Carly Calbero
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Carly Calbero

Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF

Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF
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She can often be heard strumming her guitar and belting out original tunes and familiar melodies among the cobblestone of Pike Place Market.

“When we would take trips to Seattle, I remember seeing so many musicians, but very few women (and especially no Asian women) out busking on the street,” said Carly Calbero. “I figured that it was better than a minimum wage job and I could really use the time to practice.”

Born in Hawaii and raised in Marysville from the age of four, Calbero, 19, performed in choir through grade school, middle school, and high school. She also participated in band in high school and taught herself to play the guitar for the last eight years by watching videos on YouTube. On top of that, Calbero writes her own music and plays some piano and electric bass. She started busking in the Seattle area in August 2010.

“People don’t expect me to sound the way I sound because I’m Asian and I’m short,” said Calbero, who is half-Filipino and half-Japanese. “I try to be very loud and expressive in my music.”

Although she was accepted to Berkeley in the hopes of pursuing a music career, Calbero found it too expensive. Driven to continue her path in music, she bought books, researched online, and built her own recording studio. Calbero strives to break boundaries and succeed at all odds, playing for youth that do not think they can get very far; inspiring and motivating them.

“This is what I want and what I want to do, and no matter what, this is what I’m going to do,” she said emphatically.

Many of her original songs are autobiographical, she noted. She started writing her own songs at the same time she picked up the guitar. At 15 years old, she started feeling confident in her own music. Her wife and drummer, Nika Wascher, is very supportive, she added, noting they have been performing together since high school.

In addition to her own crafted work, Calbero draws inspiration from a wide range of music, from Pat Benatar to techno. She said she tries to mix up her musical repertoire as much as possible. She aptly describes her alternative-indie-rock music as “a powerful and passionate voice paired with driving progressions and experienced lyrics, reminiscent of Brandi Carlile, KT Tunstall and a more upbeat/intense Sarah McLachlan.”

With her passion for music in all its forms, some may be surprised to learn that when she was growing up, Calbero was not allowed to listen to secular music. The turning point was at age 13, when a teacher sent her to a jazz camp at Edmonds Community College. At that point she was hooked. She said the famed jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald’s powerful voice inspired her.

“Jazz started everything,” she said of her musical path.

Last year, Calbero was voted the nation’s fourth best street performer in the “Street to Stage” contest, presented by Rolling Stone magazine and Sprint. Calbero was scouted by Rolling Stone for the contest in April 2011 when she was performing Brandi Carlile’s “The Story” in front of Pacific Place. The contest started in June and ended last September. Since then, she has been contacted about performing at private parties and a number of other venues, including Cellars in Everett, Everett Historic Theater, and Seattle’s EMP.

“I am still busking, but not as much since I’ve had more gig opportunities,” said Calbero, adding that she would love to play for an indie and underground label, like Vapor Records or Onto Entertainment, that would allow her to grow a strong fan base.

Calbero can often be found at Seattle’s Pacific Place or Pike Place Market. She will also be performing with Wascher at the Northwest Folklife Festival in the Ladies First Showcase on the Vera Project Stage at the Seattle Center on May 26 at 11 a.m. Admission is free. For more information about her upcoming performances, visit www.carlycalbero.com. Videos of her music can also be found at www.youtube.com/user/carlycalbero. - The International Examiner


She can often be heard strumming her guitar and belting out original tunes and familiar melodies among the cobblestone of Pike Place Market.

“When we would take trips to Seattle, I remember seeing so many musicians, but very few women (and especially no Asian women) out busking on the street,” said Carly Calbero. “I figured that it was better than a minimum wage job and I could really use the time to practice.”

Born in Hawaii and raised in Marysville from the age of four, Calbero, 19, performed in choir through grade school, middle school, and high school. She also participated in band in high school and taught herself to play the guitar for the last eight years by watching videos on YouTube. On top of that, Calbero writes her own music and plays some piano and electric bass. She started busking in the Seattle area in August 2010.

“People don’t expect me to sound the way I sound because I’m Asian and I’m short,” said Calbero, who is half-Filipino and half-Japanese. “I try to be very loud and expressive in my music.”

Although she was accepted to Berkeley in the hopes of pursuing a music career, Calbero found it too expensive. Driven to continue her path in music, she bought books, researched online, and built her own recording studio. Calbero strives to break boundaries and succeed at all odds, playing for youth that do not think they can get very far; inspiring and motivating them.

“This is what I want and what I want to do, and no matter what, this is what I’m going to do,” she said emphatically.

Many of her original songs are autobiographical, she noted. She started writing her own songs at the same time she picked up the guitar. At 15 years old, she started feeling confident in her own music. Her wife and drummer, Nika Wascher, is very supportive, she added, noting they have been performing together since high school.

In addition to her own crafted work, Calbero draws inspiration from a wide range of music, from Pat Benatar to techno. She said she tries to mix up her musical repertoire as much as possible. She aptly describes her alternative-indie-rock music as “a powerful and passionate voice paired with driving progressions and experienced lyrics, reminiscent of Brandi Carlile, KT Tunstall and a more upbeat/intense Sarah McLachlan.”

With her passion for music in all its forms, some may be surprised to learn that when she was growing up, Calbero was not allowed to listen to secular music. The turning point was at age 13, when a teacher sent her to a jazz camp at Edmonds Community College. At that point she was hooked. She said the famed jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald’s powerful voice inspired her.

“Jazz started everything,” she said of her musical path.

Last year, Calbero was voted the nation’s fourth best street performer in the “Street to Stage” contest, presented by Rolling Stone magazine and Sprint. Calbero was scouted by Rolling Stone for the contest in April 2011 when she was performing Brandi Carlile’s “The Story” in front of Pacific Place. The contest started in June and ended last September. Since then, she has been contacted about performing at private parties and a number of other venues, including Cellars in Everett, Everett Historic Theater, and Seattle’s EMP.

“I am still busking, but not as much since I’ve had more gig opportunities,” said Calbero, adding that she would love to play for an indie and underground label, like Vapor Records or Onto Entertainment, that would allow her to grow a strong fan base.

Calbero can often be found at Seattle’s Pacific Place or Pike Place Market. She will also be performing with Wascher at the Northwest Folklife Festival in the Ladies First Showcase on the Vera Project Stage at the Seattle Center on May 26 at 11 a.m. Admission is free. For more information about her upcoming performances, visit www.carlycalbero.com. Videos of her music can also be found at www.youtube.com/user/carlycalbero. - The International Examiner


July 11th, 2011
Carly Calbero is a 19 year old Pike Place busker who was spotted singing in the market and is now one of 8 finalists participating in the Rolling Stone magazine Street to Stage contest.

She came in today and sang an original tune - listen to today's podcast and see why Rolling Stone choose her... - The Bob Rivers


Carly Calbero #21 (Segment plays at 3:20) - Evening Magazine


Last month, we told you about the contest from Sprint and Rolling Stone Magazine to find the best street musician in the country. 19-year-old Carly Calbero from Seattle was chosen as one of eight finalists competing for the chance to perform at the famed South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. Believe it or not, Carly has now made it to the final four! We were very excited to have her back to sing another original song called "Middle-Age Thirteen".

There are only a few weeks left to vote for Carly to win, so please visit http://www.rollingstone.com/sprintstreet/artists/carly-calbero to vote and support her!

Voting is open until September 20th, and you can vote as many times as you want!

To learn more about Carly visit her website: http://carlycalbero.com/. - New Day Northwest


Rolling Stone Magazine and Sprint recently teamed up to search for the best street musician in the country. In their "Street to Stage" contest, 19-year-old Carly Calbero from Seattle was chosen as one of eight finalists, competing to perform at the famed SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas, next year. She visited our studio to sing an original song called "Textbook".

Vote for Carly today!! Voting ends September 20th. - New Day Northwest


Seattle busker Carly Calbero is on the up-and-up after being selected as one of eight finalists in Rolling Stone's Street to Stage contest, according to a My Northwest article.

Calbero was accepted to Boston's Berklee College of Music, but never enrolled because of the high tuition costs. Instead, Calbero invested in a home recording studio, teaching herself how to build it, and took to the streets to hone her chops. - Q13


MARYSVILLE — A Marysville-Pilchuck High School graduate is one of eight nationwide contestants with a shot at performing in the Rolling Stone Rock Room next year, but she'll need enough votes from the Internet to get there.

Carly Calbero, 19, is one of the street musicians with a shot at performing professionally in Austin, Texas, in 2012 as part of the Street to Stage contest jointly sponsored by Rolling Stone and Sprint.

Calbero was accepted into the Berkeley School of Music after graduating from M-PHS, but she's since honed her vocal and guitar skills on the streets of Seattle instead, due to Berkeley being too expensive.

In addition to performing in locations such as Pike Place Market, the singer and songwriter, who now lives in Everett, has taught herself how to put together her own recording studio, through research online and from a variety of books.

Calbero credits the streets with affording her an avenue to practice and develop an ear for her acoustics, and she appreciates the occasions when her audiences join in.

Sonja Wanichek, a self-described supporter of Calbero, described the young musician as possessing "a relentless passion to study music."

You can vote for Calbero online, or learn more about her, at www.rollingstone.com/sprintstreet/artists/carly-calbero.
- The Marysville Globe


Carly Calbero was out earning a living. Somebody stopped to listen -- and not just anybody.

"It was really random," the 19-year-old said Friday.

Now, the Marysville-Pilchuck High School graduate is one of eight finalists in a Street to Stage contest sponsored by Rolling Stone magazine and Sprint. The street musician getting the most votes online will win a chance to play next year at the Rolling Stone Rock Room, an Austin, Texas, music event.

With her acoustic guitar, surprisingly big voice, and the nerve to make a go at music all by herself, she's a regular at Seattle's Pike Place Market. In May, Calbero played at the Northwest Folklife Festival at Seattle Center. She has sung in restaurants and clubs from Arlington to Seattle's Georgetown area.

These days, her stage is the street.

Several times a week Calbero takes a bus from her Everett apartment to Seattle to belt out songs for all who'll listen. Her repertoire is an engaging mix of original compositions and covers -- Michael Jackson's "Beat It" and Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" among them.

In early April, she happened to be at Seattle's Pacific Place singing Brandi Carlile's "The Story." And yes, she hits that song's ragged high note to perfection. A scout for the Rolling Stone contest picked her out, along with a few other area musicians.

"They sent a bunch of scouts across the country," she said. "They identified themselves and had us fill out a form with contact information." Contestants were narrowed down to eight after the musicians' websites were looked at, Calbero said. Rolling Stone staff involved in the contest could not be reached for comment Friday.

Her competitors are from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, San Francisco and New Orleans. Online voting continues until Sept. 20.

Calbero learned in early May that she was a finalist. Late last month a video crew sent by Rolling Stone taped her performing at Pike Place Market. The video, on the contest website, shows Calbero performing an original song, "Middle-Age 13."

She's far from famous, but Calbero said she supports herself on what she earns playing music in public places.

"I'll pull in between $50 and $100 on an average day. On weekends, it can be between $100 and $200," she said. Tourists, Germans especially, can be quite generous, said Calbero, who pays $30 a year for a permit to perform at Pike Place Market.

Unlike some buskers, she has background in music theory. Calbero took music theory classes at Marysville-Pilchuck, where she graduated in 2010, and at Edmonds Community College. She was 11 when she started guitar lessons, and sang in school choirs.

Calbero said she auditioned for the Berklee College of Music and was accepted. She decided that tuition at the Boston school, which held auditions at Seattle's Experience Music Project, was prohibitively expensive. "They liked me. I got in," she said. "I decided to learn everything on my own."

With a sound she calls "a more hard-core version of Sarah McLachlan -- more upbeat with sarcastic humor and driving guitar chords," Calbero has made two CDs, available at her website. "A lot of people ask me how that sound comes out of that little body," she said.

Her idea of a great career would be to sign with an independent label and slowly build a loyal following. A Canadian duo, Tegan and Sara, is a big influence for her.

Long before Rolling Stone noticed, she had followers.

Sonja Wanichek met the young musician while working as a college leader for high school students at Marysville Free Methodist Church.

"She'd play at restaurants and invite me to come out," Wanichek said. "She does have the edgy voice. I'm one of her biggest fans."

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com. - The Everett Herald


With nothing but an acoustic guitar and a powerful voice, the small and seemingly reserved Carly Calbero belted out mesmerizing personal songs to those walking by, causing repeated second-takes. Boasting a background in classical and jazz voice, the singer played through her best songs and was quick to greet and thank those willing to stop by and take a listen. - Seattle Weekly Blogs


With nothing but an acoustic guitar and a powerful voice, the small and seemingly reserved Carly Calbero belted out mesmerizing personal songs to those walking by, causing repeated second-takes. Boasting a background in classical and jazz voice, the singer played through her best songs and was quick to greet and thank those willing to stop by and take a listen. - Seattle Weekly Blogs


Think American Idol, but replace the earnest pop star wannabes with multi-talented buskers. That is the premise of Rolling Stone‘s Street to Stage contest, which puts eight street musicians from across the country against one another for a chance to perform at the Rolling Stone Rock Room in Austin, TX during what the magazine calls “one of the biggest music festivals in the nation” (we think they mean SXSW). Among the eight talented performers chosen, Carly Calbero is representing for the Emerald City. Those who frequent Pike Place Market or any summer festival has probably heard Carly’s guitar skills and powerful voice wow passersby. She’s also competing against six other local street performers in Battle of the Buskers. Visit the Rolling Stone website to read about Carly, see some of her live performances, submit your own photos or videos of her, and (of course) vote. - Seattle Film and Music


We agree with Rolling Stone Magazine, Carly Calbero is one of the best street musicians in the United States. They announced today that Carly was selected as one of eight best musicians around the country and that she is in the running to be selected as the best overall. - Seattle Teen Music


Nosh has always had a soft spot for Carly Calbero. Before filming her as part of Battle of the Buskers, we asked her where in the Market she encountered the happiest Seattleites. Her reply: “As along as there’s food, people are happy.” A wise woman, this one.

But really, Calbero has some seriously powerful pipes and a promising future ahead of her, and for that we’re thrilled to crown her the winner of the Busker competition. Congrats to Calbero, and a big thanks to all the other performers who participated.

Check out Calbero’s winning clip below. To see her perform live, make for the clock or “the cave” at the Market. That’s where she usually camps out.
- Seattle Met (Nosh Pit Blog)


Standing on “the bridge” at Pike Place Market — the Desimone bridge suspended over Western Avenue in downtown Seattle and home to the Market’s craft vendors — Carly Calbero sings and strums her guitar as visitors pass by. Sometimes, people will stop to listen, surprised that such a strong voice can emanate from someone as petite as Calbero. Some may even buy a copy of her CD, “The Outlining.”

For 19-year-old Calbero, an aspiring musician, this is a good day.

As a 2010 graduate of Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Wash., Calbero was accepted into the Berklee College of Music in Boston — a prestigious school for gifted musicians.

But even with the help of financial aid and scholarships, Calbero could not afford to attend her dream school.

So Calbero declined Berklee’s invitation and became resourceful. She opened up her own recording studio in her bedroom. She read resources online on how to make her own recordings, while using her background in music theory. And she took up street performing to build a name for herself.
Out on the streets of Seattle

Calbero sees street performing as a full-time job that pays the bills.

“I try to play five days a week. A lot of musicians say [street performing] isn’t a job, but it really is. I get up in the morning, I make sure I have everything I need before I head out for the day. And if you include advertising for myself, [my music] does take up all of my time.”

On a typical day, Calbero will make the commute to the downtown Seattle area and arrive around 9:00 a.m. She’ll then make her way to Pike Place Market, where she prefers to play because the Market regulates their buskers to allow fairness among performers.

Each performer is required to purchase an annual permit before playing at the market. Then, they must mark a spot on “the bridge” or elsewhere in the Market before performing their allotted hour for the day.

Calbero may play at the Market anywhere from 11:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m. But instead of waiting around for her timeslot, she sings at other spots around downtown, such as the bus tunnel or Pacific Place mall.

The coved, glass entranceway to Pacific Place even affords her free, natural acoustics. “It’s a great effect because it amplifies your voice outside without the need for a nice [public address] system,” said Calbero.

But street performing isn’t just a job for Calbero — it also allows her to tweak new music and hone her performing abilities.

“Typically, when [Calbero] writes a song, she takes it out to the streets, tests it out on the crowds, and then finalizes the music she writes,” said Nika Wascher, Calbero’s fiancée and one of her public relations managers.

“When [Calbero] first broke out on the street, it was hard to get by because people ignored her. But as she found her voice as an artist over time, the experience of working the crowd really developed her stage presence.”

A community among performers:

But discovering the best spots to play in downtown Seattle did not come naturally to Calbero.
“When I first started performing last summer, I once went down to the Market and there was absolutely no place to play. If you don’t get down there early enough, you won’t play for the day,” said Calbero.

But she met veteran buskers who not only taught her the basics of performing at the Market, but even showed her new places she could play. Although competition can be fierce among performers, as spots and time slots are scarce, Calbero shares a competitive but respectful relationship with the performing community.

“This one time when I was playing at the Market, I was switching off with a violinist who did improvisation in her set. As I started to play myself, another percussionist started playing, followed by another guitarist, and before I knew it, we were jamming and had this mini crowd around us,” said Calbero.

“Even though I’m competing with the other [performers] for spots, especially in the summertime, when you’re down there and actually playing, the music is all that matters. It’s a nice feeling of community.”

Calbero also receives support from listeners, including a few regulars who have taken the time to buy Calbero’s CD or Market vendors who’ve gotten to know Calbero beyond her music. “The nice thing about having regulars is that people enjoy seeing me every day and aren’t getting tired of [my music],” she joked.

Some of Calbero’s humor is also reflected in her music. She often strays towards dark, sarcastic, humorous lyrics to croon about the pains of growing up and relationships. Calbero describes her music as “driving indie girl rock,” which reflects her strong and independent mentality.
Because of this, Calbero likes to impress new fans with her voice — especially those who question her ability to sing based on first impressions.

“People will ask me, ‘How does that big voice come out of that little body?’ ” said Calbero, who is 5’2? and half Japanese and half Filipino. “I - Northwest Asian Weekly


Discography

9/2011 - Phantom-Like EP
10/2011 - Seattle Teen Music Vol. 1
2/2011 - The Outlining EP
5/2010 - One EP

Photos

Bio

At only 19 Carly Calbero has already received local, as well as national attention for her performances. Chosen by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the top four street performers in the country, Calbero brings her surprisingly big voice, driving progressions, and moving lyrics to the stage. The occasionally understated and underestimated singer-songwriter has been making her way across the Northwest along with her talented drummer Nika Wascher, adding a certain edge to the music they’ve become known for. In addition to Calbero’s original music, they have accumulated a vast repertoire of covers from CCR to Pat Benatar to Kings of Leon. Together they create an atmosphere around their performance that leaves you silent, stunned, and ready for more.

“A little dynamo with a powerhouse voice that’s distinctive and head turning. Forget about her age, she’s been playing the Northwest for years and just gets better. Hear her once and you’re hooked.”--Rolling Stone Magazine

“Sometimes, people will stop to listen, surprised that such a strong voice can emanate from someone as petite as Calbero.” -- Northwest Asian Weekly

“Calbero has some seriously powerful pipes and a promising future ahead of her.” -- Seattle Metropolitan Magazine (Nosh Pit Blog)