For Becky Crosby, quarantine life provides the ultimate escape from reality.
The Purchase, New York pop-rock singer-songwriter openly shares her personal struggles with pandemic lockdown and emotional isolation on her latest jazz-funk ballad, “Can We Pretend?”
“I wrote it in quarantine right after we got evacuated from school … when I think everyone was feeling especially lonely and confused at what was going on in the world,” said Crosby, who’s a jazz senior at State University of New York (SUNY) in Purchase. “I had a crush on a friend of mine at the time, and I think the feelings about quarantine just heightened everything about it.”
A lush “Can We Pretend?” ensemble of thumping drums, tingly cymbals, pensive bass, gleaming electric guitar, delicate piano, melancholic trumpet and earnest baritone sax echo Crosby’s growing frustration and forlornness.
She thoughtfully sings, “How did this happen to me?/I was oh so happy living life lonely/But when you come near/I smile ear to ear/Cause you made me different/Than the girl who used to share my mirror.”
“I wrote ‘Can We Pretend?’ as a way to not only work out my feelings, but to get out some of the anger that I had about my life changing so much overnight,” Crosby said. “I do think that it’s always a good idea to go with your gut. So if your gut says to tell them you like them, then do it. Life is short!”
Crosby brought “Can We Pretend?” to life with several collaborators, including Simon Ribas (drums), Sameer Shankar (bass), Ethan Johnson (guitar), Harry Graser (piano), Noah Mattison (trumpet) and Lee Altsher-Wood (baritone sax).
“This song automatically just had a funky feel to it. Being a jazz major, I am surrounded by horn players, and I was so happy to be able to feature them on this track,” she said. “Sameer Shankar shaped this horn arrangement, and Lee Altsher-Wood and Noah Mattison did a great job bringing it to life.”
Killing Me Softly and Laugh It Off
Crosby also breathed new life into an intimate Latin jazz cover of “Killing Me Softly” earlier this year. Originally recorded by Roberta Flack in 1973 and remade by The Fugees in 1996, Crosby’s elegant rendition blends placid horns with contemplative piano, soft drums, ticking cymbals and silky bass.
She soulfully sings, “I felt all flushed with fever, embarrassed by the crowd/I felt he’d found my letters and read each one out loud/I prayed that he would finish, but he just kept right on.”
“I’ve always loved that song since I first heard The Fugees’ version when I was 12 years old. Back in the day, I was doing an R&B program at my music school, and I just fell in love with that tune,” said Crosby, who’s inspired by Pat Benatar, Hayley Williams, Lauv and Panic! At The Disco.
“The track was actually a part of a bigger project that I was using for my junior recital last year, and I really wanted to have a song from my past on it. The Latin-style arrangement came from me being on a bossa nova kick at the time.”
Outside of Killing Me Softly” and “Can We Pretend?,” Crosby is finishing up her debut EP, Laugh It Off, which will feature Ribas, Shankar, Johnson, Altsher-Wood, Mattison and Eric Gagliardi (trombone on one track).
“Listeners should expect a pop-funk feel for this project. Most of the songs are sad, but have an upbeat feel to them, which I think is ironic in the best way. It’s a total of five tracks, and I’m planning on releasing it within the next month,” she said.
“Every musician I have worked with on these past couple of tunes has done an amazing job, and I am so thankful. The production team has done a great job as well as including engineer Ash McMillan and Craig Smith, who did the mastering. Sameer Shankar and Lee Altsher-Wood have both been extremely helpful in arranging the horn section on my past work and upcoming EP.”
In the meantime, Crosby looks forward to graduating from SUNY Purchase in 2022, especially after adapting to an unpredictable academic schedule.
“I’m taking this spring to just finish up my classes, get ready for my senior recital and focus on recording and performing my own music. So far in the jazz program, there’s been a ton of great classes … I think my favorite has been the transcription class that I am taking this year,” she said. “It is a great chance to learn some amazing and iconic solos from artists like Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.”