Indie radio pop. It's a term I'd like to throw around carelessly for a while because I think it might catch on. At the very least, we're going to be hearing more music that can be aptly characterized that way. If Youtube has proven anything, it's that it doesn't take a million-dollar studio to record a pop song and that potential pop icons don't really have to truck themselves to Los Angeles to get some exposure. In Seattle's recent trend toward musical diversity, some decidedly un-Seattle styles have been gaining steam, among them are hip-hop, electronic and also some pop R&B. When I covered the Seattle Music Revival I had the chance to see a performer named Vanessa Thompson at Club Heaven. I sat down with her to talk about indie pop, her family-run record label and why auto-tune needs to take a hike for a while.
How's this for a Seattle story?: Vanessa Thompson is an independently-produced musician who's done her compulsory state service at Starbucks and has her suspicions about California. While several generations of talented singers have made it a habit to go prospecting for record contracts in the western hemisphere's label capital, Washington native Vanessa has decided to stick to a combination of her home studio and a few quick jaunts into some out-of-town production spaces. She's been writing songs since age 8 and now she's the co-owner of Butterfly Music Productions, a label she runs with her father, who doubles as her manager.
"The artistic freedom is priceless," says Vanessa. While it's clear she wouldn't pass up an opportunity to grab a high chart spot, Ms. Thompson seems to be taking a different route. Aside from the occasional promotional show, she's opted not to accept any touring invitations just yet. Her debut album is currently in the works and is slated to hit shelves both real and virtual in early 2010. For now, Vanessa has generated a significant online following. The most popular tracks on her Myspace page are fast approaching 60,000 plays and she has something of a fan club in the making on her Facebook account.
As for her sound, Vanessa's clean vocals lend themselves to light jazz fare and she's capable of dabbling in soul arrangements, though most of her material is straight-up pop of the sunny workday and slow dance variety. Her tone is a bit too clean for rock, but there's nary an auto-tuner to be found on her demo, so that's a plus. Having seen her perform live, I can confirm that there's no funny business in Vanessa Thompson's microphone, just a voice for which most American Idol contestants would happily give their good arm.
Vanessa premiered the music video for her online single "Hearbreakin' Game" in Seattle last week. The song is currently available for download on her website. No word on when to expect the video online.
Time will tell if Vanessa Thompson's DIY approach to pop has legs. If it does, she may just start a trend in the business for big music to come out of little studios.