Performance Review - Shoshana Bean at Hotel Cafe in LA
Shoshana Bean -Hotel Cafe Performance
Stage actress, singer and songwriter Shoshana Bean delivered a six-song set consisting of new material and two cover songs that explored her soul and R&B roots against a potent backdrop of rock and roll powering a consistent, high-energy hour-long show. Out of the six songs, three stood out and were the most memorable having staying power: a feisty, passionate extended cover of Ariana Grande's "Problem" which was a duet with vocalist Todrick Hall, a searing, gritty version of Beyonce’s “Why Don’t You Love Me” and the self-penned "River.” This song, a poignant, thought-provoking number, explores plight of a Native American woman in the 1800s traveling from Alabama to Oklahoma to escape what Bean described as a period of ethnic cleansing in U.S. history.
Vocally, Bean took the lessons of her idols Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey and Barbra Streisand to heart. Bean built upon them by integrating and synthesizing those influences into her own style. Incorporating a dash of Janis Joplin's abandon gave the night a more wild, spontaneous vibe.
Displaying a commanding stage presence and undeniable strong chops, the raven-haired Olympia, Washington-born singer with funky bangs and cascading wavy long hair that fell loosely around her shoulders strutted, danced and shimmied across the stage. Bean occasionally shook a tambourine to the beat and rhythm of the music. The show felt like an old style revue sped up with a vintage twist yet was modern. The trio of musicians supporting Bean included John Notto on guitar, Tarron Crayton on bass and Dae Dae Haddon on drums . Their driving, lively arrangements punctuated the overall sound.
Wearing a sheer light pink blouse that resembled chiffon tied at her waist with a silver glittery rhinestone micro-mini skirt and beige hyper tall stilettos was visually soft feminine eye candy on the surface. But underneath, Bean embodied confidence, swagger, strength and empowerment.
The audience was engaged from the beginning to the end of the set cheering, applauding and clapping. Bean spoke briefly between songs engaging in light banter and talked about the month of May ending. Reflecting on it being a difficult month for her and hoping June would be better for all concerned and possibly going through a difficult time, too. She also spoke about her residency coming to an end at The Hotel Cafe and thanked the entire staff for their hard work and making music such a pleasurable experience for her and the community at large. Promoting more upcoming shows, Bean asked the audience to come and see her when she performs in Downtown, L.A. at what she described as a fun, cool venue. Based on this show, that isn't hard to imagine as it's clear she has a very strong and dedicated following of fans that will go anywhere she performs. This intensity of interest is richly deserved. Shoshana Bean has the whole package.
Shoshana Bean Interview with Harriet Kaplan of Punch Records US
Q. Tell me about your Facebook post on Friday, May 31st where you say most days you wonder why you bother and feel you are not making a dent. Does this comment reflect or have anything to do with your music and career? If so, why are feeling this way? Where is this sadness and resignation coming from?
A. Alot of people have interpreted that post as having to do with me talking about my career. But I was talking about teaching a class in Watts where I started a performing arts program at a middle school to provide an arts education because the school district has no money. I started funding it at the beginning of the year. I've been there with them all year. It's a frustrating community and age to teach. The frustration came because of the age group given the nature of their attention spans, opinions and how concerned they are with how they look and the urge to assert themselves. It's all kinds of things. Their behavior and alot of inconsistencies. Friday was a particularly frustrating day. I gave the students a journal assignment about what they learned this year and asked them if they felt they honored their commitments. I had the students sign a contract at the beginning of the year. I laid out what kind of behavior was acceptable. What kind of respect is expected for the teacher, classroom, work and toward the other students. And based on my frustration in the last two weeks, and feeling like it's backsliding from the progress, I felt like we made, I asked them to write about it and that kid whom I posted the writing on my Facebook wall was the most touching to me. I imagined what it would be like for a parent. Alot of what you do is a thankless job and there are these little moments of beauty along the way that just make it worthwhile. I have moments in my own career where I don't know what the next step is. I don't have the energy or inspiration for that next step. Then something happens that gives you that push. I didn't post it as a statement to my own career but there are parallels and ways I have felt in any aspect of my life.
Q. Tell about the quote you have on your Facebook page: “The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence”.Do you feel this quote applies to you? Why do you feel this way and why?
A. I'm a deeply emotional and feeling person. When I read that quote, I felt there is a purpose in all the stuff I go through. The pain I have experienced or difficulties I have experienced in my personal life. Because I have the opportunity to take that and create something from it that gives people the opportunity to feel understood, too, or connected and not feel alone. It gives them inspiration from my experiences. It's good to hear and help someone find their way to the other side of a difficult situation in their life. Sometimes the last thing I want to do is pick up a pen and write. The first thing I know I should do is take to writing and it can be the last thing for me. My purpose always been connect with people. Whether it's onstage or through writing, a Facebook post or Twitter. I want to show people you can be brave, courageous in that respect or step into being a bigger or higher person. We are guilty of being wrapped up in the smallness of our being. I want to lead my example and show my humanity. I want to share my heart with another heart. Whether it be at The Hotel Cafe, or The Gershwin Theater, or a bigger arena, where people feel my heart not just some shiny plastic performance.
Q. Did you grow up around R&B and soul music? What kind of music did your parents listen to? When did you discover you could sing? Did your parents encourage your talent and what was that like?
I grew up around R&B, soul, jazz, rock and classic rock music. My mom was an aerobic instructor. She had her finger on the hot pulse of the time. My dad was really into classic rock, blues and jazz. My mom liked the same things as he did but she was listening to pop, too. Alot of Michael Jackson and Luther Vandross and The Weather Girls. George Benson was big at the time. My grandma was into blues and jazz. It was a diverse amount of music, but when I really go back, it's all about soul music. Because I was from Olympia, Washington, the grunge movement affected me only in that I wore flannels and jeans. I liked Nirvana because they were from Washington but that was it. I stayed centered to all that was R&B. My dad's mother was a singer and sang in USO clubs. When she got pregnant with my dad, she stopped singing professionally. She did sing around me all the time, though. My mother was a dancer and she still dances. Dance was really my first creative medium at 3. It went from there. I took tap, jazz and ballet classes. My older cousin had a dance recital once and I went onstage. My parents were such hippies and probably high and didn't pay that much attention and I ran down the aisle and got up onstage. They had the realization that they should put me in a dance class after that. Since I was exposed to dancing and singing around the house, they put me in a theater program. I danced up until eighth grade and I thought I just wanted to sing.
Q. I've been reading up on your career to prepare for this interview. You've obviously achieved alot through appearing and performing in Broadway musicals and appearing on TV and singing with very well-known artists. Would you say this occurred by being at the right place at the right time, also due to your talent, or divine intervention, or all of the above?
I went to school for musical theater and when I graduated college, I moved to New York. I got an agent and started auditioning. I got my first Broadway show. Then the second one. That was the logical steps to take having majored in musical theater. I think those are divine moments because there are millions of shows I auditioned for and I didn't get them. I happened to get Hairspray. I happened to get Wicked. I did the things you do to get a job in musical theater. Obviously, I had intensive education and worked my whole life. Even when I moved to New York, I still took dance and voice lessons. I studied and worked part-time jobs and auditioned and worked off-Broadway shows at the same time. Hard work is a huge part of it. Being the right person for the right job is a huge part of it. In my opinion, those are two of the top five shows in the past decade - Hairspray and Wicked. I was on Broadway with both. With Hairspray, I was in the ensemble cast. I understudied Tracy Turnblad, Velma Von Tussle and Prudy Pingleton. I was in the show every night, and if one of actresses happened to be out, I would do the part. In Wicked, I started as a standby for Indina Menzel who was original wicked witch. Then when she left the show, I stepped into the role.
Q. Tell me about what topics inspire you to write songs and what is your process?
Almost all of it's personal when it comes to songwriting. It's about something I have gone through. Usually it's about relationships. My relationships with guys. Sometimes relationships with friends. Or I have written a song that's in my voice about someone else. I have written about other person in different situations I have observed. I watch a best friend go through something with a guy and I write a song about it. I wrote about my dad's second marriage. When something is close to my heart, I can more easily write the song and perform it. I have noticed that limits me as to what I write about. So I've tried to be more imaginative and take more artistic license not to be so literal. I used to be like that not really happening and Im not going to write about it.
Q. What was it like for you to have your debut solo album Superhero hit 5# on the iTunes R&B charts making it the only independent album in the Top 10? What resulted from that and how did make your feel as an artist?
A. Being able to say that has never carried that much weight as I thought. I was thrilled because I'm scrolling through the list of other people on the chart and all the major artists and I'm the only independent artist in this whole list. For me, it was a feat because it was so hard to do it myself without label support, promotion and a marketing budget. Then for it to sell like that. For me, success is more of a personal thing than "she charted number 5" by herself. People definitely take notice and that's fantastic. Sales are great if you're independent or whatever, but it didn't do anything like "we have to keep an eye on that girl climbing the charts." I've been living in L.A. for seven years doing music independently and not doing theater.
Q. I saw an interview in which you explained O'Farrell Street is a concept album? What does that mean? Can you tell me about your first album, Superhero. What is the difference between both albums?
A. Superhero is a concept album in that it was told a story from beginning to end in the structure and order they were placed. O'Farrell Street would be a concept album in terms of lyrics or a song but in the concept of the sound was totally inspired and based on the sounds of the late 1960s. The Stax sound specifically not Motown. My producer was very specific. We recorded things as authentically as we could to stay true to the original sound as it was done. Superhero was more pop - clean, shiny and edited within an inch of it's life. It had layered background vocals. O'Farrell Street is loose and not pitch perfect. It doesn't have click tracks and the tempos fluctuated like back in the day. It has a classic feel and is imperfect. The sterility of something that has to be so perfect take the feeling out of it. Superhero took two years to make. I felt free and at ease making O'Farrell Street.
Q. What is next for Shoshana Bean in the future in terms of your career?
A. What's next is a third EP or album. I felt once I did Wicked, I'm good. I felt I did what I set out to do in New York and then I left. I was doing the same thing every night. I wanted to express myself in my words and in my own way. Those musicals are going to exist whether I do them or not. Until I feel like I came to do what I wanted in my own music career, I won't take my eye off the ball.