Deborah Gee is having an eventful century. Her critically acclaimed debut solo album “Portal” was released in 2000. After that album ran it’s course, a chance meeting in a coffee house resulted in a liason with her future significant other (ex-Dickies) guitarist Glen Laughlin. Together they birthed a new band, The Cherry Bluestorms. Led by Gee and Laughlin and employing a rotating cast of L.A. musicians, they released their Psych-Pop debut “Transit of Venus” in 2007. More critical acclaim followed as they unveiled the album in Britain, including gigs at the fabled Cavern Club in Liverpool; the British Pop mecca that informs the band muse. Now in 2012 the band is planning another tour of Britain in support of The Cherry Bluestorms second album, “Bad Penny Opera”. On top of all this frenetic activity, Deborah Gee is planning the release of a new solo album at the end of the year “Geeology”. I recently caught up with Deborah to sort this all out…..
Interviewed by Dale Nickey:
Q. Your bio says you are from Texas. However, I don’t hear any ”twang’ in your music, what are your musical influences?
DG -I wanted to get as far away from twang as possible, since that was what my parents were listening to. 🙂 I started listening to The Beatles, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Beach Boys, The Association, The Kinks, Joni Mitchell, The Byrds, The Buffalo Springfield, The Turtles, Donovan and all the Stax/Tamla/Motown type stuff when I was around 14 or 15. Heart were an influence as well, probably because there were so few real female rockers other than Grace Slick, who I always admired. Peter Gabriel came later for me, after his days with Genesis. After I started playing out, people started telling me about Sarah McLachlan, Aimee Mann and Chrissie Hynde.
Q. What was the inspiration behind forming The Cherry Bluestorms?
DG – Glen and I were working together on what was going to be my second solo album. Glen had recently broken up his prior band. As Glen started contributing more to my music, it became apparent that some of our music was becoming a third entity that wasn’t just my solo stuff, but wasn’t just Glen’s either. We were considering putting a band together to do my solo material, but we decided to join forces and see where the collaboration took us.
Q. How do you compare solo work with the collaboration and compromise required of a band situation.
DG – I clearly have a lot more freedom in my solo efforts. I collaborate with other musicians there as well, but it’s all under my direction. Glen is co-producing my next solo album, but he’s very clear that this is not a Cherry Bluestorms album. We have other musicians contributing and he’s there to help me realise my own goals. The thread that holds my solo material together is my voice and my sensibilities. So, the results will probably be more eclectic. In The Cherry Bluestorms, the roles are more defined and Glen is obviously very involved in every aspect.
Q. Regarding the new Cherry Bluestorms record, “Bad Penny Opera”, the title would suggest a ‘concept album’ …. Is that correct, and how does this album compare to Transit of Venus?
DG – Yes, BPO is sort of a concept album. There is a story that is more implied than spelt out. I suppose you could say it’s more of a song cycle. Aside from the story concept, the underlying concept is a sort of homage to our ‘60’s influences. I think that’s true of TOV as well, but it’s more developed in BPO. TOV was our first album and I think there are strong traces of the process of moving from my solo project to a band. By the time we got the BPO tracks together we knew what The Cherry Bluestorms was.
Q. All bands have friction. Leading a band with your significant other must add a whole different layer of drama. How do you keep it going with out killing each other…?
DG – Truthfully, we don’t have much friction about music. We have little flare-ups over stupid things, but thankfully they usually snuff themselves out really quickly. Once in awhile I get upset because Glen doesn’t want me to play guitar on stage and I want to. But not on the recordings!
Q. How was your music received in Britain?
DG – Well, last time we only played in Liverpool. The first show seemed like it went really well. The next night we played a bigger stage. The place was empty when we went backstage. When we came onstage, it was packed! There were a lot of familiar faces from the night before and it really felt like the word had gotten out. We had a great show and were very well received.
Q. What challenges have you encountered trying to present such a Euro-Pop sensibility to younger audiences weaned on Hip Hop and Grunge?
DG – It’s hard to know. We haven’t played any shows with a hip hop act. It seems like most of the bands we’ve played with have been very complimentary to us, regardless of their style. I think musicians tend to be pretty generous. Sometimes fans have some sort of misguided idea that liking more than one thing is somehow disloyal. But we haven’t run into that. We just do what we do and hope people will dig it. We were very curious to see how Bad Penny Overture would go over when we opened with it at a festival in Pasadena. There were a lot of younger people there compared with the clubs we usually play. As the name implies, the Overture is an instrumental with a strong dance groove. The rhythm section grooved on the intro and when Glen came in with the main guitar riff I thought they were going to get a standing ovation!
Q. I (your interviewer) played in a lot of bands with women during the Seventies. It was still a novelty then to be a female rocker. They caught a lot of crap. Did you ever encounter that and how is today’s environment for female musicians?
DG – I have had some problems in the past with male musicians who had a hard time taking direction from a female. It didn’t happen often, but when it did, I simply found another player.
Q. When do you think your next solo album is coming out?
We’re working hard to get BPO finished in time to have it when we’re in England in May. When we come back we’ll start working on my solo album again. It’s already about one-third finished. I’m hoping that it will be out by year’s end.
Q. How difficult are the challenges of being an “Indie” band in such a glutted market….
DG – I think it’s really hard to get anyone’s attention these days and even harder to keep it. In fact, it’s practically a full time job trying to connect with our audience and reach out to new fans. We recently started working with a guy in England who is helping us spread the word. We may start working with a radio promotion company here soon as well. We’re doing a lot on our own, too. We just started offering a free download of a new version of one of our songs on our website, http://www.thecherrybluestorms.com to those who sign up on our email list.
Q. How do you cope with the challenges of trying to promote and sell new music in a market environment where so much ‘free’ music is available?
Whether music is free or not, people want to hear music they like. We’re not against making some tracks available for free. But, if you give all of your music away free, you are doing a disservice to yourself and the music community in general. Fans don’t mind supporting you if they believe you are doing something worthy. We put a lot into making music that doesn’t just reflect the style of bands in the ‘60’s, but tries to maintain that quality from the writing to the performance to the production values.