Interview with Rhonda Everitt

Interview with Rhonda Everitt

In early fall of 2000 I got word of a new female keyboardist/guitarist/singer who was impressing people with her performances at the local music co-op at Canal Street Tavern. Her name was Rhonda Everitt.

I finally got my chance to find out what all the enthusiasm was about when I saw that she was performing at another local club, The Trolley Stop, with her band, rhe. I entered the club I was immediately enthralled. The beautifully haunting sound of piano mixed with powerful and sweetly cynical vocals floated about the room and put me in a mystical trance. The raw energy and emotion in which she so honestly shared her soul with the audience demanded my full attention. I couldn’t take my eyes or ears off of her.

I felt such a strong connection to Rhonda’s music that I just had to know more about this woman, this musician who just seemed to pop up out of nowhere in the Dayton music community. I caught up with Rhonda one noisy afternoon outside her practice space in the Oregon District, where she graced me with an interview

GD- You were working on a release called “Beautiful Cynic”, when is that planned to be released and how did you come up with the title?

RE – I’m not certain that it will be released, other than the tracks that we posted to mp3.com. We’ve shifted our focus to the studio instead. We’ll just have to see whether or not it happens.

Beautiful Cynic just kind of happened one day. I was writing this song, Unfold, a lovely tale about a girl who has had some really bad relationships and is now once again on the verge of being in love. During the course of the song, she recounts some of the good things that have helped to pull her out of her shell. Beautiful Cynic is how she describes her former self.

“And I, used to be, a beautiful cynic. It feels the same as being clinically dead.”

GD – When did you first realize how much you enjoyed singing and that music was the thing you wanted to do with your life?

RE – I think consciously I was around ten. I would sing along to all the Carpenters songs. My mom played piano, so she would play and I would sing. I sang in her church choir. They would hide me somewhere with all the teenagers and I would just sing my heart out.

Ever since I can remember I have been doing something with music, dancing or singing–learning to play an instrument of some sort. In high school I took so many music courses that I graduated a year early. I’ve really always been involved in it. But it wasn’t until I had to make the decision of what I wanted to do with my life that I realized that I really liked to sing.

Everybody told me I was crazy so I decided to do something else for a while, and finally I couldn’t stand it and I came back to it. During my marriage I started writing and didn’t have a lot of support and wasn’t really focused on what I wanted to do or where I thought it should go. So, nothing really happened with it at the time. But you get to that point where you go, if I’m going to do this, I need to do it now and all the way. And just jump in with both feet.

GD – What made you take the step to start playing live?

RE – I went to Nashville and walked around on Music Row. I saw the Capitol Building, BMI and all these little studios. Every street was named after someone famous and I was just “wow, this is so cool.” I wanted to move. Whether it was L.A., Nashville or whatever, I didn’t care. It ended up after six months that I decided to sell my house. I didn’t know where I was going to go. I just got started in the local scene here, so I decided that it was a good place to stay. I was an hour from where I lived. I decided that if I was going to do it, I was going to put my whole heart into it and just go for it. I wasn’t getting any younger.

GD – Tell me about the first song you ever wrote?

RE – I guess when I originally started writing, I began with stuff that I could do in church, because I was really involved in choir and praise team. So, the first song was one that I sang around Easter-it was very Sandy Patti at times, with a bit of an alternative twist. People said they liked it, but I think they were just being kind. You’ll never hear it, trust me.

GD – Where the songs written in a more traditional or contemporary Christian way?

RE – They were written somewhere in between. I really like Morella’s Forest, and that kind of band is what I’ve always wanted to be in. I’ve told Sydney that if I could pick any kind of music to write, that would be it. But the music kind of picked me. I didn’t have a choice. So I started out writing very contemporary Christian Sixpence None the Richer kind of stuff and progressed from there.

GD – What was the first song you were proud of?

RE – In 1994 there is still one song I will still perform and I guess I would call it a Christian song. I did it in church. I heard Sarah McLachlan singing it too me as I was writing the words down. So all the words are kind of in the way that she would do it. It’s all kind of strange. That was the first one where I was “yeah, yeah I could do this in public.” So once in awhile when I can remember it, I will play it when I’m out.

Then I had kind of a long break (laughter) before there was anything else that was any good.

GD – What inspires you to write?

RE – Things that go on in my daily life. People I meet and situations that really tug on my heartstrings for lack of a better term. Whether it’s a really screwed up relationship between a mother and her son, people I happen to know and be friends with or a relationship that I’m in that’s totally freaking’ me out. Or just the frustration of how my life is some days and why I think what I think.

I really look inward a lot when I write, so it kind of ends up focusing a lot on relationship stuff, which is very female. (Laughter) It’s what we do.

GD – Being a single mother with custody of two sons, how does that affect your music?

RE – It’s a really difficult situation. I usually don’t tell people I have kids because I think it really colors their view of who I am. You don’t want to be judged, because people think they know you automatically. I don’t tell club owners. I don’t tell the people who come to my show. But if you listen to the songs, you’ll realize that there’s stuff going on that I haven’t said.

I can’t really do shows during the week and I’m kind of stuck every other weekend. It’s a little hard, but it’s making me look more at the recording aspect and trying to get other things done instead of going out and playing show after show after show.

GD – What’s the most satisfying part of your music?

RE – I love writing. There’s nothing better than the satisfaction of finishing a song, that and having a great night on stage. I love performing. I’m a huge ham and I can’t imagine not being up there. It’s both of those things for me.

GD – As well as fronting your own band rhe (which includes Chris McCoy on guitar, Frank Woods on drums and Adam Edwards and Charlie Woods rotating on bass), you also perform solo, and are a part of Chris McCoy’s band, which one do you find most enjoyable?

RE – It depends. I love playing solo. There’s something about just you and the piano or you and the guitar that’s so pure. But I also love it when the drums come in and the bass starts in. It’s so cool, so real. It’s the most exciting thing that I’ve gotten to experience in my life to actually have the musicians with me playing at the same time. It’s so cool. Everybody should be in a band at some time in his or her life.

GD – Many people comment on your cover version of the Billy Idol classic “White Wedding,” what made you cover that song the way that you did?

RE – I was thinking of some songs that I wanted to cover. I always wanted to do The Romantics “What I Like About You,” and I tried to do it on piano, but it was impossible. (Laughter). So I was sitting at the piano one day just messing around, and I started with the intro and went “hmm okay, this is kind of cool” and just went with it. It took me about four months to actually make it work and make it what it is now.

It just really took awhile to take shape. That’s the only thing I found with covers is that I’m not the one who just says, hey let’s play this and just start playing it. It doesn’t work that way for me. I just have to play it and play it and figure out how I’m suppose to do it and take ownership of it. And eventually it becomes me. But for the longest time it’s like “oh this sucks. (Laughter) This is so bad.”

GD – Your treatment of the song is very haunting, I can almost hear a storm brewing in the background. Did you mean to take it in that direction?

RE – I think what I try to do is think to myself “how would Tori Amos do this?” I just didn’t know where to start. I was just so stuck. I’m working on another cover right now for an ’80s Power Ballad night. I was searching for a song and I believe I’m going to do Whitesnake’s “Is This Love?” It will probable be a very Sarah McLachlan version. That seems to be how it starts. It’s “what if so and so did this song?” It then eventually becomes something that I would do. It’s really hard for me to cover songs.

GD – I’ve lent you a couple of CD’s and on some of your feedback you’ve mentioned that the song wasn’t too radio friendly. How do you approach songwriting and is “radio friendly” in mind when you write a song?

RE – At times. well usually. I’ve learned that when you write a song you just write it and not worry about it. But lyrically I’m very self-conscious about what I’m actually saying. Most of the time, I feel my lyrics are stupid. I will go back and re-write, re-write, re-write. I used to be able to sit down, write it and it was done in an hour or over a day or two, but I didn’t totally dissect it. Now I over do it. {Laugh) I hope that whatever I write will have a catchy enough melody that people will want to listen to it more than once. On the other hand I don’t want to do alternative stuff that isn’t impossible to digest.

GD – So what do you want to do with the rest of your life?

RE -Well, I’d like to see where the music takes me, but I’m really interested in doing some acting-I had a great time being an extra in “Dead Letters.” I’m also interested in voice-overs for animation, like Disney and Dreamworks films, and I’ve got an idea for a screenplay.

http://www.palebeneaththeblue.com

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