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This article by Kevin L. Carter was prepared for the April 12, 2006
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Havrilla: Just a Girl with a Guitar
Christine Havrilla was doing one of the things that makes her the
happiest. She was driving in her SUV down I-85 in North Carolina, not
far from Charlotte and the South Carolina border.
"I like being on the road," she says in an interview via cell phone
from her car. "I love the trips, driving, seeing different places.
Usually when I am on a tour, I have friends everywhere I go, so I
really like seeing them and crashing with them."
The thing that makes her happiest, of course, is singing and playing
her guitar. That’s what she has done for a living for about a decade,
garnering some serious accolades along the way.
Havrilla, a singer-songwriter who lives in Conshohocken, PA, performs
Friday, April 14 at Triumph Brewing Company in New Hope. She is in the
midst of a tour of her normal stomping grounds, the Northeast, as well
as the Carolinas and Georgia.
"I really like performing in New Hope," she says. "It is an
interesting, eccentric place, with a great mishmash of people."
A sleek blonde 30-something, Havrilla is touring in support of her new
CD, "Ruby Red," which she released independently early this year. In
January, Havrilla was listed as one of the Top 10 indie artists in
Advocate magazine. "I wasn’t expecting that. It came at a really nice
time, right when the album came out. It kind of fueled the fire," she
She recently performed at the music-industry lovefest, "South by
Southwest" in Austin, TX. "I was part of the Go Girls Music showcase,"
she says. "For me it was so overwhelmingly great to be there with so
many talented people."
More great exposure is coming from Sirius Satellite Radio, which is
playing Havrilla’s song "Loneliest Girl." She says the song is on the
Hot 20 list on the network’s OUT Q station, which caters to gay and
lesbian listeners. The title of the song itself seems to speak of
alienation and might imply some young girl’s dark inner life, but
Havrilla says it’s not like that at all. "This is about a girl who,
when she was growing up, always was told what to do and always put
everyone else’s needs ahead of her own. She was able, as she got
older, to get herself out of that mindset. It’s a positive story."
Her songs get surprising reactions sometimes. "The reason I write
songs are not always the reasons that people react the way they do,"
Havrilla says. "I try to get out of them something relevant to
themselves. The reaction itself is the key. It’s that they are hearing
something in my music that is moving to them, and that is all that
matters to me."
Havrilla collaborated with drummer Darren Keith, bassist Bill
Gallagher, and background singer Gretchen Schultz on "Ruby Red," and
the record was produced by longtime associate Rick Slater. A bit of
tragicomedy has changed the lineup for her touring band; just before
the group was about to go on the road, Keith fell and tore ligaments
and broke his right foot – his bass drum kicker foot – while working
on his new house. The drum chair is being filled by Duane Large while
Keith recovers, Havrilla says.
Partly because she often performs by herself, with just her guitar,
and partly because of the type of material she performs, Havrilla
often finds herself branded as a "folk" artist. To her, that couldn’t
be farther from the truth, even though she does cite folk-rockers such
as Jonathan Brooke, Sheryl Crow, the Indigo Girls, and Shawn Colvin as
`I think when people see a girl with a guitar, that’s what they
immediately think," Havrilla says. "I’m not saying that a song or two
of mine can’t be considered that, but I am a rock, rock and pop
singer. I think my stuff is a lot more energetic and aggressive than
folk. I mix up a whole lot of different styles."
On her earlier CDs, four in total, she followed a similar formula. Her
music is highly narrative, full of emotional, human stories. But
Havrilla says the music she is now writing for a CD she will be
recording will have more of an edge to it. "I guess I’ve kind of
mellowed out recently," she says. "I’ve been going through different
phases in my life, and I’ve felt different and have been writing
differently. The stuff I’ve been working on for the past six months,
though, I’ve been playing more aggressively, been getting into my
Another factor in Havrilla’s rocking new direction is that she is not
playing solo or in duets as much; she’s going with drums and bass.
"Playing with the band is real good too, and being with them is
helping me take my music to a different level. It’s been really
A former basketball player and coach who grew up in Pottstown, PA,
Havrilla says she was surrounded by pop, folk, rock, and religious
music as a child. Her father, now retired, worked for AT&T; her mother
was a hairdresser and stay-at-home mom. Havrilla is a self-taught
guitarist, having picked up the instrument at the age of 6. "My dad
(John) had guitars around the house, and I was just a sponge. I
absorbed everything I heard around the house." Her father also had one
of those do-it-yourself Mel Bay chord books, and that’s how Havrilla
began playing guitar.
It is only in recent years, even though she’s been playing for other
people since 1996, that she has felt totally comfortable playing for
audiences. "It just comes from doing it more and more. I just realized
that I could hang with people (musically) and not be intimidated."
In early 2003, Havrilla was approached by a publishing company that
was putting together a spoken-word project of Johnny Cash reading
verses from the Bible. She was asked to put together some solo guitar
to accompany Cash’s voice. "I got to show some versatility," she says.
"He had grown up with gospel in his blood, so I was privileged enough
to accompany him."
Havrilla never got to meet Cash, but his management and, presumably,
an ailing Cash, had to approve Havrilla’s music. "It was interesting
to hear him speak in the passages. He had just begun getting really
sick, so you could hear the tension in his voice. It was actually
Cash died in September, 2003.
"It’s funny now, it has some relevance because of that movie ("Walk
The Line") about his life," she says. "It was really cool to be
involved in that."
Christine Havrilla, Friday, April 14, 10 p.m., Triumph Brewing
Company, 400 Union Square, New Hope. 215-862-8300.
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