Bohème’s Freedom: On Musical Theater Love, Producing, and Her Name

The artist known as Bohème has rocked many stages-as part of Antigone Rising, and now with her own performance group. She’s been playing in New York and LA to enthusiastic audiences, and has a new album out, titled Follow the Freedom. I’m so happy to have finally caught up with her in an online Q&A! I found this interview to be quite insightful and fun. Check it out.

Boheme, courtesy of Plan A Media

Farah Joan Fard: I read about how you had gone from Cassidy to Bohème after Antigone Rising. Could you explain a little bit for readers? Also, does it change your relationship with an audience, going from your name to a stage name?

Bohème: When I was in A.R. I used to just go by Cassidy because my last name is an Italian village around the ankle of the boot that’s long and difficult to pronounce. But by the time I went solo there had already been a pretty successful rapper named Cassidy and, like most entrepreneurial rappers, he trademarked and branded the name to the teeth, (wish I’d thought of that!)…so it was getting confusing. People hiring me for things, thinking they were getting the rapper etc…so I had to hatch another plan. But just to be clear, people still call me Cassidy. Bohème is the project name. Not my stage name. But you can call me Al.
FJF: If you’ll be my bodyguard, I can be your long lost pal! So you wrote and produced your recent album Follow the Freedom. I’ve discussed the ‘song machine’, or the way lots of music is produced these days, a few times for my blog. It’s always welcome to see an artist who maintains their creative input and, on top of that, has the ability to write and produce their work, too, rather than just show up for the recording session. Do you ever feel pressure to go the other way with that?
B: I wish I could say that the decision to produce my album was a given. But to be perfectly honest, I was hesitant. I would have loved to have had Dave Stewart or Ethan Johns busting my door down to produce my solo album but the reality is, I took a 2 year hiatus from a band that had been slowing down for about as long. So when I decided to come back there wasn’t a parade. 
 
Was I interested in writing and co-producing? For sure. But this swan dive into total control wasn’t really part of the plan. It was however pretty great..and I recommend it to anyone because I learned a ton about what I don’t know, and why collaboration, when gone about the correct way, is extremely useful. 
 
The good news is that this last album has actually created interest in my next one and by producing the last one myself, I’m being approached by producers in a different way than I had before. So I’ve evolved not only in my own eyes, but in the eyes of my industry. BTW-I’m taking meetings now for the next record…ya know, in case Dave Stewart or Ethan Johns are interested.
 
FJF: Do you ever feel frustrated in this industry, seeing many who have risen to the top, but not necessarily being involved in the songwriting or production of ‘their’ albums?
B: God. Many things frustrate me about this industry (believe me), but to be honest, if someone is able to do what they love in an industry that makes it impossible, then I say why not? I get what you’re saying, there is so much talent that gets overlooked but who’s to say what should sell and what shouldn’t, ya know? In the end, it’s our job to entertain people….and they vote with their dollar. So if people like it, and their buying it, then it behooves the rest of us to stop and figure out what they’re doing right. But yeah, I stand with my mouth open a ton.
FJF: I noticed, of course, that much of your music seems candid. I know that many pop songs are thrown around as ‘feel good songs’ and ‘hits’, but how do you think writing a song from a personal standpoint strengthens a connection to listeners? This may seem like an obvious question but, again, I think there is a lot of music out there that is churned out without the personal touch.
B: My songwriting was definitely born out of a desire to connect with others. I’m a lonely soul. I think a lot of us are….songwriters that is. I have loved ones and friends around me constantly…but I feel alone. I feel different.  So, I want to connect. My way of doing that is by hopefully saying something in a way that resonates with the listener.
This album was all about that. All about struggle and the desire to round up others who feel like I do…maybe in a show of solidarity. I don’t know. I do think it’s important. But sometimes people just wanna know who let the dogs out. I mean, I get that.  It’s a legitimate question.
FJF: It’s true–did we ever find out who let those dog out? Or why LFO liked girls that wear Abercrombie and Fitch?
You mentioned that, for the track “Sensitive People”, we are often afraid of one another. I definitely see this with the political turbulence we are seeing these days. Were you meaning that, because we are sensitive, we become afraid? It seems that some people can be so afraid that they produce lack of sensitivity toward others. What perspective were you writing from?
B: The political climate certainly applies here. How terrified we all are of things and people and cultures that are different from us. That stuff is all handed down and we perpetuate it because it’s easy. 
But the basic gist of Sensitive People was the realization that we’re all afraid of each other.
Sometime walk through a grocery store and try and make eye contact with people. First of all, most of us can’t do it, but if you can force yourself you’ll see, everyone is looking at the floor. Or, they panic when they lock eyes with you and they’ll look away. And if you smile they’ll think you’re a freak. It’s so funny…but it’s just fear. Insecurity.
That song is about realizing how insecure the people in my life are. And how insecure I am.
FJF: Your music definitely reminds me of something I cannot pinpoint–I think that’s a good thing! That means it’s fresh! I saw Sinatra in your ‘Blind Spot’ video…are there any musical influences you’d like to mention?
B: Thank you! That is a good thing. Well, the Sinatra appearance in the video was my ode to New Jersey which is where I’m from….proudly thank you. The influences are everything from Hall and Oates, Elvis Costello, Fleetwood Mac, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, The Commodores. I also love James Morrison. God he’s good. I like blue-eyed soul. Anything that sounds battered and tortured…soulful and born from experience. You can always tell.
FJF: I’ve also written a bit about women in music. Sometimes I feel that by separating ourselves into female only categories, we separate ourselves more as musicians. While I appreciate and understand the sentiments that it is nice to see women doing xy and z in the music industry-we do still have a long way to go-I dislike it when musicianship is labeled under female. By that I mean that when I play music, I don’t feel it has anything to do with me being female, it’s about the music! Do you feel there were some challenges to this being in Antigone Rising? I used to get frustrated to find people would only want to book a band of all females with other female musicians, or assume we will be playing light stuff.
B: Oh, you are preaching to the choir! I used to go insane when we would show up at a gig and it would be “girl night” and on the bill was us, which were a classic rock band, a disco band and a folk singer on the bill. But it made sense to the promoters because we were girls. Like “girl” is a genre.  
 
After a while I refused to play girl bills. Not because I don’t love female artists but I wanted to be equal. I wanted to play with other rock bands. In front of people that liked rock music. Last weekend I attended a party with some of the members of the Donna’s. And we  were holed up in a corner for hours laughing about being in girl bands. It’s the same for us all. Sexist nonsense. 
 
But bottom line, we played our butts off….and all I can say is, girls, learn to play your instruments because that’s what’s holding us back. Play better than the boys,…it’s the only way you’ll get noticed.
We were the only all female band to tour with The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith and The Allman Brothers….so in the end, I made my point.
FJF: Serious props!
You wrote a book and screenplay? Can you elaborate?
B: Isn’t that what one does in Los Angeles? Lol! But yes, I did…I wrote a screenplay. And I think it’ll get made. There’s already been interest.  It’s called Broken Birds.
FJF: Were you into musical theater? If so, which shows?
B: EEK! Yes. I did Dangerous Beauty in NYC, and A Christmas Carol, and the presentation of Clueless The Musical with Stephen Trask who wrote the music for Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I just did something here in L.A. at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. Some stage reviews that toured the world. Yep…all that fun stuff.
FJF: What is your next move?
B: Well, we’re playing Fashion’s Night Out on September 6th at the Penguin Clothing Store on Melrose in West Hollywood CA. Super psyched for that. I’m also making another album that will be finished in 2013. And I plan to do more acting. For sure more acting…
FJF: Hopefully I’ll see one of your shows in Boston or New York sometime! Thank you!
B: Awesome!! Thank you! 
I’m having trouble with Youtube at the moment, so the video will not embed. In the meantime, you can still find the video to “Blind Spot” here. Enjoy!
 More info can be found here.
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