LOVE & LAUGHTER: ERIN AND HER CELLO Celebrates CD Release at Joe's Pub Tonight
Once upon a time there was a girl in Idaho who loved to play both her cello, and basketball. Sadly, games on the courts clashed with orchestra concerts, and eventually she was forced to choose between the two. The instrument won. She quit the high school team and marched into the future. She still has her cello, her voice, and now Erin and Her Cellois putting out her second album, Petits Bisous (released today, July 31st, 2014).
"I'm a musician first, a cellist, but I'm also a songwriter," Erin explains. "And many of my songs are funny. I'm kind of a stand-up, but sitting down."
That humor is evident in songs like the sly "Rebound Magnet," where girl-group vocal harmonies tell the tale of a woman who only seems to attract men who've just ended relationships.
"It was sort of autobiographical, at least for a while; that's how my life was. I just switched things to have me breaking up with them, instead of them crawling back to their exes."
And then there's "Damn," a wry look at the bad days we all experience. At heart, her work is somewhere between performance art and musical theatre, but without the acting.
"That's a big part of me," she notes. "After college, I knew I was never going to be a classical cellist. So I drove to Seattle and auditioned for a musical theatre program in New York. I learned so much, but more than anything it made me understand that I was better off working alone. But I still love those songs from musical theatre, Cole Porter and people like him-the storytelling in their songs."
Erin's great moment of revelation was when she was asked to play at a dramatic reading series called 'Tuesdays at Nine' in New York. The only requirement was that she had to write her own material.
"I did two songs," she recalls, "and accompanied myself, playing pizzicato on my cello. My life literally changed that night-- I honestly felt like I had found everything I had been missing. I'm not kidding about that. My life suddenly felt right."
She began to write and perform, working completely solo, a magpie who drew musical inspiration from all styles, simply because she didn't know where to begin.
"I just chose genres because I love all kinds of music," Erin says. "And because my songs were funny, I suddenly found myself in comedy clubs and theaters singing my songs. And somehow, it made sense - how many singing comedic cellists do you know?"
She released her first CD in 2008, selling out the prestigious Joe's Pub in New York for the launch, followed by a hugely successful appearance at the renowned Brooklyn Academy of Music. Petits Bisous (French for "little kisses," a nod to the year she spent in Belgium as an exchange student) has been six years in the making, but she's been busy writing and performing all over New York City. She performs regularly with her seven-piece band (in addition to Erin on cello, there's piano, sax, drums, harpsichord, glockenspiel and backup singers), and also purchased a loop pedal, thereby crafting new songs, like "Walk Of Fame," which is propelled along by its relentless, buoyant drive.
"I noticed that if I stayed the night with friends, it always felt like the 'walk of shame' when I was heading home. Then I realized why should I even worry about it? "Walk of Fame" literally popped into my head - the lyrics came very quickly - but at first I was afraid to sing it!"
It's a paean to the lives of single people around the world, proud and unapologetic - and a reminder that people are often very quick to judge.
Although she might remain very commitment-phobic, at least about musical genres, there's a very '60s feel ("I think it's because my father used to play in a Beach Boys cover band, I took all that in") to Petits Bisous. And the music isn't just American; there are also nods to classic French pop - on both the title track, with its unexpected whistling harmonies, and "Bonbons Chocolat," a lush, playful piece that Erin composed on that loop pedal.
But not everything is played for laughs. Songs like "Just Maybe" and "Chaz" show Erin's serious side and demonstrate the wide, accomplished range of her writing." The album just turned out that way," she says. "I still love so many types of music, and I still write in everything from straightforward pop to bossa nova, if it's right for the song."
And so the tale continues. Backstage has described Erin as "a vibrant mix of music, comedy, and theatre...[with the] ability to describe ordinary experiences in ways that are both poignant and funny," while the Philadelphia Inquirer said she sound like "Blossom Dearie fronting They Might Be Giants."