Rachel Eckroth shares her Grammy-nominated ‘The Garden’ story


Rachel Eckroth has just learned that she is being nominated for the first time at the Grammy when the writer of her old newspaper from her hometown calls to talk about the nominated album and her upcoming appearance at the Nash in downtown Phoenix.

“It’s just sinking now,” Eckroth said. “I’ll be here laughing all day.

“The Garden” will compete for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards, which will be broadcast live on CBS and Paramount + from Staples Center in Los Angeles on Monday, January 31.

All but one of the songs on the album were written after Eckroth and her husband, bassist Tim Lefebvre, moved to Tucson during the pandemic.

They were living in Los Angeles, making a living as touring musicians, when the concert industry shut down for COVID-19.

Eckroth has toured with Rufus Wainwright, St. Vincent and others

Rachel Eckroth

Eckroth entered that side of the touring band business in 2016, playing keyboards on a KT Tunstall tour. Since then she has toured with Chris Botti, Rufus Wainwright and St. Vincent.

“The stars aligned when I went on that first tour,” Eckroth said.

“My friend Solomon Dorsey, who is a great bass player, recommended me for the KT Tunstall tour. And since that tour it’s been rolling. It’s like you keep getting calls because people know you can. to do. “

The same could be said of Lefebvre. He has performed with David Bowie, Elvis Costello, the Black Crowes, Sting, Empire of the Sun, The Sleepy Jackson, Patti Austin, John Mayer, Tedeschi Trucks Band and Botti.

“Once the pandemic hit, Tim and I both lost our tours,” Eckroth said.

“So we were like, ‘Maybe we should just go somewhere cheaper for a while. And we’re still here. It’s crazy. We live in a much bigger house and it’s beautiful, right on the edge of the desert.

Her husband, Tim Lefebvre, produced ‘Le Jardin’

In addition to playing bass, Lefebvre produced the Grammy-nominated album, which also features contributions from guitarist Nir Felder, saxophonists Donny McCaslin and Andrew Krasilnikov, large modular synth Austin White, and drummer Christian Euman.

The basic tracks were made at the Sonic Ranch in Texas by Eckroth, Lefebvre and Euman. The other players doubled their games wherever they were at the time.

Rachel Eckroth's

Krasilnikov, for example, cut his sax in Russia.

“So I haven’t met him, but he’s recorded,” Eckroth said.

It is the first mainly instrumental album of the singer on the keyboards.

“Basically I wanted to do a songwriting record,” she said, “and not think about singing. On top of that, Rainy Days Records approached me and my husband, Tim, to make a record like that one.”

The couple spent a lot of downtime during the pandemic improvising on their synthesizers, drum machines, effects pedals and other “weird stuff,” Eckroth says, to come up with the improv and synth splendor of “ The Garden ”.

“Tim is sort of a master of the pedals,” she says.

“And we tried modular synthesis and synthesis in general. So we have a good number of synths here and effects pedals, things like that. Just gimmicks. As a keyboardist, I want to collect so many keyboards. as possible .”

“The Garden” was a logical next step for Eckroth

It was a lot of fun, but also very focused on creating something special.

“It’s not like I’m just writing and then we were like, ‘Dude, let’s make a record,’” Eckroth said.

“It was more like ‘Let’s make a record’ and then I started writing it. So I kind of took my jazz background and wrote a bunch of songs. And Tim produced it. in a way that made it a little more distant than jazz. “

In some ways, Eckroth sees “The Garden” as a logical extension of what she and Lefebvre did on his previous album, “When it Falls,” which he also produced.

“It was a similar starting point, I guess,” she says.

“The album before that was a singer-songwriter album called ‘Let Go’, with more acoustic instruments. ‘When it Falls’ had a lot more synths and electronic stuff. So it kind of led. to this next project. “

She had written a lot of lyrics, so she ended up singing more on that one.

“This instrumental record allows me to take a little break from my singing career, or to be recognized as a singer and kind of make my mark as a keyboardist, because I started that way”, she says.

“I didn’t really sing my own stuff until I was 30.”

Eckroth took to jazz at Thunderbird High School

Eckroth began to engage in “really strong” jazz at age 15 while living in Phoenix and playing in the Thunderbird High School Jazz Band.

“For a long time they had a really good jazz band there,” she says.

“And they sent me to a jazz camp one summer, where I was really amazed to learn chords, harmony and improvisation and to be able to create on the spot.”

She had been playing the piano for almost a decade by then, having started at age 6, and the thrill had long since subsided.

“At one point, when I was little, I wanted to stop playing the piano,” she says.

“I was like, ‘I don’t really know why I’m doing this.’ And then I found it in high school. The creative process. When you play jazz, it’s all up to you right now. So it worked for me. That’s what I liked about it. “

Eckroth also began to make forays into the Phoenix jazz scene, sitting with Dennis Rowland’s band while still in high school.

“He kind of took me under his wing when I was young and let me jam with these guys,” she says. “Which was really a big deal.”

Eckroth also played some early gigs in Tucson.

“I did my first gig in Tucson because my brother Mike needed a sub,” she says.

“He’s a year older than me and he’s a pianist. So he brought me in for maybe three weeks in a row. I drove to a concert on Wednesday night in a little bar.”

Eckroth’s music is constantly evolving

She had revisited Tucson before the pandemic on a trip to Sonic Ranch.

“And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, Tucson is really cool. I lived here for a short time when I was young.’ It was so beautiful. I was looking at the mountains. And it got a little stuck in the back of my head, like, ‘Hey, if we ever want to move, that would be a beautiful place.’

Eckroth plans to sing a bit at the Nash with a trio of Lefebvre and Euman.

“It will mainly be the music for ‘The Garden’ and a few other compositions that just weren’t on record,” Eckroth said.

“There is a song on this record, ‘Dried Up Roots’ that I’m going to sing and another called ‘Circling’ that I did in 2020 with Donny McCaslin, the saxophonist of ‘The Garden’, it was the same. kind of atmosphere. “

Eckroth attributes in part the tours she has taken with other artists to the ever-changing nature of her own career trajectory.

“It’s not like they’re lucky,” Eckroth said.

“These are actually super talented people who have something special, new and different to show the world. Stuff like that makes me think, ‘OK, let me work harder. Don’t let me do the same. thing over and over again. Let me keep reaching. ‘”

Rachel Eckroth at the Nash

When: 7:30 p.m. on Saturday December 4.

Or: The Nash, 110 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix.

Admission: $ 32 to $ 40 ($ 12.80 for students)

Details: 602-795-0464, thenash.org.

Contact the reporter at ed.masley@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4495. Follow him on twitter @EdMasley.

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