There was a time when Dana Fuchs says she was “so embarrassed by this deep voice of mine” that disguising it seemed like a good idea.
“I remember in junior high, I would try to pitch my voice up during roll call,” Fuchs says. “And I had this wonderful teacher who said, ‘Don’t do that. You have a great voice. Go watch Lauren Bacall films.’ ”
It’s a gritty, gutsy voice that has served Fuchs pretty well so far in her music career as well as her forays into theater (playing Janis Joplin in the off-Broadway production Love, Janis) and film (as Sadie in the Julie Taymor movie Across the Universe).
Yet Fuchs has occasionally found herself in situations where others would like to hear a much different sound come out of her.
“I was coming out of Across the Universe and needed a record,” the Florida-raised, New York-based singer recalls. “And this producer was suggested to me by another well-known producer. And in those moments you just kind of give in and go, ‘OK, they’re going to know what’s best.’ ”
Fuchs says she was “under the studio spell and loving the sounds, loving having a real producer and was just swept away by the whole romance of it all.”
She soon discovered that the producer was set on playing around with her natural voice — to “clean it up and smooth it out,” Fuchs says.
“I found out since then that so many musicians have gone through the same thing, where the producer comes in and wants to make his record,” she says. “Listening back, the tracks are beautiful that he produced, but the vocals were boring.
“I have no regrets about it,” she adds. “It definitely was an expensive lesson; it was a time-consuming lesson. But at the same time, I wouldn’t change a thing because those are the lessons that shape you.”
What she went through making that shelved album prompted Fuchs and longtime collaborator Jon Diamond to trust their instincts when they went to work on Love to Beg, which was released by Ruf Records in April.
“I would have to say [making my latest] CD kind of went off without a hitch, and largely because it was Jon and I saying, ‘Screw all of this other influence and opinion.’ We were going to shape the songs we’d already written and let them go where they’re supposed to go, based on our myriad influences: from blues to rock to country to soul to old-school R&B.
“All of that came through because there were no parameters. We were financing it ourselves — that was probably our biggest challenge, to make a great record on a low budget.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Dana Fuchs on tour (schedule subject to change):
* May 6: Clearwater Blues Festival — Clearwater, Fla.
* May 7: Seminole Creek Casino — Coconut Creek, Fla.
* May 20: Emelin Theater — Mamaronek, N.Y.
* May 21: Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival — Annapolis, Md.
* June 2: Knuckleheads — Kansas City, Mo.
* June 3: Oklahoma City Limits — Oklahoma City
* June 4: Wakarusa Festival — Ozark, Ark.
* June 17: W.C. Handy Festival — Henderson, Ky.
* June 18: Riverbend Festival — Chattanooga, Tenn.