Boothbay Harbor's Lara Tupper is a novelist, singer, yoga practitioner, former creative writing adjunct professor at Rutgers University (2002-2010), teaching fiction and non-fiction courses, and is now a member of the writing faculty for Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers. Her novels include “A Thousand And One Nights." She and filmmaker Greg Eismin co-wrote a screenplay of it. Lara's most recent work, inspired by the loves of Paul Gaugin, is “Off Island.” She has just released her first CD, “This Dance,” a compilation of her favorite pop and jazz songs.
Bobby Sweet is a sixth generation musician who plays guitar, fiddle, mandolin and piano, and began performing at age 7 with his dad’s band. A singer-songwriter, a freelance producer and recording engineer, Bobby is an accomplished, seasoned performer in the studio and on the stage. He has opened for Asleep at the Wheel, Willie Nelson, The Bellamy Brothers, Waylon Jennings and others. He’s shared playbills with numerous country and folk artists from Vince Gill to Pete Seeger to Jonathan Edwards and Arlo Guthrie. In fact, his fourth U.S. tour playing guitar with Arlo was on last year’s 50th Anniversary of Alice’s Restaurant tour. While on the tour, Bobby kept up with his passion for making violins. “I’ve been obsessed with it these last few years,” he said.
Over the past seven years, he has toured with Arlo four times in the U.S.; of this time on the road, Bobby said, “It’s amazing for me, as some kid who learned to play guitar in this little town I still live in, ending up having all these incredible experiences out there – and with a legend, really. I’ve always loved Arlo’s version of “City of New Orleans” and every time he sings it I still look over and think that’s Arlo Guthrie singing that song over there!”
Bobby, the solo artist, has also recently released a new CD, his seventh, entitled “All These Changes.” When the newly married Bobby and Lara team up, we’re talking musical heaven. Some of you may have heard them perform together over the past few years at the Red Cup Coffeehouse here in Boothbay Harbor or at their Chocolate Church Arts Center gig with the Burns Sisters two years ago.
On May 10, they will be adding the Opera House to their performance venue list. Beginning at 7 p.m., they will be singing songs from both of their new CDs – duets and solos in the historic bar upstairs – and, hey, Bobby, there’s even a piano up there! No pressure ...
The couple met in 2012 or 2013 at Kripalu Center where Lara was teaching creative writing and, at the time, booking musicians. Enter Bobby Sweet who had been playing for quite some time at the Center. “And,” said Lara, laughing, "he got a lot of gigs!”
Lara had heard Bobby also did recording work, so when she was ready to record an EP of four songs she asked Bobby if he’d help her with it. He also did the engineering on Lara’s “This Dance” CD – and sings and plays guitar and mandolin on some of the tracks.
Their duet on Bob Marley’s “Wait in Vain” is beautifully done, and the fact they are husband and wife as they sing it, well, it just heightens the poignantly laced lyrics.
“I love the interplay of our voices on that song,” Lara said, adding that her dad, the late Stanley R. Tupper (a two-term Maine Congressman in the 1960s, and attorney in Boothbay Harbor and Washington D.C.) was a big Bob Marley fan.
Each of the 10 songs on the CD are among Lara’s favorites including Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and Van Morrison’s “Moondance,” “How High the Moon” from the 1940 Broadway revue “Two For the Show;” and from the 1929 Off-Broadway revue "Load of Coal,” Lara sings “Honeysuckle Rose.”
“I’ve always loved jazz -I studied it in college,” Lara said. “And because of my weird cruise ship entertainer days I learned a lot of pop songs. I’m really lucky, here in the Berkshires, to have jazz pianists Rob Kelley and Benny Kohn and Bobby on vocals, guitar and mandolin on the CD. It’s always fun to sing harmonies – especially with Bobby – there’s nothing better musically than singing a tight harmony.”
On Bobby’s new CD, recorded in Nashville, the title song “All These Changes” is beautifully written – but then, he’s kind of known for having the songwriting gift. “I play that song live in the Berkshires, where like in Boothbay Harbor, you notice the color of the leaves change, summer passes so fast - and I’m thinking ‘No not yet!’ It’s just marking the time, the changes in nature and in our lives.”
Bobby grew up listening to his dad’s old country music which focused on the story. There are roots of the old country in Bobby’s music today. “Real songwriting stories – you hear it and you believe it (and I would add you are drawn into it); something you don’t hear as much in pop country.
The songs on the CD aren’t genre-specific. There’s blues, folk, jazz and a swing tune. “Even with my own songs I like to diversify,” Bobby said of the selection. He’s also diverse when it comes to musicianship; the guitar is his primary, followed by mandolin, fiddle and piano.
Clearly this is a duo fond of wearing more than just a few hats.
“We have a good symbiotic relationship,” Bobby shared. “Lara’s a writer and a performer and she understands the idiocy of the (music industry). We encourage each other and talk each other up if needed. It’s great to be understood in such a way.”
Lara added, “We definitely click musically, and other ways … it’s a joy to have that in common with someone.”
Also while they’re back in Maine, Lara and Bobby will be taping a WCSH 207 spot May 8. The exact date the episode will air wasn’t known at press time. But the details on the Opera House show sure are: Thursday, May 10, 7 p.m. $5 cover at the door. For more on this super creative collaborative duo visit laratupper.com and bobbysweet.com. Oh, and, yes, CD’s will be available!
“We’re very excited to be playing at the Opera House. Any chance to come to Maine, and to sing together, is a thrill,” Lara said. “You know, I went to my senior prom at the Opera House. I’m looking forward to the gig – and to wearing something a little different this time … or, maybe not … (laughing) that would be interesting!”