Under the Covers withPetra Haden

Petra Haden

Puffy-fluffy clouds billow past, green grass gently sways. The sun beams benevolently, a little car tootles past as a glorious carpet of sunshine voices bips and bops and tweedle-dees. And you find yourself thinking, Um, IÕm enjoying this.

Well, itÕs now officially cool and okay to hum along to TV commercials, at least if theyÕre scored, like the Toyota ads currently seen on the tube, by Petra Haden. SheÕs the multitalented, environmentally friendly voice behind those kickily surreal images, doing all that wondrous melodic tapestry-ing with nothing but her vocal cords and a rather geniuslike ear for harmony.

Haden, some might say just like the Prius, seems to make the flowers bloom as she tra-la-laÕs down the road of life. A longtime presence on the L.A. scene for a bewilderingly varied number of reasons, she boasts a vocal prowess and modernist musical taste that cast her as the obscure spawn of Enya, Björk and Pauline Oliveros; in real life she is the singing and violin-playing daughter of jazz bass legend Charlie Haden, and one of triplet sisters along with Tanya and Rachel, also musicians, as is her brother Josh of Spain fame.

We first got a glimpse of PetraÕs unusual talents with her band That Dog, who graced the indie charts in the early Ô90s, and sheÕs gone on to collaborate with Beck, Foo Fighters, Green Day, Bette Midler, Laurie Anderson and Sean Lennon, among scads of others.

Others? Well, how about her singing on ¯¯ Void by metal merchants Sunn O))) and Goatsnake, for godÕs sake? ThereÕve also been collaborations with the Decemberists and in her duo Miss Murgatroid with accordionist Alicia Rose, as well as a series of works with jazz guitarist Bill Frisell and with her family in tribute to the music of her father. And letÕs not neglect her own all-women choir Petra Haden and the Sellouts.

Haden has a deceptively informal air about her when she describes what it is that she does and how she goes about her work. I asked her about the Toyota ads. How did she get the job?

ÒI got a call from a woman in New York who heard `DonÕt Stop Believing,Õ a song that I did for the compilation album Guilty by Association in 2007. I did it all a cappella, and she was a fan and she was working on the music for the Prius commercial, so she was interested in my singing.Ó

HadenÕs not exactly a car freak Ð in fact, she doesnÕt even drive Ð but she must have had a vague idea about a right-on kind of music for the eco-correct Prius.


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