Kris Deelane subsumes shy nature with glowing persona
If You Go
What: Kris Deelane's Sun Celebrations; Portland singer/songwriter performs with and without musical friends
When: 7-9 p.m. Thursday, March 19
Where: McMenamins Edgefield Winery Tasting Room, 2126 S.W. Halsey St., Troutdale
Edgefield online: mcmenamins.com/edgefield/things-to-do/music-events
Kris Deelane online: krisdeelane.com
To anyone who's experienced her commanding stage presence and powerhouse voice, the idea that Kris Deelane is inherently shy may seem a tough pill to swallow.
It's a measure of Deelane's fierce passion for music, then, that the need to create and perform it won out over her self-described reserved inner self.
"I never thought it was something I would do. I was so shy," she says of her childhood and teen years. "But (music) spoke so deeply to me. Even as a young child it had such an effect on my heart. There was nothing else I was pulled to the way I'm pulled to music."
A California native who's lived in Portland close to 30 years, Deelane for decades has pursued her creative passion in a variety of forms: as bandleader, solo singer/songwriter, band and duo member, and large ensemble project collaborator among them.
Most recently, the singer, songwriter and guitarist has split her energies between leading Kris Deelane & The Hurt, her wildly popular nine-piece soul/R&B-based revue, and regularly performing quieter solo — or semi-solo — gigs, in intimate venues like the Winery Tasting Room at McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale.
As part of her ongoing Sun Celebrations series, Deelane will perform a free show there from 7-9 p.m. Thursday, March 19.
Since moving to Oregon 27 years ago, the 53-year-old Milwaukie resident has released several CDs with former bands like Sweet Juice and the Adam & Kris duo with her friend Adam East. And Deelane plays a prominent onstage role during The Next Waltz — a series of Thanksgiving-week shows paying tribute to The Band's 1976 farewell concert.
Being a solo performer, however, didn't exactly come naturally.
"I can't even remember, I'd say eight years ago, I was really sort of terrified," she says of her debut band-less gig. "I set up my (sound system) and I was mortified. I didn't know what was going to happen next … I'd never put myself out there. I was always this person in the background."
As it turned out, the idea of performing onstage without a band surrounding her was worse than the reality.
"It helped me really grow out of that," she says of her earliest solo shows. "The more I put myself out there, the better it gets."
That doesn't mean Deelane plays alone for long. Her Sun Celebrations shows — encouraged and whimsically named by Lisa Lepine, her friend and beloved late Portland music promoter — are welcome to fellow musician friends joining in.
"(Shows with) The Hurt are a lot of work," Deelane says of her high-energy soul revue, which includes choreographed backing vocalists. "So it's nice to come back to this intimate solo (show). I have people come and sit in with me, sometimes winging it, but having fun. I'm always open to special guests."
The long, narrow, cellar-like environs of Edgefield's Winery Tasting Room and the wide ranging audiences it attracts influence her song selection and performance style.
"It's a mix of my own stuff and some probably somewhat obscure covers, things I've found through my years of touring and songs that other friends of mine write," she says. "It's quieter, so I can crack my stupid jokes I like to tell … and the interaction with the audience is always super sweet.
"There are a lot of people (at Edgefield) who stay the night and are there for the music and wine tasting," she observes. "Or you just get someone who just got off work and is in a good mood. It's kind of relaxing. You have this intimate interaction you don't get everywhere."
When not playing around the Portland area, including other McMenamins venues, Deelane stays busy writing and records songs. With any luck, a new studio recording with The Hurt will be ready by year's end.
Acknowledging the financial, health care, management and other challenges that come with being a full-time musician — especially in a town brimming with them — Deelane remains confident she chose the path that best fulfills her needs.
"Working for anybody makes me homicidal. I don't have the temperament for it," she admits. "I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for the short life I get. It's something that's not worth an hourly rate to me.
"The projects I work on create community," Deelane adds. "Music saves my life on a regular basis. I get to get up every day and do what I love. I wish everybody could."
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