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is the singer/songwriter of
Pale Beneath The Blue
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Review, interview and HTLM © Russell W Elliot 2005
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Last updated: 28 March 2005
Rhonda Everitt is a gifted vocalist and talented musician whose work spans a full length album with Rhe, a group she founded in the mid-1990s to her most recent project with Patrice Schlick under the moniker Pale Beneath The Blue. From her own biography, "Thoughtful, at times angry, and extremely philosophical, Everitt's work reflects everyday regrets and future hopes. She cut her teeth on "Out from Within," a 4-song EP, as well as her first full-length release, Fairy Tales & Happy Endings. Everitt toured regionally in support of the album, was heard on nearly 100 radio stations nationwide, and was the only Dayton act to land a spot on WOXY's (woxy.com) annual competition for emerging local talent two different years (2001/2003)."
"A motorcycle accident in July 2002 that shattered her lower left leg temporarily halted Rhonda's burgeoning success. A grueling year-and-a-half recovery period that included 18 surgeries found Everitt with a lot of time to write; a healing process itself. During this time, she penned many of the songs on Pale Beneath the Blues recording, with a new writing style." Read our exclusive interview with Rhonda below as well as our reviews of Fairy Tales & Happy Endings and her latest recording Hologram.
Hi Rhonda. To begin, will you please tell us about your background.
Rhonda Everitt: I grew up in Piqua, OH--not exactly the music mecca of the world--singing in church, taking dance lessons and my music teacher mother getting me involved in musicals and piano lessons, school band, and orchestra. Originally, I played trumpet and violin, moved on to French horn and viola, only to walk away from all of it upon graduation! I hadn’t played an instrument for eight years when I began writing music. In 1997, I left my husband and decided to teach myself guitar.
Were there any projects prior to Rhe?
Rhe was pretty much the beginning of it all. It started slow and rough, but eventually became what is on the record. During the 1˝ years we were recording Fairy Tales, we also put out an EP. Prior to that, I was writing Contemporary Christian music and singing in church. I was still very new at the whole writing thing so playing some of my originals in small local churches was a great place to get started. However, when the music started moving away from mainstream and leaning toward alternative, it was apparent that most folks in the hometown just didn't "get it."
What else can you tell us about Rhe?
I was/am Rhe--I wrote the songs, sang and played the songs, did all the promotion, booking and anything else that needed done. But Rhe very well could have never existed. In the beginning, my bassist, James Mikel encouraged me to search for other players and really get the music out there. Had we not brought our friend, Glenn Unser in to play guitar, we probably never would have played out. Our first big gig was a little ice cream shop in Englewood, OH. We played a few songs and the staff went wild. We got free ice cream.
Where does the name Rhe come from?
Rhe (pronounced ree) is a greek word that means "to flow." I found it in my rhyming dictionary one day while working on a song. Considering that my name is Rhonda Haynes Everitt, I was fascinated--I didn't realize that it was a word. We had to look it up to find out what it meant.
What kind of music--or artists perhaps--has influenced your own?
I believe that we are influenced by everything we hear. Considering that I've been conscious of music since I was able to talk, there’s a plethora of influences there. From hymns, and musicals to top 40, to 80s hard rock, new wave, reggae and more. Understand that I was the kid who never bought a Michael Jackson record, Prince or Madonna. I bought the Hooters, Level 42 and the Go-go's.
What kind of music did you listen to before it all started and what do you listen to now?
When I first started writing, I was very involved in church, but I listened to WOXY (now woxy.com) at work—the music was amazing and I couldn't hear it anywhere else. I remember hearing Sarah McLachlan--back in the Solace days--singing me a song, I just wrote down the words and started playing piano--it was the first Christian song I had written that I thought, "yeah, this is a song."
The first thing I went out and bought after I stopped singing in church was Tori's Little Earthquakes--that record blew me away. I began to learn some of Sarah's newer stuff off Fumbling and picked up things like Crowded House's Woodface, Tori's Under the Pink--her best, in my opinion--Ani's Little Plastic Castles, Liz Phair's Whitechocolatespacegg and Juliana Hatfield’s Only Everything. At the time, I was an interior decorative painter so I listened to these records, soaking in all the nuances, hooks and production ideas. I became fanatical about reading liner notes and studying the artwork of every CD I would get.
Currently, I don’t listen to music all that much. It sounds pretentious, I know, but it is somewhat true. I am around it so much that I really like the quiet. There are a few bands that I love--Cake, The PushStars, Peter Mulvey, Over the Rhine, punk bands. I do listen to the radio in the car, but don’t have a CD player in the car, so if there's nothing good on the radio, I just turn it off. If WOXY.com goes satellite, I might be willing to spend the money. Until then, I'll listen to the high school station down the street and some online stations when I need a new music fix.
How would you characterize Rhe's music?
So how did you develop your voice and where do the inspirations for your work come from?
Honestly, I had taken voice lessons, several years during high school and then again when I began writing. My last teacher really seemed to know his stuff--I was told that his wife sang back-up for Sean Colvin--though I couldn't quite understand what he was trying to teach me until I really started doing this on my own. I think I tried to sound like 10,000 Maniacs, Tori Amos, Leigh Nash from Sixpence None the Richer, and Out of the Grey. But I had grown up with Karen Carpenter, The Go-go's, and Anita Baker.
Most of the Fairy Tales record was inspired by actual events. "Mary Ellen" was written after I heard that Tori Amos' real name was Mary Ellen. I think it's my idea of who Tori might be after listening to Little Earthquakes a million times. The song "Money" was written after reading--for six months--a poem called "Savings Account" by a local poet. Everything else on the record is pretty much about events I witnessed or was somehow involved in.
What was the reaction to Rhe's music like?
People always said, "you have a beautiful voice." I found out later that actually was secret code for "your drummer is too loud." Did the band get out live very much and if so how was that for you and for the audience? Rhe played out a couple times per month except during recording. It was difficult to do much more since three out of four of us were in another project as well. I learned a lot doing Rhe, in recording, booking, promoting. People seemed to like it, but I wasn't very good at getting us in front of the right crowd.
We are aware there was a break between Rhe and Pale Beneath the Blue. Can you tell us in your own words what happened and then how Pale Beneath the Blue emerged?
Actually Rhe still exists, but we changed the name to "A Pretty War" (website). Folks were having a hard time pronouncing it and if you didn’t know how to spell it, you couldn’t google us.
I began working on some material with producer, Blake Althen of Human Factor, in DC. I realized quickly that this was something unique and though it had some of the Rhe nuances, I wanted different instrumentation and really wanted to play live--a lot. The band is great and I love all the guys--they are immensely talented--but they also have lives and didn't really have the drive to hit the road as I did. A fan of mine knew that I was looking for a cellist. He was talking to keyboardist Patrice Schlick of Cincinnati band, Spiff, after a gig and found out that she also plays cello. He immediately contacted me and gave me her info. When we first got together, it was rough, but we kept working at it and now she amazes me--she's added an effects pedal and is constantly trying new things.
How would you characterize the music?
How did it evolve past where you left off with Rhe?
When I started the project, it was my "solo" project--which was pretty funny because Rhe was all mine too and I didn't really get any help from anyone else in the band. I knew from recording Fairy Tales, that I wanted cello, and drum loops. That was really all I could imagine, Blake made it so much more. I basically just took him all the tunes that I didn’t know what to do with. Some of it I liked, some of it wasn’t finished, and then there were songs that I had completely given up on. It can be really frustrating at times, but once you fall into synch with someone, it's mind-boggling what can happen.
Blake helped to write and rearrange some of the tunes, but I was very much involved in the process as well. Neither of us were sure about putting a dance track on the record. I took a blurb of "In 2 U" home after my first trip to DC and for the first time in nearly two years, "danced" in my kitchen. You know, the whole leg thing has taken away parts of me that I'm not always conscious of. It felt really good to just flail around with no purpose for a few minutes. I think that's why I wanted so much to keep it a dance track. We fretted over that song for a while. It finally came together the last day I was there.
Can you tell us about the others that work with you on the project?
Basically everyone on Hologram was "hired." Blake had this crazy idea of adding cymbals to "One I Open." I thought he was insane, but let him run with it. He had an old band mate show up with several cymbals and stands. Chris basically did a few cymbal washes, Blake recorded them and then he threw them all over the record. I think it was Chris who recommended the cellist. Diana came in after I went back to Ohio so I never even met her.
The debut CD for Pale Beneath The Blue has only six songs on it. What are your plans for a full length album?
I'm still working all of that out. I plan to release something this year, but had originally planned to do another band record. But with the band not playing out much, and my penchant for writing lots of weird ľ ballads, I'm not sure how it’s going to turn out yet.
How has the reaction to this new CD been?
It's actually been really awesome. The radio folks seemed to really like it--125 out of 150 college and AAA stations picked it up--as well as entertainment editors at newspaper. It’s just recently hit the internet pretty hard with a nice article at Music Dish. We were quite the hit last fall at the Human Factor showcase at Dewey Beach. We are getting ready to head to SXSW to play a Gogirlsmusic.com showcase and then we’ll be back in Cincinnati to play Chicks Rock Fest in April.
Is there a story you are trying to convey in the album or in any of the individual tracks?
I think the whole album is about me becoming somewhat transparent. There's a lot of personal stuff on this record. Please don't read anything into "Inside" though—that's one that I made up on the fly and Blake wouldn't let me change the lyrics. But everything else has a story, I think mostly it speaks of realizing our imperfections!
Can you tell us how the other performers were selected and a little bit about your experiences working with them.
Generally the folks involved in the recording were friends or acquaintances of Blake and Paula's. I don’t know anyone in DC that I can call up so everyone was new to me. When Blake was tired of dealing with "Inside" and decided that his little brother should come over and make some noise into the mic, again, I thought he was a little "off." It ended up being a few hours of fun with a really talented guy and it let Blake and I take a little mental vacation.
Another little known fact: Blake didn't think I could pull off the dance diva thing, so he invited real-life diva, Rachel Panay over to sing the vocals. Rachel is currently at number 15 on Billboard Dance Charts--but topped out at number 2. Rachel is the real deal, having graduated from Berklee in voice, she blew me away (website). In the end, I recut the vocals but I had a hard time getting the stuff that Rachel did out of my head.
Is there a song that sticks out for you?
Actually, I think they are all really strong. The only thing that stands out for me is "Untitled." I had originally wanted to work with Happy Chichester of Howlin' Maggie. He was involved in the Twilight Singers stuff and I was blown away by what they were doing. We talked, but he was busy so nothing ever happened. I tried to get it on the Fairy Tales record with Steve Van Etten and we couldn't pull it together. I tried old band mate and singer/songwriter, Chris McCoy--again, we didn't get very far. I was thrilled when Blake seemed to read my mind and pull it together rather quickly. He helped me write the lyrics for the bridge and when we added the background vocals, it was one of those magical studio moments where you wonder where it all came from.
Have you had any live performances?
Patrice and I play live shows all the time. It's great! We love to travel and we have met soooo many great and interesting people. It still is tough, though. Being an indie is a lot of work.
Do you think the internet will help your musical career?
I believe that the internet is a great tool. I met Human Factor from having my songs on Cornerband.com. I can communicate with folks all over the world, swap files and talk shop with someone at the press of a button. The folks who invented this should win the Nobel Prize if they haven’t already.
Do you have a day job that our readers might be interested in hearing about?
Patrice does audio and video production. She put together a local McDonald’s commercial using "Kon Tiki Girl" as music--it's available on our website.
I worked at Planet Smoothie during the recording of both records to help cover some of the expenses. I recently quit because I was on the road so much.
What are your hopes, plans and dreams for the rest of 2005?
Recording is first on the list. We are also hoping to expand our touring this year as well as do some videos. There are a lot of options, things that we are proposing and sponsors we are pitching to. We’re also in the process of bringing new folks into the organization--we can no longer do all of this on our own. Personally, I can't wait to see what this year brings, so far, it's been pretty non-stop.
The debut recording by Pale Beneath The Blue is an ecletic six track collection entitled "Hologram" (Reach for the Sky Records (USA) RFTS 070406, 2004). Expertly produced, Rhonda's vocal work is supported by arrangements from various guest artists selected by producer Blake Althen. The recording opens with a gentle yet upbeat alternative style rocker entitled "Little Secrets" very much in a Tori Amos- or Kate Bush-style. The significant growth in this recording over Rhonda's work with Rhe is evident from the start, not only in production quality, but especially in the vocal mix, with lovely layers of backing harmony to add further textures. We especially enjoyed the piano parts within the arrangements
Rhonda's voice soars evocatively in the tender piano-accompanied ballad "Untitled." Sparsely arranged, it is a lyrically strong song with vocals that drive the wonderful melody that is further supported with lovely harmonies in the chorus. Pulsating bass dance rhythms and electronic arrangements characterize "Inside." Again Rhonda's lead vocal soars above the arrangement, with additional dance music-styled layers and spoken parts adding further texture, clearly demonstrating the artist's significant growth. And in sharp contrast, Hologram continues with the piano-based melody of the ballad "One I Open," Rhonda's lead vocoal searching well above Diana's melancholy cello.
Alternative electronic arrangements with thick bass form the foundation of the evocatively delivered "I Believe." The melody is downtempo but memorable and Rhonda's lush self-harmonies in the chorus are breathtaking. Hologram concludes with the robust dance number "In 2 U." The piece clearly builds on "Inside" with electronics and percussion driving the tune. Processed layers of vocals work with the uptemp disco-themed pulsating rhythms delivering sound of great proportions. "In 2 U" is a tremendous contrast to the balance of Hologram and provides an exciting conclusion to the EP.
Rhe's first full lenth recording Fairy Tales & Happy Endings (Reach For the Sky Records (USA) RFTS030219, 2003) is certain to draw significant attention from female vocal enthusiasts. Rhonda Everitt's evocative delivery soars amongst diverse keyboard- and guitar-based arrangements.
The album opens with the alternative sounds of "Out From Within." Then supported by a lovely piano melody is the standout ballad entitled "Mary Ellen." As Rhonda explains in our interview above, the song is about Tori Amos, and clearly the song's structure--both in instrumental arrangement and vocal delivery--is appropriately reminscent. Keyboard washes and further electric guitar excursions add lovely texture to the number.
Shimmering electric guitars provide the foundation for the upbeat "Kon Tiki Girl," a modern rocker that provides Rhonda a platform to demonstrate the more accessible side of alternative music. The more starkly arranged ballad entitled "1000 Miles" is backed primarily by electric piano. Rhonda's vocals are mixed appropriately high--well above the arrangements--in this number.
Superbly rich rock arrangements--maybe this is the track Rhonda thought the drums are too loud in--support lead and tender backing vocals in the upbeat track "Monster." Shimmering electric guitars and pulsating bass add to the thick texture of the arrangement. "803" is an upbeat and more accessible tune than "Mary Ellen," although written in a similar Tori Amos style. The melancholiness of "Wasted" is driven home by evocative yet crystalline vocals and otherwise warm keyboard washes. A slide guitar solo adds a wistful texture in spots. The album concludes with the upbeat Ani DiFranco-style standout tune "Money." Rapid-paced electric piano provides the foundation for Rhonda's tremendous multi-layered vocal delivery. From the back half of the album, "803" and "Money" are certain to draw the same attention as "Mary Ellen" and "Kon Tiki Girl" which are the standouts from the first half. Superb.
Fairy Tales & Happy Endings is as enjoyable today as it was when originally released a couple of years ago. The eight tracks clearly demonstrate Rhonda Everitt's musical virtuousity and ability to express a range of emotions in a variety of settings. While things moved on beyond Rhe since, this album established a foundation for what is likely to be a very bright future.
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