Trenton-area singer-songwriter Lisa Bouchelle — whose understanding of the fickle nature of the music business has helped her to become a national musical touring act — is looking forward to her Saturday, March 25, performance at the Record Collector in Bordentown.
One reason is the venue’s emphasis on music. “I love that about the Record Collector, (the audience) is there to be attentive and watch the show,” she says about the Living Room Concert Series — where no alcoholic beverages are served.
The other is her onstage company — veteran Trenton-area guitarist Ernie White and keyboardist Tom Reock.
“The last time (playing there), it was Ernie and me, and Tom Reock joined us on piano and backup vocals. This show we’re doing is kind of a chronology of songs from the past all the way up to the present,” she says, adding that the trio plans to chat about the history of the music, share personal observations, and entertain questions between songs.
“I have collaborated on various projects with Ernie over the years,” says Bouchelle about White, who also owns a recording studio and teaches guitar out of his house in Hamilton. “He’s hired me for backup vocal work on recording sessions, and I took guitar lessons from him for some time. We’ve known each other for years, but we didn’t really start working together doing acoustic duo shows until just a couple of years ago.”
Bouchelle’s background as a singer goes back to making people calm down and be happy — beginning as a four–year-old when she won a talent contest while her family was on a camping trip.
As a youngster, she noticed her parents would stop arguing when she began singing. Although they loved her dearly, her parents fought constantly. Her father worked in circulation for the Trenton Times, and, with his eighth grade education, worked his way up through the years to a supervisor position there. Her mother was an alcoholic and held a few jobs, most of them for not very long, she recalled.
However, both parents, now deceased, were big fans of folk music and what is now known as “classic rock,” and Bouchelle inherited their collection of vinyl LPs, complete with gems by the likes of David Bromberg, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, and the Beatles — music she says influenced her own writing.
“The music business is a 24-7 business, just like the newspaper business,” Bouchelle says when discussing her family’s influence on her. “I got my singing voice and my work ethic from my dad, even though he had stage fright. I got my poetry from my mother. She was a talented lyricist and poet.”
Thinking back to that talent show at the campground, where they propped her up on a picnic table and she sang “America The Beautiful” as a toddler, she says, “I sang, I won the talent show, the family was happy, everybody was happy. I thought at that point, ‘This is what I want to do.’
“What’s so funny is I’ve come so far with my career and all the things I’ve had the opportunity to do all over the world singing, but my intention and driving force behind everything is still bringing people together and making everybody happy through music. I really enjoy what I do and that’s why I started.”
Bouchelle’s current recording, “Lipstick Tomboy,” is a four-song EP that includes a single she worked on with Blues Traveler front man and Princeton High School alumnus John Popper. An internet-only release available as a digital download, the single “Only the Tequila Talking” now has more than 200,000 streams on Spotify. “We’re getting on a lot of radio stations around the U.S., so I’m happy everyone is digging the song,” she says.
Bouchelle’s other nationally released independent albums include her debut, “Paint Your Dreams,” and “Bleu Room with a Red Vase.” The latter includes a duet with Blues Traveler’s Popper as well as a touching ode to her mother, who died prematurely from the effects of alcohol.
Her new digital download EP, which includes a cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind,” was produced by Jeff Trot, who produced and co-wrote with singer Sheryl Crow on several of her biggest hits.
In the 1990s Bouchelle created a musical place for herself through solo and small group shows in Atlantic City. Then in 2000 or so she started working with area bass player, impresario, and Aquarian newspaper columnist Hal Selzer, who toured with Gary U.S. Bonds for years and currently plays with Joan Jett. Selzer used record business connections to bring Bouchelle’s career to the next level.
Thanks in part to Selzer’s efforts, Bouchelle — sometime solo and sometimes with a small group — has opened for Meatloaf, Blues Traveler, Ted Nugent, America, Bryan Adams, the Wailers, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Ingrid Michaelson.
More recently, while out in Seattle at a recording studio that had an adjoining apartment and kitchen, Bouchelle hit upon an idea for a TV show that she’s since been hosting, “Rock Star Kitchen,” which airs locally in the Philadelphia-Princeton corridor on Comcast and Verizon.
“I went to Seattle to do some recording with John Popper, and Brendan Hill, his drummer, was working with us on some stuff and we were in a studio where they had a little kitchen. We were in there for 12 hours and we were slap happy, so I came up with this idea, rock star cooking,” she says. Rock stars would demonstrate their favorite recipes while telling stories from their travels and time spent in recording studios.
“I took this concept back to Hal, and he shopped it around for about a year and a half. Finally we got the Comcast syndicated network to take it on. They were really excited about it and we ended up getting the highest ratings for any original content show on the network.”
“Rock Star Kitchen” is running re-runs right now while she and Selzer and others figure out ways to take the show to a national audience.
“Hal and I have collaborated for a long time on everything from the national tours I’ve done to the TV show,” Bouchelle says. “We don’t work together too much on the local gigs, but he’s worked with me on all of my radio campaigns, and he and I have a really good working relationship. It’s really good to find people that are honest and are really hard workers. We’ve gotten a lot accomplished together.”
Meanwhile Bouchelle is thinking about a June and July national tour in June to support her “Lipstick Tomboy” electronic-only digital download EP — a work that includes elements of folk, blues, and country music.
As for the Record Collector performance, she predicts she, White, and Reock “will be a force to be reckoned with, and it’s going to be a really different type of show. You’ll hear all kinds of original music. We’re going to sing and play with one another and you’ll get some stories about what was behind some of the songs.”
She may also share some of her story. “You can’t really pinpoint in life what leads to whatever else,” she says about the small steps on her journey. “I always try to put my all into every show, because you never know who you’re about to meet or what’s about to happen that’s going to influence your career in a really big way. I really do think this business is like that.”
Lisa Bouchelle /Ernie White/Tom Reock, The Record Collector, 358 Farnsworth Avenue, Bordentown. Saturday March 25, 8 p.m. $15. 609-324-0280 or www.the-record-collector.com.
“Papa Carl” Anderson and Lisa Bouchelle, 1867 Sanctuary, 101 Scotch Road, Ewing. “Peace and Love Come Together” contemporary music and photography exhibition. Sunday, April 9, 2 p.m. $20. www.1867sanctuary.org or 609-392-6409.