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Music |

Female Vocals: Interview with Becca Stevens

Wednesday 29 June 2016

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Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist Becca Stevens has been chosen by Lauren Laverne to be one of her ‘Wonder Women’ at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse on Monday 18th July. And early next year, Becca releases her Queen Elizabeth I-inspired album Regina. I had a quick Skype with her to find out more..

Hi Becca! So, first of all, who are your favourite female vocalists?
At the moment I’m really into Nai Palm of Hiatus Kaiyote, but my all-time favourites would be Bjork, Joni Mitchell, Gillian Welch.. I could go on – I could give you 20 names, or I could stop there!

Tell us about the Wonder Women event that Lauren Laverne is curating – how did you get to be involved in it?
I was very honoured that she chose me for the series. I’m not sure how she discovered me, but I’m super psyched about it! I’ve never played at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, and I’m a huge Shakespeare fan, so that aspect of it is very exciting to me – and the whole candlelit theatre thing.. I think it’s going to be just beautiful!

How did you first get into songwriting? I know that your parents were musical..
When my dad first handed me a guitar, and started teaching me finger patterns, I immediately gravitated towards coming up with my own patterns – it was just the way my brain worked. I’ve always been creative, so it was natural for me, given a vehicle for creating things, that I would be pulled in that direction.

I’ve read that you “fearlessly mix genres” – from Pop and Jazz, through to Appalachian Folk – can you elaborate on that?
I’m always drawn to music that sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before – I think that’s part of my mission, as a musician, to bring absolute authenticity to music, as opposed to attempting to recreate something that’s already been done. Although, having said that, the truth is that everything is derivative in some way, because everything we know, we learnt from somewhere. Ultimately it’s about different ratios – some things are so derivative that it doesn’t sound authentic, and other things are derivative but also sounds like the person’s story, and that’s more what I’m drawn to.

Your fourth album, Regina, was inspired by Queen Elizabeth I – tell us about that..
Well, I knew that having a theme would help me focus, away from my own brooding emotions. I’ve always loved Shakespeare, and was late-night perusing the Elizabethan era one time, and got sucked into this rabbit hole of Queen Elizabeth I and the mystery surrounding her life – her love affair with Robert Dudley, why she never married or bore children, stories about her father and her lineage. I went deep into her life – she was so strong, at a time when it wasn’t customary for a woman to have such power. So it all started with her, but it’s transformed and blossomed into something much more nuanced. ‘Regina’ has almost become like an alter-ego – she helped me get through the process.

So is it normal for you to set a theme for your albums?
No, not at all. Normally I’ve used music to express feelings I couldn’t express with words. It wasn’t really until Perfect Animal but more Regina – that I realised how much it helps me to have a theme. It also helps me not write the same song over and over again! It’s quite a new thing for me. 

Well thank you so much for chatting to me! We look forward to seeing you over here in July!

Becca Stevens plays the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse on Monday 18th July as part of Lauren Laverne’s ‘Wonder Women’ series of summer gigs with The Globe.