Synergy Concerts presents:
+ Emily Mae Winters + Hannah Jarrett-Scott
Entry Requirements: 18+
“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” -Thomas Merton
Always reaching, always expanding, Becca Stevens reinvents herself once again with Regina. In the years since the release of her critically acclaimed third album, Perfect Animal, Stevens has undertaken a journey that began with a study of Queen Elizabeth I. This expanded into tributes to various queens from history, literature, folklore, and her own imagination, to songs inspired by the regal and divine, and finally to Regina as a voice, like a trusted friend or an alter ego.
“I’ve found that by removing my plots from the storylines I’ve accessed more of my artistry than in my writing before,” says Stevens. “Even though my writing for Regina was inspired by other characters, I told their stories by means of relating to them on a personal level, which made them my stories too. Writing with Regina as my muse has allowed my art free rein to dance in new and unexpected directions.”
As for her muse for the album, Stevens explains, “Regina has become an alter ego, or an imaginary friend. Like a dream, she exists separate from me but is reliant upon my consciousness to exist. I carry her with me in everything now. So I guess you could say that neither ends; in Becca, there is always Regina, and in Regina, there is always Becca.”
Stevens’ style has always evaded categorization, and with Regina, even more so. One hears pop, rock, R&B and funk side-by-side with traditional Appalachian and British folk, classical, world music, and jazz. Intricate instrumentation and rhythms seamlessly intertwine with vocals and melodies that draw you in and stay with you. When asked how so many different influences worked their way into her music Stevens laughed, “Story of my life. I grew up in a house filled with opera and banjo tunes, majored in classical guitar in high school, studied composition in college in a jazz school, and in New York City I am surrounded by every musical sound you could possibly imagine. I love and am inspired by good music, no matter the genre or where it came from.”
Regina, her first release on GroundUP Music, also marks the first time Stevens has recorded solely under her own name, instead of as the Becca Stevens Band. “I’ve been inspired for a few years now to make a record as ‘Becca Stevens’ as opposed to ‘Becca Stevens Band,’” Stevens explains. “It’s by no means a departure from my bandmates, as they are still all featured and essential parts of this album and will be the ones touring the music with me, but more so inspired by a desire to open the floodgates of artistic collaboration. There are so many artists I’ve come across lately who inspire me and whom I have the desire to write for and collaborate with. Bringing this energy of collaboration into my writing and record making process has given my music more direction, and clarity of artistic vision and self-expression. I feel like a painter finally painting her muse after a lifetime of painting landscapes and self-portraits.”
Produced by Troy Miller, Regina features creative and performance collaborations with Snarky Puppy’s Michael League, Jacob Collier, Laura Mvula, and the legendary David Crosby. The album was recorded in several phases – in London with Miller, a second London session with Collier (a co-producer on the album along with Stevens and League), and alternating sessions with Miller and League in Brooklyn. During the Brooklyn sessions, Stevens reunited with her trusted band members; Liam Robinson, Chris Tordini, and Jordan Perlson. Additional collaborations included Alan Hampton, Jo Lawry, and string arrangements by Nathan Schram with Hamilton Berry, and the award-winning Attacca Quartet.
The album opens with “Venus,” a triumphant anthem that uses imagery of Venus rising from dark waters. Stevens is joined on the track by layers of Mvula’s powerful vocals. Over a sinister bass line and an intricate yet thumping beat, “Queen Mab” is Stevens’ reinterpretation of Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The music perfectly encapsulates Mab, a devious little fairy who visits people in their dreams to fill their heads with lies.
Co-written with K Nita and Don Miggs, the title track “Regina” is the story of a girl who has lost her way, and calls out “Regina won’t you come back home.” With another vocal assist from Mvula, “Well Loved” was inspired by the writings of Sei Shōnagon, who although having royal blood, was a gentlewoman living in the Empress’ court in Japan during the late 900’s. “I found Sei’s writings to be so charming and current,” says Stevens. “They seemed something I could have written in my diary only a few years ago.” Stevens was introduced to The Pillow Book by her friend and collaborator Aya Nishina when they were commissioned to perform new music together at the Jazz Gallery, the same nonprofit organization that commissioned the first version of Regina.
An 80’s-inspired track propelled by handclaps and a siren-like keyboard, “Mercury” features lyrics pulled from Freddie Mercury lyrics and interviews. “I knew I wanted to include a song for Freddie Mercury on this project because of the ‘Queen’ connection,” says Stevens. “I was watching Queen videos and reading about Freddie Mercury to find a direction for the lyric and stumbled upon on all these amazing quotes of things he’d said in interviews. I started jotting down all my favorite quotes, and as I scanned over what I’d chosen it already started to read like song lyrics. I moved a few things around, repeated others, and assembled them in a way that suited a melody that started to emerge.”
A co-write with Crosby, “The Muse” is a haunting, gorgeous song about being open to visits from the Muse whenever she might arrive. “David emailed me this lyric, along with a few others to set to music. I chose this one,” explains Stevens. “The lyric really speaks to me. The Muse, queen of the arts, is always with us. Sometimes the trials of life distract us and we think she’s off with someone else. But if you know ‘how to listen to your calling,’ and if you ‘go faithfully each day and open up your head someway, somehow’ you’ll find that she’s always there waiting for you. This lyric also spoke to me because it is an homage to Regina herself.”
Stevie Wonder’s “As” is the lone cover on Regina, and it closes the album. It’s a collaboration with Collier, whom Stevens says feels like “a sibling from several past lives.” Their version is a stripped down take that still holds onto the original’s sweetness. “I arranged this for a friend’s wedding a few years ago” says Stevens. “It’s the ultimate unconditional-love-song, and to me embodies goddess-like mother earth energy and the infinite love of a mother looking at her child.”
Stevens’ 2015 album Perfect Animal was released to wide critical acclaim. NPR’s All Things Considered said Stevens “looks for detours and wild ear-stretching sounds that make you want to listen again,” and the New York Times said she “has a wizardly proficiency on an array of stringed instruments, and her singing is luxurious: pliable and hale but often foreshadowing a sob.”
Since the release of Perfect Animal, Stevens has toured the world, most recently joining Crosby on the road for his Lighthouse tour (Stevens also co-writes and sings on the album of the same name). Live performances of the songs from Regina have met with ecstatic enthusiasm and rave reviews, demonstrating a staggering spectrum of musical ideas, emotional scope, and poetic magic. So is this the mature Becca Stevens style that she will repeat on her next CD? “No way.” says Becca. “Stay tuned for more surprises.”
EMILY MAE WINTERS "Emily Mae Winters is still considered a rising star.. it won't be long before she is considered an established star... the audience were entranced.." Fatea
"It seems like half the folk and roots world are raving about Emily Mae Winters... her voice is seriously, like seriously wonderful. Stunning stuff" Redwood
“Superbly crafted and dramatic song writing.. Winters’ songs reflect a love of poetry, her lyrics giving a dark edge to songs that are beautifully performed. ” R2 Magazine
“If I had to predict the path for EMW, there’ll be Radio 2 folk awards, respect will be gained. There’s a depth to her talent and an ease about her performance that bode well… I expect one day I’ll use the phrase ‘sounds like Emily Mae Winters’.” Americana UK
“Haunting new release from British Folk Singer Emily Mae Winters….chilling” American Songwriter Magazine
"Emily Mae Winters has produced an arresting, enthralling tantalising introduction to her work that leaves us hungry for more." Folk Radio UK
"Some singers grow on you over time and others stop you in your tracks. Emily Mae Winters falls in to the second category." Fatea Magazine
“Emily Mae Winters’ haunting folk songs are quickly permeating the folk and songwriting scene.” Acoustic Magazine
Brooklyn based singer/composer/multi-instrumentalist Becca Stevens has already received copious praise from the likes of The New York Times, describing her as “a best-kept secret” and “impressively absorbing.” Drawing upon elements of pop, indie-rock, jazz, and traditional Appalachian folk, Stevens has been hailed for her unique ability to craft exquisite compositions both for her own band, and for artists who run the gamut of genre from the legendary David Crosby, to singer José James to classical pianist Timo Andres. Stevens has collaborated with the likes of: Brad Mehldau, Esperanza Spalding, Billy Childs, Ambrose Akinmusire, Jacob Collier, Vijay Iyer and many others. Becca's music is featured on the latest Snarky Puppy Family Dinner Vol 2 and she will release her new album Regina in March 2017.
Emily Mae Winters
Born in England, raised in and around the rugged coasts of southern Ireland, Emily Mae Winters’ haunting folk songs are quickly permeating the folk and song writing scene. Emily Mae Winters formative years were spent living in Clonakilty, Co. Cork and where she immersed herself in the local music scene. Influenced by the sounds of traditional and contemporary Folk, Celtic, Country and Americana music, she learned to play the guitar, piano and whistle and began playing local music festivals .
Emily Mae moved to London in 2009 to pursue a History degree. Whilst at university, she began writing her own songs and in 2010 was a finalist in the UK Live and Unsigned competition. In 2012, she was offered a scholarship to study music and theatre at the prestigious Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. After graduating she performed in numerous theatre productions across the UK whilst continuing to enter song writing competitions and gigging in and around the heart of the acoustic / roots scene in London, quickly establishing herself as a writer and performer to be reckoned with.
A poetry enthusiast, Winters worked at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden and at Keats House Museum, Hampstead Heath where she ran ‘Playing Poetry’ events for fellow poets and musicians. She also ran poetry and music workshops for children at libraries and schools. Winters’ passion for music and words plays out in the “construction” of her songs; crafted and poetic, receiving nothing short of excellent critical acclaim. As she became gradually more ensconced in the London folk scene and began performing her own headline shows, she met Radio 2 Folk award winner and musical partner to Josienne Clarke, Ben Walker.
Influenced by the likes of Nancy Kerr, The Unthanks, The Staves, Kate Rusby, Sarah Jarosz and Alison Krauss, Emily teamed up with Ben Walker to produce her first commercial release. Winters wrote all of the songs on the record and plays guitar and piano. Walker plays steel guitar and mandolin on the EP. Of the four songs on the EP, two are already award winning with ‘Miles To Go’ in the UK Songwriting contest Folk Category and ‘Anchor’ winning the folk category in the Guardian Songwriting Competition.
The EP was released in July 2016 to widespread critical acclaim including selections as being featured in Acoustic Magazine’s featured summer releases. The tracks have been played on national folk shows including the BBC RADIO 2 Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe BBC RADIO SCOTLAND and BBC RADIO WALES as well as lots of regional radio stations and specialist folk shows such as The Folkspot, Blues and Roots Radio, Folk is Not a Rude Word, Acoustic Routes, Folk Union, On The Crooked Road and also international music shows such as The International Americana Music Show.
With planned support slots with BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker, Jim Moray and Hannah Sanders and Ben Savage, a well received club tent set at the Cambridge Folk Festival and comparisons to Nancy Kerr, Alison Krauss, Sarah Jarosz and Hannah Martin under her belt, there are exciting things ahead for Emily Mae Winters. Following the success of her debut release, Winters has recently signed with Folkstock Records and there are plans in the pipeline for an album co-produced by Ben Walker and Lauren Deakin- Davies (Laura Marling,Kelly Oliver)