Erin Bode: Exclusive Web Interview



One could certainly forgive Erin Bode if she were a little tired after playing five shows in five nights. Her itinerary for the first week in June included opening this summer’s Whitaker Music Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden; an evening at the Cabaret at Savor; two concerts with her band and members of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra at the Innsbrook Institute; and a trip up I-55 to perform at the Chicago Botanic Garden. But despite this taxing schedule, the personable singer seems, if anything, even more energized than usual at the opportunity to talk about her new CD The Little Garden.

By Todd Owyoung

It’s the first release for Bode and her band since Over and Over, which came out early in 2006. She calls Garden “a natural successor” to that CD, as it again incorporates elements of jazz, folk and pop, but also sees it as a major step forward for the group. “We feel that we have evolved a lot, grown a lot, and gotten to know ourselves better,” she says.

Garden includes eleven original songs -- eight written by Bode and keyboard player/guitarist Adam Maness, and three by Maness alone -- plus one cover, an interpretation of Paul Simon’s “Born At The Right Time.” The material spans a two-year period, Bode says: “Some of the songs are from just after Over and Over, all the way up ‘til just before we recorded this one.” She says that while the band was glad for the chance to road-test and develop their material before recording, they also found inspiration in approaching the newer songs for the first time in the studio. “It’s cool to have that variety of songs,” she said. “The new ones have a fresh vibe for us.”

The recording was done at Sounden Studios in San Clemente, California, with Bode and band producing themselves during two week-long sessions, one late last summer and another in January. “Having a little bit more time in the studio was really helpful for us,” said Bode, explaining that she and the band used the extra time to experiment with instrumentation and arrangements. “We had a chance to try things, and if they didn’t work, you could try again. That really helped us a lot.”

Bode, Maness, bassist Syd Rodway and drummer Derek Phillips recorded the basic tracks for the CD live; guest contributions from saxophonist John Ellis and a string section led by Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra concertmaster David Halen were added later. Garden also features background vocals from two of the Themba Girls, the choir of students from a South African school with whom Bode recorded a fund-raising CD last year. (A second charitable CD, this time featuring the Themba Boys choir, will be released later this year.)

Bode and band were able to avail themselves of additional recording time because the studio is owned by the same people who run their new label, Native Language. She won’t discuss the split with her former label MAXJAZZ, citing legal reasons. (MAXJAZZ’s Clayton McDonnell also declined to comment on the situation.) However, Bode clearly is enthused about working with Native Language, calling them “really great people – exciting, young, and vibrant. It’s a good fit.”

“We just want to keep growing,” said Bode. “We love what we do, we enjoy touring, and we like to get to know the people who listen to our music. Wherever that leads us, that’s where we want to go.”

(Erin Bode performs at 8:30 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. Friday, June 13 and Saturday, June 14, and 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday, June 15 at Jazz at the Bistro, 3536 Washington Avenue. 314-534-1111 or 800-293-5949. )

-- Dean C. Minderman

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