I love that your new album starts with the irresistibly happy “sunshine.” Would you say that this track and “Feel Good” are a reflection of your true outlook on life? Optimistic and cheery?
Hi Marlee. Thank you for having me on. The song sunshine is actually about how the sun makes me feel. When it’s a beautiful day and the sun is out and brightly shining it just has a euphoric affect on me and can easily lift my mood. I also have a light that shines bright in the center of me that I just can’t shake. I wanted to feature the warmth of my light in the overall feeling in the song. I get down once in awhile, even pissed off like anyone else, but I’m never down long and I’m incredibly grateful for that. I truly think it has to do with being raised in the Costa Rican culture. My mother influenced our home with the food, language, music, and the Tico way. (Ticos are people from Costa Rica).
You have a wonderful mixture of musical influences that I can hear throughout this album. Is there a style or genre of music that you haven’t yet explored but would like to?
I love vintage Country music like Kitty Wells, The Carter Family, and Loretta Lynn. Though it may be hard to recapture the exact sound of the time when Country Music sounded like Southern Gospel/Americana of the mid-century I would still want to perform it as authentically as possible. Loretta Lynn says “All you need is 3 chords and a broken heart”. New Country does not interest me.
I also used to front a couple of vintage Mexican bands and sing in spanish. We did classic songs like cucurrucucu paloma, and soy infeliz. I would like to do an EP of those songs as well as an EP of carefully chosen songs from musicals, like Doll on a Music Box from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, or the title track from The Sound of Music. I can do it in the same key as Julie Andrews.
This is a big question because there’s so much I want to do. I also want to create a galactic soundtrack for a movie that does not exist inspired by Xanadu and the Ancient Aliens theory. Electric Light Orchestra is my favorite band.
Were several of these songs like “go,” “He Loves Me” written with one particular guy in mind?
They were written at different times. he loves me was written after I read The Secret. There was a story in that book about a guy who's paintings were always of women with their back turned toward him and he could never find a wife. He was told that he should try painting women facing him with a look of love and so he did and he found love. The true advice here is that your wants should reflect in your art if it’s your main passion. I followed suite and wrote a song about the greatest guy I could ever meet and a month later there he was.
"go" was lightly inspired by a friend, almost boyfriend, who said he didn’t want to get too deeply involved because he was about to move to Guatemala. We still hung out all the time, but he just never got himself together enough to move so, basically I’m trying to give him a little push to follow his dreams. Though I also wanted to explain my personal idea of how I think love should be. Love is all or nothing. Loving someone is wanting someone to be happy, supporting them to be the best they can be and my personal philosophy is that ‘you better live it up now because you only live once and if there is reincarnation it’s not like you remember your last life unless you get past-life-regression-therapy and that shit is expensive. Who knows what your financial situation will be.” You should encourage those you love to go all the way, don’t hold them to obligation. I don’t think many people like to feel obligated. Love can’t live knowing it denied someone of something.
I’m interested in the story behind Blue Island. Did you ever leave that guy or did he shape up and start treating you right?
Ahhh, a that’s an old one. That song went through many transformations and the one that was most influenced by the jungle. It’s supposed to feel like an escape to an island vacation to start healing from a very long hard breakup. blue island was my first male relationship. I was 19 and dumb, young, and impressionable. My confidence was diminished to thinking of myself what I thought he thought of me. This song is full of hurt and confusion coming from a very inexperienced person. There’s more to the story, but he has passed since, and just out of respect I just want to say the relationship taught me a lot. Overall though I wanted the song to sound poetically painful, but in a euphoric state of beauty.
I can so hear you and Madonna singing “In a Song” together. Would she be your first choice for a duet partner?
Madonna, Madonna, Madonna… I was 7 years old and I hated that song they couldn’t stop playing on the radio, a song called Vogue, then I saw the video and I’d never been so stricken by a person in all my 7 years. I’d never seen anything like her! LOVE ever since. in a song was definitely influenced by Madonna’s ‘Music’ album especially the song Don’t Tell Me. Though being from Indiana I have an appreciation for John Mellencamp as well. He has an great way of telling a story, his rock music is sexy and danceable. I love rock music that you can dance to. I would say Madonna and John Mellencamp both influenced in a song equally. Cool fact: in a song (tim letteers club mix) made it to #13 on Billboards Dance Charts and was on the charts for 15 weeks. Junior Vasquez discovered the mix, added it to his set, and it blew up.
I never thought of who I would like to duet with… not Madonna. I know I would like to get some production from Jeff Lynn of ELO, Lisa Germano, and Ivo Watts, the genius behind the 4AD label (Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, and His Name is Alive). I would also like to do more with my favorite DJs, DJs from Mars. Pink Martini with gay front man Thomas Lauderdale would be great to sing with also. They sing songs in several different languages that takes them touring all over the world to the most eclectic audiences.
It’s rare to hear an interlude on an album. “Rainy Day Interlude” is such a beautiful retro folk moment…is that all there is ? Are you just going to leave us wanting more?
I don’t know, Janet Jackson had as many interludes on her albums as she did songs. Though rainy day interlude was cut from the track sunshine, this piece was set right in the middle of the song, but my engineer, Abe Seiferth of DFA Records (LCD Sound System, The Juan Maclean) and I cut it from sunshine for various reasons, but we liked it a lot and still wanted to use it so I thought that after the two songs if, the Bread cover, and go I needed to indicate that it was time for the sun to break out of the clouds again and head on into he loves me. I approached song order in a way to not only give a story but an emotional flow of ups and downs and by the end your are dancing your ass off.
Tell us about your choice of using old movie footage for your videos for several songs off of the album.
After making the video for go, (http://youtu.be/Ia11y9gKmfc,) I wasn’t sure I could go through making another mini-movie, (whew! hard work!), but I like being known for that high-art, quirky image. The whole go video cost less than $400 to make because Ian Cinco, Sara Martin, Elizabeth Webb, and myself made that video with our own muscle. Money can buy you fancy editing and all the bells and whistles but I believe working with what you have (less money) makes you much more creative and I’m always looking to grow in that respect. I love the challenge. Otherwise, a lot of people discover new music on youtube.com so I needed a visual for the songs so I could post them on the video sites. I had used up all my film friends’ music video charity by the time pura vida came out, which led me to looking for movies with a similar message to the song and having my friend Robert McAuley edit them down. I think we’ve done a good job making it entertaining, only enhancing the spirit of the songs, not distracting attention from the song, and as a creative person that’s how I want to present my music. I told you about the inspiration for the lyrics for sunshine in a previous question, but instrumentation-wise I was listening to a lot of The Brady Bunch, The Strawberry Alarm Clock, and the 150 bpm I came up with just screamed Beach Party movies and the Summers of the 1960s. I don’t think a director could’ve come up with anything better. sunshine video here:
You do have an amazing voice and yes, you do sound like a woman, what is the reaction of most people when they hear you sing live for the first time?
Surprised is the best way for me to describe it; must be the mustache.
Considering your background with your mom’s love of Mexican Music and the fact that you wrote many of the songs in Costa Rica, have you ever thought about heading south and recording an album of original songs with Central American musicians?
Well, Marlee, I answered this question in a previous answer, but I will finish by saying that yes, I want to do the old Mariachi/Norteño songs with authentic backing. A true Mexican Mariachi band would be amazing. The original music from Costa Rica is Calypso brought by the black listed Trinidadians in the 1500s and also of course the Marimba music of the Guanacaste region; so those would be great musicians to work with as well.
I’m also a huge Julieta Venegas fan. I would love to work with her or the band Miranda from Argentina. Actually yeah, those would be duets I would like to do very much.
Tell us about your choice to make “sunshine” FREE album. Many artists feel that it de-values their music but obviously that isn’t your take on it.
We just aren’t living in a world where people are buying music anymore and you can’t be afraid of it. I feel like I need to go with the flow. I also think it would be a total waste and a shame on my part if people didn’t hear my music based on a $10 barrier. I made this music to be heard by everyone and since I’m not very well known people are more likely to pick up my album if it’s free. Over 500 people have downloaded my album at this point, singles are in the thousands and counting, and it thrills me more that I’m part of someone’s daily soundtrack than how much money I’m making at this point. The reports are saying that people love the songs sunshine, go, feel good, and all the stars and I know a lot of people were excited to be able to obtain the songs so easily.
So much has changed in the music industry in the past 10 years. It used to be all about playing gigs and selling CD’s. Where do you think the focus for the indie musician should be now?
The true great performers will survive. The original way musicians started out making money was through performance. We’ve gone full circle.
I’m also open to lending my songs to commercials and soundtracks. I think go would be great in a movie and sunshine could be a jingle for a cruise, vacation add, or morning talk show. That’s a good place to make some money and a great way to get your song stuck in everyone’s head. I’m working on those contacts now.
How did you get into founding and hosting the Williamsburg Spelling Bee?
That’s a big question almost made for an entirely other interview. In short, I saw the documentary, Spellbound, about the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in 2003. The film was really inspiring and I wondered why we stopped doing it in 8th grade. I thought as an adult game a spelling bee would still be as challenging and we would also have this flair of humor about it. I approached Pete’s Candy Store, a bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, known for their quiz-night and board game nights in August and on September 22nd of 2004 we were up and running. I have an amazing co-host, Jennifer Dziura (comedian/SAT instructor) is the word caller. She is the true star of The Williamsburg Spelling Bee. I thought I might have to work a little harder to get the bee noticed but once the city got word we were on the front cover of The New York Times style section, followed by features in Good Morning America, Vanity Fair, many international versions of NPR just to name a few. Here we are 9 years later, and not only are we filled to capacity by contestants and onlookers at almost every bee, press still covers the bee at almost every show.
I think we started the nerd movement because now you can go to many other big cities and college towns and find spelling bees in bars. Once we started the bee other bars started doing other nostalgic contests and bees like for geography and math. There are even kickball tournaments in Brooklyn. The movement was more about having fun doing things you liked as a kid than a just a revived interest in spelling. Though unlike anybody else we, The Williamsburg Spelling Bee, have a theme song up for free download of coarse here: https://soundcloud.com/bobbyblue/the-williamsburg-spelling-bee-theme-song
What would you like people to know about bobby blue?
I live in a very colorful euphoric world especially with my headphones on walking down the street (like I’m in a music video).
I love New York City.
I appreciate Scandinavian government and the efficiency of their culture.
When I go to another country I always seek out knowledge of the native people and the original language.
My cats names are Agnes and Loretta (after Loretta Lynn).
I have a very misunderstood sarcastic sense of humor.
I think RightOut and it’s hosts are cool as f*ck and Marlee is a bad ass!
I really appreciate that you took an interest in me and my music. Thank you for taking the time to thoroughly listen to the album I worked so hard on.