed ability to be exposed to different-sounding music throughout our lives and find new musical sounds that become home.

All three of us came up with a lot of different sounds around us, and I think that’s made genre a non-issue for us. We are all fans of artists from a lot of different musical backgrounds, from modern rap to Appalachian folk songs, from classic country to Broadway show tunes to electronica to sugary power pop. Everything a songwriter listens to filters in somewhere, and I’m sure our writing has been informed by as many artists as one can imagine.

So your bio is full of Star Trek references. Dare I ask what the fascination is?  (I’m not a member of that particular fan-base so I’m honestly interested!!!)

Grace Pettis: That’s probably my fault. I’m the true Trekkie of the group. The other two are fans, but they don’t have stuffed Tribbles and tricorders on their desks.

When we were answering interview questions for that first press release, Star Trek had become a frequent reference an inside joke and so it ended up in a lot of our press materials. I may be responsible for the frequency that it comes up in band banter, haha.

It would take too many paragraphs to explain my deep love for Star Trek but I’ll give you a few main reasons. Of all the sci-fi series I watch (and love), it’s one of the very few futures I’d actually want for the human race. It’s hopeful at its core, and it has a deep respect for and belief in humanity.

From the beginning, Star Trek envisioned a future free from racism, classism, and sexism. It featured a diverse cast and gave America its first interracial kiss on television! It’s true, the miniskirts and go go boots in the Original Series don’t really suggest a future free of misogyny. And yes, that kiss was the result of aliens mind-controlling Uhura and Kirk. (But let’s face it: Uhura is way too classy to ever willingly kiss Captain Kirk. He’s kind of a douche. The Uhura/Spock romance of the new reboots is way more believable in my opinion.) But I admire the excessive optimism and enterprise (pun intended) that Star Trek showed to try and realize that utopian vision within the world of 1960’s television. Thank God for Lucille Ball and Desilu Productions. I think it’s kept that spirit, throughout all of its incarnations. Some series are better than others. Next Generation is particularly good, as is the newest series, airing right now on CBS- Star Trek: Discovery.

I also relate profoundly to storylines about small groups of people, flung out into the far reaches of the unknown, learning to trust each other and work as they discover new civilizations and worlds. “To boldly go.” As a kid, that’s what I always hoped being in a touring band would feel like. And on its best days, it does. 🙂

 

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