Kyra Gordon is back on the road and loving it. After being at home, unable to perform for two years, she’s excited to be playing in front of live audiences. She’s currently taking her one-woman show on the road for a series of house concerts.
“I’ve done two so far, one in Northern California and one in Salt Lake City, and I love how intimate they are,” she said, calling in from the road. “I get to tell stories and connect with people in a fulfilling way. I like landing somewhere, setting up my keyboard, singing, then breaking it down and doing it over and over. I’m my own traveling one-woman circus. I mostly sing original songs, but this year I’ve added some things my parents played for me when I was growing up. It’s fun to get people to sing along with some covers.”
“I did a couple of livestreams during lockdown, but I’m not built for that,” she added. “I didn’t enjoy performing for a screen. I did do something online with the Firehouse Theater that was cool, because there was an interviewer, and we talked about songwriting between the songs. I enjoyed that; but just me in a room, with no feedback, doesn’t really work.”
Gordon is touring behind her debut album, Soul of a Showgirl. She made the record with producer Rachel Efron, some musician friends and her husband, drummer Brian Rodvien.
“We started just before the shutdown,” she said. “I had some meetings with Rachel, while Brian and I fleshed out arrangements and made demos. That turned into meetings over Zoom, like everything in life did. We looked at a couple of studios, but some musicians didn’t feel comfortable going into a closed space. We put off recording until November of 2020.”
Soul of a Showgirl has the feel of a live performance. Gordon’s vocals are front and center, with the band adding subtle asides that intensify the emotions she’s conveying. The lyrics describe scenes from her life with humor, compassion and insight. They sound like short stories set to music. “Big City Lights” is a honky-tonk rocker, with a hint of Dolly Parton in the arrangement. Gordon belts it out, describing the pleasures of life on the road. A galloping backbeat from Rodvien nods to Nashville in the ’70s, with DePrato adding guitar-fills that slide around the scale like notes from a pedal steel. Cohen’s organ takes the R&B of “Who the Hell Does She Think She Is?” to Memphis. Gordon delivers a forceful vocal that sings the praises of assertive women and the threats they face in a male-dominated society. Gordon opens “Tender Hearts” with soft piano chords and a hushed vocal, describing the tension between a man’s belligerent actions and the loneliness at his core.
Bay Area concert goers may know Gordon from Loving Janis, the one-woman show she created as a tribute to Janis Joplin and Janice Ian, two of her formative influences.
“They were both great musicians,” Gordon said. “Joplin was the fire, fury and emotion. I loved Ian’s storytelling craftsmanship and writing. They inspired me to be a storyteller and lyric-weaver and [to] perform with intense, vulnerable emotions.”
“I’m an adventurer,” she said, “but I got tired of roaming and came back home to the Bay. I continued singing jazz, rock and blues with various bands, and got serious about songwriting.” She studied writing, arranging and voice at the California Jazz Conservatory and graduated with a bachelor’s of music in jazz vocal studies. She joined the faculty as a voice teacher for teens and adults, and continued playing local clubs while developing Loving Janis. After she recorded it, during a live performance at Ashkenaz, she began planning an album of original compositions. The result was Soul of a Showgirl.
“The subtext of the title song is my journey to resolve the inner conflict I have dealt with about being a performer,” Gordon said. “I’ve had trouble coming to terms with what sometimes feels like the selfishness of craving an audience. The showgirl in me has taken many forms, so it was time to celebrate and accept that part of me. I wanted to honor that with ‘Soul of a Showgirl,’ so that song became the album title, because that felt like the heart of it.”
Gordon will be performing Loving Janis with guitarist Mimi Fox on October 22nd at 8:00 pm at The Firehouse Pleasanton, 4444 railroad Ave, Pleasanton (925) 931-4848 (firehousearts.org/events.) She’ll perform songs from “Soul of a Showgirl” on Nov. 19 at the Lost Church, 988 Columbus Ave., San Francisco. 8:15pm. www.thelostchurch.org/san-francisco