Maria Tecce :: ’ Elegant ... cool ... seductive’
Nearly two years ago to the day, Maria Tecce, the Italian-American singer originally from Natick, MA who relocated to Ireland for most of her singing career, swept into Scullers like a gale force wind. Survivors of that performances, plus those who missed it, will be further delighted to know that Tecce will return to Scullers this Wednesday, October 24, 2012, with a new show, filled with a provocative mix of Latin, folk, blues, and even a little bluegrass - an eclectic blend that has come to be a hallmark of her shows.
Tecce carefully crafts her shows, with subtexts inspired as much by paintings, photographs, and poetry as they are by music and stories. She is one-part cabaret artist, one-part performance artist, and one-part makeup artist, creating a look that is as much a part of the show as her music.
And what a look. The Prague Post proclaimed, "If Audrey Hepburn ever learned how to sing, she might have become Maria Tecce.... Elegant ... cool ... seductive." And The Times (London) declared, "Bostonian Maria Tecce is one of the highlights of Europe's smart and adventurous cabaret scene. Her cheekbones can slice a man's ego in half, her smile could thaw Siberia, and the way she might direct her finely sculpted eyebrows at you is only frightening."
EDGE recently caught up with the Irish chanteuse, who always seems to be three steps ahead of herself with projects. Even over the phone, her exuberant zest for life is palpable, as she greets one with: "How are you, handsome? I'm so glad we are talking on the phone. I'm getting a new bathroom, so the house looks like a bomb hit it!
Back to her American roots
EDGE: What have you been working on since you were last in Boston two years ago?
Marie Tecce: I’m working on an album called ’Made In Ireland,’ which goes back to my American roots and love of folk and blues. The influences will include some Irish folk songs, and also include my Irish jazz musicians. Most musicians in Ireland, even the jazzers, play with other bands in other styles. Some of it is original music, which is exciting and terrifying to me.
EDGE: Your last show, ’Strapless,’ was somewhat character driven, with you portraying a persona that grew out of the songs you performed. How will you be portrayed in your upcoming show?
Marie Tecce: Some of the songs will be character-driven, such as in the song ’Yo Soy Maria.’ It has aspects of me; she is strong, passionate. Men throw themselves at her feet. She says ’People, look at me when I walk down the street’ These songs come from a place of passion and some of them are erotic, not only in the physical sense but the emotional sense. However, this is a very personal show, and the songs all have a story, and there is a reason why I sing it. This show is a catalog of my artistic journey in Ireland over the past 6 years. It will be me. There will still be the sultry, the sensual, the lively. That has always been a part of my performance. I’m not fighting it. It always seems to work.
EDGE: Does the show have a particular theme or focus?
Marie Tecce: Some of the songs at my Scullers show will include songs from this new album including some of my original compositions. It will, of course, include some Spanish songs, because I have a penchant for doing those. Some of those songs will be in Spanish and Italian, and then a good portion will be in English, including those blues and bluegrass songs.
EDGE: Why these particular songs?
Marie Tecce: One thing that I’ve always been interested in first and foremost is the stories in the song. That’s how I add songs to my repertoire or if I’m writing a song: how clear is the story? In music, it often happens that things happen on their own. I just happened to be introduced to a lot of people who work in folk and blues, and I’ve been given a lot of songs in that style. I’m not one to fight providence. If it comes into my sphere of awareness, there must be a reason. I can write in many styles, but I always come back to folk and blues.
EDGE: You’ve been known to play the guitar in your shows. Will you play the guitar at Scullers?
Marie Tecce: Absolutely! I will be playing almost the entire show, both piano and guitar. I will also have a trio with me: Jim Whitney from New York as double bass player, Heather Porter on viola and violin, and a wonderful guitarist D’Rafael, based in Boston. He is a Spanish and Latin player. There may be another special guest. I haven’t quite decided yet. This is different from anything I’ve done in almost ten years. It is terrifying and exciting at the same time.
The Gardner connection
EDGE: You seem to draw inspiration from unexpected places, such as from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where a visit there helped to inspire ’Strapless.’ Who or what else has been an influence on your singing and performing?
Marie Tecce: Annie Liebovitz. Her photographs capture in the most distilled way the essence of her subject, and she tells the story in the most economic way possible, in a way that the public may not have ever perceived that subject. Also Twyla Tharp. Her creative process is very structured. She has this wonderful thing called scratching, which is allowing yourself as an artist to be affected by everything that you are exposed to during the process: a radio program, or a tree, or a painting in a museum, or the pattern on a rug of a home you visit.
Her book is called ’The Creative Habit.’ That’s how’ Strapless ’came about. I gave myself the luxury to go to Barcelona, because that’s where I needed to be, or to visit the Gardner Museum that day. Other influences include Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Carlos Gardel, and Gillian Welch. She is a folk singer, who sings in a style that is from a retro bluegrass perspective. Hers are stripped down, bare kind of stories.
EDGE: You have three recordings now. Do they accurately reflect the scope of your career?
Marie Tecce: My live performances are really a better indicator of my art than my recordings, which are more of a record of my live performances. The dialogue from the audience is exciting and brings in a whole other aspect. It brings in potential, anything could happen. The audience members are giving as much to me as I am to them. That night will be like no other night. That’s what I love about live performance. What we experience will be only for us on that night. No one else will experience that.
EDGE: For the past four years, much of the world, but especially your adopted home, Ireland, has felt the sting of the recession. Do your Irish audiences want to hear sad songs, or do they want upbeat entertainment to take them away from their problems?
Marie Tecce: Most audiences want to leave a venue differently than when they went in. People want to see truthfulness up there. They want to be moved, whether it is laughter or pain or devastation or joy. That’s why I go to shows. Whoever is up there, they’ve already won, because they are up there. Audiences want to be part of something bigger than themselves.
Maria Tecce performs on Wednesday, October 24th, at 8pm, Scullers Jazz Club, Double Tree Guest Suites, 400 Soldiers Field Road, Boston, MA 02134. Tickets: $22. For reservations call: 617.562.4111 or visit: www.scullersjazz.com.
Watch Maria Tecce sing "Over the Rainbow":