With deep musical influences from gypsy jazz innovator Django Reinhardt and interests in the world of electronic music, Alouette has found an outlet for her love of the gypsy culture.
Born and raised in Maryland and musically refined in the Washington DC classical opera scene, she has spent much of her young life, now just 27, traveling through Canada, the vineyards and hills of Italy and throughout South of France before winding up and embedding herself into the Williamsburg music scene.
Just one day before our interview last week at the House of Small Wonder at 77 N. 6th St., Alouette tweeted that she was crossing the English Channel after camping with manouche (gypsies) at Samois-sur-Seine, several miles south of Paris.
Now back in New York after a near month abroad, she is in the studios again preparing for an album release followed by several more shows throughout the city.
While her living is made on playing her music on the road, she is also scheduled to play the Glasslands, located at 289 Kent Ave. with Pure Bathing Culture on Aug. 28 at 8:30 p.m. On Aug. 24 and 25, she will also perform with the djangOrchestra at the Nitehawk Cinema, located at 136 Metropolitan Ave., with a live score for the 1927 silent romantic comedy film, “It”.
While in between her trip from Europe and arriving back in Brooklyn for recording sessions and meetings with public relations and record executives, I had a chance to sit down with Alouette to discuss her busy life and her plans for the future.
So, what brings you to Brooklyn?
Well, I was living in Montreal and I was studying opera singing at McGill (University), and I wanted to stay there because I loved the music scene there. I was doing opera but I like electronic music and different types of world music and gypsy jazz, but I couldn’t stay because of visa reasons.
I was like, well what am I going to do? And I didn’t want to move back to Maryland, so I moved here.
Can you explain your background in Opera?
I studied at McGill University, and in the summers I would also study in Italy and in Austria. I did some small concerts, but also when I was growing up, I also studied with the Washington Opera when Plàcido Domingo was their conductor at the time. We performed at the Kennedy Center and did a choral performance at Carnegie Hall.
So I grew up with a lot of classical theater and Opera background, but I always felt a little bit narrow with just doing that at McGill because I have a lot of other musical interests.
While I was studying opera I would be going out to raves.
What took you towards the next step in making your own music?
Well I was back up in Montreal doing just gypsy jazz, and not opera, and even though I still practiced in opera I wasn’t performing. Then I couldn’t stay, and then I came to New York, and I wanted to get more into the electronic scene.
How did you do that?
I started recording in the studio, ishlab studio, which is where I record the albums and the new one that I released last year.
What got you interested in the electronic music?
I always listened to it. I tried to get into it when I was studying opera by combining the two; by working with the digital music composition studios at McGill, where I’d do stuff with live computer interaction and opera singing.
What is the style of music that you play now?
To explain the style of music, it was started by this musician, Django Reinardt, and he was really big in the 30s and 40s. Now it is sort of making a comeback in London, New York and Paris. Django was a gypsy, and there was a lot of influences in early jazz in New Orleans. He played with Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington and even later on he toured and played at Carnegie Hall, and he just combined gypsy rhythms with New Orleans jazz.
So I’ve been doing that here. I’m primarily a singer and I decided I don’t want to do opera too much. I just kind of stumbled into this style of music because I never really listened to it before.
What got you interested in this culture?
It started because I really liked the ambiance of the sound when someone in Montreal turned me on to Django. I didn’t really think too much of it, but I really liked listening to it. I really think people can either really love it, or people can like it, but I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t like this style of music.
It’s easy listening, but it’s not really “easy listening.” It’s fun to listen to.
What is some of the most inspiring music to you?
I like Billy Holiday’s singing, Django Reinhardt, opera singers like Maria Callas. I like the discipline and the grand epicness of the classical music impression music.
I like modern bands like Hiatus Caiyote, and they’re like neo soul, but they incorporate a lot of these in their music as well. I like them because they put it together very well, and they have a variety of influences and they have a lot of groove and really progressive beats.
I love beats.
I also listen to a lot of hip-hop and UK producers like James Blake, Jaime Lidell, and a lot of Berlin Techno, which is a lot of the rave influence.
In modern pop music, there is a movement that combines electronic music with things that are more traditional. Is this something that you see happening?
That’s what I want to do, ultimately. I really love James Blake’s music and I want to do something that’s similar to his style with electronic beats and production elements and vocals.
The reason why I also like this music is because I can sing with it. The singing is first and foremost my instrument. I’m trying to find a vehicle to create a sound of music that creates a vibe that’s forward looking with beats, but at the same time is rooted in the gypsy jazz that is more melodic and creates a vibe.
So, I will use the soloing guitar as a texture, but definitely staying progressive.
How do you develop new styles of your music?
I want to do something that’s current, that’s also forward thinking and that’s also creatively challenging.
I’ve been working on this idea in the back of my head for a song that is kind of taken from gyspy jazz from one song. I reworked it and it was inspired by this one song.
Then, at ishlab, they’re showing me new music and this trend of slowing music down. For instance, they took a song and slowed it down by 800 percent and then they build beats on top of it.
After the tour, you are scheduled to play at the Nitehawk Cinemas in Williamsburg with your group djangOrchestra. What is the stage set up going to be like at that show?
It’s going to most likely be two gypsy jazz guitarists, a double bass, either horns or violin; like clarinet or saxophone and vocals. Now I am also considering adding more of the electronic elements of this as well to make it a little bit more modern but definitely with the gypsy jazz vibe.
I’ve been wanting to give this new sound to the gypsy jazz music.
When I was Samois for this festival where they played traditional gypsy jazz, I felt like even though people are purists, it’s also nice to do something contemporary with it.
Catch Mary Alouette at her album release party for the The Lark EP on July 30 at the Cameo Gallery, located at 93 N. 6th St. in Williamsburg.