COAL HARBOUR—When Port Hardy singer-songwriter Richelle Andre agreed to try crowd-sourcing as a way to raise money to record her first CD, she didn’t imaging she’d have this much of a crowd.
But a house concert at the home of friends Michael Paul and Stacia Johnson June 30 drew nearly 60 people and resulted in the pre-order of 70 copies of the CD she plans to record in California later this summer. It also drew nearly a dozen like-minded local musicians who got together afterward for a series of jam sessions for an appreciative crowd.
“I didn’t expect this many. I was thinking, you know, if I got 10, 15 people it would have been pretty cool, Andre said after playing a short solo set of original and cover songs and another set accompanied by local guitarist/singer Mike Marquardson. “It’s phenomenal. I feel so much love, is the only way I could put it. It’s like, holy cow, what a great, supportive community.”
For $15, invited guests got not only access to the house concert, but pre-purchased, autographed copies of the debut CD by Andre, who has performed locally as opening act for the North Island Concert Society, on the Filomi Days entertainment stage, and at the Tri-Port Music Festival. She has also been booked as the opening act at this year’s Tri-Port Music Fest at Cluxewe Resort Aug. 10.
Money raised at Sunday’s house concert has been dedicated to offset costs associated with the recording, which will take place in San Francisco from Aug. 22-Sept. 2 with producer/engineer/musician Phillip Milner of Okey Dokey Records.
“Proceeds from #CoalHarbour house concert were sent to @PhillipMilner.” Andre posted on her Facebook page a few days after the show. “He says we’ll make a cd to knock y’all out!”
The concert, limited to invitation only due to the capacity of the private residence, featured a pot-luck dinner with a wide array of culinary contributions. A complete sound system was set up and run by Port Hardy musician Jamaine Campbell on the patio below the back deck of the home, which overlooks the inlet.
Guests arranged themselves on lawn chairs or just on the grass of the back yard that slopes away from the home as Andre rolled through a set including her own compositions, like Claimer, Phantom Love and Wild West, along with covers of songs by Neko Case (Middle Cyclone), Lucinda Williams (Pineola) and Rickie Lee Jones (Easy Money).
She was then joined by Marquardson for another set of original tunes, including Beach Walk, Band of Thieves and one of her most recent compositions, All Saints Day Parade.
As a writer, Andre weaves a blend of personal and “story” songs typical of the folk genre. Likewise, her acoustic guitar style is a mix of lead and chord lines with bass notes and percussive scratches, all accomplished while singing lyrics.
That skill has been honed through 15 year of playing and performing. She did not, however, develop expertise in negotiating the business side of recording.
“I think it’s always been a dream, but there was no focus to it,” Andre said. “I thought, sure, it’d be great, but I didn’t know how to get started, didn’t know how to go about it, didn’t know what I needed to do.”
She did understand she needed to bolster her catalogue of original songs, and now has roughly 30 songs — “A lot of them won’t see the light of day,” she quickly points out.
“I just kept writing and writing, until I was satisfied I had seven to nine songs that I felt comfortable with saying, ‘This is my product; please buy it.'”
It was through discussions with another Vancouver Island performer, who recently recorded her second CD at Okey Dokey Records, that Andre was prompted to contact Milner and set up a session next month.
With a full-time job at the Ministry of Child and Family Development, time to write “and still have a life” has proven elusive for Andre. Funding the independent recording added additional challenges, but the Coal Harbour concert has helped.
For the large and varied crowd that turned out, Andre credited Paul and Johnson, who “know a lot of people, have a great place and throw great parties.” She also credited the many other musicians who grabbed instruments and jammed into the evening.
“To have live music on top of (the party); I mean, live music is great,” she said. “When you live in a place like the North Island, where it’s a little bit isolated, you don’t get to partake in that. I mean, there’s a little bit, but not as much.”