Don’t let Chris Pureka’s shy smile and mellow disposition fool you – when the New England-bred singer-songwriter takes to the stage, any idea of subtlety is immediately lost. It’s this intensity that has fueled her career for the past six years, leading to the release of three full-length albums and two EPs.
Even the video—her first—for “Wrecking Ball,” off her latest record “How I Learned to See in the Dark,” is a sepia-toned homage to lost love with an ominous presence that ends with Pureka tearing apart her house from the inside.
Breaking down walls into the mainstream music scene has propelled the singer through 2010, which she calls “one of my busiest years to date.” In addition to releasing “Dark” on her new independent label, Sad Rabbit Music, Pureka sold out rooms in Seattle, Wash., Portland, Ore., Boston, Mass. and Chapel Hill, N.C.; made her debut at South by Southwest and was named one of the OUT 100 of 2010. Even New York Times music writer Jon Pareles took note and added her to his “Playlist” column.
“I think the hardest thing for me has been getting exposure,” says Pureka, whose queer fan base continues to be a loyal source of listeners. Expanding the reach of her music in other markets has been a challenge, but she’s thankful for her longtime supporters.
On being an out musician, “I think it makes it easier in some ways,” she says. “There’s something really nice in knowing that I can show up in places I haven’t played before and feel a sense of community.”
Pureka will be doing just that this winter: she recently kicked off her U.S. tour in the Northeast. Though she describes Portland as one of her favorite places to play, she says New York is right up there.
Park Slope’s own Southpaw is her local venue of choice. “I like that it’s sort of a little grittier,” says Pureka. “It feels down to earth, still has a nice stage and is more or a rock room.”
For now, Pureka is taking winter to figure out where to go next. She has left Northampton, Mass., her longtime home where she first built a fan base, and is looking for change.
When prompted about plans for an upcoming album, she says she is in the process of writing now. But it can be a slow one.
“It’s rare that I write on the road. It’s so busy and rare that I would have time alone to work on stuff. Mostly, I write when I have time off from touring. And sometimes I have to make it happen.”