By MIKE CHAIKEN
Phoebe Legere will show two sides of the same creative coin this month in Connecticut.
Not only will she be featured in an art show in Middletown dubbed “Seeing the Unseen: Connecting to Creation,” she will be performing in concert on May 20 to help promote her latest album, “Heart of Love.”
“My parents were both visual artists,” said Legere, when asked about her dual creative journeys.
Legere explained her father was a painting teacher. When Legere was just 5, her dad began teaching adult-level art skills such as drawing anatomy, understanding perspective, and the glazing techniques of the artistic masters. Legere said her mother was a successful commercial artist, long before computers, when commercial art was a close cousin to fine art and was created all by hand. As a commercial artist, she led a team of 10 men in her department.
As for her musical affinity, Legere tips her hat to her grandparents. She said her grandparents were all musicians.
For Legere, art is about healing and fulfillment. Legere, who teaches art and music to low income children in New York City, spoke about how art can change your feelings and your emotions. Art can bring the joy that sometimes people feel can only be found in a pill, she explained.
“Certain songs life you heart up,” said Legere. “They help you go on.”
Although there are some who feel art and music are luxuries, Legere disagreed. “Beauty isn’t an extra.”
As for her art on display in Middletown, she said it is “seeing the unseen and connecting to Creation.”
“I try to bring forth things that are not so obvious in reality,” said Legere. “Even in the mundane, there is a spiritual component.”
For her musical performance, Legere will be promoting her new Americana album, “Heart of Love,” which was soaring up the Roots Americana chart.
Legere said her songs are tales that spring from her own imagination.
“Imagination is like a real place you visit,” said Legere.
When she writes, whether it is a song or a play, she said, “The characters become people and develop a life of their own.”
Legere said she can understand her characters because she understands all human beings are connected. They all spring from the same source, the same mother. “It’s the common root of all organisms.”
Although Legere is riding the top of the roots chart, there was a time when she was viewed as the next big pop star. When she was a teenager, Epic Sony Records—which counted Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen as their charges—signed her to a deal.
Legere was just 16, she said. And the label wanted to mold her into some sort of mix between Madonna and Barbara Streisand. She said they wanted to use a “cookie cutter” to make her sound like other artists.
“They tried to dumb me down,” said Legere.
They also frowned on any effort to be an individual or an artist. When she showed up at the label with her favorite accordion, executives told her, “Don’t let anyone see you carrying that thing.”
“I suffered a lot of emotional and sexual and musical abuse (at the label),” said Legere. That kind of behavior can be epidemic because people are so eager to become a star, she said.
Legere and Epic eventually parted ways.
“I feel blessed and lucky not to become a household name,” said Legere. “I was able to grow and learn.”
Legere now records folk music. Legere said the music is part of her family’s legacy, a legacy that travels from the court of Louis XIV to the Acadians (the original French settlers of Canada) to the Cajuns of Louisiana.
“I love this music,” said Legere.
Legere was set to be on hand for the opening of the art show at The Buttonwood Tree in Middletown on May 17. Then on May 20 at the Buttonwood Tree, she will be performing her music. Legere said she is not traveling with a band. Audiences will see her play her trusty accordion, a guitar, and the classic 1908 Steinway that makes its home at The Buttonwood Tree.
Phoebe Legere performs Saturday, May 20 at 8 p.m. at The Buttonwood Tree, 605 Main St., Middletown in an all-ages show. Tickets are $15. For more information, call (860) 347-4957 or visit buttonwood.org, or PhoebeLegere.org. Her art show is up until May 21 at the Buttonwood Tree.