Where: Red Rock Coffee, 201 Castro Street, Mountain View, California
Tickets: No cover
Information: Call 650-967-4473 or visit www.redrockcoffee.org
Artist website: www.amylacour.com
Update: Ms. LaCour has two gigs we've heard about in February 2015, in Southern California. Go to this page on her website for info: www.amylacour.com/live.html.
And we think she'll just keep getting, well, more great
If it’s been a long time since you last heard some new music and went, "Wow! Who is that?!" then give a listen to singer-songwriter Amy LaCour.
The Oakland resident’s remarkable new EP, "Yes!" offers LaCour’s gorgeously evocative vocals, eloquent lyrics and beautiful, intricate melodies, enhanced by Mischa Khalikulov’s incredibly inventive cello lines.
As Paul Zollo wrote for American Songwriter, "Her husky, soulful vocals, as full-bodied as a fine wine, ache with a heartbreak fusion of fortitude and vulnerability, bringing to mind other great singers to whose league she belongs, from Lady Day and Etta James through Fiona Apple and Norah Jones."
The album’s title, "Yes!" reflects the joy of the sound coming together. "I’ve been making music for a while now," LaCour says. "And the collaboration with Mischa really just happened. It was supposed to be a one-off thing for fun. I’d never performed solo with a cello player. It was new for him, too. We did three songs at this happening and it felt so good, we did a full set and then took it from there. It came about so organically. And I think it’s the happiest I’ve ever been, making music. It feels really good."
And it sounds really good, Khalikulov’s cello entwined with LaCour’s voice. The blend holds a special magic.
"Yeah, who knew? I just thought it would be fun to try," LaCour says. "I’m a minimalist. I’ve never liked big productions. He’s a real unique player, too. It’s unusual to find someone who’s classically trained and has a blues sensibility. Bringing my songs to Mischa brought a new level of life to them. I find that really exciting. I love the way he approaches them. To me, it’s just sort of a skeleton, when I give a song to him. And he gives it something else, something extra."
The songs came out of LaCour’s experiences and emotions.
"The songs are always very, very personal. They most definitely reflect where I am in life. I went through some drastic changes in my life. I went through a divorce. I relocated up here. I lost a friend. So I was occupied with all of that. And I’m really interested in what makes people want to make changes in their lives. And what keeps them sort of staying in the same place."
The creative efforts helped LaCour navigate the changes. "Songwriting is always part of the process. Sometimes I don’t fully know what a song is about until later. Or the meaning shifts a little bit, or takes on different layers. I don’t know that I’m always so conscious, when I write. Sometimes you don’t really realize how personal it is until later."
Three of LaCour’s four EPs can be found online. "There’s one that’s not available anymore, just because it was so far outside of what I really think is me, creatively. I was trying all kinds of things. I was living in Los Angeles at the time. I don’t think, creatively, it was the right city for me, though I became a better songwriter there, I think. I just tried what I’d call a more pop approach. I put the songs in the hands of a producer and he kind of took the reins, which was really interesting, to see someone else’s perception of the music. But it wasn’t very satisfying, creatively, for me."
After that experience, three years ago, LaCour decided to take some classes at the Los Angeles Music Academy. "I needed to reconnect to music itself. I was getting caught up in trying to achieve something in the business. And I needed a chance to let go of that and just connect with the music itself. I wanted to be able to express my ideas to musicians with more conviction and confidence. And there’s always just more to learn as a musician. And it ended up being such a satisfying few months, immersing myself in the music. I became a stronger performer and came away with much stronger tools. And I really did reconnect with my roots."
LaCour grew up in Seattle, listening to her dad’s record collection, which included a lot of soul, as well as some jazz fusion. "He was always listening to records. He’d come home and immediately put on music. So it was part of my life from the first day I remember. Really, I think I associated emotional expression with music, like that was a safe place to do that."
Her inspirations include Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Earth, Wind and Fire, George Benson, Cassandra Wilson and, more recently, Neko Case, Feist, Rufus Wainwright and Laura Marling.
"I love to hear people who are kind of unusual, who have a very personal approach to their work. They have really unique, individual places. It’s always fun to hear what they’re going to say next. They keep me inspired."
Two years ago, LaCour moved to the Bay Area. "I was ready to start over a little bit. I have couple of friends up here, a little bit of family. I was always curious about the Bay Area. I liked it, but I’d never lived here before. And it seemed like a nice place to land. So I decided to give it a try." She loves the music scene here. "It’s so open certainly compared to L.A. I went to school in New York. That’s where I first started singing. And of course, that’s incredibly open there. So it reminds me of that. There’s a bit of everything here, musically. People are open-minded, so they’re willing to check out what you’re doing."
LaCour, 39, is making great music., well worth checking out. She hopes the collaboration with Khalikulov continue. At her Jan. 17 show at Mountain View’s Red Rock Coffee, LaCour will perform with the cellist and with a percussionist.
LaCour says the challenge she faces now is reaching and maintaining a wider audience. "There’s so much distracting people. There’s so much to call your attention. It’s hard to hold onto people," she says with a laugh. "People may respond really positively at a performance, but then keeping them in the loop is difficult. They just go off into the ether. So it’s tough, building a following that’s going to stick around."
She’ll continue to make music, regardless.
"I can chart my growth, musically. That’s very satisfying. Anytime you really love something and you’re continually growing, that’s a wonderful feeling. And I feel like I have more to say musically. Music is always a challenge. You’re never done. It’s really the essence of who I am. I’m a musician. I wouldn’t stop no matter what."
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