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Singer/songwriter plays for pets

By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal features editor
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Leah Tysse’s first CD earned songwriting success, including being named Billboard’s Best R&B Song of 2008. Her latest, “Love Again,” features musicians who have recorded with names like Rihanna, the Roots, Chaka Khan, Lauryn Hill and will.i.am. Now living in Berkeley, Tysse said she owes her success in large part to the supportive Auburn community. “I feel like people have really taken me in there,” she said. “It’s sort of like my second home in California.” Tysse’s CD release party starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at the Music and More Theater in Auburn. A portion of the ticket sales will go to the Humane Society of the Sierra Foothills. Tysse said she chose the location and cause in keeping with her belief in using her success to give back to those who need help, and those who have helped her. “I thought it would make a lot of sense to do a CD release there because people have been so supportive,” she said. A petite songwriter with a big voice, Tysse packed her ukulele in 1998 and headed west from her hometown of Madison, Wisc. She hooked up with the Chris Cobb blues band, and it was at a show in Roseville that her soulful voice caught the ear of Auburn guitarist Ted Stancliff, a friend of Cobb’s bass player. Stancliff invited Tysse to join his band, and they’ve been playing together ever since. “She started coming up, the first time, in 2006,” Stancliff said. “Then it was every two or three months, then every two months, then every month, and now she has been coming up three times a month.” Tysse released her first CD, “Real Good Fire,” in 2007. She’s been busy ever since, sharing stages with Michael Franti, Tommy Castro, Nelson Braxton and Taj Mahal. She’s also a featured soloist of San Francisco’s Glide Memorial Church Choir, which has performed at the World Expo in Shanghai, China. Tysse can be seen singing with the choir in the Will Smith film “The Pursuit of Happyness.” “Leah surrounds herself with amazing, amazing musicians,” Stancliff said. Tysse said her independent-release CD features more collaboration with other musicians than “Real Good Fire,” which focused on her own songwriting. This time around she teamed up with Mike Blankenship, Tysse’s keyboardist and co-producer, Ronnie Smith on drums, Cedricke Dennis on guitar and Lynette Williams, a keyboard player who has worked with P. Diddy and Ledisi. Tysse describes her sound as “soul music that draws on my love of blues, folk and R&B – sort of contemporary soul pop with some other styles influencing.” She said her biggest influences are Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and James Taylor. Tysse said that even if people can’t make it to her release party, she still encourages them to donate to the Humane Society. Rosemary Frieborn, a humane officer for the Humane Society of the Sierra Foothills, said events like Tysse’s are a welcomed relief in hard times. “With the decrease in donations to nonprofit organizations these past few years, funding for our programs has been severely impacted. Fundraisers like Leah Tysse’s CD release concert are critical to help us continue to help animals.” The Humane Society has horses, pot-bellied pigs, goats and sheep, along with many cats and dogs, that depend on donations for medical care, food and shelter. Frieborn said July saw Placer County’s largest seizure of neglected animals ever, at a cost of nearly $30,000. Tysse’s concert comes at the end of National Animal Shelter and Rescue Appreciation Week, when people are encouraged to help save homeless pets through donations, adoption or volunteerism. More information can be found at www.theshelterproject.org. Stancliff said he looks forward to Saturday’s show, when he will join Tysse on stage for a few songs. The two are regular performers at Auburn venues, including Pistol Pete’s Brew and Cue and Latitudes. “We love her up here,” he said. “A lot of people just adore her music and her personality – she’s got a great personality.” Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at krissik@goldcountrymedia.com. ---------- Leah Tysse CD Release Concert When: Doors open at 7 p.m.; band performs from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12 Where: Music and More Theater (DeWitt Center), 11596 D Ave., Auburn Cost: $15 general admission; $10 under 12 or over 65. At least 25 percent of ticket sales will benefit the Humane Society of the Sierra Foothills. More information: (530) 885-0594, www.leahtysse.com