I’ve said it before. One of my favorite parts of blogging (aside from getting 2000 emails a day from Sugardaddie.com) is meeting and promoting interesting Chicagoans. I love spotting that talented someone, currently flying under the city’s radar and knowing that even if I don’t write about her, it’s only a matter of time before someone does.
Tuesday night, I had the honor of taking part in Fictlicious, Micki LeSueur’s fantastically cohesive reading series. Not only did the event introduce me to The Hideout, some kind of magical Milwaukee-esque bar set down in the sort of bleak area Frank Sobotka’s ghost probably haunts, but it also brought to my attention one Stephanie Tonnemacher.
A convivial folk/pop singer/songwriter, Tonnemacher wooed the crowd with her lovely voice and sharp lyrics. Recently back from Nashville, Tonnemacher spoke with Our Town about her guitar playing style, her dream audience member and the Chicago music scene.
Our Town When did you realize you wanted to be a musician?
Stephanie Tonnemacher I’ve always participated in music related activities: church choir, band, music ensembles, and private guitar lessons. It wasn’t until high school that I realized people actually could do it for a living. I dove in by going to music prep high schools, then majoring in composition and arranging in college. I can’t imagine doing anything else that would be as fulfilling. I’m just lucky enough to have parents that encouraged me to go for it from a young age.
OT Who are your influences?
ST Lyrically, I’d have to say Joni Mitchell and Nashville singer/songwriter Patti Griffin. Musically, I’d say a blend of Sheryl Crow and Paul Simon.
OT Finger style guitar picking is not necessarily the norm, what made you
gravitate toward it?
ST I started out playing classical guitar and finger style was just a natural progression for me when I ventured into pop genres. I want to have an interesting accompaniment for when I sing solo without a band. Finger style is a fun, challenging way to break out of the conventional “chick-singer” guitar playing style that people sometimes try to box me into.
OT Do you more closely identify as a singer or songwriter? If you had to
give one up which would it be?
ST Tricky, tricky! I’ve asked myself this question before, trying to figure out which post-graduation musical career path I wanted to take. I don’t think I could stand going a single day without singing. Songwriting is a much more recent skill that I’ve honed. But it’s also something that I’ve started to do on a daily basis, a great outlet for problem solving and saying obnoxious things that without the artistic license excuse could be considered socially unacceptable. So, I guess I’m not willing to give up either.
OT What did your time in Nashville do for you as a musician?
ST It challenged me. Being around people who were better than me was a reality check that it takes a lot of work to be a working musician.
OT What made you decide to return to Chicago?
ST It wasn’t an easy decision. I love Nashville. But, I’m also lucky enough to be an aunt/godmother to the coolest two year old on the planet. Nashville will always be there. I just couldn’t stomach the thought of Eva only knowing me from photos or the occasional phone call. Plus, I wanted to take a stab at the music scene up here for a while.
OT You teach guitar, piano and voice. Do you find that teaching informs
your own work?
ST Yes. I’m actually starting to follow the advice I give my own students. I can hear my teacher voice turn on in my own head telling me to be patient. And to practice!
OT What’s your favorite guilty pleasure song to sing?
ST No Doubt’s “I’m Just a Girl.” It’s fun to feel like a badass for three and half minutes.
OT Who is your dream audience member?
ST If I could even be in the same room as Sheryl Crow I would be a happy camper. Having her attend one of my shows? Oh, man. That would just be too much.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," is forthcoming from Soft Skull, an imprint of Counterpoint Press. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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