The Edna Project

There is a distinct difference between good and great. With stellar musical track records that include work on renowned studio projects, world tours, Broadway musicals, performances in top-notch clubs and festivals, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, TV and film soundtracks, and production on two Grammy nominated albums, it’s clear which side of the good/great split Liz Queler & Seth Farber are on. This husband and wife duo are lifelong professional musicians who literally grew up in the business and are now sharing the same great tradition with their 12 year-old son Joey Farber, who is also a budding musical star in his own right. Much like Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, and Bruce Hornsby, Liz & Seth’s eclectic folk/rock, Americana and bluegrass style is rooted in storytelling and songwriting, bringing evocative text alive with exceptional music.

From the youngest years, Liz was on the world’s greatest stages. As the daughter of famed opera conductor Eve Queler, she grew up performing at Lincoln Center as a member of the NYC Opera Children’s Chorus, and went on as an adult to study jazz piano and guitar at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Her love of songwriting led her back home to New York after Berklee, where she broke into the contemporary side of the music scene as a backup singer for Cliff Eberhardt. Over time, her star as a solo performer rose with three solo albums (one released by Palmetto records) a publishing deal with Bug Music, and numerous high profile performances at venues including the Newport Folk Festival, Kerrville Folk Festival, The Bottom Line (NYC), and both Carnegie Hall and Dallas Symphony Hall as a soloist in Leonard Bernstein’s MASS.

Seth, also a New York native raised by musical parents, came up on the blues and rock side of things. The clubs of Bleecker Street broke him in and led to his first major job as musical director for Willy “Mink” DeVille. Mixed in with over 30 European tours with DeVille were recording sessions and performances with Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, Lucinda Williams, Roseanne Cash and Joan Osborne, a six-year run as the assistant conductor and keyboardist for the Broadway musical Hairspray, and composing work for various projects aired on HBO, PBS, VH1, MTV, Bravo, Comedy Central and Animal Planet.

By far, his most significant musical director gig was with the late folk/blues legend Odetta, for whom he spent a decade on tour and in the studio arranging, playing piano, and producing three albums. From those 3 albums came two Grammy nominations.

Together, Seth & Liz are just as formidable as they are apart. In addition to raising Joey and keeping up with commercial and TV/film composing jobs, they contribute to each other’s solo projects and the projects of several fellow musicians in NYC. They tour with the Grammy-nominated children’s rock band Brady Rymer and The Little Band That Could. Together with Joey, they also wrote “Raised On Love,” a song used in Rosie O’Donnell’s HBO special A Family is a Family is a Family., All the solo projects, tours, sessions and side gigs have led to their most recent CD, an album simply called The Edna Project.

Released April 8, 2011, The Edna Project is an album of original music set to the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay, and began with a book given to Liz by Seth’s mother a few years ago. While frustrated with a spell of writer’s block, Liz decided to pull the book down and compose to a poem, just as an exercise to get the creative matter moving. It clicked, really clicked for her, and before long she had ravenously consumed every word written by or about Edna. Deeply inspired, she and Seth set off on composing a full collection of songs set to Edna’s poetry. The Edna Project is musically rooted in Liz & Seth’s signature folk/rock/bluegrass sound, but also shows the playful tendencies of their jazz and blues backgrounds, and includes performances by fellow artists/friends Shawn Mullins (“Rock-a-bye”) and Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan, Levon Helm). Joey also appears on vocals and percussion, making it a true family affair.

Liz & Seth are among the rare artists who have been fortunate enough to spend their entire lives in music. As children of musical parents, parents of a musical child, and individuals who are musicians through and through, sharing thoughtful and exceptional music with the world has been their breath in/breath out. It’s not surprising that music blossoms from their every pore, and it sure is good. For many years past, and many years to come, Liz & Seth will be doing the work they love and illustrating the difference between good and great.

How do you describe your music to people?
An eclectic, imaginative collection of 21 songs set to the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay spanning folk, bluegrass, rock and jazz.

Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
My mother is an opera conductor.  She's quite famous in her corner of the music world and that's where I grew up.  When I was 8 years old she put me in the children's chorus of the New York City Opera where I happily spent the next 8 years singing in over fifteen different operas with soloists including Placido Domingo and Beverly Sills.  It was an incredible education and as I was with many other kids, I presumed it to be a fairly typical experience.  I knew I didn't have an operatic voice, but I also knew I loved to sing.

When I was 10 I picked up a guitar, and that was pretty much it for me.

What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Hang out with my husband and watch our son play ball - then again, it's baseball season.  Ask me again in the fall.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
I handle the bulk of the business end of our musical lives and I can say it's a colossal drag.  There are endless details to keep in place and promoting, booking (which I mostly handle) and administrating never comes to an end.  There's always more that can be done, so I rarely get to heave a big satisfied sigh.  That said,  the greatest challenge is making time for the music - to practice, play and write.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
In the back of my mind I always thought I'd be a musician and singer.

In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
I grew up in New York City.  My exposure to the great opera singers of our time (and often in my living room) was astounding.  Once in high school year I started enjoying the other genres of music available in town.  My friends and I would frequent jazz clubs and The Bottom Line. It was always inspiring and exciting.  But more than anything, my mother, being a woman conductor at a time when there were only two others to speak of, made me believe that anything is possible.

What other artists out there do you love?
Bonnie Raitt was a huge influence in my teens, along with Linda Rondstadt, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan & Ella Fitzgerald.  Artists I listen to frequently now are: Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Shawn Mullins, Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, Chris Thile and many more.

What does your future hold?
We're looking to build The Edna Project into a multi-media theater piece - a daunting and thrilling prospect.  I'm hoping that's what the future, at least in part, has in store.