Just Plain Good 

Treva Blomquist takes no detours

Treva Blomquist takes no detours

If it's been said once, it's been said a thousand times: People—especially those who came of age during the 1980s and since—don't like to feel like they're being sold something, even if it's authenticity.

As Yuval Taylor, co-author of Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music, noted in an interview last year, plenty of glossy rock, pop and R&B acts have loudly heralded their own genuineness with ultra-confessional songs. (Even Mariah Carey's The Emancipation of Mimi was supposed to be some kind of self-disclosure.) At an opposite extreme, indie-minded singer-songwriters have offered music that's homemade, lo-fi and raggedly unskilled-sounding. (Devendra Banhart's early recordings are an example.)

Treva Blomquist doesn't follow either of those routes. Her music is polished, it doesn't harangue the listener with its genuineness and there's nothing ironic about it. And—judging from her recent CD release show at The Basement—it also strikes a chord with her twenty-something peers in Nashville. Straightforwardness is exactly the appeal: She sings well, writes well and plays well.

Blomquist's soprano caresses, flutters and rings clear, with a hint of R&B expressiveness and evident control (she received classical training as a vocal performance major at MTSU), and she tends toward focused, graceful, brightly melodic folk-pop songs.

"It's just what honestly comes out of me," Blomquist says. "I mean, there's always the fad and there's always the cool thing to do right now. I feel like I just have to do what comes out. If it's not cool, then I'm just going to have wait for a couple years. I can't change it. I mean, I hope it's cool. I feel like as long as you're being honest and that there's some kind of a truth in the songs, that people are going to connect to it and enjoy listening to it."

Blomquist's new EP, As It Should Be, is the first recording she's done with her band, the Suits. Her 2006 debut, Plain Vanilla Me (a title that succinctly captures her musical philosophy) was mostly a solo acoustic affair, though a few touches from future Suits guitarist and fellow MTSU grad Ben Gortmaker foreshadowed the band to come. Two songs on the EP—"Home" and "I Could Get Used to This"—are repeats from Blomquist's first album, this time fleshed out with the band.

"I love playing acoustic, but as far as options for TV placements, options for actually making money on the music—because, I mean, that's the end goal—I thought I needed to put my best songs forward and I felt like these were my best songs at the time that we went into the studio," she says, demonstrating the balance she strikes between commercial awareness and her gently exuded "as-I-am" ethos. "I wanted to have the band. Being able to put strings on 'I Could Get Used to This' was something I didn't want to pass up."

Blomquist still performs solo some of the time, but the Suits add a nimble, almost elegant touch to rock- and folk-leaning songs like "Fire With Fire" and "You Deserve Better." "I guess it's because we all studied music...so we don't come by it [in the same way] as garage [bands]," she says.

As their name suggests, the Suits don't just play sharply—they dress sharply too. They're worlds away from the corporate connotation of "suits," but they do bear a faint resemblance to an earlier era of dapper, all-male bands fronted by girl singers (only their suits aren't identical).

"It wasn't meant to be [a throwback], but it certainly could be," Blomquist says. "I love it when they wear the vintage suits, rather than just today's suits. We have to wait until we can find some designer to sponsor us."

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