Houston Music

Artist of the Week: Debbie Forrest

Each Wednesday, Rocks Off arbitrarily appoints one lucky local performer or group "Artist of the Week," bestowing upon them all the fame and grandeur such a lofty title implies. Know a band or artist that isn't awful? Email their particulars to [email protected].

Americana music, a generalized catchall that we’ve taken to mean an earthy amalgam of folk, country, blues and rock and roll, is straight-up grown-folks stuff. It’s a burning ring of fire [wink] of thick, campy storylines, sultry vocals and (mostly) adult lyrics. Needless to say, we’re fans. And in a city that’s seen its share of successful Americana acts, yet another is making her mark: Debbie Forrest.

We reached out to Forrest, who’s enviably managed to work her way into full-time musician status despite having less than 7,000 MySpace profile views, and got her to talk a little about her time in Nashville, a possibly fictional Pomeranian named Poopy and, of course, the comparative douchiness of oversized sunglasses vs. those Kanye West ones that look like window blinds.

Rocks Off: Tell us a little about how you got started, inspirations, boring things of that nature.

Debbie Forrest: I taught myself to play guitar when I was around 16, decided I wanted to make a living at it one day, moved to Nashville at 18, then spent nine years writing songs, recording, and having people tell me I'm not good enough yet. So I became a road manager for my favorite artist at the time, and realized that all of my favorite artists, like Patty Griffin and Lucinda Williams, did not become successful in their careers ‘til they were around 30.

RO: Yeah, their careers are kinda the opposite of strippers, huh?

DF: One day I just decided I wasn't ready to give up yet. I sold my house in Nashville, quit my job, moved back to Texas, and haven't had to take another job since. I get to play for a living.

RO: "Sinner Song" is cool. Are you the official Americana spokesperson for the sinner community? How'd you get that job?

DF [laughs]: Aren't we all? I've got some good stories about that song, but you'll have to come hear me in person to hear about them.

RO: How's the tour going? Talk a little about that.

DF: I just went on a tour in Washington State. That was pretty fun. My favorite part of being in the music industry is really all the cool people I get to meet. Every one of the guys that played on my first album were friends that play professionally for people like Matt Kearney and Marc Broussard. Oh, my other great accomplishment: I get free drinks wherever I play. That's good.

RO: We got a free drink when we were working on article once, but we didn't get to drink it so much as we got it thrown in our face. That's the same, though. What type of process is it when you write a song? We've always been curious about how that works. I assume you're sitting in a rocking chair in the proximity of a fireplace and a Labrador retriever.

DF: Actually, you're really close, only I have a Pomeranian named Poopy and a gas stove that doubles as a fireplace on the one night of the year it's actually cold enough to have heat in Houston. Really though, I just have a thought come to my head while I'm driving most of the time and then I repeat it over and over so I don't forget it when I get back to my guitar.

RO: We’re gonna sound totally crazy for saying this, and we’re just kinda shooting from the hip here, but you could write it down instead.

DF: Sometimes I can finish one in 30 minutes. Other times I'll work on the same song for six months cause I think the chorus is good but the verses suck or something; most of the time it comes from observing people in everyday life. That or watching people get drunk at bars when I'm sober and they don't know anyone is watching them.

RO: On a d-bag scale of 1-10, 1 being the least douchey, 10 being a breakdancing free-form spoken -ord poet, where would you rate oversized sunglass and, by extension, the people who wear them?

DF: Um... love 'em. Practically speaking, they block the sun from every angle. Think Blue Blocker commercials from days gone by. You should have asked about the Kanye sunglasses that look like mini-blinds. Three for Kanye, ten for anyone else that wears them to look like him.

RO: Anything else you want to make sure gets mentioned?

DF: One, you can get the Long Ride Home CD,with "Sinner Song" on iTunes and Napster and pretty much any online music store. Two, I hope next year I can list in my accomplishments that Houston Press invited me to some cool party cause I was an artist of the week [laughs].

Debbie’s LP will be out next year. In the meantime, you can catch her at this Friday at the Backyard Tavern, Avant Garden Friday, November 21, and Corkscrew Monday, November 24. And don't forget her MySpace page.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray