Certain songs have a way of making a girl want to dance in a field of daisies and then sit for a spell, picking apart the flower while reciting “He loves me; he loves me not.”
Singer-songwriter Rebecca Roubion has a knack for weaving enchantingly candid lyrics and melodies that bring out that inner giddy schoolgirl – or that crushed adolescent – in us all. Paired with her effervescent piano arrangements and pure, haunting vocals, her charming tunes can be likened to peeking in your best friend’s diary, reading pages of stories you’ve lived, but with new, engaging perspective. It’s fitting then, that teenage journaling in the midst of her first heartbreak inspired the indie folk artist’s first song. “I was always kind of an artsy girl, ” Roubion says. “So my friend said, ‘You should keep a journal of all your feelings and heartache.’ Then I just couldn’t turn it off. I couldn’t stop writing.”
When she left Mobile to attend Louisiana State University, Roubion already had a couple of talent show appearances (“I won McGill-Toolen’s my senior year.”) and her first radio play (on 97.5 WABB in 2006) under her belt. Although she erred on the side of practicality, choosing a public relations major, her musical dreams still tugged at her heartstrings. While in Baton Rouge, she immersed herself in her new town’s intoxicating musical culture and that of nearby New Orleans, playing in bars and absorbing the area’s soulful vibes.
Junior year, a few of her recordings caught a westward wind, and she received a call from record execs in Hollywood. They flew the green 20-year-old cross-country for big-time meetings. “It was a whirlwind for me – really exciting – but they had the idea that I should be this kind of Sheryl Crow guitar-playing rocker, and that was not me at all. I decided to hone my sound on my own and develop as an artist – as Rebecca. I took a step back and asked, ‘Who am I? What is my sound? What is my signature?’”
The Road to a Record
A week after graduation, the aspiring musician spread her wings and made the haul to Nashville. Today, the 25-year-old songwriter’s scribbling is incessant. “Melodies often pop in my head while I’m driving, in the shower or in the interim between sleeping and awake. I’ll be up at midnight and have to record a demo on my phone. I have about 125 recordings, different ideas, in my phone right now. Nine times out of 10, I wake up, listen to it and ask, ‘What was I thinking?’ But sometimes I come up with the hook right then and there.”
In the past three years, her musical anthology has matured immeasurably, yet her raw sincerity still shines through. “My songs, to me, are like people. They all have their own personality, and they’re all created differently.” Her debut EP, “Fields, ” includes the quick, quirky “Vacherie Girl, ” an ode to her grandparents’ love story.
Oh, angels swayed on the day that I met ya’
I am a Vacherie girl, you were a farmer from Iowa
Canopy of green in New Orleans, that famous courtyard
I asked for your hand, a life began, and we made it this far.
Because you are my heart. Forever, honey, you, you are my heart.
The title track, “Love Me Now, ” is a flirty tune indicative of her silly sense of self. Roubion says it’s about “the playful, whimsical stages of a blooming relationship, when we’re just that excited about our new beau or belle.
“Funny enough, I was having a frustrated moment with this one and cast it aside. Then when it came time to meet with my producer for the album, I was showing him all my material in my catalog. He asked was that it, and I said, ‘Well, there’s this one song.’ He said, ‘This is a record. You have to finish. It’s amazing.’ So I did, and it was our No. 1, and now I’m shooting the music video for it.”
I tiptoed through the trees
You kissed me
In the chrysanthemums
I sent a little spy,
Heard through the vine it’s on
The tip of your tongue
You, you wanna test the waters
Now, now that you broke the ice
You made me slip and I wounded all my pride
Oh, all my pride
Say it’s me you found
Finally, say you love me now
The accompanying music reflects her signature sound, which is a product of the places that define her. “Mobile has that Southern roots flavor, not quite country, but a homey vulnerability to it. In Louisiana, I picked up a bluesy, soulful vibe, and now in Nashville, I’ve pulled more folk and pop influences. It’s a combination.”
Soaring to New Heights
As the up-and-comer makes her way around the Music City performing at world-renowned venues, like The Bluebird Café and Musicians Corner, and tours the Southeast, making recent stops home in Mobile at Catt’s Avalon 360 and Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, Rebecca is unafraid. With each performance, she rips out those once-guarded diary pages and tosses them to the heavens, letting them rain down on listeners who continue to connect with her music.
“I’ve been jaded along the way – the industry is a monster – but I’m excited to have two records under my belt, one that’s been released, ‘Fields, ’ and then ‘Forests’ is coming really soon.” Putting her P.R. chops to good use, she is keeping her fans on the edges of their seats, vowing to release the darker, more melancholy second EP on May 7.
When asked when she’ll be satisfied that she’s achieved her dreams, Rebecca pauses, and then pensively responds, “Although I’m still very green in my career, there have been moments already, when I’ve felt like, ‘My gosh, I’m living my dream.’ One of those was in a studio, where I was playing ‘Here Lies My Pulse’ on the most beautiful piano in Nashville, with this film crew all around me recording it live. I thought, ‘I cannot believe I’m sitting here doing this right now.’ It’s all a part of the journey.”
Snippets from a Songbird
Full Name Rebecca Anne Roubion
Nicknames “Becca” or “Ruby”
Born The second of five children, Rebecca was born June 5, 1987 in New Orleans. Her family moved to Mobile in 1991 when she was 5 years old.
Parents Robert and Anne Marie. “My family, and in a very special way, my dad, has been my backbone throughout my music career. My dad always said that if you can make people laugh and you can make people cry in one concert, then you’ve achieved the purpose of music. So I’ve lived by that.”
High School McGill-Toolen Catholic High School
First Piano Teacher When she was in second grade, Rebecca, her father and her brothers and sisters began taking classical piano lessons from a neighbor, Irma Weber. “When I first sat down to her piano, it scared the bejesus out of me. Learning the craft from a theoretical standpoint was good for me, but I would always memorize a piece and play it by ear, so I think I was born a songwriter.”
In High School, she continued her studies with Pam Horton, learning to play a more pop style. “I took from her until I started writing music. My parents let all of my brothers and sisters quit before they let me. I think they saw that I loved it, even though I didn’t always think so at the time.”
Musical Genre “To me, it’s definitely pop music, but in the way that Feist or Florence + the Machine is pop. It’s got a hook, something for people to grab on to, but it’s done in a way that’s a little bit more alternative and indie, in that it’s not so mainstream Top 40 that it makes your hair stand up. Since moving to Nashville, it’s gotten a little bit more folky, more storytelling.”
Favorite Artist The late, great Eva Cassidy. “Most people have never heard of her, but she was amazing.”
Favorite Song “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt
Most Influential Songwriter/ Record That changes any given week. Right now, Ray LaMontagne’s “Trouble” album.
Best Thing to Listen to when Driving Over the Bay 92 ZEW
Day Job While paying her dues as an aspiring musician, side jobs pay the bills. “I also nanny and work at (the eclectic boutique) Anthropologie. It’s been good, because their brand really coincides with my image as an artist, and I’ve actually met a lot of other singer-songwriters, photographers, fashion designers and stylists working there. So that has been a great community for me.”
Favorite Nashville Celebrity Sightings “I had the privilege of playing for recording artist Audrey Assad. That was a big deal for me; she’s a hero of mine. Christian musician David Crowder was at that very show. And I have ridden an elevator with Taylor Swift once, but I’ve never performed for her – maybe next time I see her.”
Favorite Snack to Eat While Touring on the Road Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
If You Were a Cocktail, What Would You Be? An old-fashioned – a little sweet but a little sassy.
Rebecca in Three Words Quirky, awkward, genuine
Do you Tweet? Yes. @rebeccaroubion
To hear songs from “Fields” or to purchase the EP, visit rebeccaroubion.com.
Text by Lawren Largue • Photos by Adair Freeman