By Blair Jackson
Candy Lee, the voice of the folk jazz band Candy Lee and the Sweets has returned to Northwest Arkansas to kick off her tour of the Southern states.
After a solo tour last summer, the singer/songwriter/artist is settling into a routine at her new home in Jacksonville, Fla., and is planning a new album.
“I am really super excited about coming back to Fayetteville,” Lee said. “It’s my favorite place in the world.”
Lee’s fragile, folksy voice (with a tone that rivals Leslie Feist) skips across notes like stones in a brook.
The music of her most recent album, “The Gate,” bares simple lyrics, three-part harmonies and upbeat tempos that blend into playful, sweet melodies that often border on soulful.
The album is a record not only of Lee’s music, but also of her personal journey through spiritual and philosophical revelations.
Music, according to the artist, is also her preferred method of introspection.
“Music is the most important thing in my life,” Lee said.
“It’s a really good way to explore what’s on my mind and get it out there. And to relate with other people because I find that that’s really powerful. It’s really cool to connect with people on that level. That’s what I like about writing about such personal things.”
Described as “children’s songs for adults,” Lee uses simple lyrics to explore the complexities of the human experience. Drawing inspiration from Friedrich Nietzche, Edmund Burke, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, and even from her own experience in the restaurant industry, the album is Lee’s autobiographical exploration of some of humanity’s most personal and unifying questions.
“It’s been said in different religions, in Christianity for example, ‘Become like a child,’” Lee said.
“In order to learn anything, you have to step back into a childlike perspective where you’re able to learn and see the world in a way that’s fascinating. Kids have this wonderful joy and excitement with the world around them, because it’s new and things are happening everyday.
“We become jaded as adults and think there’s nothing left for us to learn, but if you step back into that childlike perspective you learn not only to be humble but to learn new things everyday.”
Lee took her vision a step further with the album artwork. Illustrated as a children’s storybook, each page depicts a variety of scenes — from islands, to caves, to dragons — all of which feature a cartoon Candy Lee.
The simple, soul-baring songs of “The Gate” are captivating in quality and messages, but fans can expect a completely different experience live.
On the album, there are layers of synthesized strings that have not yet found a place on the stage, and depending on the show, you can find Lee solo with a guitar or backed up by her band, The Sweets.
Lee says the highlight of her homecoming will be playing with her band again. “They’re some of my best friends,” she said. Comprised of Jennifer Graham (bass, vocals), Emily Jenkins (vocals), Dan Dean (djembe and percussion) and Warren Dietzel (mandolin), the Sweets met through mutual friends and contacts in the Fayetteville music scene. “It came together piece by piece,” Lee said. “It was a nice organic type of thing.”
In Jacksonville, Lee is waiting tables and playing venues in hopes of breaking into the local scene. With her second tour under way, and a new album in the works, her hometown fans can rest assured that they will be hearing more from Candy Lee.
As far as future plans, Lee says she would like to “go all the way with it.”
She dreams of touring full time and opening for bands, such as the Avett Brothers, The Decemberists and Sufjan Stevens.
Until then, you can catch her this weekend at the Greenhouse Grille. If you can’t make it to her live show, be sure to check out her website candyleemusic.com, where you can listen to her entire album.