Individually Rebecca Loebe, Grace Pettis and BettySoo are established singer/songwriter/performers, each with a Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Competition winner title in their pockets. In 2017, Rebecca suggested a joint tour by the three “just to share the road, share our audiences and have a bit of fun.” That one-off idea was followed by a homemade promo video, a songwriting session, a record deal, and the birth of Nobody’s Girl.
NYS Music spoke with all three members by phone in late November after a scheduled return to the Towne Crier in Beacon, N.Y. was “snow-poned” due to a heavy dumping of white stuff, canceling the evening’s show and taking our pre-show interview with it.
After “announcing” ourselves on the line, we were ready roll.
Mickey Deneher: I think of this as the evolution of Nobody’s Girl. You guys started out as friends. When did you first meet?
Grace Pettis: We first meet around 10 years ago at the Kerville Folk Festival.
MD: Each one of you is an award winner (at Kerville.)
GP: We did all win the (New Folk) competition in different years. (But) that was the first year we all were there and hanging out and just became pals.
MD: You go to Kerville, do song circles, a one-off tour, a writing session, and then a record deal from the session. Was this just a flash or the progression you where looking for?
Rebecca Loebe: You pretty much nailed it, the progression of it. Basically it just happened organically and very quickly. That as soon as we got together and started singing together we had this great sort of harmony and chemistry together and just sort of opportunities kept presenting themselves really quickly.
You know our first co-write was pretty magical. We wrote 3 songs in basically 18 hours that we really liked. When we played them for the folks who owned the recording studio where we had gone to write, they offered us a record deal. At that point we had not even played a gig together. We didn’t have any plans of touring or plans of becoming a band. I think that made it all develop really naturally, the fact that it wasn’t something that any of us where all gunning for. We didn’t have, you know, aspirations to make this the coolest band project ever. We just thought it was fun when we sang together.
MD: Let’s talk about the writing for the EP. All three of you are credited (for the originals). Is that because it is the writing process or do you all have to get in pieces?
Grace Pettis: We are an equal collaboration at the writing table. Which is such a new and cool experience. I have written with a lot of people. I love co-writing. But I have never been in a band, where all three members are professional songwriters and get so much joy out of that process and can kind of meet each other at the same level as co-writers. That’s just been really fun. All of the songs are true, true collaborations. Like honestly, nobody really takes the lead. Maybe somebody will have an idea, somebody will take it and run with it, and then somebody else will chime in with a different direction and we write them from scratch. Together. Equally.
MD: You went in for a writing session. You didn’t go in as a band, but you came out as a band.
BettySoo: We were writing for the three of us to sing together. We definitely had that in mind. I don’t think we were writing like we would scrap a song if it was good and it didn’t feel like it was going to suit the trio that well. But definitely, that was definitely sitting in our minds as we were writing. Whether it was subconscious or whatever, that this was a song for the three of us.
Grace Pettis: Definitely.
BettySoo: I’m sure that shaped the process some, whether we were that conscious of it or not.
MD: So you had the “voices” in your head that you were writing for.
We turned our conversation to the band’s recently released debut recording “Waterline,” which contains 4 original compositions, two covers, and a bonus acoustic rendition of the title track. It was recorded at Studios at Fischer with assistance from some of Austin’s top session players. The EP was released on the Lucky Hound label.
MD: I’ve enjoyed the EP. The writing, the harmonies, there are different voices in there. I’ve grouped them as I hear the different voices. Tell me about “Waterline” and “Riding out the Storm.” Metaphoric songs? Deep things happening to you guys? Am I thinking correctly?
BettySoo: “Waterline” is an interesting example of a song that started with one idea and ended up in a completely different place. It started with, I remember really clearly, a chorus idea that I had on Christmas morning last year. I would sing it for you but you would not recognize it. It did not end up in the finished song. I brought the chorus to the group and we thought oh yeah that’s a good starting place, we’ll start with that. We wrote some verses and then we liked the verses that we wrote so much more than that chorus that we had to write a better chorus to match the song.
I think there is a metaphor in that song about how things change slowly and you can use the waterline as a reference. Gauge how things have changed over time.
MD: “Bluebonnets” (a Raina Rose composition) is an opening up of what I want to become? I haven’t been there? This is what I’m going to be?
Grace Pettis: That’s an interesting take. I think at the time, we were left kind of writing toward a theme in terms of let’s write five songs that all fit into a theme. We just were all writing from out experiences in life and some themes just came naturally out of that. When we decided to play “Bluebonnets,” it was mostly just because we all loved the song and we loved the songwriter Raina Rose. Rebecca suggested that one. I tried it on, cause it kind of fell to me. It was time for another song where Grace is singing lead. I was sort of tooling around with it. As I was playing it, I had always liked that song and I had know of it for maybe a decade, as I was playing it, I fell more in love with it as I was singing it because it just sounds like this classic Texas country song. To me it sounds like a Willie Nelson song or Townes Van Zandt song or something like that. It just sounds like classic and there is so much heart in it. So I feel like it sings itself almost.
MD: “Call Me,” (Blondie cover) fun song, great song. What brought that to the EP?
Rebecca Loebe: I think it came out of a conversation on what kind of songs we wanted to cover. We were talking about writers who inspire us; women who inspire us. We sort of all stumbled into our admiration of Debbie Harry, who is the driving force behind Blondie and an absolute badass, and Grace mentioned that she had been rehearsing “Call Me” and thinking of covering it. We pulled it up and listened to it and it really clicked with all of us. We sat, spent an hour working on an arrangement, and it was just so much fun using all our voices and BettySoo’s incredible electric guitar to come up with a version of that song that really feels like us.
MD: Let’s talk about the band name. Who came up with that? (All three start laughing.)
BettySoo: That may have been the most full on equal part labor.
Grace Pettis: Yeah.
BettySoo: That thing (band name) that we wrote, even more than the five (songs.) Because we didn’t intend to be a band at first, we just thought we’re three pals going out on a kind of co-bill tour; that was nothing that we spent a lot of time working on. We were writing songs thinking it would be a special moment in a show. All of a sudden we find ourselves with this record deal, and realized we were a band and like, oh shoot, if we are going to put out a record, we have to have a band name.
None of us were quite satisfied with the first name that we had, Sirens of South Austin, because we really just thought of that as a tour name. And, oh my god, we went through dozens and dozens and dozens of band name ideas. I think if we all didn’t love each other so much we would have killed each other (laughs.) What a way to come up with a band name. That was the most angst-ridden discussion we probably had as a band. Maybe that’s fitting, because your name is really such an identity marker. It’s how people will judge you before they meet you, trying to make that impression about having a name you are proud of. That you feel conveys all of your personalities but also who you are as a new entity. It was really hard to land on one thing. We also started listing a bunch of songs and albums and different titles of books and all kinds of things that were references for us. I think Grace at one point had mentioned the Bonnie Raitt song “Nobody’s Girl” and surprisingly it was something all of us could agree on. As time goes by, I think we have all gotten even fonder of it.
Rebecca Loebe: It definitely says something. It says something quickly. It speaks to all of our character and the roots were building as a band.
Grace Pettis: I liked it because it was versatile. It sounds fun. Sounds like it could be a pop band. But then it also has a bit of a bite to it.
MD: It’s a statement.
Rebecca Loebe: Definitely.
MD: What’s on tap for 2019?
RL: We’re doing a few international trips in 2019, including a tour in Europe (that) we are really excited about. We are going to be touring The Netherlands, Germany & Ireland. We’ve gotten some sweet requests to play shows. We will be in Texas in March and touring in the summer.
Nobody’s Girl’s “Waterline” is available on the band’s website, ITunes, and at their shows. As for that canceled show at the Towne Crier, they’ll be back (but I think there is an no-snow rider in the contract).