For Portland-based folk singer Erisy Watt, returning to Santa Barbara for a gig at SOhO Restaurant and Music Club is going back to her musical beginning.
While attending UCSB to get a degree in environmental studies, the singer-songwriter knew she wanted to pursue music professionally and began writing songs and performing them around town as a serious hobby. Her earliest gigs included playing at UCSB open mics, busking at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market every Tuesday, and performing at local venues like SOhO, where she will perform on Aug.18.
Unlike the last time she played the venue in May 2017, Ms. Watt is promoting her debut LP “Paints in the Sky,” which was released July 26.
During an interview with the News-Press on Tuesday, Ms. Watt expressed satisfaction with her first record, praising it as a successful representation of her sound, which she described as a mixture of ’60s folk, jazz, and Brazilian bossa nova.
“I’m really proud of the project. It’s 11 songs and I feel it really captures my sound,” she said.
When asked to name artists who influenced the music on her album, she mentioned Joni Mitchell, Billie Holiday, and Nora Jones.
Originally from Nashville, Ms. Watt didn’t start taking music seriously until she arrived in Santa Barbara to attend college. Therefore, much of her formative time as a musician was spent here and in retrospect she believes her sound was largely influenced by Santa Barbara’s natural beauty, its people and its lifestyle.
“I credit Santa Barbara as a place that really helped me develop my sound,” she said.
Her lyrics are also heavily influenced by such Southeast Asian countries as Thailand, Indonesia and Nepal, where she spends part of her year leading environmental field studies programs for college students. According to a press release, Ms. Watt spends her time in these countries working with their local ecologies, which inspires her to write songs influenced by “phenomena in the natural world that she witnesses and engages with directly.”
The singer added that these countries’ cultures heavily encourage introspection, which has brought many song ideas out of her. In addition to her experiences with nature, Ms. Watt said her lyrics are more generally about “personal experience” and come together as a result of her daily journaling. She described her songs as “bits and pieces of journal entries” that end up forming coherent thoughts, as sometimes these excerpts get transformed into lyrics.
As much as she enjoys getting her songs recorded and the fact that she has finally made her debut album, Ms. Watt said nothing quite competes with performing live, calling it both a “special” and “vulnerable” experience.
“I think performing is probably my favorite because it’s such a direct and intimate way to connect with the people in the room,” she said.
When she returns to Santa Barbara to play one of her earliest venues, Ms. Watt looks forward to reconnecting with the community and expects that she will see many familiar faces in the audience, including some who go all the way back to her musical beginning at UCSB. Following her SOhO concert, Ms. Watt and her four-piece band will perform in San Luis Obispo before they travel farther up the coast and end up back in her home base of Portland. After that, Ms. Watt and her band will travel to Europe for a six-week tour.Tickets for Ms. Watt’s performance at SOhO can be purchased at www.sohosb.com and are $10 apiece. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show begins at 7:30 p.m.