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Alexia Bomtempo

Alexia Bomtempo is a Brazilian-American singer and songwriter. Possessed of a limpid, airy, nearly crystalline soprano, her work exists at the intersection of Brazilian MPB, samba, bossa nova, jazz, and what she calls "cinematic dream pop with a tropical indie rock twist." Though born in Washington, D.C. and currently residing in New York, Bomtempo lived most of her life in Rio. Astrolábio, her 2008 EMI debut, was an eclectic, breezy set of romantic sambas, ballads, and pop songs produced by Dadi (Eduardo Magalhães de Carvalho) that included gloriously rendered English-language covers of the Police's "Roxanne" and Stevie Wonder's "My Cherie Amour." In 2017, she collaborated with her husband, country singer and producer Jake Owen, and producer David Boyle in a Texas studio on Chasing Storms and Stars, a set of originals that reflected the pair's entwined Brazilian and West Texas roots. She returned to Bahian grooves with 2020's Suspiro for Ropeadope. The program included a cover of Peggy Lee's iconic "I'm in Love Again" arranged as a bossa nova. Bomtempo was born in Washington, D.C. to an American mother and a Brazilian father. She spent her entire childhood and adolescence in Rio de Janeiro, due to her father's occupation as a concert promoter. While other children were hanging out at school events, Bomtempo was soaking up the sounds of Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, and Maria Bethânia, to name scant few, from a backstage perch. The effect was profound. After high school, Bomtempo studied voice at the New England Conservatory for three years and then returned to Brazil. She began singing with local groups doing studio and commercial work -- she even sang a theme on the television series Savage in 2008. She signed to EMI and released her debut album, Astrolábio, that same year. Produced by Dandi, its tunes showcased his sophisticated charts co-arranged with Cesinha, Felipe Pinaud, Jorge Helder, Jorginho Gomes, and Pierre Aderne. While her tours across Brazil, Europe, Asia, and North America were all quite successful, the album only reached the lower rungs of the charts. Nonetheless, it received airplay across Europe and Japan. Over the next five years, Bomtempo toured at home and played European and Japanese jazz clubs. She also developed her songwriting in workshops with industry professionals and peers. In 2012, she released I Just Happen to Be Here for Rio's Biscoito Fino. Its contents consisted entirely of rearranged (sometimes radically) covers of songs written by Caetano Veloso in English while he was living in exile in London. Jesse Harris, Frejat, and Orkestra Rumpilezz were among her collaborators. The set registered with indie pop fans across the globe, prompting another tour of Japan and Europe. Restless for new sounds and directions, Bomtempo immigrated to New York City in 2013 and immersed herself in the club scene, where she met numerous artists and producers. Invited to do a residency in Tokyo, she settled in for a period of solitude; besides performing and sightseeing, she burrowed into her craft as a songwriter there. After returning to New York, she met another recent transplant in Owen, who had moved north after growing restless in Nashville. The pair married and began writing together. They sketched out an album but were delayed in implementing their plans when Owen was struck by lightning while on tour in Florida. During his recuperation, they spent time with his family and friends in Texas. Though Bomtempo had introduced Owen to her Brazilian heroes, the circumstances allowed him to saturate her with the homegrown sounds of Townes Van Zandt, Blaze Foley, Doug Sahm, and Guy Clark. In late 2016, they entered an Austin studio with producer David Boyle (Patty Griffin, Robert Plant) and a host of local luminaries including Dobro guitarist Jeff Plankenhorn, bassist George Reiff, saxophonist Jorge Continentino, and the Tosca String Quartet. The end result, titled Chasing Storms and Stars, was issued in 2017 and wed Americana, cinematic dream pop, indie rock, folk, and samba in a beguiling and provocative set of originals that won global notice. After several more years working bandstands on the road and in New York studios with Owen and others, as well as teaching, Bomtempo looked back to her roots in samba, MPB, bossa, and Tropicalia for inspiration. She also looked deeply into lesser-known entries from the Great American Songbook. She and Owen co-wrote songs that reflected these two poles of inspiration as well as their love of Cuban son. She added tinges of jazz and American pop to classic Brazilian tunes by Edú Lobo, and the younger generation such as Alberto Continentino and drum sensation Stephane San Juan. The couple gathered a small group of musicians in a New York studio. Owen and San Juan played guitars and drums, respectively, and co-produced; they also drafted bassist Eduardo Bello, trumpeter Michael Leonhart, and pianist/arranger Vitor Gonçalves. On the first day of recording, they arranged a bossa version of Cy Coleman's and Bill Schluger's Peggy Lee vehicle "I Think I'm in Love Again" on the spot, and captured it in a single take. They turned their attention to creating a lithe jazz arrangement for João Donato's and João Carlos Pádua's classic ballad "Fim de Sonho." It, too, went off without a hitch. All told, the group cut a dozen tracks that included Bomtempo originals ranging from the Radiohead-esque indie pop of "Evergreen" (co-written with Owen) to the French-language samba "Les Chansons d'Amour" (co-written with San Juan) to the Tropicalia-inspired "Serpente." Mixed by Scotty Hard, and titled Suspiro, the album appeared from Ropeadope in 2020 to critical acclaim.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo
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