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Local Q&A: Bonzie

Though Bonzie just turned 18, the singer-songwriter has already established herself as a force to reckon with on the local scene.

Earlier this year she landed a coveted slot opening for Iron & Wine, and she has spent recent weeks embroiled in recording sessions alongside members of Tortoise at Steve Albini's Electrical Audio.

"It's definitely humbling," said the Wisconsin-born musician, who relocated to Chicago three years ago. "It feels great to be working with people I admire so much."

While it might appear success has come quickly to Bonzie, who will celebrate the release of her full-length debut "Rift Into the Secret of Things" with a concert Aug. 15 at Schubas, she's actually been performing in and around the city since she was 12 years old, landing gigs everywhere from Beat Kitchen to the Taste of Chicago.

By phone from her home in the north suburbs, the fast-rising singer discussed her decision to adopt a stage name, the power of dreams and whether or not she can be trusted with a secret.

I read that early on you used to tell people you were doing covers when you were actually performing original material.

Yeah. I did that for a while. I started writing when I was 10, and I wasn't sure what people would think of it--especially my family. My mom always used to tell me that music is a hobby, not a job. Nobody in my family was really an advocate for [music] ... so I didn't know that what I was doing was OK or made sense. I would tell people they weren't my songs so I didn't have to have my identity connected with whatever I was playing.

Does that explain why you chose to adopt the stage name Bonzie?

Yeah. Bonzie is a word I've had with me for a long time. I performed for several years under my own name, but I didn't like the feeling of it. There was something about it that felt egotistical to me, and music was never that sort of pursuit. Bonzie feels a lot better to go under, not only because it's a pseudonym but also because it doesn't subscribe to a language. There isn't a conventional definition of Bonzie, and it's more something where I can become its meaning.

How would you define the word at this point in your career?

It's basically a combination of syllables and sounds that looks and sounds interesting. It's more like an abstract idea.

You titled your debut "Rift Into the Secret of Things." Are you good at keeping a secret?

I think so [laughs]. If somebody tells me something in private, I usually keep it to myself.

You adopted the title from a passage in Henry David Thoreau's "Walden." How do you think you'd handle living in seclusion?

I think I would really like it. I've always sort of been drawn to being on my own. I write in seclusion, and I make songs when I'm alone. It's an interesting concept to put yourself in his shoes.

On the song "Data Blockers" you sing about "dreams on rotation." Have you had any recurring dreams lately?

Not lately, which is kind of different for me. I usually have recurring dreams that last for a month or so. Maybe since I'm so busy with the album release right now I haven't had any time for reoccurring dreams [laughs].

What's the most vivid recurring dream you can recall having?

They're usually very abstract, and it's usually not something I can verbalize. But I had one recurring dream where there were these different colored instruments and you couldn't see any detail. Everything was just a shape and a full block of color.  Maybe I was trying to tell myself something? Maybe sometimes I pay too much attention to detail.

In "Catholic High School" you list a number of things you don't trust (politicians, religion, etc.). Is there anything you trust in without question?

I think you can trust in your instincts. I just think sometimes our perceptions are misguided because of things we're used to, but usually our instincts are right on about things.

Can you recall a time you followed your instincts and it didn't turn out for the best?

I'm sure it's happened before [laughs]. I'm not always right about things--I don't think anybody is--but for the most part it's been OK, and I haven't gotten into too much trouble yet. Knock on wood.

Bonzie, 7:30 p.m. Aug. 15 at Schubas. $7.

Bonzie personality test
Last album you bought? "It was the new Foxygen album, 'We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic.'"
Song you've listened to on repeat recently? "Not Sport, Martial Art" by Jim O'Rourke
Song you never want to hear again? "...Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears "I heard it so much growing up."
Best concert you've seen in the last year? "Probably the Polyphonic Spree at Subterranean. That was surreal. It was this ray of power beaming from the small stage. It was amazing."
New band you don't know personally that deserves to be big? "I would say the Orwells, although I do know them personally. They're awesome."
Favorite movie ever? "I'm really obsessed with 'Howl's Moving Castle.'"
Chicago's best music venue? "I have to say Schubas, although Chicago has a lot of great venues. I really haven't had horrible experiences anywhere in Chicago, which says something about how great the venues are here."

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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