Singer-songwriter Jill Sobule thought the shelf-life of her eponymous second album had expired.
It’s been a year since her label, Atlantic/Lava Records, released the album, featuring the single “I Kissed a Girl.” And several months have elapsed since the record spawned a hit.
It seemed the album had run its course. That’s how it works in the music business, which is why artists continue to record new albums. So, Sobule holed up in Nashville to compose her third.
However, she might have to put the project on hold for a while because her sophomore effort is beginning to show new signs of life - thanks largely to Coeur d’Alene pop/ alternative radio station KHTQ-FM (94.5).
The station has flooded the airwaves with a softly sung, arresting ballad called “Houdini’s Box” The song, even with several spins a day, is one of the station’s most-requested tunes, according to program director Scott Shannon.
The fact that “Houdini’s Box,” a song that speaks about vulnerability and relationships, is shaping up to be a hit comes as a pleasant surprise to the blond singer, considering the two singles that followed “I Kissed a Girl” - “Good Person Inside” and “Supermodel” - made little impact. Further, she doesn’t want to be known solely for her comical same-sex love song.
“Having ‘Kissed a Girl’ as the song everyone knows me for was a blessing and a curse,” Sobule said during a phone interview last week. “It was a goofy … song that was fun and (dealt) with a semi-taboo subject. It was pretty theater-of-the-absurd. At the same time, you are risking being a comedic novelty act.
“It makes me very happy,” Sobule said of “Houdini’s Box’s” success at KHTQ. “But I didn’t think that it would” ever help sell albums.
“There was one guy (Kevin Williamson) at my label who was a champion of that song, and I was like, ‘Good luck’ (pitching it). And he’s actually gotten some people to hear it.”
One is Shannon.
Sobule’s label is using Spokane and Coeur d’Alene as the test markets for the song. KHTQ’s signal, 100,000 watts strong, reaches most of Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
“The reason (‘Houdini’s Box’) captured my attention was it really fits the texture of my radio station as far as the slow ballad goes,” said Shannon, who started playing the song two weeks ago. “It’s really hauntingly direct. People can relate to it.”
Because of its success, Atlantic/ Lava will issue the song nationally as a single next month. Ironically, if there’s one song on the album that isn’t an obvious single, it’s “Houdini’s Box.”
“It doesn’t jump out as a hit, but it’s more of an emotional buy,” Shannon agreed.
What’s also surprising about the song is this version was originally intended as a demo.
“That song was done two years ago in a horrid 12-track studio. It was like a $20 demo,” Sobule said.
She re-recorded “Houdini’s Box” while putting together her second album. Even though it was beefed up, Sobule and her producers weren’t pleased with the results.
“We heard it and we were like, ‘Ewww, this is awful. The demo is so much better.’ So we went with the demo.”
According to Atlantic, the local hit has boosted album sales in the area.
Dan May, a music associate at the Hastings Books, Music and Video on Spokane’s South Side, says orders of the album are up and sales have been steady for the last month.
To date, 150,000 copies of “Jill Sobule” are in CD and cassette players across the land.
Sobule, whose new album will be in stores in the fall or early winter, will head back out on the road to support the re-awakened album late this spring.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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