Themes of empowerment, rising above life’s challenges and holding on to your dreams abound in Jump In!, the introspective but energetic new album by Lisa Bouchelle & the Bleu, which is being released Aug. 27 on the BFD/The Orchard label, a division of the Sony Music Group.
“Honestly, a couple of the songs started as kind of like mantras, to build myself up when I was going through something,” says singer-songwriter Bouchelle, who grew up in the Trenton area and has been active on the New Jersey music scene and releasing solo albums for the last 15 to 20 years. ” ‘I Believe’ is kind of like a love song to your own dream: Believe in your own dream. Be your own advocate. Don’t let people get you down. ‘Twice as Tall’ kind of came around like that, too. I started realizing they were not just personal reminders. They were universal themes.”
The Bleu is made up of drummer John Hummel, guitarist Ken Ward and bassist Dan Neary, though there are many guest musicians on the album, including G. Love, who plays harmonica on the title track (listen below); Constantine Maroulis, who duets on “I Believe”; Mike Schmid of The Chainsmokers; Tommy Kessler from Blondie; Hal B. Selzer (who is also Bouchelle’s manager) of Joan Jett & The Blackhearts; and Rob Hyman of The Hooters.
Bouchelle met G. Love when she was on tour with Donavon Frankenreiter, opening shows. G. Love is a friend of Frankenreiter and came to one of the shows. She and he met each other after her set, but he told her his name was Garrett (his real first name).
“I didn’t know it was him,” says Bouchelle, who says she knew his music but didn’t really know what he looks like. “So then the tour manager goes, ‘You know who that is, right?’ I’m like, ‘Uh, Garrett?’ And he’s like, ‘G Love.’ ”
For “Jump In!,” she says, “I really wanted a jammin’ kind of (sound), and I know a lot of great harp players. I’m blessed. I’ve worked with Southside (Johnny). I’ve worked with John Popper. I’ve been fortunate with harp players. But I had a vision that he would be perfect for it. So we asked him if he wanted to do it and he did. I think it brings the song to another level. It’s a big part of that song to me.”
She met Maroulis through Selzer, who got to know him by playing in the pit band of the Broadway show “Rock of Ages” (in which Maroulis starred).
After she wrote “I Believe,” she says, “I was like, ‘I think it would sound cool as a duet,’ and Constantine just came into my head, because it was a high vocal. If we were going to get a guy to sing, it was going to have to be a guy with an amazing range. I was like, ‘Constantine would be perfect for that,’ and he listened to it and he dug the song.”
Another song on the album is “Heaven on Credit” (co-written by Bouchelle and Bob Burger of The Weeklings), which Bouchelle originally released on her 2010 album Bleu Room With a Red Vase. The version on Jump In! has more of a hard-rock edge.
“I love Florence and the Machine and that powerful sound,” says Bouchelle, “and I thought ‘Heaven on Credit’ … I love the way we did it on Bleu Room With a Red Vase, but that was then, and I just thought that it could get a remake. I just thought I could change it up, and it could live as a more current version.
“People love that song live. If I don’t do it (at a show), they’re like, ‘Where’s “Heaven on Credit”?’ So even when I’m doing the newer stuff, I always have to add that one.”
Covers on the album include Warren Zevon’s moving ballad “Keep Me In Your Heart,” the Peggy Lee hit “Fever” with an inventive modern-rock arrangement, and the “Frozen” anthem “Let It Go” performed as a dark, moody ballad.
“I was just riding in my car late at night — that’s where I get a lot of inspiration — after a gig, and that just came into my head,” says Bouchelle. “I don’t know why. I was thinking, there’s all these remakes of like syrupy, sultry versions of these songs people are doing. Reimagined covers, you know. And it came into my head, I guess because it has minor chords in it.”
After singing some of the lyrics slowly, in the deepest part of her register, she said: “It just came in my head like that and I was thinking, ‘That would be so cool.’ Then I went through the words, and even though it’s a Disney movie and all, the words are kind of dark. ‘The cold never bothered me anyway.’ ‘Snow glows white on the mountain tonight, not a footprint to be seen/A kingdom of isolation, and it looks like I’m the queen.’
“That’s dark. I was like, ‘This would sound good.’ So we just experimented with it, and it ended up coming out to our liking.”
Venues for upcoming shows by Bouchelle include the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, Aug. 27; the Harvest Moon in New Brunswick, Aug. 28; the Renault Winery in Egg Harbor City, Aug. 29 at noon; and the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, Aug. 29 at 6 p.m. For updates and information, visit lisabouchelle.com.
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