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Musical storyteller

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There are those who believe that music is religion, and going to live concerts is like going to church on Sundays.

If you are one of those people, you'll want to worship at the Paradise Theater on Saturday night.

Local favorite Gabrielle Louise, who recently moved to Paonia and now calls it home, will sing and tell stories to celebrate the release of her new CD, "If the Static Clears," Saturday night at the Paradise.

Doors open at 7 p.m. and the concert starts at 7:30. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door and are available online at BrownPaper

Tickets.com or in person at The Cirque, Back Country Bistro and the Paradise.

In a recent interview at the beer garden behind Revolution Brewing in downtown Paonia, Louise looked forward to the upcoming show.

"I love playing at the Paradise and it's been a bit of time since I've done a show there," she said. "So I am excited to perform there and be surrounded by people that I know and love."

Louise studied at Michigan's prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts before earning her degree in songwriting at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

She has rarely been off the road since then. Over the years she came to Paonia for performances at the annual Harvest Fest.

"I was kind of landing here intermittently," Louise said. "I was just kind of touching down in between things, but I knew I wanted to make this my home and I developed a real connection and have sort of interwoven myself into the fabric of the community.

"Even though I'll still have to come and go, that's the nature of my job, I'm so relieved to know that I'm going to be landing back at the same spot now," she added. "I just fell in love with everybody involved and the progressive art and music scene here. Really warm generous personalities. What I love about Paonia is I get to genuinely and deeply know the people that I'm sharing my life with."

Louise became well known in Paonia after her TEDx performance at the Paradise last year. She gave a talk entitled, "The Breath of Experience," which stresses the importance of making time to both "inhale" the stories we've inherited from others and mindfully "exhale" our own creative impressions of those stories.

That's exactly the creative process Louise employs on the new CD, "If the Static Clears." The 11 songs on the album are her exhalations -- they are both narrative vignettes (they tell stories) and autobiographic snapshots from her own life.

"That's the novelty you see traveling," Louise said. "These little vignettes I get traveling, it's like I get a snapshot. I get this beautiful poetic moment that I can infer and use my imagination about. You have to honor any subject by honoring its complexity.

"Mostly I'm an autobiographic writer. Joni Mitchell is my big influence. I think that part of what sparked my TEDx was acknowledging how powerful autobiography has been for me, and for my development and for the detangling of the messes that I've made in my life," she added. "I do think it's very personal the type of stories that I tell. And so if people get offended by them, usually I'm not too controversial, but when I am I try to just remind people that it's simply my vantage point, and I'm just fully aware of that. Each of us are fully entitled to that."

The songs on the new CD form a cohesive whole that is both subtle and satisfying. Louise is refreshingly honest in her songwriting and gentle in her harmonies. It's the kind of music that both tells a story and expresses a wide range of emotion at the same time.

"You're always excited about your newest song, your newest project, your newest CD," Louise said. "But I'm particularly proud of how this one turned out."

When asked what feeling she is trying to convey with the album, Louise described its origins.

"We spent three days in New York, just camped out there in a little apartment above the studio and we tracked everything live, with very few alterations in the original recording," she said. "So that gives the songs a quality of humanness to them. And so what I think what I was trying to communicate was that authenticity, that sincerity, about capturing a real moment in time.

"As opposed to something that you repeatedly toy with," she explained. "It's like handwriting instead of a font. It's still got a lot of character in it, you can see the handwriting; and know that a human manufactured it. It's a pretty real and honest portrait of who I am as an artist, I think."

Listening to the CD, it's easy to hear the heavy folk influence in Louise's musical style and it is Americana in both tone and subject matter. It's her dynamic and melodic voice that dominates, enabling her to soar over vast emotional and lyrical landscapes.

"It's similar to my last release in that it uses the same rhythm section and many of the same musicians and the same engineer," Louise said. "It's different in that I think the collection of the songs is maybe a little more contemporary sounding. The last two records that I've released both have this quality of having taken more time to distill.

"My last two CDs have a more refined quality to them," she added. "They took longer to produce, they took longer to finish, they took longer to think about. For me it was a matter of slowing down. Powering through a music career is not the most sustainable way to conduct it. Powering through art. It's just nice to take your time and be done when you're done, and know you've given yourself the time to really flush out your ideas."

Saturday night's performance in Paonia comes about in the middle of the CD release tour for Louise, who had the opportunity to open for folk legend Tom Paxton in Fort Collins during the tour's opening date.

"That was fabulous," Louise said. "He was just a wealth of folk music history and it was a really full house and a beautiful venue and just a real warm atmosphere. It kicked off the tour really fabulous."

Louise is thrilled be back in town at her now-official home theater, the Paradise.

"Greg Schochet from Boulder will play electric guitar and mandolin," she said about Saturday night's show. "And an upright bass player from Albuquerque, Justin Evan Thompson, will open the show.

"We're gonna perform the CD front to back with a small number of songs from an older collection and a couple of select covers," Louise said. "Basically it's going to be mostly new material. It's gonna be a lot of fun."

Check out more info and tour dates at www.gabriellelouise.com.

Paonia photographer Teya Cranson shot this image of Gabrielle Louise.
Gabrielle Louise warms up for a performance at the Town Hall in Boulder. Her CD release tour has taken her from Texas to New Mexico to Colorado.
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