Christa Ebert, better known as Uno Lady, has been meditating for years. Yet, like many of us, she felt like she couldn’t pay attention for long stretches and never had the time in her busy schedule to stay consistent.
In fact, on her 2014 album Amateur Hour, she wrote a tongue-in-cheek song called “5 Minute Meditation Guide,” in which she pokes fun at her inability to quiet her thoughts for more than five minutes. “Picture all the crap in your life,” she whispers. “Just poop it out.”
“Even though I would try continually, I did think I was bad at mediation,” she says. “Then I was given the knowledge that it’s OK that you’re still thinking when you’re meditating. That’s just what our brains do. It’s just the judgment we tie to those thoughts that can cause distress.”
This breakthrough allowed her to deepen her meditation journey — along which she brings listeners with her January release Grounded. Ebert’s new record is a much-needed hour of peace in a chaotic world. Recorded at home while self-isolating and often right after meditating, the piece, which features the classic, layered Uno Lady vocals as well as field recordings mostly taken from her backyard, works as well as a guided meditation as it does an ambient background listen.
On Grounded, Ebert positions herself more as a well-read facilitator than a mindfulness expert. Expertise is instead pulled from simple books like 101 Meditation Tips or those in the Buddhist canon or local authorities. “Breathe,” for example, features Mourning [A] BLKstar singer LaToya Kent, who works as a meditation teacher. Meanwhile, cellist and practitioner Erica Snowden-Rodriguez offers an inclusive voice on “Meditacion,” which offers Spanish guidance, that is as comforting as their cello playing, even for non-Spanish speakers.
“I’m not trying to say I’m a healer or that this album is going to cure people of anything,” she says. “Music is just a really great communication tool, and there are these practices that have been around for thousands and thousands of years that you can learn from.”
The sonic elements, though more ambient and less structured than her typical pop heartbreakers, will feel more familiar than the lyrical themes to Uno Lady fans who have enjoyed 2014’s Amateur Hour and 2019’s Osmosis. These lush tracks make Ebert one of the area’s most singular artists even amongst Cleveland’s diverse pop music landscape. Grounded’s “Open Your Heart,” for example, features 69 vocal tracks layered, harmonized and manipulated with effects such as reverb (think singing into a cave) into an unrecognizable wall of sound. Only the occasional synthesizer, bell and meditation bowl flourish the 54-minute album.
“These are some of the biggest songs I’ve ever written,” she says. “It was such an exploratory process. They might have been bigger if my computer could handle it.”
The project, which was supported by Spaces Urgent Art Fund and by a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, was also accompanied by an experimental film of the same title, which Ebert shot mostly in her backyard. The film’s animation was created with the help of illustrator Sequoia Bostick.
”I left my one full-time job a few weeks before the pandemic to promote another record and go on tour,” she says. “So, I wanted to stay true to my mission of, you know, having creativity is my core value and my purpose in life.
In making the record, Ebert realized that she was actually pretty good at meditating — even if some of her versions of the practice looked a bit different from tradition. The hypnotic flowstate she reaches while singing (which she compares to traditional chanting) and making music does much of the same things to her brain that meditation sets out to do. She hopes Grounded can be a similar bridge to mindfulness for music fans.
“[Making music] is when I am able to disconnect and process my emotions and thoughts constructively,” she says. “People think meditation is one thing, but really it can be anything that helps you disconnect from worry for a brief moment.”
“Christa Ebert, who performs as Uno Lady, composes songs with her voice, electronic effect pedals and unconventional instruments. She layers her vocals and loops the accompanying sounds, the result of which sounds like a one-woman choir.
Ebert released “GROUNDED” Jan. 12, a 20-track album of guided meditations, accompanied by music she created, recorded, produced and mixed. The music features vocal harmonies, field recordings of nature sounds, theremin, singing bowls, bells and synths.
On Dec. 14, 2020, Ebert digitally released an experimental short film that features 11 of the songs from the “GROUNDED” album. She captured much of the album’s visuals in her garden at her home in Cleveland during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“GROUNDED” is supported by the SPACES Urgent Art Fund and by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.
Music as meditation Ebert said her music has a soothing, meditative quality to it. She released a five-minute meditation in 2014 that served more to poke fun at her short attention span.
Over the years, people have asked her to make more recorded meditations. Interest increased when the pandemic started.
With “GROUNDED,” Ebert said she has been able to acknowledge her overthinking brain and be in the present moment.
“I thought I was really bad at it. I meditated for years,” Ebert said. “But now, I know that overactive thinking and constant thinking is kind of normal. It’s the judgment that we tie to these thoughts that cause our suffering.”
Chanting made her realize that she had been meditating her whole life, and singing is her meditation.
“It’s deep breathing, the vocalization sends deep vibrations into my body and when I write songs, I’m in a flow state. So, music is my medicine, and songs are the sound of my soul singing,” she said.
The album is made up of mindfulness exercises, mantras and positive affirmations.
Her approach to meditation makes it accessible and manageable for people who may have experienced anxiety during the pandemic.
“I decided to make something good come of a terribly tragic situation,” she said. “Life is full of worry, but you’ve got to balance the perspective. So when chaos is overwhelming, there are still beautiful occurrences happening.”
Creating soothing songs in a challenging year As 2020 unfolded, Ebert left her job and wanted to focus more on creating music.
“Because touring was no longer an option—because the music scene drastically changed—I started to take inventory of all the things I wanted to work on,” she said.
Ebert said she was overextending herself for over a decade, and it was taking a toll on her physical and mental health. Work magnified that demand, and she channeled her anxiety into overthinking and productivity and planning.
“It just left me with little silence,” she said.
The “GROUNDED” project was healing, she said. She’s always juggled a job or two and never had as much time to focus on a creative project prior to 2020. She was always frustrated or rushed by having to “squeeze in” creativity in the past.
She said she had a lot of meditation ideas and heard about the SPACES grant, which was created for regional artists to help the community in some way.
She said the grant was a good opportunity to explore her meditative and creative ideas, and it allowed her to provide something healing to people she could not see in person.
“It really helped me stay positive in 2020. It also helped me feel like I was able to be there for people I care about without being physically present,” she said.
This project also allowed Ebert to find beautiful things in a space she couldn’t leave due to travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders.
“[It was a] personal exploration, for me, on what mindfulness and meditation is and introducing new forms or creative ways of thinking about mindfulness and meditation that might be helpful to other people,” she said. https://www.youtube.com/embed/PEhCgaifG18?enablejsapi=1
The process of creating a meditative album and visual component Ebert researched the healing effects of sound and mindfulness and listened to dozens of audiobooks from the library in preparation for this project.
She said singing is meditative and mood boosting, and each song she recorded cycles through various emotions.
“[Music] is what keeps me grounded. It’s what helps me stay connected in my body. It took me a long time to realize that, and with this grant, I started to dive more into the sciences behind that,” she said.
To create the songs “Here Now,” “Awaken the Peace Within,” and “Binaural Bees,” she would meditate in her garden, film flowers, capture nature sounds then go into her home studio to record, so actual meditation became part of the process of making the album.
Ebert has already been recording her music in her home studio for years, and she is recognized for the experimental video art she films and edits then would broadcast during her Uno Lady performances.
She filmed most of the “GROUNDED” visuals in her own backyard. She used organic elements and nature to create animations.
“[I was] trying to find beauty in the things that maybe you overlook. Getting really close up to the flowers that I grew, followed around some bees, just looking at stuff from a different perspective and layering it,” she said.
The initial idea was to make small, bite-sized segments. Ebert said because Instagram limits video uploads to one minute in length, she thought she would make minute-long songs she could share using the platform
“We all have kind of shorter attention spans now, so a lot of the songs I went at with a minute-long mindset,” she said.
Kent is a meditation teacher and musician. Her guided meditations appear on the “GROUNDED” tracks “Breathe” and “You Are Love.” These are breathing exercises accompanied by Ebert’s original, composed music.
“I asked her to record meditations, gave her creative freedom, trusted her expertise and then wrote music around her words,” Ebert said.
They met by working together on a digital show they were going to put together for Mahall’s.
“We were hanging out on my porch, I set up the recording equipment out there, and I didn’t know this about her—that she was a meditation teacher,” Ebert said.
Ebert said she didn’t feel as confident in her own ability to record guided meditations, and she was aware of the fact that a lot of meditations are recorded by white women. She wanted to bring more diverse voices into “GROUNDED.”
“So I felt like LaToya was the best fit and superqualified. She’s just such a calm, collected presence. It was just perfect,” Ebert said.
She also worked remotely with Cleveland animator and multimedia artist Sequoia Bostick on the visual pieces for “Ways We Wish the World Was,” “Ditch Resistance,” “Chill Out For One Minute,” and “Here Now”.
Akron Symphony Orchestra cellist Erica Snowden-Rodríguez plays cello and does a guided meditation in Spanish on the “GROUNDED” track “Meditación,” which Ebert said is one of her favorites.
Getting the most out of the listening experience Ebert said “GROUNDED” is for anyone who wants to explore sound as a form of relaxation.
She recommends listening to the album through high-quality headphones and starting with the breathing exercises.
She said listeners should treat it as an introduction to other forms of meditation that may work for the individual person.
“GROUNDED” captures the sounds and environment Ebert experienced during lockdown and could help show others how to find joy in elements that were previously overlooked.
“It’s an overarching theme of 2020 because we are encouraged to stay alone as much as possible, and then we’ve all had a lot of time to reflect on things that are important to us and things that make us happy. Learning to adapt and foster resilience,” she said.
She said she had moments of doubt that she could do it in the beginning. Then she wrote 20 songs, and she has 20 more ideas she hasn’t finished yet.
“There were no directions. There were no rules. I had to make it up. I had to stay focused and productive, and I’m really proud of it. That’s not something I say that often,” Ebert said. “I really think it’s my best work that I’ve made to date.”
“CLEVELAND, Ohio — For Cleveland musician Christa Ebert — aka, solo artist Uno Lady — making music is a form of meditation.
‘It’s where I can truly be in the present moment,’ Ebert said. ‘I can turn off my brain… I guess it’s been my own form of chanting.’
Meditation has helped Ebert find peace through the past year of stressful events stoked by the coronavirus pandemic. Now, she hopes to help others find that same kind of peace, through her latest Uno Lady album ‘Grounded.’
The project arrives on Tuesday, Jan. 12, on streaming sites. It consists of a mix of music, guided meditations and breathing exercises.
‘The purpose of ‘Grounded’ is to help find peace in the present moment and offer kindness and healing through this difficult time,” Ebert said. “A lot of people were requesting it more and I had such a surplus of ideas, I figured it was a good time to dive in.’ …
The full “Grounded” album includes two meditations guided by Mourning [A] BLKstar vocalist LaToya Kent, and one meditation guided in Spanish by Erica Snowden-Rodriguez, who also performs cello.
Even on the songs that don’t include breathing exercises and meditation instructions, Ebert experimented with the musical side of meditation.
‘I’m trying out polytonal singing and creating binaural beats with my voice,’ she said. ‘I was trying to make it sound like meditation music, but also my own music, taking a twist on it that way.’
In “Binaural Bees,” Ebert hums two tones that are so close together, they sound like a pulsation. In “Meditación,” Ebert throat sings, creating two notes at the same time.
Ebert has made use of a synthesizer in previous albums but replaces the instrument here with her own vocals throughout “Grounded,” with a few extra sounds, including recorded nature sounds from her backyard and a trip to France, and samples from NASA’s Soundcloud account.
Singing, Ebert said, helped her find peace in the last year.
‘Making this album has helped me articulate and find a path to self-acceptance. It’s allowed me to acknowledge my overthinking brain and offer kindness and love,’ Ebert said. ‘Since making this album, I’ve experienced moments of mental silence for the first time, and I thought sharing my vulnerability and process could help people learn, too.’
The album is also a replacement for in-person Uno Lady performances, which Ebert had to largely cancel due to the pandemic.
‘I hope it reaches people who appreciate music, people who want to explore meditation, art appreciators — and it’s also a gift to residents of Cuyahoga County,’ Ebert said. ‘I hope it helps people just relax for a little bit, or find ways they can find peace and show kindness to themselves, and people they love.’
After “Grounded” is released, Ebert also plans to release more videos featuring the album’s guided meditations. You can follow future Uno Lady releases at unolady.com.