Former Eagle Rock residents return to town to play Wine & Song series Wednesday
“Do what you love nights and weekends
In empty bars to scattered applause
Give it your all part of the time
Nights and weekends all your life
Answer your calling in your free time
The time in between your work and your sleep
Follow the path for which you are meant
All the roads so dark …”
—The Singer and the Songwriter, “Nights and Weekends”
It requires uncommon focus just to survive as an independent artist, but Rachel Garcia and Thu Tran are particularly dedicated. Musically known as the Singer and the Songwriter, the duo relinquished their Eagle Rock apartment and most of their possessions last year so they could afford to fully promote their “Ballads for Trying Times” EP. Now they park their dog with family in the Bay Area while touring.
“It still continues to be a little scary,” Tran acknowledges with a laugh, speaking by phone from somewhere east of Seattle as Garcia drives them to their next show. “We’re kind of living on the road now, but we still consider ourselves Angelenos and are looking to make it back and put down roots.”
The couple met while studying theatre at San Francisco State, and started making music together “recreationally” after relocating to Los Angeles. The relaxed chemistry they discovered burnishes their melodic folk-jazz as Tran’s tasteful fretwork frames Garcia’s smoky, dramatic alto. Simplicity is key to their music’s allure.
Their bookings include concerts at acoustic venues as well as noisier gigs at taverns and coffeehouses. Garcia says they find challenge as well as opportunity in being made “invisible” by background distractions.
“It takes a little bit of the pressure off when there’s not a full spotlight on you,” she explains. “We can really work on playing together and honing in on [what we’re doing in] the song.”
Their sets features songs from last year’s EP as well as their 2014 album “What a Difference a Melody Makes,” and they’ll be trying out new material at Wine & Song Wednesday. They hope to have half a dozen songs recorded by the end of May, although they haven’t decided whether to release them in a group or as singles.
As they log miles along dusty stretches of highway between performances, they listen to “a ton” of podcasts (“We’re obsessive about them,” Garcia says) and discuss their arrangements. Their compositions may often be contemplative, but Garcia says their goal is “having a good time” with audiences.
“When we turn a couple of heads so people turn their chairs around — sometimes it’s fleeting but when it happens, it’s really beautiful and really rewarding,” Tran says. “I think there is a hunger for an experience that’s organic and real and connected.”
Wine & Song hosts the Singer & the Songwriter, plus Melissa Greener, at Arroyo Seco Golf Course, 1055 Lohman Lane, South Pasadena, 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 19; $10 general admission. Thesingerandthesongwriter.com, wineandsong.com