Louise Page timed the release of her EP, “Salt Mosaic,” so she would turn 24 during its release show at the Hi-Tone.
“I love my birthday,” she said. “I don’t want to just throw myself a giant birthday party. I wanted to sort of do something fun with it. And it lined up really well.”
But, she said, “I don’t think I’ll have a cake at the Hi-Tone ‘cause it would quickly taste like cigarettes.”
Page, who grew up in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania, was a born performer. “My first word was ‘ta-dah,’ so I’ve always been kind of a ham.”
She played the family’s upright Yamaha piano. “I was just fascinated by it. I always liked to press buttons as a little kid. I was always trying to click on things. And was just fascinated by the checkout person at the supermarket. I think I just liked that I pressed something and it made noise. I was like, ‘That’s awesome and I want to do that.’”
Page began playing the oboe when she was in the fourth grade. “I played the oboe because it’s the duck in ‘Peter and the Wolf.’”
She joined the marching band when she was in the ninth grade. “Oboe doesn’t march because it’s a double reed and it would break. I signed up for double percussion.”
Page also began writing songs in middle school. “Some of them were about little crushes on boys. Some of them I don’t even know where they were coming from.”
And she sang in choirs. “I was loud and I liked musicals. I really have a very nerdy background in music. It’s like band and choir and musicals. I think that set me up for success. When you’re into stuff like classical piano music or full band ensembles or singing in a choir, you inherently learn music theory and learn how different musical instruments and different voices and different sounds fit together.”
Page admitted she used to be a “nerd” in general. “I did not party or drink or do drugs. I was a really late bloomer. I was one of those kids that looked like an elementary schooler when I was in the 10th grade. I wasn’t really interested in boys that much. I was really interested in stuff like choirs and Eric Whitacre.”
She got into rock music after discovering St. Vincent. “She’s just like a badass lady. She rocks super hard. I was like, ‘I want to do that.’”
Fiona Apple was another influence. “The number one thing I love about Fiona Apple is the piano in her music. And she has unique lyrics. She doesn’t fall into cliches in her lyrics. Her lyrics make you listen to the song. Because they’re interesting.”
Did Page become a hippie at that point? “That’s probably the polite way to put it. I think I just started to be a little more curious about tasting life.”
She majored in creative writing at Rhodes College, where her grandparents met. Her mother, Katherine Allen, is a native Memphian.
Since she didn’t have much access to a piano at first, Page played a ukulele her parents sent her. “‘A lot of just four chord jams. ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’ Whatever. I just had trouble breaking into the music scene at my college as a non-music major.”
Page composed songs on the ukulele. “I’m not going to pretend that all of the songs have been good. A lot of them are hideously terrible. But that is my emotional outlet. Playing my emotions in the keyboard. Words will just come out.”
College “was a rocky time for me in my personal life,” Page said. “I just didn’t always hang out with the right people. Shout out to all the assholes I dated. You are now beautiful songs. Right?”
A turning point was when Page attended a Halloween party. “I showed up at a frat party dressed as Austin Powers. In full character as Austin Powers. I just wasn’t very well received at the party and I was into it, man. I was like, ‘This costume’s amazing!’ And then after the party I went to a house show with what turned out to be some of the dudes in Spaceface and the costume was super well received. People loved it. So, I met those guys my freshman year of college. I’ve been friends with them forever.
“Through that band and a few other local bands - just going to see local music - I just fell in love with that local scene. It’s like your friends are playing the songs and they’re great. And you can get just right up in their face ‘cause it’s a local venue or in your living room.”
As for her music, Page said, “I thought my songs were fun and my friends liked them. But I really never thought it would be something that other people would want to listen to. I thought my friends would like them because they loved me. So, they’re going to love the things that I create. But I didn’t know there was any sort of mass appeal outside of that.
“If I had friends over to my house drinking or something I would play the piano and make up goofy songs to make them laugh. It was really more of a gag. And then I enjoyed being able to be like ‘Oh, by the way, I play classical piano.’ I just kept it as kind of a little side detail about myself.”
That went on through college. “A lot of that was just my self confidence. I just dated a string of crappy guys, which will really just shoot your self esteem in the stomach. I just didn’t think I was good enough.”
Page didn’t get positive response from those guys when she sang her songs. “They’d be like, ‘That’s so cute.’ That was the main thing, which is invalidating in its own way. Saying something is cute does not give you enough gas to go out and do it in front of a bunch of people.”
She then was asked to perform at a pop-up event at Urban Outfitters, where she worked. “I had no amp. I don’t even think I had a microphone. It was just my piano plugged in and I was playing my songs. And I was super nervous because my boyfriend’s grandma was there and I had never met her.”
Page didn’t think she did that great a job, but, she said, “Nobody said, ‘Oh, how cute.’”
She then was asked to play a GrrlPunch magazine gig. “That one went pretty well. Then I met Kyle Carmon. He’s playing upright bass with me. He heard me at the Urban Outfitters thing. He was like, ‘Hey, if you need someone to play upright bass with you, I’ll play with you.’ For a few months we had bi-weekly gigs at DKDC.”
More doors opened after Page opened for Strong Martian at The Hi Tone. “A lot of it was people approaching me and asking me to play at something. A couple of times it was me reaching out to other people. I sort of jumped in and started doing.”
She didn’t have the old thoughts of, “This isn’t good music. People just like it ‘cause they’re being nice to me.”
Page played more shows and her confidence grew. “Sometimes strangers would come up and say, ‘That was really great.’”
She released her first single, “Flowers Grow to Die.” “The hook of it is, ‘I don’t know if I’m wishing for you/or if I just need you to occupy my time/I don’t know if you want to kiss me/but I’m pretty sure I’d like it if you tried.’ It’s about being a young person trying to navigate romance and not even knowing if you really want it. Do you even want to date or talk to someone? I don’t know, but you’re doing it.”
Calvin Lauber from Young Avenue Sound contacted her on Facebook. “And was like, ‘Hey, I’ve heard you at a couple of your shows. It would be really cool to record an EP.’”
A lot of the songs on “Salt Mosaic” are “about relationships that have ended. Be they friendships or romantic relationships or people I have bitter feelings towards. Hence, the salt. Then it’s a mosaic. I’m making a beautiful thing out of it.”
Asked her future plans, Page said, “I’m trying to be happy with what I’ve got. Just the fact that I’m releasing this EP and that I’ve overcome my stage fright and my self doubt and I’m throwing my heart out there for everyone to listen to, that’s awesome.
“But looking to the future, I would love it if I got a wider fan base or people listening to what I’m doing.I would love it if I could go on tour. Those are things that I dream about. I think if I keep on the path I’m on, I think they’ll happen for me.”
Louise Page with Strong Martian and Magnolia Sept. 22 at The Hi Tone, 412 North Cleveland. Doors open at 7 p.m. Cover: $5.