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INTERVIEW: Elena Glass, Emily Dussault, and Leslie Vincent on Redefining Harmonies

Musicians Emily Dussault, Leslie Vincent, and Elena Stabile will perform as a trio at MetroNOME Brewery in St. Paul on June 17, 2023.

Follow the Twin Cities theatre/music scene for a spell, and you’ll soon start developing your favorites. Ask others about who they never miss, no matter what they’re doing, and you’ll see that some names keep popping up. Elena Glass. Emily Dussault. Leslie Vincent. When not tearing up the theatrical stage, these singer-actors are rocking the performance circuit from intimate jazz club to concert stage. The Arts Reader‘s Basil Considine caught up with these three women to talk about an upcoming performance as a trio, and the secrets to concert planning.

Basil Considine: You’re performing on Saturday, June 17 at MetroNOME Brewery. Besides being named after a musical practice tool, I can’t help but notice that the heads of the brewery all have professional musical backgrounds – to the point where the brewmaster is posing with his French horn. So: what’s the scoop? How did you get booked at this musical beer joint, so to speak?

Leslie Vincent: They are a brewery, but they’re also particularly interested in music education – so a portion of their proceeds go directly to that, and in the basement is a musical venue, Fingal’s Cave. I played a show there a few months back, and it had a good vibe. It also had really good beer, so I wanted to come back, and I thought that it’d be fun to do a show with Emily and Elena. We’ve talked about doing that for, gosh, like half a year now, so it seemed like a good fit.  They have music upstairs, too – but the ticketed events are down in Fingal’s Cave, for the most part. 

Basil Considine: Elena, have you performed or attended an event in Fingal’s Cave?

Elena Glass: Yes, I performed this past winter with Jen Burleigh-Bentz, who is a regular performer both in the cave and in their upstairs space as well. We did a set from Christmas of Swing, which is the Andrews Sisters show that we did at the History Theater way back in 2021. So we brought it back for the holidays and sang a bunch of those classics.  I can echo Leslie: it is a great venue, nice and intimate. It only seats 50 people but their beer is delicious. And, obviously, it’s for a great cause. So, yeah, they’re great!

Elena Glass, Emily Dussault, and Leslie Vincent performing at the Troubadour Wine Club in Minneapolis in 2017.

Basil Considine: The three of you have each done a large variety of three shows, and I imagine, an equal variety of music. How did you start selecting the musical numbers that people will hear on June 17?

Leslie Vincent:  There were a lot of directions we could go, but Emily had this vision of folk songs – so we got together and drank some wine, and talked about what the show could be, made a playlist, and started thinking about the different types of songs we wanted to do. We added a couple of solos, a couple of duets for variety. Then we had a night where we just cut the list down even more to really fine-tune how we wanted the night to feel.

Elena Glass: We also wanted to challenge ourselves a bit with 3-part harmonies. The three of us talked about how we really miss our choir days where we had to really learn, harmonize, and stuff like that. And sometimes when you do concerts with your friends, there’s not a lot of time to really dig into that. This is kind of a dream concert. Leslie’s always busy, but I had some time right before my next project. Every time we rehearse together, we are really able to take the time to judge and make the harmonies what we want to make them.  There’s a plethora of folk songs that have three parts.

Basil Considine: Hollywood has trained me to believe that the women can only gather together when they’re trying to backstab each other. How did you determine solos?

Leslie Vincent: It was very difficult. There were lots of pillow fights, and we tickled each other the whole time, in our brassieres.

Basil Considine: …that was not the answer that I expected…

Emily Dussault: One of the songs that we decided to do is “Jolene”, which has that kind of women versus women topic – but I also found a song a few years ago that was written by a country music artist named Cam. It’s called “Diane”, and it’s written as a response to “Jolene” from the other woman’s perspective. It’s from Jolene’s perspective, talking to the character that Dolly Parton was singing as.  I really like it because it’s beautiful, but also because the character is supporting another woman. She’s, like, “I did not know that he was married. I would never want to do this, and you shouldn’t put up with this either. You’re better than this. If you want to stay with him, you can, but I don’t think you should, because he treated us both badly.”  I kinda like that little feminist take on both of those songs.

Singer-actor-songwriter Emily Dussault in Theatre Elision’s 2021 performance of Islander. Photo by Jessica Holleque.

Basil Considine: Emily, would you tell us a piece that you were going to be singing a solo for on the program?

Emily Dussault: We will each technically be doing three, but we’re backing each other up on a couple of them. I’m probably the most excited about a song called “Ryland (Under the Apple Tree)” that was recorded by I’m With Her as a trio, but was originally written by someone else and then they kind of took it and wrote in lyrics to it.  It is a very summery kind of “kick back” song, with a little bit of harmony – but the harmony is so beautiful. It was the first song that popped into my head when we started talking about doing this. I’m also singing a Patty Griffin song that I’ve done before a lot because I love it. 

Basil Considine: Elena, what’s a song that you will be doing?

Elena Glass: I’ll be doing “A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell, which i  a standard that I enjoy singing so much – I’m really excited to sing that. And then I’m doing an acoustic, kind of different version of “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry – because it’s a song I’ve always sung in the car, sang at karaoke, and then I found a really cool acoustic version of it.  Our guitarist is amazing, so I was, like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” We’ll each be singing solos on some other songs, but that’s one that I’m doing on my lonesome. 

Leslie Vincent: I’m going to sing “Invisible String” by Taylor Swift – and then I was convinced by these two to do “Royals” by Lorde! Which I protested quite a bit about at first – but now I think I actually think I’m gonna do it at more shows, because I actually like it.  Sometimes your friends are right.

Emily Dussault: Sometimes.

Basil Considine: We were talking about people missing choral singing…when you come up with the harmonies that you’re singing for this show, are these things where you write it out beforehand, where you improvise on the spot and see what works, find a book of three-part arrangements…? How do you end up with the harmonies that you sing?

Elena Glass: All of the above? 

Emily Dussault: Yeah, most of these are songs that we picked because they have multiple voices on recordings that we’ve heard or because they have interesting harmonies or backing vocals. That was one of the things with “Royals”: I feel I’ve always really liked the backing vocals on that track. It elevates it so much, even though Lorde’s voice is really cool.  So we had an ear out for that. Then we’re kind of trying to listen to what the recordings are doing, and sometimes just recreate that other times. For example, we’re doing some Whalin’ Jennys, and we got the sheet music from their site. That was kind of cool, because those are hard, and I don’t know if we could have done that without them having that music available.

Basil Considine: Tell us a little bit about the instrumentation that we’ll hear:  are ukuleles making an appearance? Is there a backing band? Three-part a cappella?

Emily Dussault: There is going to be some uke, because, of course. And Leslie and I are actually gonna double up ukes on one song, which is the first time we’re doing that – we’re very excited. But also, Leslie, you should talk about our guitarist.

Singer-actor-songwriter Leslie Vincent. Photo by Briana Patnode.

Leslie Vincent: Yeah. We’re gonna be joined by Brianna Lane, who is a personal hero of mine. They used to run The Warming House, if you remember that (now closed) venue, and we recently collaborated on a Linda Ronstadt show. When we are putting together this setlist, I was, like, “I really think Brianna would bring a lot of cool musical vibes to it.” And they are.

Basil Considine: Elena, you mentioned that this is your thing before the next project. What’s next up for you?

Elena Glass: Yeah, I’ll be doing Godspell at Artistry in Bloomington. (Formerly Bloomington Civic Theater.) We start rehearsals on June 20th, and this performance is on June 17th. So kind of perfect timing. Godpsell runs July 20 through August 13.

Basil Considine: It’s no secret that Artistry has had some hiccups in the last year or so. Were there any special assurances that they gave you that the company wasn’t going to up and close and cancel the show on you?

Elena Glass: Yeah, we were actually supposed to do it a year ago, and ended up having to cancel that production about a week before rehearsals. That was hard, especially with what we were saying earlier about The Warming House and all these other venues closing. We really just want theater and music to succeed in the city, so that when any of them are having a hard time, you know, that’s always a downer.  As far as assurances: Artistry got a really a big grant from the City of Bloomington this year. They’ve been doing a great job, and I recently saw the production of The Pajama Game that they produced, and I have to say that was such an incredible production. It just had a very high production quality. Ben and Allison are also doing a really great job of making sure that they’re able to pay their actors equitably. They provide a high quality experience to the folks involved with the show. 

Contracts for Godspell are signed and everything’s on its way. I think The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is their next show, with Tyler Michaels King directing it. We’re hoping for nothing but the best for them in the future.

Basil Considine: “Nothing but the best” wasn’t sneaking in an extra Godspell reference, was it?

Elena Glass: I didn’t even think about that!

Basil Considine: What is your role in Godspell?

Singer-actor Elena Glass in the Old Log Theatre’s 2018 production of Lend Me a Tenor. Photo courtesy of the Old Log Theatre.

Elena Glass: I’ll be playing the role of Lindsay – her solo is “Bless the Lord!” The great thing about Godspell is that it’s such an ensemble show. You have Judas and Jesus as the two main characters, but everyone else has their moment to shine. And it’s a smaller cast, I think, of 12 people. I’ve been researching the version that was done on Broadway in 2012, and they’ve obviously updated it since the 70s. It’s a really cool ensemble piece, with   great music and tunes that a lot of viewers, no matter what age, will recognize.

Basil Considine: So, they are doing the version of Godspell with “Beautiful City” in it?

Elena Glass: Yeah, yeah, they’re doing the revival. We’re really looking forward to that.

Emily Dussault:  I don’t think I can talk about the next big thing that I’m doing, yet – it hasn’t officially been announced. But look for an announcement in the fall!

In the meantime, Leslie and I are doing yet another side project that I’m very excited about, collaborating with Josh Carson. He makes such great original stuff. We’re going to be both writing and performing in sketches, and also working on our ukulele tunes. And we’re each going to try to write an original song.  I don’t know that I can give the name of the show–

Leslie Vincent: You can say it.

Emily Dussault:  It’s going to be at Bryant Lake Bowl on July 27th and 28th. It’s called Twee AF, and it is a celebration of the specific cultural moment in the 2000s (and 2010s, a bit) with the Twee movement. The biggest references would be movies like Garden State and Juno: indie theater that went mainstream, and Zooey Deschanel, and then all of the indie music that came out around then. It’s stuff that came out when we were in college and in our twenties and being, “Oh, we’re so deep!” all of a sudden. We felt like we were so unique, but now, looking back on it, we’re like, “Oh, that actually was all mainstream.” But at the time it felt so like Indie and artsy.

So anyway…we both love and feel a little cringy about that time period. And so we’re going to honor it with this show, and I’m very excited.

Basil Considine: I’m going to write down “Super secret manic pixie dreamgirl show at BLB.” Leslie, what is the next thing up for you?

Leslie Vincent: I’ve got a lot of shows this summer, but the big one is, obviously, the album release July 22nd at Crooners.  I’m also doing a really cute show at the beginning of July, called Summer Girls: A Tribute to the Boy Bands Without the Boy at the Turf Club. And then I’ll do Twee AF with Emily, and keep performing a bunch in the fall.  To be honest, after that, I’ll hopefully be starting another record. But first I gotta finish up this one.

Basil Considine: What is something that you especially enjoy about performing with each other?

Emily Dussault: That is a huge question. Obviously, Leslie and I have a lot of experience performing together. but we’ve also done this kind of thing back pre-COVID – cabaret-kind of get-togethers of different ladies – together with Elena involved, too. So, I already knew that would be fun.  What feels really exciting to me about this one is we’ve really challenged ourselves. I don’t know if we even really knew how much we were challenging ourselves when we set up to do this, but we’re all really game and working hard on it.  We’re not just doing this to show off – not doing a bunch of songs that were [already] easy for us, or songs that we already felt really comfortable with… we’re pushing ourselves.  I feel really safe with both Elena and Leslie. I trust their ear and that we can all take risks with each other, and that we’ll still support each other [regardless]. And if something doesn’t work…we’ll talk about it.  It’s just been a really fun challenge, and I can’t wait to share it.

A promotional photo for singer-songwriters Emily Dussault and Leslie Vincent’s duo The Champagne Drops.

Leslie Vincent: A lot of music making is also camaraderie and friendship. I really enjoy the parts where we’re not singing and not rehearsing, and just talking about our day and laughing together, because I really believe that those relationships come through on stage. There’s something about watching three people that really love each other. I always find those types of connections more interesting to watch than stuff where they’re, like, “Yep. And now I’m performing.”  So, really, I enjoy building those friendships, our group vibe, and honestly laughing our butts off when we’re not singing. We’re either in 3-part harmony or we’re crying, laughing.

Elena Glass: Wow! Totally yes, I echo everything they said. for me. It’s been awesome. I’ve known Emily and Leslie and been friends with them since 2016, but we haven’t made music together, really, since pre-COVID. There’s been some huge changes in our lives since then – I mean, Leslie got married, had these two albums, and Emily had a whole kid. My dad died, and there have been other changes for me, personally, too. It’s been great to make music with them. 

Friendships can grow and evolve and turn into different things – Leslie and I are lucky enough to work together now, for our day jobs. It’s great to see that in your thirties, you can still challenge yourself musically and find new things about not only your part of being musicians, but also your friendships.

Echoing what Emily said, the trust is really huge.  It’s something that is commonly thought of: that women are really competitive towards each other, including – and especially in – the music industry… But that is so not a thing here. The support for each other is incredible. And we all have genuine respect for each other, not just as humans, but as artists, too. So that’s been really, really cool to experience.

Emily Dussault, Elena Glass, and Leslie Vincent will perform at MetroNOME Brewery on Saturday, June 17, 2023 at 7 PM. Ticket link.

Basil Considine