Well, any bio about how Eilee got involved in music just has to start with her parents.
HISTORY, GENRE & SKILL:
I’ve been singing since I was little, and have always had a passion for it. My mother sang and played organ in various churches, and at home she taught classical piano. My father sang in a barbershop quartet as an adult, as well as playing brass and percussion in his high school band years ago. Music was part of life even though most of my parents’ musical activities were mostly set aside by the time I came along. Part of my childhood was spent in the Mississippi Delta where I was exposed to classic country, blues, jazz and swing, as well as rock and classical. Despite all of these influences, I stubbornly rejected any lessons, and am entirely self-taught, starting with singing and piano in the 80’s (uke’s very recent – just since 2014). Today I sport a nearly 3-octave vocal range (tenor, alto and soprano) and although I’m not a belter, I can sing in many styles including jazz, blues, folk, gospel, and various cultural styles (mainly Latin and European flavors) and I can sing in several languages with excellent pronunciation. Weaving different textures and colors into my tone – appropriate to the emotive suggestion of the lyrics – is key for me, and I can even scat if I feel the inspiration. My piano never got very good, but I took to the uke like I was born for it; I can do a lot of strumming and percussive techniques, hammering, leave-offs, assorted plucking patterns, harmonics and various other effects, to give my playbook some variety and interest, and to help me to express the stories in the songs I play.
When I began playing, I was excited that the Internet offered ukulele tabs for many songs that I wanted to learn – until I quickly discovered that many of the tab versions I found were incomplete, clumsily put together, or just plain wrong. Starting with the first song I taught myself, I had to do my own arrangements, including generating entire chunks of songs that had been skipped on the tabs I located. Soon I taught myself to transpose keys to suit my preferred vocal range too, when necessary. My arrangements, playing techniques, and vocal interpretations combine to produce a uniquely sweet and slightly spicy sound. Skills and techniques that I developed during this stage became doubly useful as I began composing my own songs and telling my own story.
My inpirations include Ella Fitzgerald, Edith Piaf, Bjork, Regina Spektor, Julie London, Devotchka, Fiona Apple, Nickel Creek, the Beatles, Billie Holiday, Rush, Keith and Kristyn Getty, Louis Armstrong, Norah Jones, Blossom Dearie, White Stripes, Johnny Cash, Amy Winehouse, Sarah Vaughan, Allison Kraus, Simon & Garfunkle, Eartha Kitt, Emmylou Harris, and…oh, so many more. Diverse? Yes! Variety is the spice of life.
I play piano to some degree, although I don’t consider that degree to be performance-worthy… it’s good enough for studio though. I was learning mandolin but I don’t think it will usurp my love of ukulele. I’ve been honing skills on bongo drums and a makeshift bass drum substitute by way of an old Samsonite suitcase. I have a keyboard and various handheld small percussion instruments. I’m of course awesome on the kazoo and can whistle like a songbird. I have access to my hubby’s bass and can do what’s necessary with it in the recording booth as well. I’m self-taught in all of my musical pursuits, and thus far it has served me well, allowing me to readily think outside the box on technique, but I’m not against proper training… structure is good. Someone may convince me to invest in that yet. Thanks for visiting, and I do hope to hear from you!
♥ – Eilee G
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