Flyer Profile: Candy Lee

It has been a good year for new local music.

Cletus Got Shot, 3 Penny Acre, Wade Ogle, Benjamin Del Shreve, Big Bad Gina, and Army of Birds have all released new material in the last few months, and this week, another local musician will get in on the act.

Candy Lee will releases her new album “The Gate” at Smoke & Barrel this Thursday, Aug. 26.

Lee has been winning the hearts of audiences in Fayetteville for the last two years with her timeless voice, her jazz/folk influenced music and her original songwriting. She is charming, charismatic, and engaging on stage. Her songs are smart, and at times, unbelievably catchy.

The show on Thursday features her full band, “The Sweets,” and Bobby Daniel & The Bright and Early Band will open. There’s no cover, and the new CDs will be available for $10.

We got in touch with Candy recently, and she was nice enough to answer some questions for us.

Fayetteville Flyer: What have you been listening to lately?
Candy Lee: I’ve been listening to the good old stand by of Devendra Banhart and Fiona Apple, but lately I have stumbled upon Grizzly Bear, Phoenix, and Punch Brothers.

FF: Tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been playing music?
DL: I’m from Ft. Myers, Fl. I was born and raised there, and moved to Fayetteville about 2 years ago. I’ve always been a songwriter, but I began writing solo music since I could play guitar, so about 3 and a half years ago. In high school, I tried to start an all-girl band. It was pop punk, and really horrible. We had only one performance, where we played one song at one of my bandmate’s birthday party. My bandmate played electric violin and I played the bass. That was our last and only show, so I don’t really know if that counts. When my husband, David, and I met in 2003, we started an acoustic duo, where we both sang and David played guitar. We made an album, Moonlit Walk, but David and I evolved away from that style of music and the mindset from which our songs were written.

FF: We heard your interview with Kyle Kellams last week, and you mentioned you’ve only been playing guitar for three years. Are you self-taught?
CL: I have been playing guitar a little over three years. Maybe about three-and-a-half years. I’m not completely self-taught. I did take about four guitar lessons to learn the basics, and I kind of ran with it from there.

FF: What about The Sweets? How long has the current lineup been playing together?
CL: The Sweets have been together probably about a year. I had all of the songs written and roughly recorded before I met them. I first handed my rough cut album to Jennifer Graham, who created her own bass parts to the songs, and learned the low harmonies, in hopes we would find a third singer. After looking for a while, we decided to try out Emily Jenkins, then the fiance, now the wife of Matt Jenkins from the 1 Oz. Jig. I had known her for a while, and hadn’t really heard her sing much, but heard from Matt that she was amazing. Turns out she’s more amazing than I could have hoped. Dan Dean (djembe) and Warren Dietzel (mandolin) were friends of mine through the music scene. It’s been really great having such talented people get behind my music and ideas, and add their own flavor to make a really unique sound.

FF: How do you perceive the music scene in Fayetteville?
CL: The music scene in Fayetteville has its pros and cons. One of the pros is how much the city of Fayetteville values its musicians. For example, the Northwest Arkansas Music Awards. I think it’s cool to live in a place where musicians the are noticed and awarded for their hard work. Another pro is the sense of community between the musicians. Most promote each other, and lift each other up, rather than treating it as a competition. The cons that I find are with the venues. Most of the venues are bars. Although its hard to get people to come out to a show where alcohol is not sold, I think drinking being the main attraction not only inhibits teenagers and 20 year olds from coming to shows, but also detracts from the reason I want people at my shows in the first place- to truly listen. I think the types of bands typically booked at the bar venues are limited, as they are hired to get large amounts of people in the door, and to get them to dance and drink. I’m not against alcohol consumption at all, but its frustrating when people get really really drunk, and loud, and don’t pay attention to the quieter, more creative bands.

FF: What are some other local bands that you admire?
CL: I definitely admire the 1 Oz. Jig. I love the funkiness of the music, and the band members are all so talented. I’m super stoked to hear their new album (esp. ’cause Emily and I sing back up on a couple of tracks).

I also really admire the Memphis Pencils. I love their playfulness and creativity. I can’t even think of a genre to put them in, but whatever it is, I like it!

Perpetual Werewolf is awesome, too. They’re really original. Their sound is really rhythmic and I love the way the two guitarists play off each other.

And then there’s Tiffany Christopher. She’s been my best friend and greatest mentor in Fayetteville. She rocks, she’s a guitar goddess, and her band is awesome.

FF: Tell us about the new CD. How many songs are on it?
CL: The new album, The Gate, has been about 3 years in the making. I would consider it an eclectic album, incorporating styles such as jazz, folk, funk, indie, and psychedelic. There are 16 songs on the album, 5 of which were written here in Fayetteville. The album consists of the 9 songs from my self-titled demo, re-recorded and re-arranged, plus 7 new songs. I consider myself a conscious musician, in that the lyrics I write deal with more than the typical love and heartbreak. I try to voice my opinions and address the big questions. A friend of mine, and local artist, Adam Campbell, has described my music as “philosophically giddy” which I thought was pretty fitting.

FF: Where did you record?
CL: I recorded the album at home, which I think has benefited the album. A lot of the instrumentals and layered vocals were written during the recording process. Recording yourself takes out the middle man, and lets you explore your highest creative potential. My husband, David, did most of the mixing and mastering. Dave Singleton helped out with some bass tracks at his home studio.

FF: Some musicians enjoy the recording process, and others love playing live. Do you prefer one over the other?
CL: I love both the recording process and playing live for different reasons. I like recording, because I write as I record. For me writing is my favorite part of being a musician. However, recording can be very tedious and annoying at times, especially when you’re a perfectionist. Playing live is just plain fun. I used to get really nervous, but now that I have such awesome people to play with, I really enjoy it. I love to feel the energy of my band mates and the audience. I like the connection that takes place there.

FF: Obviously folks will be able to grab a copy of the new CD on next Thursday at the CD release party. Where else can they get their hands on your recorded material?
CL: The Gate will be available for purchase at Sound Warehouse, Good Things, Ozark Folkways, and Terra Studios. I’ll also be selling it online from my myspace page.

Click below to hear Wake Up, by Candy Lee