Eva Schubert, lady of jazz, history podcaster, and renaissance polymath, joins us to discuss her new album, “The Feel of Your Love.” In this exclusive interview, we talk all things Eva, the development of albums past and present, and even some history!
Rock the Joint Magazine invites you to join us for a drink in a downtown jazz club. It’s a moment in 1922 in downtown New Orleans, and far off in the White House, the president is enjoying a card game and an illicit whiskey. In the club, the smoke circles and all eyes are drawn to the sassy smooth singer who is leading the song “Voodoo Magic Man.” This is the world a part of me wishes I could go back to, but just maybe we can!
I got a fever
Can’t clear my head
All I want to do Is crawl back into bed
I called the doctor But he didn’t have a plan
The only one left to call Is the voodoo magic man… (lyrics for “Voodoo Magic Man,” Eva Schubert)
And so we introduce Eva Schubert, the Vancouver-based songwriter, jazz vocalist, and history podcaster who joined us for a chat about all things connected to her new album “The Feel of Your Love,” which is out November 4th. Her fourth album is something to look forward to with its dreamy jazz and soul heart that provides a superb vehicle for this talented lady.
After an initial discussion on history, which always happens when you put historians together – Anne Boleyn was noted, and Eva has done an episode on her (Queen of Scandal) for her podcast, then we started to discuss all things music. It’s no surprise, perhaps, that Eva shares a love of the late, great Nina Simone, an artist we frequently praise here at the magazine (and whose gospel music we are considering doing a piece on), and Nina seemed like a great place to start.
Eva- She was very daring and courageous as a musician. I see her as someone who had her own path but it was thwarted to an extent. She wanted to be a concert pianist, and she ended up being a vocalist almost by accident, as the night club owners would tell her it would be better if she sang as well. So her voice became what she is known for.
At the magazine, we had a listen to some of the back catalogue before talking to Eva and wanted to bring up the 2017 album “Borderless Sky.” There is a wonderful song on that album called “Traces of You,” as it is an exciting, vibrant track. On that album, Eva is (for us) the jazz singer in the introduction to this feature (the Voodoo Magic Man vibe), but we wondered how she reflected on that album now.
Eva-“Voodoo Magic Man” is from my first album, “Songs for a Ladies Man,” and the goal with the trumpets at the time was to connect with swing and that New Orleans feeling. I am a big fan of trumpets and like to return to them. There are hot, sizzling trumpets; up-tempo ones; or haunting Chet Baker ones. I’m a fan generally. When I started in music, I concentrated particularly on jazz, and there are certain eras of jazz. I imagined Louis Armstrong could sing “Traces of You.” When I was composing it, I was singing it, and it felt like Louis Armstrong for sentiment and style. That was perfect at that time, as that was the mind space I was in. If you feel happy listening to it, then it’s successful. If music can change a mood, then it’s doing its job. But there’s a song on “Borderless Sky” called “They Say,” and I felt like Nat King Cole would be right at home with it when I wrote it.
I’d also point toward a blues influence on that particular album. It opens with a blues number called “Backcountry Blues,” which is a clear old-style blues number.
Eva- That is one of my absolute favourites of all time! It’s one of the first I wrote, maybe around the time I began to write, as before writing that song I wondered if I had a musical bone in my body!
So, developmentally, we wondered how Eva felt she had changed as a writer since “Borderless Sky” and how Eva felt the tempo of her music had changed post 2017. If you listen to the new album back-to-back with the old one, there is a clear artistic movement into slightly new territory.
Eva- The first two albums were done with the same producer and arranger, so the combination of people in the room will influence the brew you come out with. It depends on who you are working with. You come in with an idea, but the musicians will bring something in as well, so it becomes a dynamic. This album and 2019’s “Hot Damn Romance” had a different producer and a different set of musicians. There are at least 4 songs on this album. This is strongly jazz, but not necessarily jazz in the same sense as the first two albums.
We noted a jazz swing in the earlier music and Eva noted this was not an accident as she used to be into swing dancing and so the music that accompanied that was something she enjoyed moving to. They are great songs to listen to or dance to, and Eva still brings those songs into the set when there is dancing at the venue. Moving to the new album, the first thing to note is that amazing album cover. A touch of Georgian magic, the dress with the red folds, and the whole appearance and artistry has to be commended.
Eva- That was an act of co-creating. But the history nerd within me loves it. I’ve spent time in the Vatican museum and so on looking at art and being fascinated by it. Then I came across a local photographer, Don Gavin, and it blew me away as his images looked like paintings. I felt it was amazing how he made pictures look almost Tudor, and others from different time periods. He is unique, and I reached out to him…but it is co-creating my ideas with his, going for that Baroque feel, the lavish satin, and the way the fabric sits. I rented the dress for the day, and he came in and did his magic. It’s everything I wanted it to be.
We played the new album through, and it really is satisfying in every sense. It lifts you away from the day-to-day troubles and transports you to a happier place! One of our favourites was “Dark Star” on the new album as it, again, takes the listener back into that late night club. It has some sway, and it is a cousin to the earlier work, perhaps. There is a link to listen to it below, and Eva talked to us about it.
Eva- Dark Star was a special one. It had its own genesis that was different from the rest of the album. What was happening was that I was writing the bulk of the material for this album during lockdown. I was working on the songs myself, and it was a solitary occupation, but something I could focus on. Then I was walking around the local park and there is a pond, a lovely place where people will play live music and so on. That evening at the pond, a man was playing guitar with music backing him on a box. I stopped to listen as he had this Latin American feel and it reminded me a bit of Fado, that melancholy but beautiful music from Portugal. It is distinct, and I stopped, listened, and then walked on and developed ideas from a melody. It developed from this sonic palate, and I tried to fit the words to it. It was always going to be wistful and full of longing, but it has a melancholic passion.
When I took it to my producer, he would normally mock it up for a demo, but with this one he was unsure what to do as it was different from my other jazz styles. It’s not really blues, and where there were demos of the other songs, when we got into the Toronto studio to record, he had no demo. So I was in the studio with the session musicians and him and there was nothing to show them, so I got up and sang it A Capella. I sang it through once, and then the second time I began, they joined in, the drummer and so on, and it was incredible as they had completely understood the mood. It was all of the same cloth, and it emerged like magic in front of me.
Then there is the song “Springtime,” which is such great fun. Eva sings “Nothing to do till the sun comes through” and it has this great rhythm and mood. You can dance to this one around the kitchen (or anywhere else if you so choose).
Eva- That one came from one of the darkest days of the pandemic, maybe in deep December, when I was in a depressed place with being shut up. So I did what I often do if I am in a bad place, and I headed into the mountains by myself, as I am a fanatical hiker. But it was mid-winter and I pulled up to the parking lot and the wind and rain were arctic. It was pounding down. I remember pulling my hood up and putting my gloves on, and I thought, ‘I don’t care’, I will get up that hill. I went up the hill and it was insane. There was no-one else around and the rain was turning to slush and snow. There was no view, and it was cold and wet. And during that walk, I began to write that song, putting the lyrics together. There was nothing else to do until better days.
Out of the misery came forth sweetness! It is a song that really makes you smile. It may be singing the blues, but it entertains all the time with a tune as sweet as honey. But that is the beauty of the blues. It is something Shirley King said to us. The blues entertains and uplifts; it is not depressing music, even if the themes can be. That is why we dubbed Shirley King the Great Entertainer, because the blues aims to entertain, and music uplifts. Eva presents exactly that tradition, a tradition of entertaining and uplifting music.
Eva- That is ultimately what it is all about. Some people see music as a journal of personal experience when they start. But as an artist we take our own experiences, and that of others around us, and we turn that into a vehicle for other people to see themselves in. We carry the emotions of others so the listener can inhabit that song. The listener can connect and the mood can change. It is a kind of alchemy. The magic of the blues is not that you feel blue when you listen to it; the blues can make you feel better when you are having a bad time. It changes the colour in your mind.
We liked that line so much! Eva talked about the development of blues from gospel, and how gospel music developed from the slaves and their hardships. We loved the stories in songs and the connections, and it was so interesting to hear about the development of this album. It is very much the case that Eva Schubert is in business to entertain, and to deliver her podcast too-a new one on the Spanish Inquisition awaits. For anyone wanting to check out her Villains and Virgins podcast, the link is here!
The official Eva Schubert Website
By Benny (The Ball) Benson
Mark C Chambers