In the vast pool of female singer-songwriters, Robin Bacior — with her sweet voice, cello-tinged tracks, and honest lyrics — is a shiny penny. I encountered her debut LP Rest Our Wings in 2011 and fell in love with the album, especially the single “Ohio.”
Bacior recently closed down her Brooklyn-based record label (Consonants and Vowels), sold all of her furniture, and traveled across the country to settle in the “put a bird on it” capitol of the world, Portland, Oregon. We chatted, discussing her new home, new music, and what plans she has cooking for the future.
You recently hit the Oregon Trail and moved out to Portland. Do you like it out here? How is it different from Brooklyn?
I love it! It’s been so awesome so far. I hear a lot of people out here saying that Brooklyn is the Portland of the East Coast, or vice versa, but I don’t really agree with that. Aside from both having a lot of transient youngsters, there’s a very different pulse to both cities. I woke up feeling really nostalgic for living in Brooklyn — there’s something really unbeatable about walking aimlessly through New York — but it’s a totally different adventure out here. It’s lush and quiet; I’m definitely glad to be here.
Have you gotten into the Portland music scene at all? Do you find it’s more laid-back that the scene in New York? Both cities seem like hotbeds for talent.
I am starting to get into the music scene. I’m pretty shy, so it takes me a bit to meet folks, but I’m playing around Portland and starting to pair up on bills with some great Portland artists. I got really lucky in New York and met awesome people really quickly and had a pretty positive experience there. It’s definitely more laid-back here, but I’m still learning the lay of the land in terms of venues and whatnot. It’s slowly coming together.
You’ve said that lyrics and honesty are very important to you, and that you admire Joni Mitchell, following her example. Are your song 100 percent real? Are we basically getting your journal in the lyrics?
My lyrics are 100 percent real! I can’t write something that didn’t happen or isn’t related to a specific situation. [Otherwise] I have nothing to think about when I’m singing it. I always have a handful of key images that play through my head when I’m singing specific songs, kind of like Peter Pan happy thoughts. If I’m making stuff up then I don’t believe in it. I do feel pretty naked, even though more than half the time I’m sure no one has any idea what I’m talking about, not even the people closest to me, but I still feel like I’m admitting something.
What is one of the songs you’ve written that makes you feel particularly exposed? Could you share a little more of the story behind it?
Both “Rabbit” and “Shapes and Seasons” are super personal. I wrote them both when I was feeling pretty down, and particularly in “Seasons” I say some really vulnerable stuff. Sometimes when I’m singing that song I feel really embarrassed; I think to myself, Oh man, you’re really going to say this right now in front of all these people, nerd? But by the end it’s always a release, so who cares. I wrote “Rabbit” over two years ago and just started playing it on tour last month, and the few times we played it I felt pretty shaky.
Tell me the story behind the title of your latest EP, Left You, Still In Love. Did you really end a relationship, only to find out that the feelings wouldn’t fade? If so, did you reunite? If not, what stopped you from doing so?
It’s not about ending that type of relationship — I’m still with my boyfriend. I parted ways with a lot in my life last year; leaving New York was a really huge decision for me, and I felt really conflicted about it. I also left an entire life and musical home that I’d spent the last few years building, along with shutting down the label I was co-running. It was a lot of separation on unclear terms, based so much off gut decisions. The songs really mirror the sticky nature of it.
Was having to close down Consonants and Vowels a huge disappointment? Do you think you’ll try to start up a record label again, or are you done with that?
The closing down part was a release; the hard part was trying so hard to make it something it just wasn’t becoming. I wanted it to be a community base, but that just wasn’t the nature of it, and I was putting so much energy into stressing about it that it took away from making music, and my label partner had to leave, which meant a year of refiling for new paperwork. That was the last straw. I don’t think I’d start another label, but it gave me a clearer idea of more community-based ventures I’d be interested in.
Tell me a bit about the process of creating this record. Why did you decide to record it in Mystic, Connecticut?
My cellist and musical partner Dan Bindschedler had a family home in Mystic, so we decided to head out there and isolate ourselves for some practice. We spent five days there tinkering with song parts, then headed back to New York and took one day to record the EP as live sessions. We wanted it to be a direct reflection of the live show we’d been working on for the last year.
What musicians did you work with on the EP? How long have you been working with them?
I worked in Dan, who I’ve been playing with for nearly three years, and Josh Besserman, a really fantastic drummer who I played with for a majority of my time in Brooklyn. Nick Smeraski (drummer of Whale Belly) was our engineer. He’s a fantastic person all around.
Who is someone you’d love to work with, or tour with? Now that you’ve moved to Portland, are there any artists that you’re hoping to be able to encounter, maybe play a show or record a song with?
I’d love to tour with so many artists! As for Portlanders, I’m still learning all the awesome gems here, but I’d love to play with Laura Gibson or Typhoon. They both have such imaginative sounds, it seems like it would be a lot of fun.
Are you still a music journalist? Do you find it difficult to be critical of artists, or ask them the “tough questions” during interviews, because you’ve been in their shoes?
I am; I’m not writing as much as I used to because now it’s a little weird to approach new editors, but I still love writing. I find interviews to be even more fun now because I have a better sense of what an artist is going through, so I can hopefully ask them something they’re interested in talking about.
Are you working on a full-length album? Any details to share about that?
I just got back from tour and have a bit of material I’d like to get into the studio. Dan is moving out to Portland in the summer and we’re planning on starting to record a full-length album, which we’re very excited about.