Heartless Bastards singer Erika Wennerstrom goes solo for Woodward show

Erika Wennerstrom performs for WCPO Lounge Acts
Posted at 10:59 AM, Dec 20, 2016
and last updated 2017-01-23 14:57:55-05

Hear Erika Wennerstrom chat with host Gil Kaufman and perform for WCPO Lounge Acts in the player above.

It's great to come home for the holidays, but everyone also needs a little space this time of year, right? That might explain why Heartless Bastards singer Erika Wennerstrom is plugging in for her first solo show in Cincinnati on Friday night (Dec. 23), taking the stage at Over-the-Rhine's Woodward Theater to preview songs from her upcoming debut Bastards-less album.

Since leaving the Cincinnati area a decade ago to live in the music mecca of Austin, Texas, Wennerstrom has released four critically acclaimed albums with her band, including last year's Restless Ones. The group's signature mix of high energy rock and Wennerstrom's wailing, urgent vocals have made them one of today's most riveting live acts.

Watch Erika Wennestrom performing an unreleased song titled "Like a Bird" for WCPO Lounge Acts.

But for her recent WCPO Lounge Acts session, Wennerstrom stripped it down to play three unreleased tracks that laid bare her emotions in a whole new way, digging into what she called her odes to "self love" and the search for, as she sings in the striking "Extraordinary Love," a place to call home."

"It's about growth… yeah, self love," Wennerstrom said, tearing up a bit thinking about the song's inspiration and the journey that took her to other solo efforts such as "Like a Bird," which might also end up on the album. "I just have to remember to be good to myself." And while she'll be playing a mix of classic Heartless Bastards songs and new tracks, Wennerstrom won't be alone by any means at the Woodward. Joining her for the gig will be HB bassist Jesse Ebaugh – who will open the show with his band The Tender Things -- as well as HB drummer Dave Colvin.

"It's it's own animal to an extent… I would like to think it represents some growth as a songwriter… it's sort of the next step," she said of the evolution of her writing on the new songs and the difference in her solo presentation. "Everybody needed a break, everybody's doing some different things right now. This is likely the stuff I would have taken to the band as well. These could have pretty much been Heartless Bastards songs."

Erika Wennerstrom warms up before her performance in the WCPO Lounge | Scott Beseler

Maybe, but hearing Wennerstrom play these new tracks, you get a sense of what she's talking about when she says there's definitely been some changes over the past year.

Wennerstrom, who grew up in Dayton, is making the most of her time in the area, catching up with friends and family and, if all goes well, working on what might be a new Christmas classic. She was slated to hook up with Breeders/Amps member Kelley Deal over the weekend to write an original holiday song that just might end up on the set list on Friday.

"It's always really nice to see people I recognize," she said about the warmth of playing a hometown show and seeing familiar faces from her past in the crowd. "But sometimes I'll distract myself… like if I'm playing and I realize that my mom right in front of me." Either way, make the show a part of your holiday plans, because you're sure to get a sneak peek at what's next for Wennerstrom. Plus, it's a great excuse to get out of the house for a few hours.

What: Erika Wennerstrom and Friends with Molly Sullivan, Jesse Ebaugh and the Tender Things

When: Friday, December 23, doors at 8 p.m., show at 9 p.m.


$15 advance, $17 day of show or