It’s 11am on a sunny yet chilly Friday morning at a local Westboro coffee shop. A stunning figure cuts through the yummy mummies lined up at the cash register. Dressed in a rich-looking velvet blazer and brightly patterned dress, Rebecca Noelle rushes up to my table.
I’m thrilled to see her again after our first meeting at the ConnectOtt Networking Event where I had the pleasure of being seated at her table. Rebecca was attending the event as an industry leader and educated us about the ins and outs of being a singer/songwriter. I was immediately intrigued by her. She has quiet confidence that anyone would find compelling, coupled with the fact that she defines “sultry”. In a room full of industry leaders dressed in suits and business casual dresses and skirts, Rebecca stood out in a vintage teal, satin dress that looked like something borrowed from Veronica Lake.
I had recognized Rebecca as one of the singers from local favourite band, The Peptides. With a voice that can pretty much be described as “warm butter and velvety smooth”, she is a stand out with her three octave vocal range.
Rebecca has toured throughout North American with Juno-nominated David Gogo and opened for the likes of ZZ Top, B.B. King, and Bonnie Raitt. It was a thrill to sit with someone who actually appreciates true vocal talents such as Etta James and k.d. Lang…and finally…I met someone who loves Jamiroquai as much as I do!
This interview was particularly interesting for me as I find singers truly fascinating. I could only imagine what it must be like to sing your own creations in front of sold out stadiums. So settle in and enjoy this great interview!
REBECCA!! How are you? Great to see you!
Hi Dominique! I’m great. Nice to see you again!
Have a seat and make yourself comfortable.
Rebecca settles in while I take in her blazer made of gorgeous navy velvet. I resist the urge to stroke and caress the garment like George Constanza’s cashmere obsessed girlfriend.
Tell me about that gorgeous blazer! It’s now that I notice her equally beautiful grape-coloured, vintage, water snake purse.
My mother-in-law made it for me!! And the purse was an amazing vintage find!
I collect myself after falling off my chair at this news as the purse looks like Judith Leiber creation.
Thanks for meeting me, Rebecca. How about we get started with you telling me a little about yourself?
Well, I started out as “Becky Abbott”. I’ve been singing most of my life and got my first paid gig at 16.
Very cool! Wow. That’s young. So, singing was always something you wanted to do?
Yes – for sure. My singing style has undergone a bit of an evolution. I listened to a lot of Ella Fitzgerald and eventually moved from contemporary to more retro soul, jazz, funk and R&B.
Can you tell me a little about how you got to where you are now – a successful signer/songwriter?
So, I was on a four-year hiatus. I was in a bad management deal that I signed at 19 that I was desperate to get out of. I was creatively limited, singing music that other people wrote and felt like I lost my creative license.
Once I got out of that deal, I felt like I just needed to recover. I spent the next couple of years travelling and taking care of myself. I needed to heal after that bad experience.
Travelling? Where did you go and what did you get up to?
I travelled as a back-up vocalist for David Gogo. He brought me to Europe with his band at 19 years of age. We played sold out gigs around Europe and this was where I gave my first solo performance.
WHOA! Your parents were ok with that?
Sort of – lol! They handled it well and soon knew that I was well taken care of while on tour. David was my “Tour Dad” and watched out for me.
So you came back to Ottawa…
Yeah. By my mid 20s, I came back to Ottawa and saw an ad for The Peptides. They were looking for a vocalist so I auditioned. I really wanted to fill my calendar with gigs, but was unsure about auditioning…
Well, looks like it turned out well! The Peptides are awesome!
Yeah! That summer, we got a gig playing at the Ottawa Jazz Festival and our album For Those Who Hate Human Interaction was named Best Album of the Year by The Ottawa Citizen. Also, we won Metro’s reader poll for Best Band 2013. That year was a total catalyst.
That’s incredible! Well done! I’m not surprised though. So, you are venturing out on your own this year. What are the differences you notice between your audience now as opposed to when you started out?
Oh man. It’s changed so much. I was billed as a blues singer and the crowd I’d attract wore a lot of leather! There was a lot of motorcycles. Definitely a rougher crowd. As a jazz singer, I attracted a more refined, older crowd. The “red wine” crowd. Now the audience is younger due to me embracing a more “contemporary” style.
Personally, I’m a huge jazz and blues fan. I feel that a lot of music nowadays is…sorry – not real music. I must sound really old, but I’ll listen to Ella Fitzgerald or The Holmes Brothers and that music touches my soul. Nicki Minaj? Not so much. What do you think of music of today?
A lot of pop music is produced really well…with mediocre voices. You no longer need to be a great vocalist.
Yeah – I’m hearing that. I do feel though that there are still some great lyricists and songwriters out there…which brings me to my next question. Can you tell me a bit about the songwriting process?
Sure. Jazz standards are really expensive to buy rights to and I had a ton of original music. I really wanted my next album to be totally original and I also wanted to step out of the jazz genre.
I had worked with Brian Asselin previously as he had hired me to record backup vocals for a vocalist named Delbert Nelson, lead singer for The Funk Brothers, a legendary American, Motown-era band. I wanted to work with Brian again and collaborated with him and David Gaw for my upcoming second, full length album, which will have an urban jazz, drunk-driven flair.
So what do you have planned for this year?
I am putting out my first full album of original music in August 2016! It will have an urban, jazzy, funky flair.
I’ll also be performing at Westfest, the Blacksheep Inn and RBC Bluesfest (full list of events here).
That’s huge! Bluesfest – congratulations! Well, Rebecca – this was a thrill. I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to sit with me. I wish you all the best in your singing career and can’t wait to see you at Westfest and Bluesfest!