Singer/songwriter Erin Boheme has deep Wisconsin roots

Gregg Shapiro, Contributing writer

Like many people from Oshkosh, singer/songwriter Erin Boheme doesn’t take phone calls during a Packers game. Her Wisconsin roots are that deep.

At 26, Boheme is an accomplished singer who’s been writing her own songs for more than a decade. A born performer, she pursued her first record deal at age 15. Although that one failed to materialize, she began working with Grammy-award Mike Melvoin in 2004. Two years later, her first album “What Love Is” was released and reached No. 17 on the U.S. Billboard Top Jazz Albums.

Her follow-up album “What a Life” is being released Feb. 6. Produced by Michael Bublé, it straddles the pop/jazz vocal realm. Boheme co-wrote most of the songs on the disc, which includes a duet with out singer Spencer Day.

I spoke with Erin about her musical influences, her Oshkosh heritage, how time flies and what a life she leads.

Who are the biggest influences on your performance style?

I grew up listening to the Great American Songbook singers, such as Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. So I’m really deeply rooted in that. That definitely comes through in my style, the way that I sing – the way that I try and sing. But, naturally, being 26 in 2013, I’m also influenced by a lot of things going on around me right now, such as Alicia Keys and Norah Jones, as well as singers such as Aretha Franklin and Carole King. The thing for me that really transcends and makes me connect to a song is not how pretty someone is singing, not how many vocal acrobatics that somebody can do, but the way that they tell the story. That’s what I try to put through in my music.

What were you doing during the six years between your two albums?

I was doing a lot of writing. Life happens and people have things to do, so I tried to take that time and occupy it as best I could by writing and singing and learning about myself again, not only as an artist but as a woman. I’m very grateful for the time that it’s taken, because I think the project would’ve been something very different if it had all just come together in a year.

In the liner notes, you wrote, “This album is based on a true story.”

It’s just what it is. Each one of these songs, particularly the songs that I wrote, is basically out of my journal, reflections on experiences that I have gone through. The songs I did not write … were chosen very carefully because I didn’t want to record anything for the sake of recording it. Even though I didn’t write it, I wanted it to mean something to me. That’s why I said that in the liner notes. These are things that I’ve gone through. These are things that I felt. I think these are things that you, as a listener, have probably felt as well.

How do you think being from Oshkosh comes to play in your career?

It’s very funny, because when I was a little girl, I could not wait to get out to the big city. Being from Wisconsin, a big city for me would be Chicago. Now that I’m an adult, I find such solace and peace when I go back home. My mom lives on a farm in Oshkosh on 1,700 acres. It’s in the middle of nowhere, which is beautiful. I think that it has made me appreciate being in Los Angeles, where I am. I love being here and there’s a lot to do and it’s cultured. But going back home, I appreciate that so much more. It gave me the opportunity to be a lot more creative, because I had to search much more within myself to find different stimulation. I think it was an incredible thing. I just got back from the farm a few days ago – I was there for the holidays. It’s created a great balance and me.

 “What a Life” closes with “I’d Love to Be Your Last,” your duet with openly gay singer Spencer Day. How did that come about?

I adore Spencer. We actually started writing together probably two or three years ago. We hit it off. We were kindred spirits. We wrote some great music. Then it came time to record a duet for this album. I thought instantly of Spencer, because not only is he a great guy but his voice is so rich and so warm. I think that is exactly what the song called for. The lyric and the melody needed to be cradled by a sensitive and warm sound. That’s exactly what Spencer has. He’s got great depth, and that’s sexy, but there’s a vulnerability to it that I think really works for the track. I don’t think we sound too bad together either (laughs).

Are you aware of a gay following for your music?

It’s funny, people have been asking me these questions throughout my career. I really feel like I’m just getting started, and I don’t know where my band and I are going. We’re so happy to play for anyone, anywhere, any time. But I certainly hope so.

To purchase Boheme’s CDs from Amazon, click here.