New Album: Stages, recorded live at the Kiawanda Center and Eden Hall, Oregon
Essential Tracks: “Danger in Loving You,” “Love Me Like a River Does,” “High Heel Blues,” “My Rainbow Race”
Online: www.halieloren.com @halieloren on Twitter
Within a week of the Japanese release of Halie Loren’s album They Oughta Write a Song this past May, both the album and title track jumped into the top five—and soon thereafter, number one—on iTunes’ Japan rankings, and topped other notable hot lists. Loren has since earned tons of attention overseas, and this week marks her first journey to the island nation that’s so fully embraced her—somewhat to her surprise, she says. Next week, en route home to Oregon, Loren is scheduled to make several appearances on Maui, alongside her longtime collaborator, pianist Matt Treder—appearances that Maui jazz enthusiasts will not want to miss.
“I have yet to understand why things have taken off the way that they have,” says Loren. “I’m very new to the Japanese market, but because I’m not there, I don’t really know exactly how everything ties together. Really, it’s been a wonderful surprise.”
In the United States (where They Oughta was self-produced and released in 2008), Loren has a careful hand in her career, saying each album (there are five to date) “has my fingerprint on every part of the process,” from writing to mixing to marketing. For such a hands-on, indie-proud artist, the separation from overseas success might seem stressful, but Loren takes it with a smoothness that mirrors her scorched meringue vocals.
“It’s a brand new world for me,” she says. “I’m excited about every aspect of it, and all that I have to look forward to.”
Though she may be new to the Japanese market, this 25-year-old’s home-soil career has already spanned a decade. She began singing professionally at the tender age of 14, having moved from her native Pacific Northwest to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a music career (a temporary relocation; she’s now happily an Oregonian). Numerous awards and accolades in the U.S. are testament to both her vocal talent and likable countenance; most recently They Oughta earned the prestigious Best Vocal Jazz Album at the 2009 Just Plain Folks Music Awards.
“It’s the biggest indie music awards in the world,” Loren explains. “I knew I was a finalist, out of hundreds and hundreds of entrants, but when I heard my name called, it didn’t register for what felt like a long time. Then, this feeling of joy just rushed out of me unexpectedly and I couldn’t contain myself. I couldn’t believe the honor, to be recognized by my peers. I felt very encouraged and touched—that I’m doing something that’s right for me, and connecting with others.”
They Oughta, with its strong takes on classic tracks like Otis Blackwell and Eddie Cooley’s “Fever” and Otis Redding and Steve Cropper’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” is a huge departure from her Lilith-esque 2006 effort Full Circle, which—though showcasing her technical skill—sounds a bit like a bloodless Tori Amos.
“It was a time when I was really processing a lot of teenage angst, I guess you could say,” she laughs. “Growing up and growing pains. It was a time of musical growth for me, becoming more confident as an instrumentalist and being involved in every aspect of songwriting.”
While that growth is made evident with They Oughta, it’s but the first spring green compared to the orchard-in-bloom that is her latest, Stages—a live album recorded at the Kiawanda Center and Eden Hall in Oregon.
“I’ve often longed to be able to translate the energy and spontaneity of live performace while recording in the studio—so instead, this time we brought the ‘studio’ to the stage,” Loren describes in the album’s liner notes. The quality and control of Loren’s vocal talent is evident with this live endeavor, showcasing how she’s come into her own with jazz underpinnings and a tincture of playful, inky blue intonations.
So what’s next? “Well, I’m always thinking a few album projects ahead, and I’ve already written a lot of songs,” she says. “At this point, I’ll probably be incorporating more original material into my future projects. But I’m careful about not really having an absolute plan. Things take interesting turns, sometimes—like Japan! Everything that’s been going on is nothing like I would have imagined last fall. I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens. In the meantime, I’ll be doing what I know how to do best, which is performing live shows and writing songs.”
HOW TO HEAR HALIE ON MAUI:
Tuesday (September 14)
The Hula Honeys morning show on 102.9FM. 9am
Four Seasons Lounge. 8-10:30pm
Wednesday (September 15)
The Beehive with Dr. B on Mana‘o Radio 91.5FM. 8-10am
Friday (September 17)
Four Seasons Lounge. 8-11pm