Kool Kat of the Week: A Chanteuse and a Cello: Atlanta Newcomer Nicolette Emanuelle Channels Kate Bush and Nick Cave at Kavarna on Sun. Oct. 28

Posted on: Oct 24th, 2012 By:

 

Photo courtesy of Nicolette Emanuelle.

An Evening with Nicolette Emanuelle is an intimate concert by an intriguing new Atlantan on Sunday evening at Oakhurst coffee shop/wine bar Kavarna on Sun. Oct. 28 at 6 p.m. The singer/songwriter/burlesque performer hasn’t been in Atlanta long, but she’s already made her mark with a volatile voice and songwriting style that’s been compared to Tori Amos, Fiona Apple and PJ Harvey. Our Retro heart, though, beats to another side of Nicolette – the influence of Kate Bush and Nick Cave. She has a passionate love for the piano and even more for the cello. She had the chutzpah to apply for and score a grant to produce her first rock album, as well as a striking look and a fearlessness in revealing costumes that has been drawing attention at local club events. Oh, and she says she gives great hugs! Needless to say we were just curious enough to make her Kool Kat of the Week!

Can you talk a little bit about what it means to be compared to Kate and Nick and the influence of these two artists on you?

I consider it to be a huge compliment when someone compares me to Kate Bush or Nick Cave. I was raised on Kate Bush, and I have memories of pulling the endpin all the way out on my cello so I could pretend it was a bass to do the choreography from the “Babooshka” video. Nick Cave I wasn’t introduced to until later in life. I fell in love with MURDER BALLADS, and I’ve been a fan ever since.  The only cover I will be playing at this upcoming show is a Nick Cave song in honor of Halloween.

Did you grow up Goth or is that a rhetorical question?

Well, my wardrobe was all black from the ages of 14 -18, but I’m not entirely sure if it was a fashion statement or laziness when it came to fashion. I was much more of a orchestra/drama/band nerd than anything else.

How did you decide upon the stage name of Nicolette Emanuelle?

Emanuelle is my middle name and also a family name. I identify more with the name “Emanuelle” than I ever have with any of my last names – of which there are three.

Lots of artists are raising money for their albums via crowd-sourcing, but you did it for your album PINAFORE the old-school way with a grant from a county arts council. How difficult was that, and are musicians overlooking that opportunity? 

I have my ex-girlfriend Laura to thank for that. She had a history in non-profit work and had written many grants, so when we found the Regional Artists grant [from the North Carolina Arts Council] we decided to go for it. I put together a sample of my work and she wrote the proposal and helped me with the budget (she also played drums on the album). When I told my peers what I was doing they insisted that no one would give a grant for rock music, but that just made me want it even more.  We were ecstatic to find that not only did we get the grant, we got the full amount that we asked for.  I encourage any musician, no matter what their genre to use whatever resources are out there to produce their work.

Grants are a good resource if you have a specific project you are trying to fund, like an album. When considering your proposal keep in mind how your project will benefit the organization, pay attention to their mission and carefully read the grant requirements, then read them again! We went from the angle that not only would recording this album help my music career and allow me to contribute more to the artistic community, it would make the ASC visible in the alternative community. A lot of people didn’t know about the ASC and if they did they didn’t think they would support that part of the artistic community. Some of my peers in that area are now utilizing the many workshops that the ASC holds to help artists become better business people so they can make a living off their work.

Nicolette Emanuelle and her cello. Photo courtesy of Nicolette Emanuelle.

You just moved to Atlanta? Where are you from originally? What drew you here now and what do you think of the music/performance art scene in Atlanta now?

I moved to Atlanta in February – I had visited back in ’97 but never lived here – after a few months of wandering from state to state trying to decide what to do with myself. The most recent place I called home was Seattle; I left there in December, 2011. Originally? I always found that to be an interesting question, and people ask it often. My dad was in the Navy, so a little here, a little there. I love the arts scene here; it is very eclectic and there is a lot of talent.

You’ve said how much you love playing the cello. What is it about this very old-school instrument that appeals to you so strongly?

My cello is my husband, it’s always been there for me even when we were fighting. There was a time when I tried to step away and, but people would call me up with work.  I would ask it “why do they want you? Can’t they see how in love I am with my piano?” and it would sigh that low mournful sigh. Then we learned to communicate and the more we played the better we got; then one day I realized that I was in love with my cello. It is a very different kind of love than I feel for my piano, more like a familial love. You know those relationships you have that exist because you went through some shit together and came out on the other side stronger? That is my cello, it is my voice. It has been my voice when I couldn’t communicate any other way

Photo courtesy of Nicolette Emanuelle.

Kavarna is an intimate musical venue. Can you talk a bit about what you have planned for your performance this Sunday?

All of the songs I will be performing were written between June 2011 to present. I was happily married to a wonderful person. I loved Seattle and loved living on Capitol Hill. I was performing burlesque, training in the aerial arts with a fantastic group called The Cabiri, and I had a loving four-legged companion named “Charlotte.”  I was pretty content with my life, and then I lost everything. It was like a bad country song: I lost my husband, I lost my dog, I lost my home, and then things got worse. I started down a decline and couldn’t recover.

So after two years of producing barely anything music-wise, I was inspired to write. It started when I was packing some of my things to move into a room I was renting after we decided to separate. I found a poem Fritz wrote called “I-Centric” and made a song out of it. It is a very personal set, and so I wanted to play somewhere low-key and intimate. I want to take the audience on a journey with me, and if one person hears something that they can relate to or can take something positive away from it, even if it’s as simple as “I like that groove,” then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. It’s a story, my story on how I came to be in Atlanta miles away from everything I knew and loved. The good news is I have found new things to know and love.

Nicolette Emanuelle as The Cheshire Cat. Photo courtesy of Nicolette Emanuelle.

You also do burlesque and performance art, and have been seen out at club events in some racy outfits. Can you talk a bit about that persona? How does that compliment your music or is it more about having fun with expressing a different side of you?

That is a complicated topic! It first became a way for me to take back my body. It was taken without my permission, and for years I hid under baggy clothes thinking it would protect me somehow. I hated my body and felt betrayed by it. It took a very long time for me to even get to a point where I felt comfortable showing my legs in public. For years I didn’t even own a pair of shorts, and if I wore a skirt, I would wear like two pairs of stockings. I had to re-learn how to love my body. Aerial trapeze helped a lot with that; it allowed me to start trusting my body and what it could do. I started to become impressed that I could climb ropes and flip around bars like when I was a kid. Burlesque taught me that it was okay to be sexy and have fun, that my sexuality was not a curse – well that and years of therapy. I started to notice that while my music always came from a place of pain, burlesque and performance art came from a place of  joy. I need this persona to balance the other one. The funny thing is I don’t feel naked when I’m performing burlesque or out at a club. I feel the most naked when I’m playing music.

What’s next for Nicolette Emanuelle?

I need a drummer and a string player! I would like to put together a band, record my new material and have highly artistic videos made for each song. Then I want to release each song/video a week apart until the whole album is released, then have a big CD release party. At the CD release party I would like to have performance artists and burlesque performers come up with a piece for each song to be performed at the party – and recorded. Then I want to release a DVD of the videos, performances and songs. Then I could cross-promote on film sites, music sites and performance art sites. I’m really excited about this idea and this show is the first step. I’m really hoping some musicians see it, like it and want to play with me. There is nothing like having people to work with who have faith in your vision.

Finally, just how good are your hugs?

Well, you’ll just have to come out to the show see for yourself.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Down By The River: Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics Add Some Soul to a Good Cause

Posted on: May 3rd, 2012 By:

By James Kelly
Contributing Music Editor

The recent splash of international attention for retro soul music in the mainstream with artists such as Adele, Duffy, and Bruno Mars has been a welcome event. However, it should be no surprise that there has been a thriving deep soul underground that features artists who are just as good, if not better, than a lot of the major label acts. For about five years Atlanta has been the home for the amazing Soulphonics and Ruby Velle. This coming Friday they are performing at the 16th annual River Revival, a fundraiser for Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. The event is May 4 at Park Tavern in Piedmont Park starting at 6:30 p.m. and also featuring Burnt Bacon, Julia Haltigan and Ben Sollee.

ATLRetro.com caught up with the lovely Miss Velle this week, and she was kind enough to answer a lot of questions. We officially declare Ruby Velle (and the Soulphonics) the Kool Kats of the Week.

ATLRetro: What inspired you to become a singer, and how did you find your “voice” in such a commercially underappreciated genre?

Ruby Velle: I’ve been singing since I was 8, with early hand-me-down inspiration from my aunt and uncles musical influences. They were constantly providing me with vinyl listening parties, live jams with friends and creating an environment where I could perform at a young age. They were great friends with the late Luther Allison, [an] amazing blues artist.

Growing older, my parents and friends along the way were all very into soul, so I soaked up the greats and some of the lesser known artists through auditory osmosis. However, I don’t see the genre itself as commercially under-appreciated; it just will never gross as much as other genres such as pop or country. But there are some great acts out there making a good living from playing soul. I think the commercial factor is less relevant in the genre than the emotion portrayed in the music itself.

How and when did you and the Soulphonics end up in Atlanta, and why?

I had just graduated from college and wanted to study graphic design in Atlanta because I knew it was a career that could be useful to being a recording artist. The band’s creator, Spencer Garn (also the band’s leader, keyboardist, co-writer, producer and engineer), wanted to expose our music to a new audience, as we had a pretty good hold on the market in Florida. I moved, then Spencer, then Scott Clayton, the original guitarist/co-writer.  Atlanta seemed like a great next step and has proven to be a great place to call home. Our music has been able to evolve here into something Atlantans are proud to call their own, and since we’ve been here we have been voted Atlanta’s Best Soul Band by Creative Loafing, two years in a row! So Atlanta has quickly become home to us.

You have often mentioned Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding as big early influences, who are some of your favorite contemporary artists, and why?

Oooo… there’s such a long list. I always say my music is a collection of inspirations from all types of artists and genres, so it’s hard to just name a few. The biggest influences for songwriting lyrics have been Paul Simon, Fiona Apple and even Ani DiFranco. These artists are storytellers and their writings speak to me in a deeper more intellectual way. That is what I aim to do with the soul music we’ve been creating. Sure, anyone can write a soul ballad, but can it be deep and introspective? Can soul music make you move and make you think? I believe the answer is yes. I think my need to offer a new take on soulful lyrics is a result of the influences from these writers.

As far as musical influences that are contemporary, I’ve really been enjoying Alex Clare’s music lately. He just released his album to the states; he is originally from the UK. I love his soulful voice, and I can tell that he, like me, has been pulling pieces of styles, inflections, and vibe from the greats, but he makes it his own. I recommend his album because it mixes genres well with some soul, electro and dub-step (with credit to Diplo and members of Major Lazer). I think the melding of these genres is intoxicating.

Lastly, as far as contemporary artists go it doesn’t get much better for me than the Black Keys. I really admire Dan Auerbach’s talent and his ability to carry the torch for the blues and blues rock. I’m always impressed by whatever they put out, so soulful and simply genius.

What do you think brought about the re-emergence of deep soul and classic R&B over the last several years? 

Well, I’m glad you said “re-emergence” instead of “resurrection” because I hold the belief that soul never really died; it’s just become an evolving genre because the context has shifted so much from the days it originated.  I think more than anything people were craving that old sound made by new artists, so new interpretations have been born  a la Sharon Jones & The DapKings, Amy Winehouse, Adele and The Dynamites featuring Charles Walker. I’m grateful these artists have fueled the re-emergence because we have been doing soul music for almost 10 years as a underground act. It’s great to know that the genre itself has growing appeal to all ages on a wider scale.

What sort of crowd comes to see Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics? Does the age range surprise you?

ALL TYPES and ALL AGES. I’ve seen gay, straight, black, white, Indian, Chinese – you name it, they have been in the front row dancing till the last song ends. I’m very fortunate that our music resonates with all ages; it really has a way of bringing the community together when we play shows or benefit festivals. I’m not particularly surprised because the music is about emotion and feeling. And everyone of all ages can relate to certain emotions.

How challenging is it to maintain a band and keep things fresh and exciting in the Atlanta music scene?

Well, maintaining an eight-piece band can be hectic and can bring you to your knees if you begin to focus on logistically how hard it is, but I certainly can’t take credit for great management to date. We’ve become a tight knit team of multi-taskers and multi-talented folk. Spencer Garn, for example, manages the band, owns a record label [Element Records], and also records and mixes our music. I’ve had the band as my graphic design client for the past seven years, creating merch and posters to album art and vinyl labels. I also work as a creative director with stylists and designers, such as Bill Hallman, to maintain our dapper image and keep up looking sharp. Our guitar player and co-writer Scott Clayton is also an expert with sound equipment and repeatedly has the band sounding great. I’m very fortunate to work with some amazing people that believe in what we do.

In the Atlanta music scene, if you did not put out a song yesterday, you are pretty much obsolete. You have to really create here on a large scale and frequently to be recognized. I think Atlanta has prepared us well to deliver on a larger scale. Luckily we’ve been playing shows in Atlanta for the last five years at a pretty constant rate so we are seeing some of the fruits of that labor. The fans here, though, are incredibly supportive, more so than I’ve seen anywhere else. Sometimes I wish they would let go, lose it all and dance a bit more, but I came from a hippie town in Florida so it’s been a little adjustment for me to see the more refined fans here.

You and the band have put out a few great singles, which have whetted the appetites of your fans. Was this a strategic plan, or simply a business decision?

This has been a little of both. Just internally, we’ve had some of these songs written and recorded for a while, but we are very particular about what gets heard when. We love to build suspense around our releases, which is why we’ve been putting out a steady stream of singles since 2010. Our fans are losing their minds in anticipation of the album, and I’d like to think the singles have had something to do with that hype.  We are just as excited for the release of our debut album IT’S ABOUT TIME.

When will we finally see a full-length recording of the band?

This Summer we will FINALLY release the full-length debut album. Keep an eye out for our album release party in early August. The street date for the release will be around July 24. And we will party till the sun comes up. It’s been a very long road to put out the album, but we are pleased with it and are looking forward to the reviews and press to help it grow legs.

You are playing a benefit for the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeepers this coming weekend, so how important are the environment and other social causes to you?

Environmental and civil rights issues are a huge cornerstone for the Soulphonics and myself. A lot of the lyrics in our songs are about inspiring change, in ourselves as well as in others. We are just a group of folk that feel a need to use our musical influence to bring about change. In addition to working with the Riverkeepers to promote their benefit, we will be working with a number of nonprofit organizations dealing with sustainability, economic recovery in struggling regions and environmental causes. Although some of these plans are just getting going, we are partnering with CTC International in Kenya on some sustainability efforts for the communities there. We’ve also made an impact here in Atlanta with benefit shows and song donations for the Atlanta Humane Society and the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, and are always looking for more opportunities to promote social and environmental causes.

What does the future hold for Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics?

Positive change on a mass scale. With the release of the album and planning a tour, we will be able to bring our music to more ears than ever before. We are thrilled to be on the road soon touring and spreading the word about this little soul outfit with a big sound from Atlanta. There is a lot going on over the next year, but I look forward to being more involved in social causes as well as continuing to write for the follow-up album. IT’S ABOUT TIME chronicles our struggles and setbacks since we were established in 2007, but now that it’s releasing soon I guarantee there is no stopping this soul machine. The future, for all of us, is as bright as we think it to be.

All photos courtesy of Element Records and Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics and used with permission. For more information and to purchase tickets for the River Revival on May 4 at Park Tavern, go to their website at: https://www.xorbia.com/e/ucr/rr2012

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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