Bring on the blues.
Erica Lyn Everest’s voice is strong and gutsy, and could easily be imagined floating out of a 1920s speakeasy. That classic jazz era is right up her alley, Everest says. The 26-year-old chanteuse carries her band with that beautiful, sultry voice.
And considering her band’s classic sound, it’s not surprising to hear Everest list Billie Holiday among her influences.
“The most influential vocalists in my life have been jazz singers,” Everest says.
She listens to all different kinds of music and enjoys indie singers as well as pop music and the blues. Two of her favorite modern artists include Lianne La Havas and the late Jeff Buckley. She’s also inspired by Lindsey Stirling, with her distinctive mix of classical and pop styles.
While she can’t read music, Everest says she’s fortunate to collaborate with a talented group of musicians to produce her songs. Her band consists of guitarist Ken Giest, drummer John Tuzza and bass player Vinny Hunter. They play a mix of classics, modern covers and originals, all in their own distinct way and sometimes adding horns to further enhance their sound.
The band formed in 2010, although Everest has been performing her entire life. Her first live performance was singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a Harrisburg Heat game when she was just 6 years old.
She took piano lessons for eight years but soon realized that her voice was her true talent. Growing up, she sang in nursing homes and at church. She was the lead singer of the Central Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz Youth All-Star Band, which was the starting point for her love of jazz.
“[Music’s] always been a part of who I am,” she says. “Music is my soul. I wasn’t good at anything else.”
Twenty years after performing in public for the first time, Everest and her musicians serve as the house band at the Renaissance Airport Hotel in Philadelphia, where they play every third Thursday. They round out their live schedule with dates at a variety of venues around Central PA.
“It’s exciting to have regular nights,” Everest says. “It helps us get more fans and publicity for future shows.”
Everest describes her music as “bluesy with improv.” It’s a unique sound, combining blues with hints of jazz.
Everest’s band has two albums – a demo with six songs and a newly released live album with 11 tracks. Everest says she’s especially proud of the latest album.
If you catch Everest live, expect a full evening – she plays a 30-song show, divided into three sets.
Standout numbers include the beautiful and melancholy “Stormy Monday” and a slow, sensual take on the classic jazz operatic number “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess. Everest begs for a mature male and not a simple boy in the saucy “Real Man,” which also became her first official music video in 2011 (and was filmed at Bube’s Brewery in Mount Joy).
So, what’s her favorite song to sing? That would be “Hallelujah” – the Leonard Cohen classic famously covered by everyone from Willie Nelson and k.d. lang to Buckley and Bono. Everest’s rendition of the emotional tune certainly can bring on goose bumps.
“I love the lyrics [of “Hallelujah”], and my passion for the music and the lyrics just pours out in that song,” Everest says.
One standout track from Everest’s latest live album is a cover of James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s Man’s World.” It’s a song Everest found a new appreciation for after seeing Get On Up – the recent Brown biopic starring Chadwick Boseman as the “Godfather of Soul.”
Audiences often tell Everest she sounds older than her 26 years, and one listen to her emotionally charged songs verifies this.
“Audience feedback is great,” Everest says. “Playing for a silent audience is when you know they are truly captivated and enjoying the music.”
Everest writes out a set list for each gig, but rarely follows it because she responds to the vibe of the audience.
“Every show is different,” Everest says. “That’s part of singing the blues.”
When she’s not singing the blues, Everest is working at her marketing job with Occupational Athletics or trying to relax by doing yoga.
A creative soul, Everest attended college for photography, but quickly realized her heart was in music. Today, Everest still enjoys taking photos, but doesn’t get to do it as often as she would like. Travel is also one of her favorite activities – Everest recently returned from visiting Nashville.
As for the future? Everest wants to be a full-time musician, of course.
“Isn’t that always the dream?” she says.
Catch Erica Lyn Everest this month at The Garlic Poet (148 Sheraton Dr., New Cumberland) on October 9 at 7pm; at Spring Gate Vineyard’s Cork & Pork event (5790 Devonshire Rd., Harrisburg) on October 11 at 8pm; aboard the Pride of the Susquehanna for a Blues Cruise on October 12 at 5:30pm; and at Fort Hunter’s Under the Hunter’s Moon event (5300 N. Front St., Harrisburg) on October 18. Click links for more info.