Shuffle: Going From Solo to Duo and Encouraging Female Leads

Feb 15, 2018

Two northeast Ohio songwriters who spent years on their own are starting a new band, as a couple. For this week’s Shuffle, WKSU contributor Brittany Nader talked with Dan Socha and Bethany Svoboda about finding a new role for men and women in musical spaces.

Harmonizing old tunes
Making beautiful music isn’t just a well-worn euphemism for romance.

'I rarely see a female leading.'

Dan Socha and Bethany Svoboda are both musicians who, until recently, worked separately. They started bumping into each other at open mic nights in Kent. Svoboda heard Socha performing his songs and came up with her own harmonies to fit his melodies. Socha asked Svoboda to collaborate with him on his album, Wild Race.

The album consists of original songs Socha wrote about eight years ago.

“You play the same songs for eight years,” Socha said. “I really started to hate them after a while.”

Socha decided to revisit those songs after hearing Svoboda’s harmonies.

“I fell in love with them again,” he said.

Moving past the 'female backup singer'

'I've talked to a lot of my women musician friends who feel excluded from musical spaces.'

Svoboda, a vocalist with the Kent indie folk group The Speedbumps, was excited by the new collaboration. For one thing, Svoboda found someone whose vocal abilities matched hers. She also liked the chance to move beyond the “female backup singer” role often given to women musicians.

“I rarely see a female leading,” Svoboda said. “So I started singing backup with Dan and he kept encouraging me, like, ‘We need to sing your songs, you need to sing more in the front.”

Dan Socha and Bethany Svoboda met while performing at open mics around Akron.

As they put it, Socha and Svoboda don’t want to be another “guy on guitar, girl singing harmonies” band. While “Wild Race” was all songs Socha wrote, the pair is working on new songs they’ve written together.

“We’re still in the early stages of really, really writing together,” Svoboda said.

Akron's collaborative music scene
According to Socha, collaboration is a big part of the Akron music scene.

“When you think about a band, there’s a chance that a lot of the players of the band are part of three or four other groups,” Socha said. “We play as a duo, but then we also play with a lot of other musicians from around town.”

Together, Socha and Svoboda hope to address what they see as a gender imbalance in the local music scene.

“I’ve talked to a lot of my women musician friends who feel excluded from musical spaces,” Socha said.”

And Svoboda is looking forward to working more with a male musician whose vocal abilities rival her own.

“I feel like his voice is really his primary instrument, just like mine,” Svoboda said. “To combine that with mine is really exciting.”

Note:  This story has been updated to remove an extraneous word in the first pargraph.