Rockin’ out with Lovebettie — on stage and at home in Greensburg
They ooze charisma every time they take the stage.
Lovebettie’s Alexandra Naples is the lead singer with a shock of magenta hair and a vintage look reminiscent of a Hollywood starlet from the 1940s. C.T. Fields is the suave and handsome guitarist, the coolest guy in the room, admired by women and envied by men.
Together they are Lovebettie, one of the area’s most dynamic bands. But at home in Greensburg, they are the epitome of normal. Married for seven years and together for 11, they are avid readers. Naples favors the fantasy novels of Anne Bishop and especially the Harry Potter series; Fields reads philosophy and the poetry of e.e. cummings and Sylvia Plath.
“I’m a total nerd,” Naples says.
Recently, Naples and Fields started a side project that hints at a new path. As Willow Hill, the couple is releasing “Highway One,” a five-song EP of country songs inspired by their frequent songwriting jaunts to Nashville.
The EP — scheduled to be released on June 16, Naples’ birthday — was not made on a whim. Both listened to country music growing up. Fields, who was born in Jacksonville, Fla., remembers visiting relatives in Georgia “and singing old Patsy Cline songs sitting on the back porch,” he says. “I know it’s hard to picture us like that … But it’s not like we were raised in the city.”
“I honestly feel for the first time I can just be myself,” says Naples. “I’ve never been a hard rock chick. … My goal in music has always been to connect with people, to give them something, to have that connection. With rock I always kind of felt like there was a barrier between me and everyone else.”
The one barrier that’s never existed is between Naples and Fields.
Finding each other
They met in 2005 while students at Seton Hill University, at the most innocuous of all places: an Eat’n Park restaurant. Fields was sitting alone at a table, writing poetry, “all dark and serious,” Naples says. “We kept looking at each other. It was the weirdest thing, being drawn to somebody so strangely.”
“I thought she was the most gorgeous girl I’d ever seen,” says Fields, who also thought, “I’m going to marry that girl.”
They talked briefly about MySpace, then “stalked each other,” Naples says, through that formerly popular site. Fields was in a band; Naples was not. He learned that she sang, although she said she was not a singer. Naples also played piano, but didn’t consider herself to be a musician. They started writing songs and performing at open mic nights. Eventually they added other musicians — currently Nick Quinn plays bass and Shawn King is on drums — and Lovebettie was born.
The music was born from a mutual love of the blues and vintage soul music. Fields had a natural knack for writing percussive, rhythmic songs — “he was born to be a drummer but his mom bought him a guitar,” Naples says — and his talents meshed immediately with Naples powerhouse vocals.
“I like the feel of rhythm guitar,” Fields says. “Even if it’s chords. I guess that’s where that swagger thing came from.”
The band started promoting its music as “swagger rock,” and one of its first shows was a short set at Club Cafe on Pittsburgh’s South Side. Promoter Jon Rinaldo, then of Joker Productions, heard the band and sought them for the opening act at a sold-out show featuring Lifehouse.
“I thought they had a cool sound and a different look,” says Rinaldo, who now runs Big Bash Entertainment. “(Naples) had an air about her. And C.T. is a very good musician. They were a very professional and strong band.”
But Naples wondered if the band was ready to play in front of a larger crowd. She was still getting accustomed to performing, not sure if she was ready to be the focus of attention night after night. So Fields made the decision to accept the gig without consulting Naples.
“I said yes when she wasn’t around,” Fields says.
“I lost my … mind,” Naples says, laughing. “I had this debilitating stage fright. I seriously thought I was going to pass out. I still remember driving to that show and feeling like my whole insides were going to liquefy out of my toes.”
The show went well despite Naples misgivings, and the band subsequently opened for other national acts including Hinder, 311 and Rick Springfield. They developed a fan base that extends from the Eastern seaboard through the Midwest, performing at festivals, casinos and other large venues.
And Naples cut her hair.
She calls it her “walking sculpture.” When Naples first met Fields her hair was longer and blonde. One day she decided to cut it herself.
“She just walked upstairs and put the scissors to her head,” Fields says. “She came down and it looked like this.”
“Well, it didn’t look like this,” Naples says quickly. “It was short and spiky.”
“It looked like this, but just not red,” Fields says. “I was like, wow, you win.”
Thus was born a look that makes Naples recognizable wherever she goes.
The reception to “Willow Hill” will influence how Naples and Fields go forward. The five songs that comprise the EP are, if not diametrically opposed to swagger rock, at least in a different county.
Recorded at Benchmark Studios in Nashville with producer Zach Abend and executive producer Jeff Cohen of As You Wish Music, the songs range from the slow burning single “Don’t Let the Door Hit Ya” to “Can’t Have My Best,” a sweet ballad in which Naples’ stunning range is showcased.
The music has potential, according to Dave August, the lead singer for North of Mason-Dixon (NOMaD), one of the region’s most accomplished country band.
“It’s really done well, and I was kind of shocked only because I really didn’t know where they would be coming from when (Fields) said they were going to do this,” August says. “What makes them stand out is the married couple thing. And Allie’s look is definitely different than anybody else’s. Allie’s voice is different than the pop country thing that’s going on right now. She’s got that low, raspy, smoky thing going on. That’s not typical, and that’s a good thing.”
The first big test for Willow Hill comes June 11 when they perform prior to the Zac Brown Band concert at KeyBank Pavilion in Burgettstown. If their material finds favor with those fans, perhaps country music will be their future. They’ve already road-tested “Don’t Let the Door Hit Ya,” and “the reaction has been gratifying,” Naples says. “It’s the easiest conversion ever.”
But if country turns out to be a dead end, they will persevere. No matter what happens, they are loyal to their roots.
“You can have a great time playing a Sunday night at Mr. Toads,” Naples says of the Greensburg nightspot. “We’re really into that vibe when it’s personal and intimate.”
Rege Behe is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.