MUSIC | From North Star to Lone Star: A first-rate First Ave sendoff for Claire Taubenhaus

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Claire Taubenhaus has built a strong local reputation as a singer-songwriter, but it’s about to head south. Last year, Taubenhaus released her debut EP No Compass and No Commands and played venues all over the city, including the 7th Street Entry, the Caffetto Arts and Crafts Fair, the Acadia Cafe, and Barbette; she also played a recent show at Schuba’s in Chicago. As of this summer, though, she’s decided to pack her bags and head to Austin, Texas.

Although I already knew her well—as a friend and a co-worker at First Avenue—I learned even more about Claire Taubenhaus when we sat down to discuss her career and her sendoff show (this Sunday at the Entry).

What are you doing in Austin?
My plans are to take advantage of the great music scene and hopefully get together with some other musicians and have a band and record another record.

Why Austin?
Because it’s kind of known as the music mecca of the country. It’s got a lot of opportunities for playing shows because there are so many venues there—and SXSW obviously brings a lot of attention to the city at least once a year—but I think it’s a good-sized scene. It’s not overwhelmingly big like the coastal scenes, but it’s not as small as Minneapolis. It’s kind of somewhere in between.

What was your high school like?
Perpich? Awesome. It was amazing. That’s probably like a good chunk of why I ended up pursuing music professionally instead of just doing it as a hobby, because Arts High was just a really cool place. If you flip normal school on its head, like what was cool in normal high school was lame at Arts High and what was kind of weird and crazy was cool and normal. People just dressed crazy and did crazy shit. Art installations everywhere—our lockers were hand-painted by students. There was art all over the walls and performances all the time and we jammed after school. It was a good environment to foster creativity because everyone was excited about being there instead of wanting to go home. And I lived in the dorm, so I was there all the time; we could play music or do whatever any time of night.


“Life is…”, Claire Taubenhaus’s entry in the 2009 36-Hour Songwriting Contest

What made you realize what you wanted to do at 16? Most people have no idea what they want to do in high school.
I was just looking to get out of St. Peter, and get out of that high school. I Googled stuff online like, “boarding schools in Minnesota” and found this school and it was just perfect.

Describe your sound.
As a solo artist, I want to make music that has the emotional weight of 60s soul, blues, and stuff like that, with the lyrical complexity and interest of singer-songwriter music, because usually those things don’t come in one package. I just want to make really great melodies and really succinct lyrics all in one. That’s my goal. My sound is a mixture of soul and acoustic singer-songwriter with a little bit of hip-hop influence. I don’t think I make hip-hop by any means, but I think if you listen to my music you can kind of tell that I’m a fan of hip-hop and I respect it and listen to it. Like the rhythm I sing in…I think a lot of my songs, if you rapped them, they would still work. So I just try to combine all the stuff I like, and take the best elements of them all and put them into one.

Tell me about your sendoff show.
Basically, I just wanted to do a huge party with all my friends, so I’m gonna have some chicks who play music with piano and guitar [Molly Dean and Alicia Wiley], and then some hip-hop acts also [the Tribe and Big Cats]. Those are the two scenes I sort of became part of last year. And then I’m gonna have three artists: one who makes handbag bags, laptop bags, and stuff like that—my friend Matt from Caffetto—then my friend Adam [Carstens] from First Ave is gonna sell some of his screenprints and t-shirts, and then my friend Jenn [Barnett] who does photography is gonna sell some posters. Then we’re all gonna sell our merch. So I don’t know where that’s all gonna get placed! It’s just gonna be art and music and fun: a going away party, First Avenue style.

Crystal Erickson (toffee_rox@hotmail.com) is a freelance writer and photographer, with preoccupations in hip-hop, art, and bicycle anarchy.

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