For the past four years, Atlanta-raised, Austin-based independent folk/pop singer-songwriter Rebecca Loebe (pronounced LOW-BEE) has been grinding it out on the road fulltime, averaging 200 shows per year.
For a few years, home was on the road. "Whether or not I have an apartment is irrelevant, because even if I have one I never see it. Eventually, paying rent for a room to keep my stuff in starts to seem like a waste of money, when I'm on the road fighting for every dollar."
Long hours in the car served as inspiration for many of the songs on Loebe's latest release Circus Heart, an album that mixes jubilant pop with intimate folk. She was literally and figuratively behind the wheel driving her career when a casting director emailed her about a new reality singing competition. It would become NBC's hit reality program The Voice.
"It didn't really sound like my kind of thing," she says, "but then again I happened to be home that weekend so I didn't really have a good excuse not to at least go to the audition."
And so Loebe became one of the first contestants to perform for the panel of celebrity coaches on NBC's The Voice. Her decision to re-interpret Nirvana's classic grunge anthem "Come As You Are," into a moody ballad also made her the first contestant on the show to re-arrange rather than merely cover a song. Of this decision, she says "It seemed like the most natural thing in the world...When I cover a song at a gig, I never bother trying to copy the original note for note, I always want to push myself to see what I can bring to the table. I didn't see any reason to approach this audition any differently."
This approach inspired both Adam Levine and Christina Aguilera to offer her mentorship. In the end, she chose Team Adam. She also became an early fan-favorite, ultimately selling over 35,000 downloads of the two songs she performed on the show and charting on iTunes in the US, Europe and South America.
Aside from exposure, the experience also offered solace from her grueling tour schedule to write. One song, in particular, "Swallowed by the Sea," was written throughout the experience. Explaining her nomadic touring lifestyle to the judges, "I was shocked that they seemed unaware that there are many like me making a living this way!"
To fund her newest release Circus Heart, Rebecca turned to her fans who had successfully helped her release her 2010 album Mystery Prize - an indie/folk gem that spent nine weeks on the Americana Top 40 charts.
"I was excited to pick up where I left off on Mystery Prize, but I also wanted to push the envelope a little sonically and experiment with some sounds that I hadn't used before." To help tap into this new sound, Loebe called in Matt Sever, AKA Matt The Electrician, an Austin-based singer/songwriter who tours all over the world, with a loyal following in the US, Europe and Japan.
"I was thrilled when he agreed to produce this record -- this is the first album he has produced that is not one of his own, and it's the first album I have recorded outside of my comfort zone in Atlanta. We were a perfect fit."
Although most of the instruments on the record were performed by Loebe, Sever and the engineer Mark Addison, the album also features several guest performances including percussionist Dony Wynn, who has recorded and toured in the past with Robert Palmer, Patti Labelle and Brooks & Dunn, and was recently spotted onstage with Robert Plant. Lex Land, another alumna of The Voice, harmonizes on the haunting afterlife ballad "Georgia" and Loebe's frequent tour partner Raina Rose offers lead guitar and vocal harmonies on the travel ballad "Vagabond Prayer," which closes the record.
Since her time on the show, Rebecca has been able to reflect on the experience. "I don't regret being on The Voice at all. I was introduced as who I am to a wider audience and now that I'm back out on the road, I'm happy to see some new faces in the crowd singing along."
Rebecca is performing throughout the summer. She will begin her Circus Heart tour with a CD release party at the Cactus Café in Austin on September 5. Further confirmed dates are as follows:
August 2 EASTON, MD The NightCat
August 14 NASHVILLE, TN The Basement
August 15 MONROE, LA Enochs
August 28 EVANSTON, IL S.P.A.C.E.
August 29 WAUWATOSA, WI Tosa Tonight Summer Concert
August 30 MADISON, WI The Frequency
September 1-2 DEERWOOD, MN Storyhill Festival
September 5 AUSTIN, TX Cactus Café
September 16 SAN DIEGO, CA Le Stat's
September 18 LOS ANGELES, CA The Hotel Café
September 19 SAN LUIS OBSIPO, CA The Upper Crust
September 23 SAN FRANCISCO, CA The Hotel Utah
September 25 RENO, NV Swill
September 29 CARBONDALE, CO Steve's Guitars
October 6 COLUMBUS, OH Rumba Cafe
October 9 NEW YORK, NY The Living Room
October 13 MONTCLAIR, NJ Notes From Home
October 19 BOSTON, MA Café 939
October 28 ARLINGTON, VA IOTA
November 3 DECATUR, GA Eddie's Attic