Growing up, Molly Burch would impersonate pop stars for her sister as a joke. By the time high school came around, Burch’s sister had turned the joke around on her by writing and directing a play in which she forced Burch to sing Frank Sinatra’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” entirely a cappella.
The experience was, understandably, nerve-racking for Burch, who today pens gentle, personal songs that seem more suited for a bedroom than a lighted stage.
During a phone conversation earlier this month, Burch indicated to me that music has always been “a very solitary act” for her. “I was quite shy and insecure … I didn’t have the courage to sing in front of people for a really long time,” she said.
Yet, there still is something incredibly lonely about being on stage. When the spotlight is thrust upon you, it forces you -- whether you like it or not -- to become a beacon in the darkness.
But Burch quickly realized that becoming that beacon was something that she was drawn to even though she wasn’t sure she would be able to pursue something that would cause her to be so extroverted.
On her new album, “Please Be Mine,” Burch modulates her introversion by navigating through communal experiences of heartbreak, loss and regret. You might say she’s become her own beacon, and she’s steering herself to calm amidst the stormy waters of her heart.
The album is not entirely autobiographical, however. While she wrote much of the album during a break up, it’s also partly an exercise in imagination and perspective. (I should note that she’s happily back together with her ex-boyfriend, and he helped name the album and pick the title track.) Channeling Hollywood musicals (both of her parents were in the movie business) and cool, collected songstresses like Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, Burch displays an understated confidence in her craft that is inviting and disarming. The subtlety demands a listener’s full attention.
When I asked her if she had ever had a bad experience performing given her tendency toward introversion, Burch told me, “I don’t think I’ve had a bad experience. I think that any experience is good even if it seems bad. It’s a learning experience.”
The same might be said -- as Burch makes manifest in her art -- for love and loss.
Molly Burch plays the Casbah on Friday, April 28, with Sallie Ford and John Meeks. Tickets are available here.
Rutger Rosenborg was almost a Stanford neuroscientist before he formed Ed Ghost Tucker. He now plays in the Lulls and makes music on his own when he's not writing. Follow his updates on Facebook or contact him directly.