On the title track of her debut album So Free, JoAnna Lee makes a personal declaration about following her own path that will inspire anyone who wants to brush off the naysayers and take bold, massive action towards achieving their dreams. With her soulful, dusky voice sharing the urgency of following our hearts, she sings, “The world can be cruel and cold/Don’t let it take ahold. . .What will it take for you to finally see the truth. . .the only way to be is so free, free to be who I wanna be. . .You’re the one in control/Do what’s right for your soul…”
JoAnna’s inspiration for “So Free” was the fateful decision she made six years ago that changed her life. She left the small town environs of her longtime home of Bend, Oregon – where she became popular on the coffeehouse and wine bar circuit – and moving to the thriving live music hotbed of Austin to find greater opportunities to share her voice and bare her musical soul to the world.
Even in a city where “there is literally music on every corner,” JoAnna has carved out a niche and generated an ever growing fan base for her edgy acoustic based pop, rock and soul hybrid vibe via gigs at numerous hotspots like historic Memo’s and the One-2-One bar. Daring to mix some of her powerful originals into her sets, she literally opened the floodgates for a fresh crop of singer-songwriters at Cedar Street Courtyard during her longtime weekly Saturday night residency.
While establishing herself on the Austin club scene, JoAnna connected via a mutual producer friend to Les Cutmore, Founder of Cutmore Entertainment, Cutmore encouraged JoAnna’s developing artistry and songwriting and signed her to his label Cutmore Records, He hooked her up with several producers including Dwight Baker, who brought JoAnna’s vibe to the next level in the studio. JoAnna went on to completely re-recording and producing songs she had recorded in the past while pursuing earlier endeavours. I now realise that some of the older recordings were overproduced,” she says. “We re-recorded a lot of the material to make it rawer. Sonically, the tracks on So Free fall somewhere in between my solo acoustic live sound and the previous recordings.”
JoAnna brings a unique array of influences to her rootsy soul sound. When all her friends in grade school were getting into N’SYNC and Britney Spears, her mother was introducing her to Stevie Wonder. Surrounded by a family full of cousins who all played instruments, she took naturally to incorporating R&B (her original dream was to be a Motown singer) with her acoustic guitar. From the dreamy, lilting “Sunshine” to the raspy obsessional-confessional “Drinking By Myself,” the ten tracks on So Free create an intimate yet universally relatable chronicle of her life experiences, covering a span from adolescence through young adulthood, reflecting joy and optimism, innocence and growth, and heartbreak tempered by lessons learned.
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