Longtime South Lake Tahoe musician Helena Kletch is returning to town in June, playing a release party celebrating the release of her third album, “Grownup.” Growing up in New Jersey and Florida, Kletch was drawn to live music and performance from an early age.
“My mom started bringing me to karaoke when I was really, really young, I think like 6 or something. The first songs I ever learned were Patsy Cline, and I think the first song I ever sang was ‘Walking After Midnight,’ ” she said, also noting Dolly Parton as a considerable early vocal influence.
“Then we moved to Florida when I was 15, and I started going to middle school and high school,” she said. “I joined choir and started getting totally obsessed with choir and theater. Theater was a huge thing for me. I was president of the thespians and president of the drama club. I joined all these state competitive vocal groups and won a bunch of awards in state, all that you know, high school stuff.”
Kletch soon set her sights on one of the [pullquote]“I think I got a lot better at performing while I was in Tahoe.” [/pullquote]nation’s most-recognized performing arts institutions, applying to the Julliard School in New York City.
“I didn’t make it into the school, but I made it past the first cut, which was a really cool experience,” she said. “I choked. There was an improv section, and I had a hard time with some improv because I’m not great at thinking on my feet. I never auditioned for that school again, but when I came back to Florida I started writing music and I realized that I really loved writing music.”
For her album release, Kletch will be taking over Outpost Brewery on Tuesday, June 19, starting at 7:30. Copies of “Grownup” will be on sale for $10, and she will perform the entire album, as well as a number of new songs that she’s in the process of recording. Kletch also will be joined onstage by a number of her musical friends from over the years, for what promises to be a fun and festive evening.
“Ike and Martin will be there, and J.T. will be playing with me and there will probably be some good beers, and then an after-party,” she said.
On Thursday, Kletch and Chevallier will open the Live at Lakeview season at Lakeview Commons at 4:30 p.m.
What goes into her songwriting and performing, thematically and stylistically?
“Little bit of heartbreak, definitely love. Definitely the lyrics are deep, a lot of it is sad with a happy melody almost,” she said. “I would say that my style is really folky with a little bit of a country feel, little bit poppy.”
Now, she is looking forward to the release of her third album.
“At this point I’ve released two CDs, although the first one you can’t find anywhere. It’s professionally done, but it’s just terrible. I was really young and writing about nothing important,” she said with a chuckle.
She recorded her second project with fellow Floridian and former South Tahoe musician Adam Bergoch.
“That one is called ‘Love Tax,’ and I love that one,” she said.
While enjoying considerable experience onstage as a youth, it wasn’t until moving to South Shore in 2012 that Kletch began to come into her own as a live musician.
“I moved to Tahoe about six years ago and started performing and playing there, writing new songs,” she said. “I think I got a lot better at performing while I was in Tahoe. I was always so scared to perform by myself, guitar and vocals. I’d just get in my head, but it was just a really great outlet for me because people were so accepting.”
She soon struck up a friendship with well-known local musicians Ike Marr and Martin Shears, known as Ike & Martin, who pushed the young performer to pursue her passion without trepidation.
“Ike would just pretty much force me to do these gigs that I was just so afraid to do,” she said. “He would just say ‘do them, who cares,’ so doing that I feel like I just got better.”
Marr also encouraged Kletch to join a project with local musician J.T. Chevalier, which they dubbed “Little Town,” another formative experience for Kletch.
“Little Town was a huge thing for me,” Kletch said. “Ike kind of pushed me, he was like, ‘Why aren’t you playing more, why aren’t you playing guitar?’ He pushed me toward this group called Little Town. J.T. really, really got me out of my shell, and so did Ike. They are two huge parts of that whole thing for me. J.T. was like ‘just fucking play, just do it.’ He really helped me with getting more aggressive, because I was playing with him and he was a better musician than I was, so I got used to being more up front.”
Shears has also contributed significantly to Kletch’s development, assisting her with the production of “Grownup.”
“Martin did such a good job at producing the whole album. It sounds like a studio album, stuff you could put on the TV or radio like that,” Kletch said.
She knows a bit about such topics, having successfully sold five of her original tracks to ABC for use in its television show “The Fosters.” Kletch also has performed at a range of events around Tahoe, including a TedX forum presented by TedTalks in 2017 and opening for Kellie Pickler at a private concert that same year in Martis Camp. Kletch will be returning to that venue again this summer to open for LeAnn Rimes.
– Josh Sweigert
- Helena Kletch and J.T. Chevallier
Outpost Brewery on Tuesday, June 19, starting at 7:30 p.m.
Live at Lakeview on Thursday, June 21, starting at 4:30 p.m.