By Noe Gutierrez
Rebecca Connelly has a voice and talent that is matchless. Once you experience her vocal style, you will be enticed to inquire more about this Scottish-born musician and multi-instrumentalist who was a Coachella Valley resident for several years in the late 2000’s. She has since returned to her homeland but has not been forgotten. Earlier this year Connelly released her single “Songbird” that reflects a tranquil serenity communicated by only her voice and piano. The song can be purchased on her website rebeccaconnelly.co.uk and all major music platforms. Coachella Valley Weekly spoke with Connelly from her home in Arbroath, Scotland.
CVW: How long have you been gone from the desert?
Connelly: “I left the desert in March 2012 to tour with my band Dolalay. After the tour I spent another ten months in California however, after receiving news that a good friend of mine in Scotland had taken his own life, I decided it was time to go back home to Scotland permanently. And so I flew home on the 19th of May 2013. It was a confusing and difficult time and I didn’t really know what I was going to do when I returned to Scotland.”
CVW: What do you miss the most about being in the desert?
Connelly: “My friends mostly and the wonderful musical networks I had made over the years. I lived in the desert for six years and moved straight there from Scotland, so it really became my home and my friends became my family. Obviously the sunshine too. Scotland can be quite rainy, cold and grey.”
CVW: You just released the single, “Songbird,” on Valentine’s Day 2019. A beautiful stripped down song that really spotlights the commandment you have of your voice, your illustrative lyrics and musicianship on the piano. What’s the background of the song?
Connelly: “I wrote “Songbird” during a time when I was feeling really alone and lost and I think it was almost like my escape from my life at the time. I was spending a lot of time outside in nature and wanted to write about it and what I thought it would be like to share it with someone.”
CVW: Generally, after the release of a single, there is more on the way. Please tell me there’s more Rebecca Connelly music on the way.
Connelly: “Yes there is. I am currently recording my second full-length album. The songs reflect a little on my time in California, talk about how much I love being close to my family again in Scotland as well as my relationship with my husband and my own mental health. It’s a mixed bag but it’s really a story of my life from 2013 to now.”
CVW: Dolalay was the first band I ever booked at the first event I ever produced. In 2011, you performed at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden for our Healthy Families/Celebrate Recovery/Prevent Child Abuse/5k event. You sang the National Anthem with such grace and heart and Dolalay played an up-tempo set. What do you remember from that event?
Connelly: “I remember it was really really early (laughing). And I had to do an extra warmup. I remember it so well because I was so nervous about singing the National Anthem. It was an absolute honor and a performance I’ll never forget. I also remember thinking to myself how lovely it was to see loads of families out together for such a great cause.”
CVW: Tell us a little about how you learned at an early age that music would be a passion for you.
Connelly: “As a child I was exposed to music all the time. My mum always had the radio on and she used to sing in a band when she was young. My grandfather wrote stories and songs for us and would sing them to us when we’d visit him in Edinburgh. I was always singing and making up songs from a really young age. Then when I got a piano, my mum literally could not get me off of it. And it just kinda grew from there. I started playing guitar when I was 16. A boyfriend in high school showed me a few chords and I just kept playing and started to really write songs. But I was really shy and never sang or performed for anyone until I was 18 and I did a show at school. I loved it and it really boosted my confidence to start playing out and doing some local gigs. I recorded my first EP with my friend Ross Ramsay in his bedroom after school. He was an amazing musician and friend (he is the person who took his life in 2013). The EP was called Just Me. It was never released but one of the songs from that EP, “Small Town Girl,” was put on my Coming Home album.”
CVW: You took Dolalay back to your homeland for a tour at one point. Martin Barrera, your guitarist at the time, still reflects on it as a significant time in his life. Can you share your high points?
Connelly: “The whole thing was a high point. Just the fact I had managed to put the tour together and I was just so over joyed that the guys from the band came to Scotland. I just loved showing them my country and introducing them all to my family.
We performed in Edinburgh for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, which was a super early day with a 6 a.m. sound check. And it was freezing, so by the time we played at 11 a.m. we were just all so cold that we didn’t sound awesome. Right after that show we jumped in the van and drove four hours north to Inverness and played at Hootananny and it was for me one of the best nights of the tour. The atmosphere was electric and we had definitely all warmed up.”
CVW: You released Coming Home in 2009 after recording it in Palm Springs. What do you cherish about that album and time?
Connelly: “The time I spent at the studio with Armando Flores (Mondo) was so encouraging and creative and he cared so much about my songs. He helped me so much in crafting the sound for my first album and giving me confidence in my own music. This was really my first experience in a recording studio and it was brilliant. Just so many fun nights hanging out with amazing and talented people, creating music. Such a special time for me.”
CVW: The EP Days Like This was released in 2012. Can you share your feelings on that release?
Connelly: “This was a whole different experience than my first album. I recorded with Grammy-winning producer Justin Gariano at TreeHaus studios in Woodland Hills, CA. The EP really became a serious project because we were trying to get it done before the tour and recording in Woodland Hills was a bit of a commute. I love how it turned out though and am really proud of the songs I wrote. I get loads of positive feedback whenever I play Hollywood.”
CVW: Would you ever consider a Dolalay reboot?
Connelly: “No, I don’t think it’s in the cards. We are all in different places in the world now and our lives. I’m really concentrating on my career as a solo artist just now. But never say never.”
CVW: You’ll be touring Scotland this year and you have voiced plans to return to the U.S. in 2020. Since you’ve been gone from the U.S. a lot has changed in the music industry. Now that artists and music fans are all more connected through social media etc., what do you see as the strengths of these changes and the challenges?
Connelly: “I’ve really been away from the music industry since 2013 and returning to Scotland. I went back to university and graduated in 2015 with a degree in Popular Music with Distinction. I had also been busy tutoring, writing and gigging in a music duo in the corporate scene. Then in 2017 I moved back to my hometown of Arbroath with my husband and drummer Scott Burrell and we opened Red Rock Music Centre. We provide individual lessons and workshops for guitar, piano, bass, drums, voice and ukulele. We have seven tutors working with us and it’s going amazingly well. I’ve just completed an 8-week songwriting course at a primary school for 90 kids and it’s been brilliant. I have really loved it. The songs the kids have come up with are hilarious and it’s been so great to watch them creating lyrics and music for their own songs. So I’m really just getting back into doing my own music again and now discovering how simple it is to connect with fans and music industry people. I’m enjoying live streaming, posting videos that people can access immediately, and just the immersive nature social media can have for musicians and artists. You can literally listen to any song or genre you want at any time. The challenge with that however, is standing out from the crowd. As technology has improved and music is more accessible it’s perhaps more difficult to be heard in a sea of sound. So it makes me want to write better music and to really craft my sound before I release anything. It’s a business too at the end of the day so having a strong brand or marketing is important too.”
We look forward to Rebecca’s return to the U.S. in 2020, but until then, she is committed to releasing new music and touring Scotland. If you’re a fan of any type of music you will assuredly be enchanted as we are.
Lyric Video for Songbird