Friday, September 21, 2012

Interview: Rebekah Pulley

It's probably a subjective statement but it's not a stretch to say that Rebekah Pulley is the most celebrated, popular and talented singer/songwriter in Tampa Bay. She's won five "Best of the Bay" awards, she performs in front of packed houses all over town and she's preparing to release her fifth album of all original material, titled Tra La La. She has launched a Kickstarter campaign to pay for production costs of the new album, a campaign that reached its initial goal within 30 hours of being launched. Of course, you can still contribute and take advantage of some pretty sweet perks (word is that Rob Pastore's eggplant parmesan is really very good). Here, Rebekah talks about songwriting, musicians (and non-musicians) she's worked with and on her evolution into a fancy lady who isn't above using goons to get a good table at local restaurants.  

When do you know it's time for a new album?

I am always working on a CD. As soon I release this one (Tra La La), I will start writing for the next one. If I'm not working on a CD I feel like I'm not being productive.

Do you write all the time, stockpiling material, or just when inspired?

I write all the time about everything. I've always kept journals since I was a young kid. However, I am definitely more profound and write my best material when I am inspired by some event.

I understand there are horns on this album and that's new for you. Did you write the horn parts and is that difficult?

I wrote the horn parts, note for note, on a song called, Sway. I used a midi keyboard with corny horn sounds to write the arrangements on a computer, the computer then translates the notes into written music that can be printed out. I read and write music very slowly and I wrote the three-part horn harmonies as I would a three-part vocal harmony. When it came time to actually record the horn parts, I quickly discovered that just because a midi keyboard can play a certain note, it doesn't mean the musician can play it on a real instrument. So some little adjustments ended up being made here and there, but I have to say that the horn players rose to the occasion and came pretty damn close to the melody lines I had in mind. The other songs with horns were an 'on the spot' trial and error type of thing. I'd hum a melody and they'd play it or they improvised parts based around the ideas.

Any other new/different things on this album?

Rob (Pastore) is playing the pedal steel all over the place on it, and I love it! Also this is the first time I've used the piano in place of an acoustic guitar as the dominant rhythm instrument. I played a bit of accordion on the CD, which was fun. There are some pretty interesting harmony arrangements that I also had a ton of fun putting together. Rebecca Zapen, an amazing violinist, played on several songs.

Rebecca Zapen?!? She's one of my favorites! Can you talk about working with her?

Rebecca is really talented and professional. I think she may have been the only musician that actually listened to the songs before they came over to record their parts. She actually had her songs charted out and knew exactly what she was going to play when she walked in the door. Aside from that, she has great tone and knows how to play to a song's strengths. I was really impressed and would love to work with her again.
Our old buddy, Rebecca with two C's!

Is there a central, recurring theme to this album?

Not that I can think of, although there was an alternate album in the works before I started Tra La La with a water theme. Unfortunate, Sway was the only song that made it out of that endeavor alive.

Who are the musicians you worked with on this album?

Rob Pastore (bass, pedal steel, harmonies), Max Norton (drums), Rebecca Zapen (violin), Ryan Arsenault (piano and organ), Jim Moery (trumpet), Ryan Wendall Bauer (Wurlitzer), Dave Russell (t-bone), Joe Terrana (sax), Steve Conelly (guitar), Jasmine Conrad (harmonies), and of course myself (vocals, guitars, piano, accordion).

In your Kickstarter video, there are pictures of you all decked out as a fancy lady. Are you going to go all big time on us now, fancy lady?

Of course I am! Honestly, my daughter, Jasmine Conrad, did my hair and make up, and she took all the promo pictures too. She’s 18 now and really good at that sort of thing. I’d walk around in my boyfriend’s boxers and a t-shirt all day if I were allowed to. Jasmine’s best friend, Samantha Mendez drew the Tra La La picture phrase in a note to my daughter. I saw it on the bathroom floor and thought, Hey, that’s a great name for a CD.

Are there musicians you haven't had the chance to work with that you want to?

I’m sure there are but I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

Do you remember when I was a member of the band "Chinese Mary Jane" for a short time (one song)? That was awesome!

Yes I do, and you were superb!

Me, being superb!

Ronny Elliott says nice things about you all the time. Anything nice you want to say about him?

Ronny is my songwriting mentor. I have looked up to him for many years as a songwriter I aspire to. I am an ardent fan of his lyrical stories. He is a dear friend and I am honestly not sure that I would still be playing music if it weren’t for him. He can take three chords and a simple melody structure and create a three-minute masterpiece. I don’t get people that don’t get what he does.
Rebekah and Ronny

People in general say nice things about you all the time. What's that like?

Embarrassing and flattering. I would be depressed if no talked about me, I am needy like that.

Ever walk into a restaurant where there's a wait to be seated and yell, "I'm Rebekah Pulley, damn it!"

No, I never have, I think you are thinking of Vanity (Styles)!!
Yeah, probably

Ever had a goon rough up a photographer?

Ha! No, but I’ll get to work on it!

Would you classify Rob Pastore as a goon?

Not until he starts roughing people up.
Rebekah and not a goon.

Again, you can make a contribution to the Tra La La project via Kickstarter here. You can check out where Rebekah is playing soon and pick up copies of her previously released material at her web site.

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