INTERVIEW: Lisa Bouchelle & The Bleu

1.) Vents is honored to welcome accomplished and respected singer-songwriter Lisa Bouchelle to our little corner of the entertainment world! Before going further, how has 2021 been treating you?

Well, so far, so good! There have been some losses and hardships in these unprecedented times, but a shining ray of hope for me has been making my new album Jump In!

2.) Major congratulations on the upcoming August 27 release of your new album Jump In! What does it feel like to be so close to releasing upon the world an album you’ve worked so long and hard on?

Thank you! It feels great. I feel like it is finally time to turn it loose and let it take flight. We spent the time during pandemic putting our art, and our heart, into this record. I think it turned out very special, and hopefully people will find it as inspiring to listen to as it was to make it!

3.) What was the genesis of the album Jump In? What sparked the creative juices that got this album underway?

The record has a powerful energy running through it, that’s really a theme of finding strength in less than perfect conditions, i.e. ‘life,’ and powering on with forward motion the best way we can. For instance, the song “Jump In!            “ is an exhortation to take a chance and ‘go for it,’ to pursue your dream or goal in life, rather than always taking the safe road. On songs such as “I Believe,” “Twice As Tall,” and “Love Is For The Making,” whether it’s a personal journey or a universal condition such as the pandemic, we can rise above and come out stronger in the end.

I also wanted to make a record that encompassed all of my vast influences to create something new and unique. While the songs are based around my acoustic guitar rhythms, we really let the song decide where it wanted to go in terms of production, so it ended up encompassing a lot of different influences, including Americana, pop, singer-songwriter, classic rock, and even gospel.

I was also really anxious to do an album that would let me stretch out a little bit vocally, and I was able to do that on this record.

4.) Jump In has been released as a single in advance of the August 27 album drop-date. What made Jump In the perfect choice as a single release versus all of the other equally wonderful tunes on the album? Was it a bit like Sophie’s Choice in having to decide which song went the single route over another?

Haha, well, yes! It’s always difficult to make the call of which single will be the first to drop. Given the vibe of this record, “Jump In!” seemed like a great choice as the title track, and major contender as first single, since it is high energy, boppy, and the lyrics are about jumping in and taking a leap of faith, overcoming doubt, and just believing that you can do it, whatever it us you’re deciding to do. It seemed to somewhat encapsulate what the album is really about.

5.) For someone that may not be in the know, how would you describe your particular style of music?

People have been referring to my sound as ‘Alt Americana,’ which I think is pretty accurate. Although I am primarily an acoustic guitarist and singer, I’ve always had a wide range of genres that influence me as an artist. So on this record we incorporated a lot of those influences, and I think that has helped me shape my unique sound. Some people have even called it “Americana Glam,” because it’s based in Americana but has a little bit of sizzle and ear candy that most traditional Americana artists don’t include. I love that fans often tell me, when they hear one of my songs they can tell right away, “That’s a Lisa Bouchelle song!”

6.) Jump In is comprised of thirteen blistering and brilliant tunes. Was there anything that did not make the cut for the album, or was the plan always to have these specific thirteen gems as the centerpiece?

We actually recorded around 25 songs – we saved a few – but these 13 songs just seemed to fit together well as a cohesive collection, with a lot of spirit and a great common theme. In addition to some of what I felt were inspirational tracks, there are some that are just really fun: “EZ ON ME LA” which is about taking a chance and moving across the country, “You Got The Rock” which is also a ‘girl power’ anthem, and the classic “Fever,” which has always been a fan favorite in my live show. There were also a couple of songs that moved me but that I wanted to interpret my own way, like “Let It Go” and “Keep Me In Your Heart.”

7.) You’re the rare breed of musician in that you’re a singer-songwriter. Which comes first for you –the lyrics or the music?

For me it is definitely a mix of both. I often play and write lyrics at the same time, as I feel the groove I’m jamming on reminds me of a particular subject matter or vibe. There are some things I write that I don’t even expect to turn into songs, though. “I Believe” was a poem I wrote while I was in Key West. Somehow, I was feeling down that night – although being in Key West would be a strange place to feel down of course – I wrote those words as a mantra to myself, something I could come back to and read when I needed to be reminded to believe in my dreams. It became a source of strength for me. A friend of mine read it, and said, “You have to do this!” They loved the words, and so I considered putting them to music so that I could perform the song and reach more people who also might find strength in the message.  At first, I wrote some complex music behind it, similar to a Roy Orbison epic. Then I changed it to a 4-chord song that mostly relied on dynamics to build it. I ended up liking that version the best because it kept the chord arrangement simple enough to really let the words and vocals shine. My production team helped me take it to another level and it became the powerful rock ballad it is today. I had some help when Doyle Grisham and Peter Mayer from Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band added parts to it, and the cherry on top was recording it as a duet with American Idol and Broadway star, Constantine Maroulis.

8.) I’m officially in love with your song Love is for the Making, which is the second single off of the Jump In album. What’s the backstory to this lovely piece?

Wow, that’s awesome, thank you so much! I began writing the chorus for “Love Is For The Making” while I was loading out my gear in Connecticut after a tour date. It just came to me, and I felt like I had something special going on there. It’s a meaningful message, that even though there’s a lot of craziness going on in the world, love is still the answer. I had that chorus in my head for quite a while. I was digging it, but the verses just weren’t coming to me. I didn’t want to force them, and figured they would just arrive when they were meant to arrive. A few months later while I was in Nashville doing a couple performances and a few co-writing sessions in town, I woke up in my hotel room at 4 AM with an epiphany of how I wanted the verses to go. I remember a songwriter friend of mine talking of how John Lennon had a way of using just a few words to say so much; I tried to channel that concept while writing the verses. For example, the line of lyric that says, “Love is still the answer, still the truth and still the plan; so don’t close your fist around it, let it flourish in your hand.”

We actually went through a lot of trials and tribulations with the track, with a lot of different guitar parts and variations on arrangements, including from some very notable musicians and producers, but we just couldn’t get it quite right. Finally, Mike Schmid, who plays keyboards for both The Chainsmokers and Miley Cyrus, did some keyboard parts and added a drum part that when we heard it, we said, “That’s it!”

9.) Is there anyone out there that you count as an influence on your music?

My dad, who used to sing with me as a child during long car rides – he had stage fright, but an amazing voice – and so many classic artists that my mom and I would listen to from her record collection, such as Neil Young, CS&N, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin. I still have her collection of vinyl. I was also influenced by outlaw country artists, especially Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash. All of these influences shaped the songwriter and performer I am today.

10.) Jump In is a tour de force not just for you, but also for the talented musicians who contributed to the album such as Mike Schmid, Tommy Kessler, G. Love, Rob Hyman, Constantine Maroulis, and others. What was it like for you to collaborate with such a bevy of talent?

I’m tellin’ ya, I am blessed to work with such amazingly talented people! Their addition to the new record took it to a new level. To give a few examples, G. Love played harmonica on the title track “Jump In!” I am a fan of his music and unique style and had the chance to meet him when I was out on tour sharing the bill with Donavon Frankenreiter. He came out and made a point of telling me how much he enjoyed my set. I had a harmonica solo in mind for “Jump In!” and I immediately thought of G. Love. I thought his high energy vibe would add a lot to the song. He was into recording on it and it turned out even better than I expected.

I met Constantine when I went see Rock Of Ages on Broadway, and was invited to go out after the show with some of the cast. Constantine was playing the part of Drew in the show at that time, which he got a Tony nomination for.

Tommy Kessler, who plays with Blondie, I had done some shows with before he was in Blondie, so I’ve known him a long time. We actually did a very cool version of “Imagine” together at a John Lennon tribute in New York City a few years back.

I am just blessed to have so many great musicians, and great artists themselves, be willing to contribute to my songs: Rob Hyman from The Hooters; Doyle and Peter from Jimmy Buffett’s band; Joel Hoekstra, an amazing guitarist who plays with Whitesnake, TSO, and Cher; Stephen DeAcutis who plays with Corey Glover from Living Colour; Hal B. Selzer from Joan Jett & The Blackhearts; Lorenza Ponce, who is the violinist for Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow, and others; and of course, Mike Schmid.

11.) You’re musical roots are deeply entwined in the sounds of New Jersey and Philadelphia. How does your history with these two locales inform your own brand of music, do you think?

I think I have that East coast ‘grit’ in my music and performances. Being involved in the New Jersey music scene has given me opportunities to work with singer-songwriters like Southside Johnny, Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Gary U.S. Bonds, Bobby Bandiera, John Eddie, John Popper, and many others. It has helped shape who I am and made me a more polished performer. As a musical storyteller, it has helped me craft lyrics in a more ‘real’ and authentic way, and inspired me to weave them together with the music to get a cohesive message across, while never forgetting about the hook!  It also helped me hone my skill for singing harmony. I was recording in LA once with a very prominent producer, and I was singing harmony parts they were asking for. They seemed amazed, surprisingly to me, that I could whip them out so quickly. I was thinking to myself, if I couldn’t do that, I wouldn’t have lasted a day in the Jersey shore music scene! All of these artists have all been so welcoming to me, so it has inspired me to be positive and strive for more in my art and my career.

12.) With COVID-19 apparently hunkered down for the duration, what are the touring plans for Jump In?

We can’t wait to get back out there on the road and do some live performances in support of the new record. We are finalizing plans for a tour in the fall, however, everything is still up in the air, as a number of tours have gotten postponed again, including two that we were hoping to be a part of. As soon as we have the dates finalized, we will let you know, and post the dates on lisabouchelle.com for the all the fans to see.

13.) You’ve shared the stage with some of the biggest and brightest talents in the music world through your career – Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Meat Loaf and Ingrid Michaelson to just scratch the surface. Out of all of these stellar talents, is there one that stands out as extra-special for you?

I have had great experiences opening for a lot of amazing artists. I think I’ve learned more than ever to be true to my own sound and style. I mean no one in the world can ‘do you’ better than you, right? The artists I’ve worked with have been so diverse, and each one brings something to the musical world that no one else does. I strive to do that as well.

There have been so many amazing moments so far. I’ve had a few artists invite me to sing with them during their set, such as Blues Traveler, and America, and that’s always a thrill. One that stands out a lot is when I sang a duet of “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” with Jon Bon Jovi at a concert in New Jersey. I had always thought our voices sounded good together when I’d harmonize with him when I’d listen to him on the radio. Then there I was, harmonizing with him in real life. It was kind of surreal.

14.) Final – SILLY! – Question: Best film about the music industry – This Is Spinal Tap, That Thing You Do or Almost Famous?

Haha, great question! Spinal Tap is my all-time favorite! Musicians ‘get it.’ It’s a movie made for our kind!

STREAM THE ALBUM HERE

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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