By Chris Jay 10/27/2011
For a newcomer to the always-crowded local singer-songwriter scene, it’s incredibly hard to stand out. Zoey’s, unquestionably the premier venue for acoustic music in the county, is inundated with booking requests from performers of all levels. While that may be exciting for fans of acoustic music who are routinely treated to amazing national talent, it’s not necessarily a plus for someone in the process of just starting out. This is partially the reason Zoey’s created its Ones to Watch Singer-Songwriter series last year. A bi-weekly open-mic meets American Idol contest that runs from late summer through fall, it’s given new singer-songwriters the chance to perform. So far this year, one of the showstoppers has been Thousand Oaks’ Rebecca Sullivan, who, despite a late start in songwriting and performing, has a background interesting enough to write some truly original material.
A world of possibility
Born in New Zealand, Rebecca Sullivan spent her childhood bouncing from city to city. When her father, a successful doctor and apparent travel enthusiast, finally settled down in one spot, it happened to be Thousand Oaks. Sullivan was already in her late teens. Through all the moving, school hopping and start-up/shut-down friendships, her love of music was a consistent and comforting part of her life. Having always participated in choir and spent time in the arts-heavy music hotbed city of Santa Cruz (where she attended college before ultimately graduating from UCLA with a degree in history), it wasn’t until her mid-20s that she started experimenting with her own music. At the time she was given a guitar for a Secret Santa present in 2007, she was married and a young woman raising two very young kids. “There was a lot I needed to get out and express,” she says. Given her background, some might have found her decision to pursue a career as a professional singer-songwriter to be misguided, but they didn’t know Sullivan’s tenacity.
Making a commitment to play guitar for an hour every day, it wasn’t long before all the experiences in her life came pouring out into her songs. Over simple chords but with great melodies, Sullivan delivers some truly impressive and clever lyrics. With subjects ranging from the benefits of chocolate to love, or what crosses your mind during a final cup of coffee with your soon-to-be ex, there’s an underlying intelligence reminiscent of Regina Spektor or Joni Mitchell.
It’s a breath of fresh air in a genre that’s known for generic relationship song after generic relationship song. Her naturally gifted vocals, which can change from a breathy Ani DiFranco to a booming Alanis Morrissette, don’t hurt, either.
The times they are a-changing
Sullivan is wrapping up the recording of her debut full length Silver Slippers, set for a March 2012 release and next week will debut the video for the record’s first single, “No Regrets,” online. Then she’ll be thrust into the singer-songwriter rat race of booking the right venues and building a loyal fan base. In the meantime, you might want to stop by Zoey’s on Tuesday, Nov. 4, for the last regular week of competition. Sullivan will be performing as usual, and rest assured she’s not long for the open-mic world. As one of the area’s most promising new voices, the future looks awfully bright for the unlikely but talented singer-songwriter who came a long strange way to be exactly where she needs to be.
Rebecca Sullivan’s music can be found online at www.rebeccasullivanmusic.com and www.facebook.com/rebeccasullicanmusic.