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Andrea Rowe
original folk and blues
Other Views

(A Spring 1998 conversation with Andrea Rowe and Jane Davidson).


JD: Tell us about finishing this album. How does it feel now?

AR: Itís that gift, that connection, energy and expression. I have to let my creation be whatever itís going to be. Being my own worst critic, I've had to step back. I had to come to terms with it without ego. I let those boo-boos in my playing and singing form the character and nuances. If I waited for perfection, it'd never get done. In my live performances I always goof up. Which I like because it shows I am human, not an automaton or a CD. I'm not a product.

JD: How long has it taken you to know this?

AR: It took me years. I did a cover band for five years in Seattle - ROCK - and you had to play it perfectly or you didn't work. You had to play each song note for note. I couldn't get over that way of working for years and I was very strict about it. Then some switch turned on in me a few years ago and I said "Hey! What are you doing? Do you want to create or just be a mimic?"

JD: I think that getting to perfection as a musician gives you the freedom to express. I usually see artists with just the expression side who have never experienced that perfect element of whatever their craft is. Not getting to that place of perfection, how would you recognize the nuances?

AR: Absolutely true. The black and white, the yin and yang. I totally validate that work I did but after a while it drove me crazy. When Cheth and I first met in Seattle, we knew we would do music together and we started a band right after. I guess it was soulmate at first sight. Then we started doing the band. At first we did eclectic stuff, R&B, soul, but the market at the time wouldn't really support it. We had to do mainstream rock - covers - no originals allowed. This was just before Seattle changed to the grunge scene.

JD: When did things turn for you?

AR: The first time I felt connected was with the Cannon Beach Chorus. We did a "Rock Ďní Roll Heaven" show. I sang "Piece of My Heart" with a whole chorus behind me. I'd been singing that song with my rock band for years and I did it the way it was always done. Suddenly, I'd never done this before, suddenly something hit me. I know this sounds crazy, but there was a light. I had never sung like this in my life. I opened this channel, I sang notes I'd never hit before. It was a trip. I'll never forget it.

JD: How long ago was that?

AR: Ten years ago when Danny Lawson first directed the Cannon Beach Chorus.

JD: I wish I was there!

AR: I got a standing ovation! Danny made me sing it again, as the encore. From then on, I became a totally different person. I finally felt my talent was being appreciated. In the past I was a hard rock mama: spandex, purple hair, struggling in a male-dominated music scene, performing in clubs where no one really cared about the band. The only good thing that came out of the era was covering Heart, Pat Benatar, the Pretenders -- WOMEN -- they inspired me to perservere. I'm really on this funny circle. Finally performing my own music. This CD is mine. There's not one guitar lead on it. I had to deal with that cock rock bull for years. This is really me expressing what I feel. And that is lovely.

JD: How different it must be here. In Seattle, you worked in front of an anonymous audience. Living here, doing it here it must be harder on some level. Itís your neighbors and friends.

AR: Every time I see someone I know in the audience, I think, why are you here again? Arenít I boring you? Havenít you heard this song before? That kind of stuff goes through my head. Itís stage fright. Performing is a blessing and a curse. Iíve had to learn to trust and let it flow. It can really be magical sometimes. I was closing a show and someone said, "You can't stop yet! You haven't played my song! Hold Your Vision!" I have a lot of people who support me.

JD: To me it seems much harder. Itís like your family judging you. Have you always done music, as a child?

AR: Catholic School. I had to go early, at seven, but singing in the choir was the only way I got through school, even high school. My parents were semi-supportive. They werenít musical, they didnít play instruments; but they loved music. My mother especially loved opera and musical theater. I grew up "playing" a double decker coffee table just like it was a grand piano while listening to her records. Classical music and opera. I would give a show, put on a performance for family. Finally my folks paid for actual piano lessons. My first recital was in a chapel next to a crematorium -- the cemetery where my grandmother and all my relatives (and, later, my mother) were buried. That was too much for me. Why they'd have a recital there I have no idea. I quit piano [for a while] after that. I was ten or eleven. It was two more years before I took dance, art and piano lessons at Mills College in Oakland.

JD: Your parents seemed pretty supportive.

AR: When I started to write and play my own music in a band, when I started hanging out in Berkeley with "that" crowd, that scared them. I was a rebel anyway and they just thought that'd take me further into that whole freaky hippie culture scene. (Which it did.)

JD: It seems like your experiences just textured your career.

AR: I feel so much more powerful with my music now. I never knew I had it in me. I wrote and arranged all of the songs on this album (except for one I co-wrote with my husband, Cheth.) He believed in my abilities, even before I did, and just went with it. When it came to mixing, I mixed every song. In the beginning, I was giving away the control of the album but in the end I took it all back. The process led me to keep interrupting and changing things myself. So I said, "OK. I can do this," and took to it like a duck to water. It was my control. If it sounded awful, it was my fault. I couldn't blame anyone else.

JD: Think about it. The whole thing worked and you liked it. You could have hated it and said it didn't work.

AR: That to me is really major. To embrace it and say with all its quirks that I love every little quirk. Itís a really vulnerable place. Not being in a big studio and have someone tell you what to do, thatís a mixed blessing too. Not having that guidance and having only yourself to push you.

JD: Is there anything you'd like people to know at this stage of your process? You're right at the verge of releasing this CD. Itís a really wonderful moment in your life, in all your talents. Itís a completion of whatís taken you years to get to. Itís also a celebration of that moment.

AR: That other little part of me, that little girl, though I want to be all grown up, finds it still very scary. I want everyone to kiss the baby and say how pretty it is. I want people to be accepting and love it as much as I do. But thatís not really the thing that will bring me fulfillment. Itís the fact that I had the courage to do it. There are all kinds of people out there creating, I'm certainly nothing new. I'm just a tiny part of it. Music has always been the center of my life. When I was growing up I pretended to be a performer. I slept with the transistor [radio] under my pillow because I was afraid of the dark. I've just sort of put a lot of that back out there. I believe I'm just a mediator anyway. I hope that people get the positive. I haven't had an easy life but this is a reflection of the positive. That I went through the dark and came out in the light.

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