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Originally from Springfield, Mo., "the Ozarks area of Missouri," Ingrid Gerdes is a neo-soul performer out of Boston, but she considers herself a Southern singer. Her latest album is titled Shed. "I guess my influences and lyric style are sort of rooted in that kind of Southern soul-blues thing," Gerdes tells NPR's Guy Raz. "Growing up, my mom used to sing that kind of stuff to me instead of lullabies. Then I came across people like Bonnie Raitt and Otis Redding, and they just spoke to me, and I felt like that's my reality. You know, I grew up in the country. I'm basically a tomboy country girl, and it's where I come from, and I think it reflects in my lyrics and everything I chose to do musically." Gerdes went to school in Kansas, then to Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Originally, she says, she had plans to become an opera singer.
"Well, I don't know if I planned on it, but I realized I could sing opera style when I was really young," Gerdes says. "I studied classically throughout the years, and when I attended Kansas University, I did study opera there. And I still sing classically from time to time now."
Gerdes says the "technique alone keeps me in vocal health, so that I'm able to perform night after night for hours on end in bad-sounding rooms and dive bars."
Let Nothing Hold You Back
Listening to Gerdes perform "Your Boyfriend" at NPR, Raz says that anyone could be forgiven for thinking it's a classic soul song — except it makes a reference to Facebook. She's essentially singing this song to her ex's new girlfriend, saying, "Ladies, don't trust this guy." It sounds like a story that might not be made up.
"Well, it's definitely not an in-your-face 'I'm-stealing-your-boyfriend' kind of song," she says, laughing. "That is not the message; I want to be very clear. Most of my lyrics are taking directly from my life or from my friends or other things that I personally witness."
After hearing a performance of the album's title track, Raz suggests that Gerdes must go out with a lot of jerks.
"Oh, man! If I had a nickel for every time I heard that," she says. "I've had my fair share of interesting dates, let's say. But I'm not walking around, like, 'Boo-hoo, myself.' It's about letting go of things, because it only brings you down, ridding yourself of anything that's holding you back."
As with most emotive material, it's hard not to go somewhere deep with Shed.
"I think my job as a vocalist and a lyricist is to deliver the point of the song to the listener," Gerdes says. "I take that very seriously, so I try to put every emotion I can into my performances."
Does Gerdes ever think of the target of her rage?
"No, that would be singing from a bad place, Guy," Gerdes says, laughing. "I sing from a happy place."