You should know Roxi Copland. Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick does–and he’s on her mailing list. And if you already know her, this rockstar following will come as no surprise to you. For those of you who are a little behind, let me help. She got her start in the Des Moines music scene, and while she may have taken her act elsewhere (lucky for Vancouver!), Roxi, 29, hasn’t forgotten Des Moines. And the city hasn’t forgotten her, either. With a new album out, Pretty Lies, she’s scheduled to make her way back into town on her upcoming tour.
Read on to get a better feel for this jazzy bombshell.
Band Bombshell: Describe your new album, Pretty Lies, in three words that begin with an “S.”
Roxi Copland: Oooh, word games. Fab. Let’s say sophisticated, yet slightly scandalous.
BB: Tell me about your musical career. How did it get started, where was your first show, the bands you’ve been in.
RC: Semi-Succinct (hey! Two more S’s!) version: I started playing the piano at age four. My first solo performance was also at that age–I think I sang “O Little Town of Bethlehem” at my church. After that, I listened to every album I could get my hands on and tried a variety of different instruments (tenor sax, alto sax, flute), but I always came back to the piano. As a kid I liked the fact that I could play a bunch of notes at once. I played in as many groups as I could throughout school, and studied Music Performance & Composition at Grinnell College in Iowa. I had just graduated and was trying to figure out how the hell I was going to make a living playing music when I sat in with a friend’s band at Summerset Winery. A guy there heard me and hired me to sing with a Des Moines-based Top 40 cover band. I made a living doing that for about a year-and-a-half while working on some of my own material and playing shows under my name on the side occasionally . It allowed me to meet a lot of Midwest musicians and figure out the local scene. I quit the cover band in September of 2006 because I wanted to perform my own music, and I’ve been doing this ever since.
BB: How long did it take you to write and record Pretty Lies?
RC: The album is a mix of old and new tunes–I think the oldest song on Pretty Lies is one I wrote while in college, and the newest one I finished just a couple months before I recorded the album, so it’s kind of hard to say. But the recording process went pretty quick. I spent a week recording it in November of 2011 at Capp Audio Productions in Norwalk, IA. It’s a solo acoustic album, so it was just me & a baby grand, which meant we could get the tunes down pretty quickly.
BB: How has your sound progressed as you’ve grown as a musician? Any giant changes?
RC: When I first started performing under my own name I was playing other peoples’ tunes, especially jazz standards, and that showed in the writing of my early original songs. With every recording project I’ve done, I think I’ve gotten a little closer to figuring out what ‘my’ sound is. The first couple EPs I recorded I labeled as ‘jazz/pop.’ I would say Pretty Lies is more along the lines of ‘Rootsy Jazz/Pop’. I’ve noticed elements of blues, southern rock & soul making little appearances in the tunes I’ve been writing most recently, and I’m totally fine with that.
BB: Give me a success story, a moment when you’ve felt, “Yeah, I really love doing this.”
RC: I’m fortunate to have had a number of those. The easy answer here is anytime I’m on tour, sharing songs I’ve written with people. A specific example was a show in Rockford, Ill. when Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick came up to me after the performance, said, “You’re pretty good, kid” and signed up for my email list. I’m a little ashamed to admit I didn’t even recognize him until a friend there freaked out because Rick was talking to me. (I’m going to blame that on tour fatigue and context—honestly, who expects to see Rick Nielsen at some random venue?) Anyway, he (Nielsen) gave me a guitar pick with his name on it. I still have it.
BB: Any on-the-road advice for first-time tourers?
RC: Drink lots of water. Don’t party too hard, because you need to perform at your best Every. Single. Night. You have no f***ing idea when Rick Nielsen is going to be in the audience. Try to sleep as much as you can, and eat right because fast food is evil and will make you feel like shit. Be thankful, and stick around to talk to people afterwards as much as possible–they just spent money to see you and buy your album. They’re the reason you get to keep doing this. Make sure they know you appreciate them.
BB: Where is the best local music scene, in your opinion?
RC: I don’t think I have an answer for that. Any scene that supports local independent music makes me happy. Des Moines will always be among my favorites, obviously. It’s where I got my start.
BB: What’s your favorite song off of your new album and why is it your favorite?
RC: Probably the first track off the album, entitled “Heavy Load.” I got into an argument with a family member who has everything going for him but always blames everyone else for his problems. I wrote a song about it because I was having trouble telling him to his face (no one likes to ruin the family Thanksgiving). I’m kind of curious to see if he figures out it’s about him, which is probably not very nice of me–-but you asked.
BB: When’s your next tour date? When will you be hitting up Des Moines/which venue will you be playing?
RC: My month-long Pretty Lies Album Release Tour kicks off May 3rd, and Des Moines is the final date of the tour–it’s a bit of a homecoming party for me. The Des Moines performance will take place Friday, June 1st at 8p.m. at the Temple Theater. Tickets go on sale to my mailing list via Ticketmaster on April 23rd, and they’ll be available to the public starting April 25th. For more info on that show & all the other upcoming tour dates, you can check out my website.
BB: Your favorite part of being a musician. Go.
RC: There is nothing cooler than playing a song you wrote to a packed house where everyone is singing it back to you because they know all the words. That’s pretty much the greatest feeling in the world.