Rebecca Minnick has been performing in Portland for about ten years. She helped found the Barn Swallows, a bluegrass band in which she plays guitar and sings, in early 2011, as a recording project for the RPM challenge. Since then the Barn Swallows have been performing all over Greater Portland at clubs, festivals, and private events. Rebecca also plays guitar, keys, and backing vocals in An Evening With, who are currently recording an album. The Barn Swallows are playing at Blue on Jan. 10, kicking off a monthly event featuring a set of their music, followed by a bluegrass jam (2nd Thursdays, 7 PM).
Where were you born?
What brought you to Portland/Maine?
I came here many years ago for a seasonal job. I fell in love with the coast, and kept coming back. Eventually I stayed.
Do you have a day job, and if so, what is it?
I teach PE and direct an afterschool program.
What was your most memorable gig?
Certainly the gigs with the big, wonderful crowds stand out, and the Derby Day parties, but for me, the most memorable things are the moments of connection, when the music moves someone. I’ve sung at weddings and funerals. It’s beautiful that my music is bringing comfort to people in times of great sadness, and yet, it’s pretty intense. I once was told, after someone heard me on the radio, that he heard me singing and knew everything was going to be all right. And there was the time I was busking at the Farmer’s Market and a homeless man put a dollar in my guitar case. He said our music brightened his week.
What was your worst gig?
I don’t want to call out specific venues, but definitely the one where the sound guy didn’t show up so they had the door guy run the sound board. The sound was horrific and my mic was falling over and he was too busy on his iPhone (presumably Googling how to run a sound board) to notice. I was almost on my knees singing into the mic by the end of the song. I also had a pizza peel fall on me while I was playing once. Glamorous! Music is so glamorous!
What album or artist has most influenced you as a musician?
The musicians who have most shaped what I am doing are Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings. Her songwriting, her voice, the harmonies, Dave’s picking, everything is so simple and organic, and yet spot on perfect when put all together. Her songs sound like they were written 60 years ago, and her imagery–I just get so frustrated that I didn’t write it. I remember the first time I heard her on NHPR and thought, “This is the music I have been looking for.” I’ve always been very drawn to Peter Buck’s jangly guitar sound of early R.E.M..
What’s the one piece of musical equipment you can’t live without?
Without a doubt my acoustic guitar. I got it a little over a year ago, it’s a beautiful D-18 style made by local luthier Scott Conley. I’ve known Scott for 15 years, and I’ve wanted one of his guitars for just as long. It fits my body so perfectly that I really don’t ever want to play anything else. It has such lovely tone.
Any advice for a musician starting out?
You just gotta do it. I don’t really love playing solo, and for years was trying to find a band. I just finally started playing in coffee shops by myself, and it was a little lonesome, but I guess it had to happen. Surround yourself with musicians. And don’t listen to anyone, ever, who tells you that you shouldn’t or can’t.
What’s the origin behind your name/band name?
Much of the music I write and the songs I am moved by are about leaving and missing Kentucky (I mean, that’s like half of bluegrass). Birds obviously symbolize migration and returning home, but I had been reading that many cultures use swallows in particular to symbolize this. Well, I’m a nature nerd, and barn swallows are among my favorite birds. Plus, I thought it had a nice ring. As far as An Evening With, I am the greenest member of that band, so you’d have to ask Jeremy.
What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
Air Supply. I got rid of the greatest hits CD once in an attempt to seem cool for a dude, and man do I regret it. I shoulda kept the CD.
Additionally, Stephen has exhibited his photography in Portland, Maine, Boston, and California. He lives just outside of Portland with his wife and two children.