Now that I live in Seattle it’s understandable that the Chicago part of this blog has been tough to maintain. I’ve really enjoyed reviewing the new releases of my friends and contemporaries back in Chicago but interviews and live reviews are much more difficult. Luckily, a few weeks ago I met Lily Hansen – a Chicago freelance writer and music lover – through a work client. In a classic win-win scenario, we’ve worked out a fun “Chicago Correspondent” relationship for her and her good writing. Basically, I send her a list of shows that I would go to if I still lived in Chicago, she picks her favorites, we get her into the show, and she writes a piece for this blog on it!
Below is Lily’s first post for MidByNorthwest – an interview with one of the first musicians I met after I moved to Chicago, Rebecca Rego. Please read, enjoy, and drop Lily a comment!
Midwestern Frame of Mind: an Interview with Rebecca Rego
by Lily Hansen, Chicago Correspondent
After spending five minutes with singer-songwriter Rebecca Rego, it’s difficult to believe that the bubbly, statuesque redhead once suffered from crippling stage fright. Rego’s enigmatic stage presence, in which she bares her stories and soul in front of her audiences, indicates a confident woman who simply wants her music and opinions heard. Yet, like her rotating roles between front woman of indie folk band REGO and as the captain of her own solo career, Rebecca Rego is a fluid creature who is determined to restructure Chicago’s sound and officially put us back on the music map.
Get some inspiration from the Village People.
“I’ve been bartending since college and I’ve always just really enjoyed working in that field. Working at The Village Tap, there’s regulars you wait on everyday and that you see more than your boyfriend. Plus you’re getting drunk with them! You see a side of them that other people don’t and I’ve definitely used a few stories I’ve heard as inspiration in my songs. A lot of the people that I’ve met through bartending have become loyal fans of the band and we’ve built up an amazing following just through customers I’ve met at work.”
She’s a Wood Nymph at Heart.
“My favorite venue in Chicago is definitely Schubas. It’s just totally chill and I know all of the bartenders and can just hang out and feel comfortable. Schubas is like magic for me. I’m just on this beautiful, little stage that has so much history and can reflect on how many amazing people have played there before me. Also I like wood around me when I play. That’s the main reason why I love it.”
It’s All Relative- But It May Not Be Literal.
I’ve always had really bad stage fright and it’s the idea you’re getting up in front of people and sharing these songs and intimate details about your life. My band is always watching for signs of stage fright right before we go on and we started doing pre-show rituals just to chill me out. A shot of whiskey usually helps. (Laughs) I’ve played in front of 500 people before and been like, no big deal, but then we’ll have some tiny show in Milwaukee and I get super intimidated just because I’m playing in my hometown.
I play songs about relationships between parents and daughters and they’re not necessarily about my own family but my parents can’t help but infer that. It’s nerve wracking because I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings but at the same time I can’t curb myself as a songwriter.
I’ve had some ex-boyfriends ask if songs are about them but it’s mostly now that people come up to my current boyfriend and ask if a certain song is about him. And it’s usually not a flattering song so thankfully it’s not. (Laughs)
When In Doubt, Enjoy the Free Beer.
REGO’s played CMJ before and we’re playing SXSW this year. Although the festivals are definitely good exposure I always think of it as a vacation and that I’m going to make the best of it and just have fun. I feel like everyone already has a prior agenda and certain bands are already hyped up so I don’t think many bands are actually getting discovered. It’s just good experience to hang out, meet other bands, and network with people. That’s more important than going down there to meet an A&R person and getting discovered.
Fork Over Some Chi-Town Cred
I love my band and they’re pretty rooted here but I’ve definitely thought about moving to a smaller city, just because it’s easier to get discovered. I’ve been looking at cities where my favorite bands come from and most of them are from Portland, Ohio, even Cleveland. Hands down one of my favorite singers, Joe Pug, is from here and his musical style and everything that he does is exactly what I want to be doing. He’s kind of a role model so thankfully I do see that kind of music coming out of here.
I feel like Chicago doesn’t have a sound. With Austin you can identify their sound and the same thing with Brooklyn, L.A., or Portland. You can’t put your finger on Chicago’s sound and that’s sort of the problem.
Pitchfork’s here and they’re our opinion of music across the nation, yet they don’t cover Chicago bands. I was looking at The Reader this week and there wasn’t one local band being recommended in the weekend show listings and it’s like, I doubt there isn’t one show important enough to be listed. It’s still such a battle to get local bands covered.
If there’s one thing I’d like to work on in the next year is creating a sound that I feel represents Chicago and the Midwest. I love this city, I love these people, and there’s beauty here and we need a sound that captures that.
Rebecca is set to release a new EP, All These Bones and Us on Saturday, February 26 at Chicago’s legendary Old Town School of Folk Music (Main Lincoln Ave. stage). Canasta and Sewing Pattern are also on the bill. Buy tickets here, and check out this preview track “Northern Star.”