Local resident Annette De Bow has been living with the rare, progressive blood cancer, myeloproliferative neoplasm, since 2008. Her particular disorder, polycythemia vera, causes overproduction of blood cells in the bone marrow. There is no known cure.
De Bow decided to confront the deadly disease head-on by raising money to find a cure. In 2010, she hiked the John Muir Trail in the High Sierra as a fundraiser for research and helped raise $30,000.
And she’s not stopping there.
On July 1, De Bow will hike 180 miles, from Tahoe to Yosemite. All of the money raised will go toward funding research in cooperation with the MPN Research Foundation. For more information, go to http://trekforacure.com.
A concert Saturday featuring Emily Wells will add to De Bow’s efforts. The show is from 3 to 7 p.m. at Plainfield Station, 23944 County Road 98, between Davis and Woodland. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students ages 13-17 and $5 for children 12 and under. For tickets, go to https://emilywells.ticketbud.com. Proceeds go to Trek for a Cure.
“Everybody’s lives have been touched by cancer, mine included, so it’s an easy benefit to agree to be a part of,” Wells said in a recent phone interview from Brooklyn, N.Y. “It’s hard to know what it would feel like to have cancer. We can all think, ‘I would do a trek like that if I had cancer,’ but it must take a lot of willpower and strength.”
Wells puts on an incredible one-women show, looping various elements live, including strings, synthesizers, toy instruments and hip-hop beats. Hanging above it all are her sweet, smooth vocals and introspective lyrics.
Wells was trained as a classical violinist, but her wide range of musical influences couldn’t hold her to one instrument. Her 2012 album, “Mama,” is a stylistic hodge-podge of hip-hop, folk and classical music. Her new release, “Mama Acoustic Recordings,” is a big departure. The album finds Wells re-imagining songs from “Mama” with simply guitar and vocals.
“It’s really spare,” she said. “It’s just guitar and vocals, and I’m not much of a guitar player! It was a challenge. Normally I go all out. I’m interested in layers and sounds. But there was a curiosity about the songs themselves. This was a way for me to explore the sounds in a really bare way.”
Was it challenging? “It was in the way that I was being super-honest,” she said.
Wells’ music recently hit the big screen; her song “Becomes the Color” was featured in the acclaimed psychological thriller “Stoker.” The film’s director, Chan-wook Park, was made aware of Wells’ music by the film’s sound editor.
“Chan-wook Park was intrigued and came to a show. That sealed the deal for him,” Wells said. “In the liner notes for the soundtrack he said, ‘Watching me perform was like watching a lonely child build sand castles.’ He felt that I related to the characters in the film.
“I loved putting myself in the shoes of the character,” she added. “I approached it like method acting. I thought a lot about how an actor must empathize with the character they’re playing. It intrigued me from an artistic perspective.”
This year saw the release of another Wells project, “Pillowfight,” featuring legendary hip-hop producer Dan the Automator.
“That was a different type of collaboration,” she said. “I approach things as an instrumentalist, but in ‘Pillowfight,’ I’m just a singer and lyricist.”
How did they create the songs?
“Dan had already created most of the songs and the arrangements. I would come in and sit for hours in the studio and write melodies. I’d say, ‘OK Dan, check this out,’ and he’d say, ‘great’ or ‘let’s change that.’ We both had our solo time with the project and then we’d come back together.”
Have they performed the songs live?
“We’ve done some shows and they were a lot of fun. But it’s such a side project for us both. Dan’s not much of a touring kind of guy, he’s a studio guy. I’m a touring artist and am always touring my solo work.”
As we spoke, Wells was about to embark on a European tour.
“I’m releasing my first official release there,” she said. “I’m doing a few dates with Kurt Vile. I’m really excited to meet him because I admire him so much.”
For the benefit concert in Woodland, will Wells perform her solo acoustic work or have her full band set up?
“I thought about going out and doing a solo acoustic show, but I just can’t do it,” she admitted. “I just love my other set-up way too much.”
There will be no other musicians on stage, but Wells said, “If you close your eyes, it sounds like a full band.”