Anything But Classical: Dirty Cello Doesn’t Play Cello by the Rules
Crooning into the mic about the injustices of the labels placed on females while rocking out a bluesy riff on the cello is not something you see every day. Dirty Cello strives to be that unique group that turns heads and shatters stereotypes, all centered around that stalwart instrument of any orchestra or symphony—the cello. Lead singer and cellist Rebecca Roudman fills us in on what it takes to break the mold.
Rogue Valley Messenger: In a recent radio interview with KALW News, you say that you play any type of music that interests you, including a kind of “rough blues.” Can you explain that sound?
Rebecca Roudman: Our style of blues starts with an appreciation of all sorts of blues music, but with a special nod to the hard driving Texas blues of Stevie Ray Vaughn. At that point in time, we replace the guitar sound with my cello, add a hard driving rhythm section, and get the Dirty Cello sound.
RVM: Though you were trained as a classical cellist from childhood, you stated in that same interview that several years ago you got your start in forming “Dirty Cello” when you won a contest “Vallejo’s Got Talent” where you played “Rock You Like a Hurricane” by the Scorpions. What was that experience like, and how did it shape who “Dirty Cello” would become?
RR: As silly as it sounds, my Vallejo’s Got Talent moment where I won a very small prize was an almost frighteningly liberating experience. No more was I stuck playing whole notes in a cello section or reading off sheet music, but I was free to rock out as hard as I wanted to. People like the sound and people liked the novelty of seeing a cello rock out and the rest is history.
RVM: Who are the other members of the band, and what instruments do they play? Why did you choose that instrument line up?
RR: For our Green Show performance, the members of the band are Jason Eckl on guitar, Greg Studley on bass, Ben Dubin on drums. We chose this instrumentation to stay as close to a rock band as we could.
RVM: It seems like singing into a microphone and playing the cello at the same time would be difficult to juggle, but you seem to do it effortlessly. Was there a learning curve there?
RR: The biggest learning curve for singing and playing the cello was the fear factor. The idea of singing as a classical cellist was truly frightening and it took a lot of hours of practice and a lot of casual coffee shop gigs to get my confidence up. We even had to figure out a special way to get the microphone near my mouth without me knocking it over with my bow, but adding singing has been so much fun.
RVM: Though you do play some covers, a lot of your work is original. Where do your song ideas come from? Do you write them, or is it a collaborative effort of the whole band?
RR: My husband Jason and I do most of the writing and it all comes from our experiences and are based on true stories. For instance, right now we’re working on a song about an unpleasant situation I had recently where I was told my outfits were too flashy for the concert halls we were playing in Europe a couple weeks ago, and that I should cover my shoulders, and wear floor length dresses and closed toe shoes as if this were the Victorian era. It made me so mad, I’m working on a song called “What Gives you the Right.”
RVM: You are returning to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Green Show for the sixth year; what do you like about the venue?
RR: We play a bunch of different festivals, but we keep coming back to the Green Show because it’s such a unique concert. In 40 minutes we get to play for plenty of folks who have seen us before, but also to a whole bunch of brand new people who are hearing us for the first time. It’s really common for us to run into these people at shows all over the country. I guess we love playing at the Green Show because we get to meet so many new folks.
RVM: What is next up for Dirty Cello? And, where do you hope to be in five years?
RR: Recently someone asked us if we imagined our Dirty Cello band would ever tour internationally and play so many concerts. Jason and I laughingly responded that when we started the Dirty Cello band, our big dream was to one day actually get paid to perform. Seven years later our weird little idea has become a huge part of our musical lives. Five years from now I have no idea where our musical adventures will take us, but I know we’ll have fun along the way.
6:45 pm, Thursday, July 26 and Saturday, July 28
Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 15 S. Pioneer Street, Ashland