The Weinberg Center’s Tivoli Discovery Series continues Thursday as EVA, a trio of female singers from Australia, Europe and the U.S., takes the stage. We caught up with one of the group’s vocalists, Kath Buckell, to talk about how they got together, what it was like working with artists such as Livingston Taylor and what we can expect from their set tomorrow night.
Let’s start with some history of the band. How did you get together? How did the band form, and how long have you been at it?
EVA formed about two years ago where I created the concept of a multicultural group singing original music all in three part harmony. I’ve always loved the color of three voices together and when you combine that with three independent unique singer/songwriters and instrumentalists, the formula is very powerful and special.
We all met through the music scene. It literally started like the beginning of a joke — “So an Australian and an American walk into a bar …” — in Brooklyn. I am the Australian and I met Nicole Zuraitis (from the U.S.) in a lovely bar in Park Slope where I went to hear her perform. This was around seven years ago. I was completely blown away by her voice and songwriting, a powerhouse jazz, soul, blues and pop/rock vocalist, and I could see she could literally sing anything with such depth and soulfulness that I was stopped dead in my tracks. So I asked her if she would like to join our group and come on tour in Australia for a month. I literally threw her into the deep end, and she enthusiastically said, “Yes, let’s do it,” and we’ve never looked back.
Liz Simmons came on board shortly after our former member (Aoife Clancy of Cherish the Ladies) retired, and we met performing together at a show at Infinity Hall in CT. When I first heard Liz’s voice, I was also blown away and thought, “Wow, she would be a perfect addition. She has such a gorgeous honey quality to her voice, somewhere between an Emmylou Harris and Sandy Denny.” Liz grew up on a lot of traditional Irish, English and American roots music, and has performed these styles professionally for the past decade. She infuses her original songs with some of that “trad” flavor. Additionally, on a whim, she picked up the Bodhran (Irish drum) and learned it for EVA within a span of a month.
Did you guys have any goals when dreaming up the band — perhaps stylistically or otherwise?
Yes, definitely, our goals were on these lines:
A) To say something that has depth and meaning, and that can be a universal message. Some of the most profound folk singer/songwriters, by whom we were all influenced, stood out to audiences because they had a message to speak of that was larger than just being beautiful and singing sweet songs on stage. We want to be known in the way of luminaries such as Joan Baez, who would not only sing about Vietnam, but actually went there and experienced the war and sang about it, voicing her thoughts and experiences.
B) Stylistically, we all come from such diverse backgrounds, so we wanted to bring out the colors of who and what had influenced us growing up and to arrange the music that would nurture and support the story that was being told.
C) To perform with the most incredible musicians who have made an impact within the folk singer/songwriter scenes. We had the honor of touring a number of times with such legendary singer/songwriters MELANIE, Livingston Taylor & Tom Chapin. We also have a new project called Women Of Folk: The New Revival, which is a collaboration between Lucy Wainwright Roche, Sloan Wainwright & EVA — strong female voices standing together.
What are some of your favorite memories as a band? Conversely, can you talk a little about some of the hardships you guys have a experienced through the years and what advice you’d give to someone looking to start a band for the first time?
I think one of the most important elements in a band is to understand what everyone’s needs are, and to make sure everything is communicated openly and honestly together. Our challenges initially had been finding what everyone is comfortable with in regards to touring conditions, how long we want to be away from our homes and family life and what would be the balance between our own solo projects verses EVA. Luckily, we are all down to earth with experience behind us, so we were able to come to a common understanding with a few band meetings and conversations. For anyone starting a band, I would suggest to have clarity on what you’re wanting to say in the group, making sure it aligns everyone with a similar goal in mind both creatively and with the forward-thinking vision. It creates a more unified sound and product to present to an audience. Be open and flexible with everyone, as there will be different opinions about how the group should be directed, and democracy must prevail or a leader should be nominated, as in any other business venture.
You guys have been working with Melanie, Tom Chapin and Livingston Taylor recently. How did those collaborations come about? And what’s it been like, working with each of those artists, who are heavyweights in their own right?
One of my foremost goals for our music and presentation is bridging the generations. I feel there is so much to be learned from these incredible musicians who were around when there was a lot of social change, expressing tolerance and acceptance between different cultures and breaking down social and political barriers. Tom Chapin and Melanie have both been highly respected for their peace work and for highlighting the importance of a dialogue between people, whatever their denomination. Livingston has been working with students for the past 30 years at Berklee College Of Music, mentoring budding musicians, and sharing his wisdom about what a musical career entails. We have learned so much from all of them about being honest and authentic with our own voice and message, and refining our skills as musicians. They’ve helped guide us and shape us with really constructive things to say. They’re our mentors and we feel blessed to be given the opportunity to be within a creative space with them.
Who are some of your major influences and why?
It’s beautiful because all three of us have grown up with some similar artists and others that we have learned to appreciate. I would say in a nutshell, two from each: For me, it’s Van Morrison and Joan Baez. For Liz, it would be Alison Krauss and Sandy Denny, and Nicole has been so inspired by the music of Stevie Wonder and Ella Fitzgerald.
Can you give us names of some artists we need to check out that we maybe haven’t seen yet? Who are you listening to these days?
My two favorite artists that I’ve been listening to and discovered on WFUV are Blind Pilot and Phosphorescence.
Where are some of your favorite places to play and why?
Festivals! We all love festivals because of the creative spirit that is evoked and shared all under one roof between both the musicians and the fans of music.
What does the rest of 2016 look like for Eva from here on out? New music? Shows?
EVA performs around one to two weekends a month, and we have some great shows coming up in the fall and then all throughout 2017. We are constantly writing new music and introducing the songs into our repertoire. Our shows are going quite well, and we are expanding and performing in new places nationally and internationally.
What do you think is the most perfect song ever written and why?
That is a really hard question because there are so many! Wow, OK. Well, the first that comes to mind, actually, is “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton. Musically, it accompanies a very emotional lyric that was based on his personal experience of losing his child, and all that depth can be felt on every level through the song’s arrangement. It has a very delicate melody. It is emotionally attuned to his experience and the music is completely nurturing and supporting what he’s feeling while also giving space for his voice to be heard.
What can we expect from your set at the Weinberg Center?
You can expect what we hope will be a moving experience — one that will take you through stories about our own personal backgrounds, a message of reconciliation between cultures, love, loss and new beginnings, and all the emotion that is felt when changes like this occur. We always play our hearts out, in a way that we hope will make you want to get up and dance, and then also feel a sense of power and depth in a softer, more nuanced moment. We will also meet all the lovely kind folks after the show and hear about their experiences, as that’s what gives us the most fulfillment and inspiration. And who knows: Maybe we will turn that experience into a song!