Making a name as a solo artist

  • Alouette Batteau Contributed photo

For the Recorder
Published: 10/29/2020 8:51:09 AM

Alouette Batteau, of Shelburne Falls, may be only 19, but she has already made her mark on the local music scene as the drummer/vocalist/songwriter of the popular indie pop-rock trio Kalliope Jones and as the former lead singer for the rock band Raspberry Jam. Now you can add ‘solo artist’ to her list of musical accomplishments.

On Saturday, Oct. 31, Batteau will release the EP “Turn Me Honest,” the follow-up to her solo debut “Extra Vacation Days,” which came out in June.

In March, Batteau found herself back home in Shelburne Falls when Vassar College in New York, where she was a freshman, closed due to the pandemic.

Suddenly, she had time on her hands; it seemed like the perfect time to do some solo recording.

“I have always been interested in a solo project but never really had the time and I was scared to do it because I’ve always been in bands,” said Batteau, calling from Vassar College, where she is a sophomore double majoring in political science and Hispanic studies. “Especially with Kalliope Jones, I’m able to bring my songs to them and it turns into a fully arranged piece, but having to do it all myself was rather daunting.”

It’s easy to understand why this would be daunting when we consider that she’s been a member of Kalliope Jones since she was 10 years old. The group, which also included Isabella DeHerdt on guitar/vocals and Amelia Chalfant on bass/vocals, formed at the Institute of Musical Arts in Goshen, where collaboration is encouraged.

On both of her EPs, Batteau played all the instruments and did all the arrangements.

The only outside help she received was from her father, musician Brook Batteau. Both her parents are musicians who have played in various local bands together, and her dad helped with the recording, mixing and mastering. 

The music on “Extra Vacation Days” were songs that Batteau had written while at college. After that EP was completed, the songs kept coming so she decided to make another record. “Turn Me Honest” was completed right before it was time for her to head off to school. 

The six songs on “Turn Me Honest” show a young woman reflecting on where her life is at while living through some unsettling times. Batteau’s writing is honest and real as she wades through a myriad of emotions and crafts the perfect accompaniments for her poetic lyrics. Musically, she displays her previously unheard talents as a multi-instrumentalist and as an arranger who can take a song into new and interesting directions.

The disc opens with “Romeo,” a love song full of hope and anxiety set against a percolating synth beat that sounds straight out of the 1980s. It’s an upbeat, danceable tune that paves the way for the more quieter, introspective material that dominates the disc.

“Pepto Bismal” is a dreamy guitar tune that gives us the EP’s title. “You make me want to cry in a good way/You’re Turning me honest,” she sings in her expressive voice. ‘Turn Me Honest’ really reflects where my life is at now that I’m in college. High school for most people is a time where you feel that you have to conform to the cliques and the high school experience,” said Batteau in regards to how she chose the EP’s title.

“Everyone at Vassar is so eclectic,” she added. “I can do whatever I want, so ‘Turn Me Honest’ is just showing that college has turned me honest and my friends have turned me honest and I’m able to be myself here.”

She expanded on the concept with the album’s artwork.

“I made the album art a picture of me from high school with a doodle of a face over my face, and that’s showing here’s a version of me that’s not quite honest,” she said. “You can be honest in weird faces like that in your own art, but you can also be honest and vulnerable in taking that mask away. I just liked the juxtaposition of that.”

One of the standout tracks is “Curse,” a quiet, slow-paced guitar and drum tune that feels like a lullaby, albeit a lullaby with teeth. Lyrics like “held together by fast food and laundry piles/And free shipping once in awhile/ But no matter what you normalize/I still see through your little normal lies” captures the feeling of being stuck at home with time to think about people who have done you wrong.

“That song in part was about during the quarantine you realize who your real friends are, like who texts you and who stays in touch,” she said. 

“My Mother” is a beautiful song Batteau wrote as a gift for her mother on Mother’s Day. Through a series of vivid images (such as “I sit on the river in her old swim suit”) sung accompanied by a shimmering guitar, she has written a song that is touching without being overly sentimental. The disc closes with “Icarus,” one of the first songs she wrote for Kalliope Jones but chose to do over, making it more fun vocally and adding a synth horn section.  

Some virtual shows to celebrate the release are in the works but no dates are available as of this writing.  Batteau also said we can look forward to hearing a couple new songs from Kalliope Jones soon. “Turn Me Honest” is available on all streaming services on Halloween. 

Carrie Ferguson confrontsthe Devil in the Tower

With less than a week left before the presidential election, singer-songwriter Carrie Ferguson, of Wendell, is the latest to weigh in with her views on our current commander-in-chief. She recently released a new single called “Devil in the Tower (America First),” a self-described “chain-scraping stomp.”  The song has minimal musical accompaniment as Ferguson chants lyrics like “I got money but I don’t pay tax /I live in a world of alternative facts/ Come on honey now just relax/I’m gonna put America first.”

The song was long in coming but one that she hopes has a short shelf life and can be retired after November 3rd. The song is a departure for Ferguson who is known for upbeat, uplifting songs.

“I take the potential impact of art pretty seriously and I'm almost superstitiously motivated to not put straight up negative, hopeless, downer music out into the world,” she said of the song “But this time around I kind of just needed to let it rip. ‘Devil in the Tower (America First)’ took me 4.5 years to write! I think I actually started writing it during the 2016 campaign when all that stuff was coming out about how Trump treats women, and the video clip, etc.”

The subject matter is very serious, but to lighten things up, Ferguson dressed up as Trump and released a silly video where she dances to the song. You can view it on YouTube at Devil In The Tower (America First) - VOTE.

And tomorrow Ferguson is releasing another new song, this one is a rock-pop anthem called “It  Was All Lies” and featured Jim Henry on guitar and J.J. O’Connell on drums and backing vocals. 

“It's a catchy upbeat danceable tune about the connections between low self-esteem, passive consumerism, corporate greed, and global warming,” she said of the tune. Ferguson added that it could appear on a future album as she has written a bunch of songs that are ready to be recorded.  

In addition, Ferguson has a side project writing songs for kids. Earlier this year, she released a delightful video called “Cat and Piggy” that features artwork by local musician Wishbone Zoe. The song will appear on her upcoming album for kids “Welcome to Grumpytown” that will be available in the spring.

You can hear all these songs on BandCamp.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and na tional magazines. You can contact her at soundslocal@yahoo.com.




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