The Chameleon

music StephanieStephanie Schneiderman’s music may be ever-changing, but her message remains constant

Whether she is performing with the Portland, Ore.-based indie pop-rock band Dirty Martini or going solo—as she will on Thursday at Don Quixote’s—Stephanie Schneiderman is constantly evolving as an artist.

“I’m always trying to do something that’s different for me, even if I can’t speak to it being different or not for anybody else,” Schneiderman says.

The singer has written many folk songs in her career, but recently, she has ventured into the world of trip-hop and electronic music by partnering with producer/DJ/electronic musician Keith Schreiner, a move which has done wonders for her songwriting.

“I would bring a song to Keith and he would say, ‘Don’t go to the big, giant happy chorus and grow the song that way. Let the instrumentation grow the song,’” Schneiderman says. “That’s the theme of electronic and ambient music—letting those textures grow the song. This realization caused me to come up with more melodic and intricate songs.”

Tracks like “Twenty Slivers” off her sixth solo album, 2008’s Dangerous Fruit—the first time she and Schreiner collaborated—demonstrate what Schneiderman is talking about. The cool, trip-hop sound sets the tone and mood, while her airy vocals remain level throughout, relaying the lyrics steadily while a variety of subtle sounds and flourishes augment their meanings.

Never one to rest on her laurels, Schneiderman didn’t let her evolution as an artist end there. Her eighth solo album, released in 2012, threw listeners yet another curveball.

“Recently, I put out an album called Live at the Old Church, which brought me full circle to my roots in chamber music because I played chamber music when I was in college,” Schneiderman says. “I had a string section and a choir backing me up on that album, and it was songs that I’d already recorded with the electronic sound, but I wanted to do a really stripped-down version of the tracks.”

Variety keeps Schneiderman motivated musically, because of the limitless opportunities for growth and collaboration. Each song she crafts can be used for her solo work or for Dirty Martini, and she admits that she loves having options.

“It’s nice to have two different plates you can use for songs,” she says. “Songs are unique, but there are usually things about them that pull them one way or another.”

Writing songs is one thing, but describing the inspiration behind them is a completely different story for Schneiderman.

“I wrote ‘Oxygen’ [off Dangerous Fruit], for example, so long ago that it’s hard to remember the exact process,” she admits. “When I’m writing, I’m not thinking about it in the same way I’m thinking about it now when I’m describing it to someone. All I’m doing is capturing that feeling at that time. My husband’s a sculptor, and he says he can see something before he starts sculpting it; he just has to find it in there. I think that way about my songs too; I’m just chipping away at the stones, trying to find the piece.”

As long as she is making music that is honest and speaks to people, Schneiderman says she doesn’t care what it looks or sounds like.

“I saw a quote once: ‘A good writer simply has to speak authentically and it will connect with an audience,’” she explains. “Even if the words aren’t perfect, clever or sophisticated, as long as they’re authentic, they’ll speak to people. I totally relate to that.” 

Stephanie Schneiderman will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 18 at Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy 9, Felton. Tickets are $12/adv, $15/door. 603-2294.

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