July 10, 2008

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After a long hiatus, a singer-songwriter returns
Christa Renee hopes to start anew in Manchester
By Brian Early bearly@hippopress.com

She took a few years off. It wasn’t planned. She was singing with her sister in Jersey City in New Jersey, playing shows in the area around New York City, getting a good following. Christa Renee wanted to go west. Her sister didn’t want to. It was a hard split.

They were Licks and Kicks. Now she’s a Chick with Pick, as she jokingly writes on her MySpace page (myspace.com/christarenee). She moved to New Hampshire with a significant other, where she lived for a couple of years. No music. It was a stifling relationship.

She’s out of the relationship, ready to get back to her love of music. Now she’s on the return with her first show at Milly’s Tavern in Manchester with her band on Friday, July 18, and a show the next week on July 24 at the Starbucks in Manchester.

“It was very tremulous,” she said of her relationship. “It’s giving me a lot of material. Coming back into the world, surviving.”

Renee, 31, initially started singing after the events of Sept. 11. She had played guitar since she was 14, but she had never sung her own material.

“All the stuff going on in the world brought my voice out. I started to sing. I got to a place where I didn’t want someone singing over my voice,” she said.

Licks and Kicks had wanted to bring a social awareness with their music. They had a reggae sound influenced by their Jamaican mother, and added a techno edge to it. They had a sound they liked, and Renee wanted to take the next step.

“I was going to move to California, and that was hard for my sister. Her passion is teaching. The band was kind of secondary,” she said. “It was messy for a while. It had to do with the relationship too. I saw my sister as unsupportive. We were best friends. We lived together.”

Instead of Los Angeles, she found herself in Manchester. It’s not bad place to make a comeback, she said. It’s a much smaller place with fewer people, easier to make a mark in than the vastness of NYC.

After wrestling herself out of her relationship, she’s moved back to music, playing at open mikes around the area. Scott Burnett of Soul Taxi found her music online and asked Renee to open for her at the Green Martini. For the past few months, she’s played one or two gigs a month around southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts. The upcoming Manchester gig will be her first show with her band. Aaron Katz, who drummed for Percy Hill, plays keys; he helped produce a few rough cuts that she hopes to finish for an EP release later this year. Chris Thurston of Soul Mate will play drums.

At the Milly’s show, Burnett will start at 9 p.m., with Renee at 10, Mantra at 11 and Project 57 at midnight.

“They all have good original music, which is the common denominator,” she said. While the sounds are different, “nothing’s too aggressive or crazy different.”

Renee, who works with troubled youth, also works at Milly’s, whose owner, Peter Telge, encouraged her to produce a show. She reached out to those who helped her get back on track.

“It’s an opportunity to play with these guys and return the favor,” she said.