In a recent phone conversation, Ali Thibodeau, who performs under the name Deau Eyes, forecasted the following for this season’s Friday Cheers finale: “It’s going to be a family affair. The quintessential, full-circle experience.”
The show Thibodeau will kick off on June 28 won’t just represent the culmination of a concert series. Given the journey she’s been on – from her native Richmond to New York City and back a few years later – and the friends and strangers who have played a part along the way, Brown’s Island will become an inspiring new mile marker in Thibodeau’s resilient musical career.
When we spoke, she was in Ithaca, New York, trying her hand at tour managing in conjunction with a string of shows headlined by Lucy Dacus, who is also set to headline the Cheers finale. Thibodeau and Dacus share a friendship that dates back to high school, and Thibodeau credits Dacus with convincing her to move back to Richmond. (As Thibodeau remembers it, the pitch went something like, “You could do the same thing here and not starve.”)
Just a few years later, Thibodeau is on the verge of releasing her debut Deau Eyes album, which received a boost from a successful Kickstarter campaign and the community that formed around it. When she does drop those Kickstarter rewards in the mail, she’ll also be fulfilling a promise she made to herself: “I’m not going to wait for someone to give me an opportunity. I’m gonna go make this myself.”
How are you enjoying tour managing?
I love this kind of thing. Booking my own shows, learning what it is to be a booking agent… I’m happy to do it, to get a new perspective of it all.
It takes a village to make music happen… I feel like I’m taking my time learning how everything works, and asking friends like Lucy, Fenne and anybody in town. Angelica [Garcia], Landon [Elliott] — all kinds of people who are also doing this and have done it successfully. Troubleshooting the way that I want to do things. Because music really is a create-your-own-adventure kind of thing. There isn’t one way to do it. There are so many paths you can take.
How did the Kickstarter campaign go?
I would recommend it to literally anyone. Not only does it cultivate this incredible amount of money for you to be able to make your project; it also cultivates a community around it and attention around it… Making a record takes a long time, especially your first record. Mixing and mastering and then getting that out to people in the right way, whether it be by yourself independently or with a label… I love giving the gifts. I think that’s my favorite part of the whole thing. Writing personal letters to everybody and taking a moment to really appreciate each person. There’s a real gift in giving, I think.
How did “Paper Stickers” become the lead single for the upcoming album?
As a whole, that one seems to be the one that people have the most fun with, and remember, the song is inspired by my seven-year-old niece. At the time she was seven, now she’s nine. It’s a bit of a love letter to my seven-year-old self, going back to a child’s brain and starting something from the most authentic and natural place. And it’s just a whole lot of fun — it’s pretty rocking, and it makes me feel powerful in a lot of ways, which is how I wanted to start this whole album cycle, because there is a lot of loss and grief and longing, but underneath all of that is a really strong girl. A strong person.
I hear that same sense of duality in “Autonomy” — the song you recorded live for RVATRACK.
[“Autonomy”] is definitely in the same vein as “Paper Stickers.” I think most of the album really does come from a place of feeling empowered even though we go through so much loss and unexpected leaving. That song, in particular, is really special to me, knowing that I’m good on my own, and [that] there’s more to life than being dependent on someone else, no matter who you are, if it’s a parent or a lover or wherever you are in life. I think there’s a lot of power in loss, and a lot of power in failing in something and getting back up. And I really like to write about resilience because I think it’s important to embrace.
Are you originally from Richmond?
Yeah, I’m originally from Mechanicsville — Hanover area. I was really involved in the theater community when I lived here, and mostly did professional theater and kind of segued when I moved to New York into busking, because I felt like a had more creative control. In a lot of the audition rooms, I was just writing non-stop and not really wanting to be there, waiting in my princess getup. It just didn’t feel true to myself. So I started playing in subway stations, and I felt really empowered by playing in front of people I didn’t know and would never see again. That made it possible for me to continue with a music career, and have control over my art.
Did you grow up going to Friday Cheers?
I love Friday Cheers. It’s really cool. It’s one of my favorite things that happens in Richmond. I’ve felt really privileged to have been able to have watched my friends up there doing their thing. I know when Lucy played with Kurt Vile, I was in the front row, and was so stoked. My face hurt from smiling the whole time. I feel kind of full circle because it’s definitely somewhere we would go and hang out, around Belle Isle and Brown’s Island and all of that during the summer and stroll into Friday Cheers. I’m thrilled to be a part of it this year. It feels like a real hometown accomplishment. And it’s very exciting. And it’s going to be fun.