To begin, how about an introduction to Uno Lady?
My name is Christa Ebert and I perform as Uno Lady, a one-woman choir. I build songs using mainly my voice, a mixer, and a loop pedal. I started performing at various DIY venues in my hometown of Cleveland, OH in 2007.
Your music is rather unique, with very prominent vocals over a foundation of layered vocals, all of which is most comparable to experimental electro pop and atmospheric soundscapes. What inspired you to go this route as an artist?
New material is typically approached like a blank canvass. I create by building on top of sounds I find pleasing. I am the instrument, so unlike a singer/songwriter who uses a guitar, I am not limited to the parameters of chord progressions. At the same time, my music is shaped (and limited) by my capabilities. Most instruments are not within my current skill set so I make do with what I have.
I am not shooting for a particular sound. A beat or phrase pops in my head and I become mesmerized by it. My ears find places where my voice can fill-in the blanks. The songs usually reveal themselves as the layers and sounds expand. My hope is that my sound will grow with me as I learn new things and gain experience.
Amateur Hour, your latest release, which marks a decided personal and artistic evolution from your debut tape I Really Like Genetics But I’d Rather Have a Good Time, is only recently released. What did your songwriting and recording of these songs consist of?
I Really Like Genetics but I’d Rather Have a Good Time (2009) was me figuring out how to make it all work. Then there was the 7” Tacocat (2010) that features my first two looping creations- “Day Drinking” and “the Story of Everybody.”
I had performed and wrote sparsely in the years between those releases and Amateur Hour (2014) because I was awarded a scholarship to go back to school. The concept of Amateur Hour is about closing one chapter and moving forward. Half of it is material I was sitting on and wanted to finish, and the other half is new. Each side of the record has a different vibe. Side A is more playful and side B has an eerie feel.
I record everything myself in my home with a modest setup. The recording process was a determination whirlwind. I believe I spent 200+ hours recording in just over a month (in addition to working full-time). I was trying to get the record ready in time for tour, and I did with 1 day to spare! In the future, I want to be more true to my creativity and prioritize music more.
How has the Amateur Hour material been received so far?
Pretty great. I’ve had some nice articles and flattering compliments I wasn’t expecting. There were a few regional write-ups that put the record at the top of their favorite 2014 releases.
Do you have a favorite song, or songs, from the new album?
“Dear Wes Anderson, You Should Like This Song,” first known as “Temporary Waltz,” is about the best person you’ve never met, like an imaginary friend. Together you can fly and every moment is fantastic… but it isn’t real. It had such a whimsical yet melancholic feeling, I couldn’t help but be like, “This reminds me of a Wes Anderson film. I bet he’d like it.” and the name was born. I think some people assume the song is about him, but it isn’t. I’m not trying to be a creep, ha! The sound seemed compatible with his movies. Who knows, maybe his agent has Google alerts.
What have been some of your most memorable gig moments to date?
My recent release show at the Euclid Tavern in my hometown! People hollered so hard it startled me. I used to go to shows at the Euclid Tavern as a teenager. The place sat vacant for the most part until the Happy Dog, a local restaurant/music venue, decided to spruce up the place and reopen a second location there. My record release ended up being the first show there, so the place was packed with my favorite people. Nick Cross is a truly great musician; he and his brother perform as The Cross Brothers. Nick and Delaney Davidson, one of my favorite solo performers, played the song “Night Ride” with me on stage. The whole night was unreal.
In a one-man and one-woman band scene that is not just male dominated, there aren’t a lot of electronic artists, let alone vocal artists. In fact, you are the only one I can think of at present. Are you plugged into the one-man and one-woman band network, or do you consider yourself separate from that particular musical movement?
I’m on the weirdo outskirts of many musical genres. I consider other one-woman/ one-man bands comrades despite any musical differences. Being a one-person band is filling in the spaces using whatever you can. We are problem solvers, MacGyvers of the music world, creating sounds by any means necessary. We’re independent and determined individuals.
It is this underlying urge to create that drives us to make music, often in isolation. That’s where I feel we share common ground: Musical solitude. I have respect for other solo artists because making music on your own is tough!
Some of my favorite shows have been with other one-person bands. My recent record release tour was with Delaney Davidson, an extremely talented troubadour from New Zealand. At a one-man band festival in Denver back in 2009, I had the honor of opening for Reverend Beat Man, Reverend Deadeye, Two Tears (+ others). I wrote Alex Herbert, the organizer, a handwritten letter asking to be added to the bill. The festival wasn’t super packed with people but I did meet some of the most interesting performers, a few of whom I have stayed in contact with. I’m really glad it happened.
What’s next for Uno Lady? Any plans for shows, collaborations, songwriting, etc?
I have two recording ideas in the works. One of them is a Cleveland themed record, which will have a bunch of collaborations (and I’m pretty sure I am going to sample my friends pets for at least one song). I hope to go on a short tour May/June to NYC and surrounding areas, and up through the Midwest again in October.
Lastly, if there is anything I failed to cover, or anything you would like to express or discuss, please feel free to do so now. The floor is all yours.
Thank you, James, for your interest and taking the time to think of these considerate questions. I appreciate it.
I have a present for those who read this! I’d like to share that anyone can get the 2009 tape release ‘I Really Like Genetics but I’d Rather Have a Good Time’ for free and can download it here: http://unolady.com/download/
Nearly nine years ago I figured out how to turn ideas into compositions and started recording. Having strangers listen to and enjoy my music wasn’t really an expectation. It is flattering to say the least. I find it intriguing and rewarding that, in some way, my music can speak to others. Thanks for helping me spread the word!