By Peggy Ratusz
Following her father’s footsteps, Eve Haslam has a passion and dedication to the art of music. As early as fifth grade, when she and her dad, Herb Haslam co-wrote a 4 part chorus piece for her school choir, to high school, when she was selected to join an a-capella group, and later moving onto study the Bel Canto technique with renowned opera coach James Patridge, her path is strewn with milestones.
A New York native, Ms. Haslam moved to WNC in 2007 and the roots she planted for her career in business and music have bloomed more brilliantly with each passing year. She’s been praised by the press and by her musical partners and producers. It’s clear there’s a common denominator to the things they proclaim about her; the depth of her emotional delivery.
Her voice soars and swoons in and out of songs like a bird in flight. A confident belter for sure, the haunting low and quiet range of her voice is just as exciting and poignant. All of this is captured on two CDs, each dedicated to one of her parents.
Her Debut album entitled, A Thousand Years Ago was released in April of 2013 and showcases her sturdy interpretations of 12 carefully selected songs, four of them penned by her father. Jazz journalist and music critic, Steve Yanow says of this album, “Eve’s attractive and often haunting voice perfectly fits the material and her performances are quite impressive. A Thousand Years Ago is a strong start to her recording career.” The cd features trumpeter Rich Willey (who formerly toured as 2nd chair with Maynard Ferguson), pianist Brian Felix, bassist Zack Page, drummer Justin Watt, Byron Hedgepeth on congas and on a few selections, nylon string guitarist Andy Page.
Being released this year is her sophomore effort, Beautiful Love, dedicated to her mother who lost her bout with cancer in 2011. It’s a stunning collection of stripped down Bossa Nova songs, all done acoustically, featuring Shannon Hoover on string bass and Bill Covington on piano. While listening to the pre-mixed copy she sent me, I can tell you first-hand how captivating and intriguing each track is. “The Face I Love” contains a joyful if not playful vocal scat section. “I’m in Love Again” showcases an articulate piano solo. “If You Never Come to Me” highlights Hoover on bass as he follows Eve’s lead interpreting his solo section to the sentiments of the tune in a bluesy but hopeful manner. “I’ll Be Seeing You” is a reminiscent melody that Haslam takes to another level indeed (I won’t spoil the surprise). Two other standout tracks are ones that pose simple questions that can be surprisingly hard to answer; “How does the Wine Taste?” and “What Are you Doing the Rest of Your Life?”
I had some questions and inquiries of my own after listening to the demo and I posed them to the artist herself so that we could all get to know her better.
Tell us when you first realized performing was going to be your pursuit and passion.
I’ve been singing, playing piano and on stage since the sixth grade. It has always been my passion – not much feels better than belting, (laughing). Growing up in suburbia New York, I just took it for granted like everything else I was doing; like horse shows or writing poetry. Even as I moved on around the country, I was always performing music alongside my fleeting careers such as nursing and business management. Believe it or not, it was only when I moved to Asheville in 2007, and experienced an entire self-de-construction (for four hellfire years), that I realized my sole purpose in life was to be performing and recording professionally. Definitely a late bloomer!
Please tell our readers who your vocalist influences are and why.
Streisand and Stevie Wonder when I was younger and later on Sarah Vaughan and Tony Bennett. Since ten years old I was either singing at the piano or had ear phones on! I mean back then on a long list of favorite things to do, listening to my albums was high ranking – along with going to Broadway shows and rock concerts with my friends. I collected Streisand records and all of Stevie Wonders’. Their music fed my soul! Originals and classics with stunning arrangements-they felt like perfection to me. I first heard Sarah in my 20s and again, with her phenomenal range, her brilliance transported me to a new plateau. I was introduced to Tony Bennett by his Bill Evans album; and it ended up being one of his greatest works. These are great singers who each sang passionate stories.
Talk a little bit about the musicians/instrumentalists with whom you perform and collaborate.
I resonate best with players who evoke trust. For me that’s when everyone is paying attention to each other. Not by always playing “how it’s supposed to go” but rather by relaxing into exactly where it’s going- that’s jazz. When a player deviates or dominates too much than a connective vibe is lost for me; and as a singer I believe good accompanists are a rare gift. Generally I strive for skills in versatility so we will all competently push each other, which takes trust. But first and foremost what I care about is that we’re having fun!
When constructing a set list for a show, what are the factors that determine the order of the songs?
Every show is tailored with themes or special guests. Yet typically I prepare lead sheets for each show, and although I have an idea of how the order will go, especially the beginning, it’s entirely intuitive for me. So much rides on how my body is feeling, what the audience is like and how the acoustics fare. I tend to layer my shows with crescendos and highlights. So by the 2nd set, everything is well defined, just never written in stone- that’s why I love jazz.
My mom passed away in 2011. She never saw me perform jazz, nor got to hear my debut album in 2013. She was the most tenacious, self-sacrificing force in my life and though we were extremely different in many ways, I miss her and still go to call her all the time. She taught me about character and how to hold onto myself in life, how to not give it all away. One thing she used to always say to me was, “less is more, so keep it simple”. This album is about love and has some of her favorite songs, like Moon River. I chose eleven songs I love, sang my heart out in simple formats with only string bass and piano. I pulled back in this album to deliver more with less, successfully, I hope. It’s my ‘thank you’ to my mom for teaching me the hardest thing about being my best.
What have you learned throughout the years, from the songs you choose to take on as your own?
I’ve learned that I could never be a wedding singer, (laughing). I’m not a machine performer, which I admire in others who can be night after night. I’m just not an athlete. I always have to believe what I’m singing like it’s the first time. This makes the occasional show organic and always fun! I’m suited best for recording. I sing because the composition is telling my story at the present time, so my choices are gauged by what the composer says to me. Jobim is sultry, and can be sad. Michel Legrand and the Bergmans are quintessential story tellers with beautiful chord progressions. Cole Porter’s keys are in my power range. My dad’s music (Herb Haslam) is complex and always close to my heart. Also the style I sing varies with the times in my life, like most singers. Mainly I’ve learned that I pull from a full spectrum of emotion so I can honor my flow.
What is it about performing that keeps you pursuing opportunities to do so?
What a great question. I now know I’m always singing and being that I view my art from a spiritual perspective, I feel it’s my obligation to deliver my best; to touch hearts and to inspire others. So, for now my goal is 10 albums- one dedicated to my father’s compositions. One entirely of Sergio Mendez. One with a big band. And so on. As I evolve so does my instrument… I let my heart do the rest. Maybe someday the desire to perform will end- that’s when I’ll retire in Portugal.
Website to listen and pre-order “Beautiful Love” as well as keep up with her concert schedule:
Peggy Ratusz is a songstress, writer and vocal coach