We're only a month into the new year, and America in 2019 appears to be just as angry, acrimonious and loud as it was the last two years. What's an artist to do? For singer-songwriter Rebecca Loebe, the answer is to look on the bright side. She takes a positive and cheerful approach with her new album, Give Up Your Ghosts. Exploring growth and personal development, Loebe’s main goal while recording was to “focus on the positive, relax and let the other noise go.”
In an industry obsessed with download statistics, market-driven focus groups and personal conflicts, Loebe’s genuine optimism and forthright desire to record on her own terms stand out. It certainly caught the attention of the label bosses at Blue Corn Music, who were eager to sign her.
“I wasn’t seeking a record deal at all, actually. I was pretty content as a fully independent artist,” Loebe says of her initial conversations with the label, which is home to kindred spirits Ruthie Foster, Guy Forsyth and Sarah Borges. “They said, ‘I think you should take your band into the studio. Record the songs exactly like you feel they need to be recorded, and we’ll figure out how to sell them.’”
That openness and freedom are a far cry from the environment Loebe experienced seven years ago when she was a contestant on The Voice. She auditioned, performed and was eventually chosen as part of Adam Levine’s team, an experience she remembers as extremely exciting but fraught with anxiety.
“At that time, the producers were still figuring out how to go about doing things. We were kept sequestered for six weeks in a hotel so that we could be on call for filming and whatnot. Most of my time was spent waiting. I kept saying over and over, it’s not reality, it’s reality TV,” she says. “Suddenly having the attention of having 12 million people on me was definitely a new experience. I mean, I received about a thousand emails the day after my televised performance. That was a cool feeling, but I had very vivid and panicky dreams about being on the show for at least six months afterwards.”
Post-Voice, Loebe continued headfirst into her musical career, and she’s hitting her stride as a lyricist and performer.
“Most of these songs on the new album cropped up around the fall of 2017 as I was touring with my last record," she says. "Usually after I release an album it takes a year or two before I even want to think about writing an album’s worth of songs again, but this time I was just really inspired and had a window of time at home and at writing retreats that just really connected to where I was at that time.”
The spirits of positivity and empowerment were never far from the forefront of her recording sessions. She used a newfound comfort with collaboration to write “Growing Up,” one of the album’s centerpieces, with songwriter Megan Burtt. And, she turned over the production reins to her longtime studio cohort, Will Robertson. In a live performance, Loebe tries to keep things conversational, and she admires those old VH1 Storytellers styles of performance.
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“My hope is through music we can all become a bit closer together instead of being divided," she says. "I like to use the opportunity of being onstage to deliver more background to the songs and add something that you can’t get sitting at home listening to them on a CD player or Spotify.”
Audience members have shown their appreciation for Loebe’s music in ways that suggest her positive outlook might not be as out of place as it seems these days. From the gas station attendants who gladly allow her to borrow phone chargers to the sweet retired couple who offered her a room in their house for her to rest in, Loebe is encountering kindness wherever she travels on tour.
The travel will continue as she and her backing band make their way across the United States this winter and head to Europe in the spring.
“Almost every day I’m offered an outrageous act of generosity,” Loebe says. “People open up their homes to me, feed me and generally express their enthusiasm for what I was doing. I’m really fortunate in that regard.”