Putting out roots: Young Keene native, Veronica Lewis, is singing the blues
KEENE – Most kids don’t know a thing about the blues. After all, they’re just kids.
But for blues and roots singer/songwriter Veronica Lewis, the blues have a found a home in her soulful voice and rhythmic piano stylings.
Recently the high school student- yup, she’s 17 – won the coveted “Blues Artist of the Year, 2020,” awarded by the Boston Music Awards.
Born in Keene, Lewis resides in Cheshire County, and between her remote learning and writing and cutting an album, “You Ain’t Unlucky,” the teen blues phenom has been keeping busy.
Lewis said that her favorite part of being a musician is writing songs and releasing them to the public and her fans.
“Being able to have other people enjoy them is so rewarding,” she said. “My hope is that when I write a song, if one person is affected or if the song makes them happy or brightens their day, that’s really one of the best parts of what I do.”
During the pandemic, Lewis spent much of her time making home recordings.
“Most of the vocal tracks on my new album I recorded at home during the summer of 2020,” she remarked.
“I worked with my sound engineer, Ben Rogers at Loud Sun Studios, which is in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. He helped teach me and I taught myself how to make studio-quality recordings for the album.”
Another huge component of Lewis’ schedule was doing live stream performances from her home as well.
“Again, I worked with Ben and he taught me how to do live field recordings,” she said. “Basically, I learned how to record my band and film videos and then post them online for live stream shows.”
The live stream performances, Lewis noted, were critical in a year where so much of what we’ve done has been done from the comfort and confines of our homes.
“Learning how to record and do live streaming were huge learning curves for me,” she said. “I’m really grateful to have learned those skills. The live stream performances were so important in 2020 to help me stay connected with fans and supporters of my music, even though I didn’t have any live concert performances. It was totally a new experience, but worth it”
For 2021, Lewis is anxious and excited about her new album, which will be released on Blue Heart Records on Feb. 19.
“I’ll continue to do more live stream shows,” she shared. “And I’ll continue to work on new songs and new material and definitely do more releases.”
In terms of working with seasoned pros when she is technically still a teenager, Lewis said the reception has been overwhelming.
“A lot of people are excited about what I’ve been doing,” she said. “And I’ve opened for a lot of amazing blues musicians, like Gary Hoey, Eric Gales, Sugarray Rayford, Roomful of Blues, Popa Chubby – just all these incredible acts. They were all really encouraging about what I was doing, and it was a big boost of confidence and motivation to hear words of advice from these pros.”
Using blues progressions as a launch pad, Lewis’ inspiration comes from a mix of musical genres and eras, ranging from Dr. John to Avril Lavigne. As a performer, she often harkens the boogie woogie stylings of early rockers such as Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.
“I love performing,” she said. “I love meeting people at shows and interacting with the audience. That’s something that I’ve missed in 2020.”
Lewis said she loves traveling, and some of her favorites spots to perform have been on the west coast, in Memphis and Nashville, and in particular, New England.
“I have toured here and that’s where I started,” she said. “I’ve played so many regional and local venues. I don’t think I have a favorite one. I love playing festivals here in the northeast, especially the Rhythm and Roots Festival. I’ve played there a few times, and that is just an incredible festival. It’s an honor to play there.”
In 2020, Lewis also fielded several offers from different record labels, before settling in at Blue Heart Records.
“I decided to go with Blue Heart,” she said. “It’s a perfect fit for right now. It’s all women-owned and I love everyone involved there and am proud to be a part of their roster.”
Lewis said that when it comes time to put ink to paper, she gathers visual imagery or a special emotion or story and goes from there.
“Sometimes I begin crafting the music,” she said. “Or sometimes I’ll come up with the lyrics and put everything together. What really puts me in the mood to write, however, is if I find myself in some amazing place. Or if I’m witnessing a story.”
The young artist said two songs on the album, “Clarksdale Sun,” and “Put Your Wig on, Mama,” were inspired by a trip to Mississippi.
“I went to Clarksdale and the Mississippi Delta when I was twelve,” she said. “I had gone there as a part of the Pinetop Perkins master class workshop, where I studied with Victor Wainwright for a few days. And I got the chance to perform at Morgan Freeman’s blues club, ‘Ground Zero.’
It was a crazy experience. But to be down there where the roots of blues really began was so inspiring.”
Lewis laughed when asked about what she does with her downtime, when she’s not writing or performing.
“I’m a senior in high school,” she said. “What’s downtime? That’s funny. But I love my schoolwork and I love working. When I have downtime, I just play and write. That’s so much of who I am.”