Andy native to perform at coastal music fest

Published 12:28 am Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Just call Rochelle Harper a small town girl, who has made it to the “big time.”

Harper’s mother, Linn, said the Andalusia native has become a well-known singing sensation on the Gulf Coast, and for the pinnacle performance of her career thus far, Harper will take the stage this weekend at BayFest in Mobile.

The Rochelle Harper Band will play Sun., Oct. 3 at 2:30 p.m. on the AT&T/IP stage, Linn said.

“It’s awesome to get to play Bay Fest on any stage,” Rochelle said. “I’m happy to be playing in Alabama. You can really tell my country roots when you listen to my music.”

The band will play on the same stage as country music legend Reba McIntire, Lady Antebellum and Grayson Capps, who has Brewton ties.

Rochelle said in order to be selected for BayFest her group had to send in a CD and choose three songs that best described the band.

“They called us and said we scored in the 90 percents,” she said. “That means we get to play on a national stage instead of a local one.”

Linn said her daughter began playing on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2001, with her “funky, blues, rock, hipster music.”

The band describes itself as, a “hip six-piece, rockin’ blues band best described as a ‘genre trip’ performing blues, rock, folk and country with a little bit of funk thrown in.’

“It’s all wrapped up in one,” Rochelle said. “My influences were the music of the ‘60s and ‘70s including rock, pop, country and tons of vocalists, and tons of vocalists: Bessie Smith, Billie, Nina, Edith, Dionne W., Donna Summer, Janis Joplin.”

In addition, Rochelle has a “soulful” storytelling segment during concerts.

In the summer of 2000, Rochelle quit her job at Lake Tahoe to do something in music.

“I drove to Ocean Springs, Miss., with a friend and my bestest buddy, Athena, a lab, Akita and Pekinese mix that loved to travel to visit my mom,” she said.

Rochelle attended an open mic night at one of the Ocean Springs bars and the rest is history.

“That summer turned into six years and counting on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and I am so thankful for the experiences along the way and the songs,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful experience – every stage of it. I’ve really enjoyed expressing myself through music. My husband is a guitar player, and we get to do it together and it’s just awesome.”

Linn said Rochelle and band play from Florida to Louisiana.

“She plays at the Mobile Yacht Club,” she said. “She came up (to Andalusia) and played for the Buddy Harper 70th birthday.”

In addition, the band has played at the Biloxi Seafood Fest, Peter Anderson Fest, Gautier Mullet Fest, and has opened for Richie Havens, Gatemouth Brown, T-Bone Pruitt, Lisa Mills and Wet Willy. They was also the winner of the 2009 Covey Award for Favorite Coast Style Band.

Rochelle wrote a song titled “The Mississippi Hippy Blues” that has a stanza dedicated to “The Shed BBQ and Blues Joint” in Ocean Springs, Miss., Linn said.

“They have now franchised,” she said. “They used Rochelle’s song in their commercials, and she’s always the opening act there.”

Linn said Rochelle typically writes songs about her life experiences.

“You never know what she might write a song about,” she said.

“Each song is about someone, something, something real,” Rochelle said. “It isn’t just music and words. It is real.”

Linn said she is very proud of her daughter and the success she’s seen.

“It’s awesome, and she’s so talented,” she said. “As a mother, anything your child does it’s great, but when your child is as great as what she does as Rochelle, it’s amazing.”

Tickets to Bayfest are $45 for a weekend pass and $30 for a day pass and children 12 and under get in free with an adult.

“I hope my family and friends will come to Bay Fest to support me,” she said. “It’s going to be a great experience, and I’d like to share it with as many people as I can.”