When Rikka Zimmerman graced the cover of this very publication back in July of 2005, big things were predicted from the songstress of our fine coastal county. Armed with a stunning debut EP – Cowboy Nights – that not only showcased her obvious musical talents, but also her elegant sense of style, there seemed to be no question that the young singer-songwriter was headed for greatness.
But that was almost three years ago. So what exactly has Rikka Z been up to since adorning the cover of the Independent? Or perhaps the more appropriate question should be, ‘What hasn’t she been up to?’ It seems life since then has proved to be somewhat of a whirlwind, but for the bubbly Zimmerman, she wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“Not at all!,” exclaimed Zimmerman when she dropped by for a chat last week. “After the EP I recorded a live CD at a show we did at The Maverick Saloon, and we also made a video. And then we got some label interest. It was funny actually; when I finally got together with the label they were like, ‘How much stuff have you done without us? You’re basically like our prize possession waiting to be exploited.’ And I was like, ‘Alright then, exploit me!'”
As Zimmerman alluded, the most significant development came when she crossed paths with Alan Abrahams and Do Rite Records. Not only is Abrahams a record producer with a bounty of hits to his credit and a former head of A&R for RCA Records, he also has extensive experience working in the executive side of music. For an emerging artist to have the support of someone with either of those credentials is a blessing in and of itself, but to find the one person looking out on both fronts was a real triumph for the songstress.
Along with producing, Abrahams also fronts Do Rite Records, which signed Zimmerman towards the end of last year. Zimmerman’s connection with Abrahams was initially forged through mutual friend and violinist Scarlet Rivera, who enthusiastically introduced her to Abrahams and his label. And once the singer-songwriter had made her mark on the label’s consciousness, a showcase performance was organized for Abraham’s benefit.
It was then that Zimmerman made a call to Zoey’s Cafe in Ventura, and her date with destiny was soon in place. With a room full of supporters and full band behind her, Zimmerman gave the performance of lifetime. In fact, it was that show that made the Abraham ultimately invite Zimmerman to join his roster and take her under his wing.
“I had a meeting with him and he talked a lot about the music business and the music industry,” recalled Zimmerman of her meeting with Abrahams. “At that meeting he actually gave me a book of everything you need to know about the music business and he said, ‘I want you to read it cover to cover before we do anything together.’ From right when I met him, I was like ‘Oh god, we’re going places, we’re gonna rock the Kasbah.'”
In the months prior to heading into the studio, Zimmerman’s prepared herself for the adventure in a number of different ways. In addition to holding down a weekly residency at Ventura’s Caffe Bell – where she has been road-testing her new songs with Shades of Day‘s Bruce Kimmell – Zimmerman has been both expanding her compositional arsenal and training her voice for the project.
“We’ve been re-writing a bunch of tunes and also adding a few tunes to the repertoire with Margaret Marston, who has also written with Bonnie Raitt and Tift Merritt – all these other people,” explained Zimmerman. “I have also been doing vocal lessons with Max-Anne Lewis, who has worked with just about everybody. So we’ve just been busy building the project and now we’re getting ready to start it.”
The tentative plan is to start recording the album over the span of eight weeks, with one half of the process talking place in Nashville and the other half right here at home. As Zimmerman readies both herself and her music for the undertaking, she continues to play shows throughout the county. And while Zimmerman and her musical accomplices will be commanding the stages of various venues around town before venturing off to Nashville, this week’s showcase promises a very special Rikka Z performance.
Having crossed paths with local musical luminary Jonathan McEuen several years ago, it seemed inevitable that Zimmerman would eventually team up with his brother, Nathan. And the musical collaboration that has subsequently evolved between the two musicians has managed to serve both artists well. So well in fact, that not only have the pair previously shared bills together – as they will be doing tonight’s installment of the Santa Barbara Songwriters Showcase at Jensen Guitar’s Mainstage – they have shared a band.
“Me and Nathan have played a lot together,” offered Zimmerman. “We just enjoy each other’s company and he’s just such a fabulous player in his own right. And he’s the sweetest person, which certainly helps when you’re working with someone. For a while we shared the same band – the same drummer and the whole thing. So we would play together and he would headline or I would headline or whatever and we didn’t have to change the band!”
Rikka Z will share some stage time with Nathan McEuen, Joe Cicero, and Bob Ballard this Thursday, May 15 at Jensen Guitar & Music Co. (2905 De la Vina St.). Visit myspace.com/sbsongwritershowcase for details.