Portland native Rebecca Kingsley left Maine at the age of 15 for New York City to find success as a singer/songwriter.
And she did. Kingsley, whose music is a rich blend of jazz, R&B and Latin, is the first non-Latina to flourish in a Dominican style of music known as the bachata genre. Her first album, “Untouched,” released in 2012, includes a bachata cover of the R&B classic, “Killing Me Softly,” which she recorded with Wyclef Jean of the hip-hop group the Fugees.
While Kingsley has considered herself a musician since childhood, she said, her music career didn’t really take off until 3 1?2 years ago.
“My first memory ever was banging on pots and pans to Eric Clapton’s live ‘Unplugged’ album,” Kingsley, 27, said. “I was crazy about a lot of soulful blues singers, like Anita Baker. I loved her. I couldn’t speak yet, so I was kind of scatting the words. My mom says that I was an easy kid because you could put me in the corner of the room and I’d either be singing to myself or sucking my thumb.”
Inspired by her collaboration with Jean, Kingsley recorded her second abum, “Bachatera” – comprised entirely of bachata-style music – in the Dominican Republic in 2013, and released it this past summer.
“I am really proud; the music is awesome,” she said.
In the making of her albums, Kingsley also collaborated with R&B legend Bernard “Pretty” Purdie and renowned soul-jazz guitarist Mark Whitfield.
Kingsley studied jazz voice at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. In 2011 she graduated from Eugene Lang College in New York with a degree in religious studies.
She fell in love with Latin music after becoming “seduced by the whole culture” in New York, she said.
Two years ago Kingsley decided to take a break from city life and moved back to Portland, where she manages a jazz and blues station, WJBZ 107.9 FM.
“My mission for the station is to give the local jazz music scene more of a voice and a place,” said Kingsley, who also released two new music videos recently.
Though she admits being a musician has been a bit of challenge financially, her goal is to continue making music and eventually become a full-time, self-sufficient singer/songwriter.
While Kingsley considers Maine her home, she continues to split her time between Maine and New York City to work on another album with Whitfield, who she met in 2012, she said.
“I made a song for the bachata album that was a fusion between bachata and jazz. My producer said we needed the best jazz musician in New York,” Kingsley said.
“We finally decided after two years of really adoring each other’s music, to write together,” she said.
She regularly plays gigs in Portland, including at One Longfellow Square, the Cumberland Club and the Portland House of Music on Temple Street.
“I think it’s been absolutely phenomenal,” she said of living and playing in Maine. “I have been able to make money as a musician here. I think (the music scene) is really growing.”
Rebecca Kingsley is a singer/songwriter in Portland who has collaborated with three-time Grammy Award winning artist Wyclef Jean, R&B legend Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, and renowned soul-jazz guitarist Mike Whitfield.Rebecca Kingsley