Etienne De Rocher
Bay Area musician Etienne De Rocher's story is one of epic starts and stops. The son of two French professors (hence the name) moved to Berkeley from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to pursue a degree in honors physics at UC Berkeley -- and dropped out three semesters later to pursue music. A longtime musician who bought his first guitar with his earnings from a summer's worth of lawn-mowing, he recorded a four-track demo in the secret studio he'd built in a basement storage room of the Oakland apartment building he was managing, and then got himself a record deal from Capital as a result - which he backed out of at the last minute. So he formed a band, and began building acclaim for himself by gigging around the Bay -- then watched his band fall apart when his drummer was wooed away by Tom Waits and, later, Norah Jones. Taking yet another stab at realizing his musical vision, he began an odd but fertile partnership with Dan Prothero of Fog City Records, who had previously focused on jam bands and acid-funk -- then took five years to finish recording his first album, finally releasing it in 2006. More than a decade after he first began it, Etienne De Rocher's career finally seems to be moving forward. His eponymous debut is a marriage of lilting poetry, gauzy vocals and thoughtful, soulful indie folk-rock.