Dover Post
  • Artist Q&A with Pam Russell of BarCode

  • Pam Russell is a Memphis native, so a love of rock n’ roll and soul is a given. But opera? Unexpected. Russell talks about giving up arias for Allman Brothers as the keyboard player and backup vocalist with Dover band BarCode.

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  • Pam Russell is a Memphis native, so a love of rock n’ roll and soul is a given. But opera? Unexpected. Russell has given up arias for Allman Brothers and Pink Floyd tunes as the keyboard player and backup vocalist with BarCode, which formed last year after three of its members left longtime local band Voyager. Russell talks about joining the group, and getting people up and dancing.
    Q You’re originally from Memphis, a great music town. What was your first love, musically?
    A I started playing piano when I was like 5. I was one of those people who grew up in the church, and sang and played in the church, and when I went away to college I got into classical music. I got a major in music education and a minor in piano and voice, so that was my background. Then when I went back to Memphis to do my master’s I started getting into opera. I started doing a little opera work with Opera Memphis, then when I moved here I got into Opera Delaware.
    Q What brought you to Delaware?
    A It was probably 1985, and the reason I came up here was a girl I went to college with was from this area, and I got an audition with a voice teacher that was in Cherry Hill, N.J. So I came up for the summer to study with him and ended up staying in Delaware, very much to my mother’s dismay.
    Q How did you go from opera to rock?
    A I worked with Opera Delaware for probably 5 or 6 years, and when I met my husband Skip, who is our bass player, he was in a Dover band called Voyager. So I always went to their gigs, and then about a year ago Voyager started breaking up and he was like, “What do you think about getting into the band — you play keyboards you know how to sing.” So I said “I’ll give it a shot.”
    My biggest challenge was learning all of their music in probably a month, and trying to get ready to go out and play. I had sat in with them as Voyager, so I kind of knew some of their music, but it was a little different for me. When you play classical, you do it exactly as it is, you don’t stray from that. I’m getting used to rock now. It’s more relaxing than the classical side of it, it’s just a lot of fun. Just going out and having a good time and playing music that people are really enjoying and getting up and dancing to. That’s, I think, the best. Music is just for the heart, I always say, so it’s just good to play.
    Page 2 of 2 - Q How did BarCode come together?
    A Skip, Bill and Mark all came from Voyager, so they’re real tight, they’ve played together for years. When we needed a singer, we actually went out on Craigslist and asked for people to audition, and we got Scott, and he was exactly what we were looking for. He had been in a band for years, Pope Joe, and he liked exactly what we liked.
    Q How does BarCode differ from Voyager?
    A With Scott, who’s 35, we do a lot of stuff like Black Crows, Billy Joel, Elvis Costello, it kind of brings a different feel to the band. And with Voyager there were no keyboards. I use an Hammond XK-3c, which brings in that organ sound. And I use a rolling keyboard so we can use brass, harmonica, piano, so we can do a lot more.
    Q What do you think BarCode does exceptionally well?
    A We do classic rock, we do a little bit of blues, which is different than Voyager, because Scott’s got kind of that bluesy sound to him so we can do a little funk, and Skip’s real good with that on the bass. I think we can bring a variety of songs. Basically what we’re looking to do is get people up and dancing.
    Q What are your favorite songs to perform?
    A Some of the songs that I really have fun with are “Whipping Post” by the Allman Brothers, which uses the organ and I love that, and we do Stevie Wonder, “Superstition,” that’s one of my favorites. We do a little Pink Floyd, “Comfortably Numb,” so everybody loves that.
    Q You’ve been together for only about a year. What’s it been like so far?
    A It’s a short time for a band, but we’ve been busy, which is really good. Of course we want to play more, that’s what we love to do. That’s one of the things Mark Shaw always says, “We just want to play, we love it.” And I have to say that the Dover club owners are so good, they’re terrific for supporting local music like they do. We’d like to eventually like to get to the beach and play. It’s a new band and we’re getting our name out there and try to get more fans, but we’re doing OK. And that’s all we care about, we just want to get out there and play as much as people will let us.
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