The fact that Rebecca Lappa is releasing her fourth album at age 17 is a pretty clear indicator she’s not your typical high school student.
While her friends are keeping up on the latest pop hits, Rebecca Lappa has been sinking her teeth into world music and brushing up on history.
Saturday night at Roxy Theatre, the folk singer and multi-instrumentalist will release her new CD Ode to Tennyson, a diverse album based on works by 19th Century British poet Lord Alfred Tennyson.
Lappa says Top 40 fare has just never drawn her in the way a good book does.
“I guess I don’t feel like there’s enough story in the music. It’s just the same chorus over and over again. It’s like, ‘Well I heard that part already. Is there going to be something interesting happening in this song, or you’re just going to say you’re at the club?’ ” she says.
“I mean, I haven’t been to a club yet, but lots of people have. I just prefer songs that have stories that actually mean something.”
The album has already earned Lappa a nomination for Young Performer of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, the latest in a long list of nominations and awards.
Ode to Tennyson starts with Charge of the Light Brigade — a grisly “Irish war song” that builds to an upbeat Celtic-folk charge — and slows right down for The Earl, a sparse and haunting number with vocal inflections reminiscent of Lorde.
Lappa schooled herself on music from across the globe to suit the lyrics for each of the album’s 11 tracks, while also drawing inspiration from Canadian artists like Sarah McLachlan and Loreena McKennitt.
“I wrote the music catering to the stories specifically,” she explains.
“I have a song in there that’s about the Roma people, so I’ve been listening to stuff from their culture. I’ve been listening to some Celtic stuff and jazz and Mariachi bands, different things like that, to help create the themes that those specific songs were looking for.”
MATURE AND COMPLEX
The songs on Ode to Tennyson are impressively mature and complex.
A $10,000 RAWLCO Radio Grant helped take Lappa’s arrangements to the next level with a team of veteran musicians including guitarist Gord Matthews — who has worked with k.d. lang and Ian Tyson - and producer Barry Allen, a local rock legend who scored Canadian Top 40 hits in the 1960s. She also got help from Edmonton’s Maria Dunn, who added whistle and accordion, and members of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra among others.
With a remarkable list of accomplishments that include writing and performing an entire folk opera based on Tennyson’s poem The Sisters, and pulling off a one-woman musical at Nextfest in May called The Great Edmonton Elephant Stampede From 1926, Lappa’s future holds limitless possibilities.
She hopes to get accepted to the songwriting program at Boston’s Berklee College of Music after she graduates, and would love to pen some big hits — but not for herself.
“I want to write for other people for a living, so then I don’t have to be confined to one genre,” she says.
“I don’t really need to be on stage with 50,000 people watching me. If somebody else gets to do that with my music, then that’s good. I don’t really like a lot of attention.”
Lappa will perform with a four-piece backing band Saturday.
Rocky Mountain House duo The Doll Sisters will open the show and release their new album Off the Edge of the Earth.
Tickets are $14 through the Roxy Theatre Box Office at 780-453-2440.
Maimann: Rebecca Lappa's latest album pure poetry