Oregon Music News: Oregon’s all-genre music magazine since 2009

09/04/2018

Bre Gregg, vocalist for the band Red Bird, finds composing and singing her own music shapes her career

By HOLLY JOHNSON // A great voice, forceful one minute, tender the next, controlled yet simmering with feeling:

Blues, roots, jazz, soul, Americana. She’s primarily been called a blues singer, but all these styles richly inform the original music of Bre Gregg, 39, vocalist with the Portland-based band Red Bird.

She’s got this great voice, forceful one minute, tender the next, controlled yet simmering with feeling: She’s studied opera, and done a lot of jazz vocals in the past. But besides singing, songwriting is her forte, a talent she inherited from her dad, Drew Finley, whose work was influenced by the above styles as well. A lion’s share of the numbers she presents are her own, which she writes with Red Bird guitarist Dan Gildea. Venues the four-member group has frequented lately have been the Alberta St. Pub, No Vacancy Lounge, O’Connor’s Vault, the Peninsula Art Center, the White Eagle, the Hayloft Concert Series, and Eugene’s Ambrosia. They started working together as a band about a year-and-a-half ago. They also just finished their first album, which will be released in October at the Lake Theater.

What brought you to music at the beginning?

Both my parents are musicians. My dad is an amazing guitar player and songwriter. It was never his profession, partly because he had a family to raise…but he was incredibly gifted. There was always a lot of music happening at home. We’d play and sing together. It was just what we did in the family. There was also great music being played in the house all the time; When I was little I listened to Ray Charles, Bonnie Raitt, Carmen McRae. I don’t think there was any genre that was left uncovered.

Where did you grow up?

We moved around a ton (I was born in Las Vegas), but Montana seems most like home … that’s where my grandparents lived, and my dad grew up. I also did most of my training in Montana, including my music degree from Montana State University in Bozeman.

There was a woman, Sharon Spinetti, who sang the role of Tosca at the Intermountain Opera Company in Bozeman when I was in school, and I was in the opera chorus. I nearly stalked her, she was so incredible. She listened to me, liked my voice, and invited me to a summer intensive in New York for young artists. I did it twice, and the experience affected me profoundly.

You don’t quite call yourself a blues singer. It’s hard to label many singers, but can you describe yourself a bit?

I would say I love good music and don’t care how it’s categorized. I think that can be confusing for people trying to figure out what exactly I do (and for me to explain!), but I resonate with many musical styles, and my very favorite musicians are hard to pin to a specific genre. My writing tends to sound most like soul, blues and roots, maybe a dash of jazz. Much of my musical studies in school, and performance for many years after school was classical music, opera and musical theater. Although, I don’t do that anymore, I am so thankful I did because now I know about vocal technique which is important on stage and in my work with voice students.

How do you write a song? What is your process?

The process changes; it’s not always the same. For some reason, the places I seem to be most prolific are on walks, on drives or in the shower. Maybe there’s something about movement that opens me up. I feel very fortunate because with Red Bird, Dan Gildea and I write together, and he’s far more experienced with music theory, and I resonate with all his instincts. He’s able to take what I give him and make it come alive.
Either a song comes to me in its entirety…or a hook will come to me while I’m in the shower; then I’ll go down to my piano and come up with the next line and the next…a rough chord progression. Sometimes the process is very organic, quick and emotionally based and other times it’s mathematical and slower to develop.

Your family?

My husband, Eric Gregg, is not in music, thank goodness! He owns a marketing research company. My kids are three and five, five-year-old Delaney, and three-year-old Weston. They’ve both got my red hair! They’re amazing, wild, crazy children who seem to love music. They’re number one, and then everything else. I also teach voice lessons, which I love. It’s very much a juggling act at times.

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Besides guitarist Dan Gildea, who teaches guitar at Portland State University, Red Bird musicians also include bass guitarist Jeff Langston, who has worked with such luminaries as Lou Reed, Boy George and Rufus Wainwright, and drummer Charles Dogget, active with many groups and workshops in Oregon..

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