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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Artist Of The Week - Renee Sebastian
Monday, May 19, 2008

Born in Monterey, CA and raised in Manila, Philippines, Renee Sebastian is a singer who first caught my eye and ear when I went to see The Square Egg at a show called Blowout Lounge in Harlem, NY. Sebastian was also on the bill and I would later find out she was also the event’s organizer. According to Sebastian she’s been honing her abilities since she heard Anita Baker for the first time. “She gave me a taste of great music outside of commercial pop and it left me wanting for more,” she remembers, “I knew instantly that was the type of music I was most interested in.” This week I caught up with Sebastian to find out more about her work, her hectic life of juggling being a performer, event organizer, mother and wife, and whether or not she’s ever lived out a certain line from her song “These Are The Signs” and done any food service in the buff.

Adam Bernard: Start me off with your musical history. Where were some of your first experiences with music?
Renee Sebastian: While growing up my parents listened to folks like James Taylor, Michael McDonald, The Eagles, Earl Klugh, etc. so I suspect their sound must have been ingrained in my subconscious. Manila radio was mostly filled with pop music like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Sade. Growing up I never really focused on singing. My first form of art was dancing. I do remember listening to a lot of songs that I liked but didn't really know much about the artists. It wasn't until later on in my late teen years that I found out that those songs were from artists like Minnie Ripperton, Chaka Khan and Patti Austin. So perhaps I was really exposed to R&B and soul early on yet I didn't know it. During grammar and high school I was well known for being the president of the dance troupe, which was the equivalent of being the captain of the cheer leading squad, but I was quite the closet singer. I would join a lot of amateur singing contests and win accolades without telling anyone about it. I also was a member of the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Girls Choir, but people knew me as the dancer and choreographer so there was really no room to be known as the "vocalist." It was during college that I was exposed more to popular R&B and soul artists like Me'shell N'degeocello, Toni Braxton and Mary J. Blige, and, it really wasn't until after college when I started consciously listening to classic soul artists like Joanne Garrett and Syreeta.

Adam Bernard: I saw you perform last year in Harlem and the first thing I thought was "dang, she's fine." I check out your EP, Mrs. Sebastian, and come to find out you're juggling music with a marriage and kids! How on earth does that work?
Renee Sebastian: (smiling) I think I am quite a lucky gal considering people are always mystified and intrigued by Asian women. Yes, I am juggling marriage, kids, and music. It is very challenging but I think for me it's all in the master plan. I think my music is a direct effect of my personal life experiences. That's probably why my music is so rich in content/value and full-bodied. They are tales from a woman who lives a multi-faceted lifestyle.

Adam Bernard: The themes you sing about can be considered very adult. Do you feel that with pop and R&B so overflowing with teenage and early 20 something artists that the more mature audiences out there are in need some music specifically for them?
Renee Sebastian: I never really thought of my music as adult. That was never a thought for consideration when I was writing them. I think the pop R&B market now is flooded with music that appeals to teenagers and young adults and there's nothing wrong with that. I just think that the focus now is too much about the beats and somehow the lyrics are hooks, gimmicks, and afterthoughts. No one tells stories anymore. More mature audiences miss the integrity of storytelling in music, so I can understand why my music would be an easy attraction to them. When you break it down, my music is about real life obstacles, overcoming barriers, finding strength in yourself, love versus lust, and the pain of leaving someone behind. I think teenagers and young adults also experience that, right? I say, have Timbaland give me a call, throw a beat my way, and let me write the lyrics.

Adam Bernard: If Tim ever does a search for himself he might find this interview and make that happen. Staying with your music, you have a song titled "These Are The Signs" which has an opening line of "I can't cook, but I can serve you nude." First off, WHOA, and second, are you speaking from experience?
Renee Sebastian: (smiling) Yes and no. During my naughty days I must admit, I've used that line because it sure does catch someone's attention, and no, because I am wicked in the kitchen, on or off the stove. (winks)

Adam Bernard: Nice! Finally, talk to me about Blowout Lounge. I know this is something you started, but who did you create it with, what was your reasoning for creating it, and what are your goals for Blowout Lounge?
Renee Sebastian: The Blowout Lounge started as a live soul music showcase featuring some of the best undiscovered talents in New York City. Early in my career in NY I was offered, by the executives at the Manhattan Center, to do a weekly residency to perform at their venue, Hammerstein Studio 8 Lounge. Instead of creating a show that only featured myself I suggested an idea I've had for a while to bring together a collective of soul artists to showcase in one night. I wanted to promote quality soul music and at the same time give opportunities to well-deserved artists to perform at premier venues. They loved my idea and so Blowout Lounge was born. Today Blowout Lounge is being celebrated in San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well, and I am proud to say that it is now in its third year. I have also recently created a BETA network site for the Blowout Lounge with the objective of gathering soul artists and fans of live music across the nation and beyond. Check it out at blowoutlounge.com.

Related Links

Website: reneesebastian.com
MySpace: myspace.com/reneesebastian
Facebook: facebook.com/pages/Renee-Sebastian
YouTube: youtube.com/reneesebastian

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