By Ed Coury
Angie Foster is a well-known fixture on the Portland, Oregon, club circuit. If she has her way, the singer, songwriter, and pianist will bring her music to a much wider audience.
It’s not that she hasn’t come close. Foster almost won a slot on the Lilith Fair tour back in 1999. “That was really before I had gotten my confidence up to perform,” she recalls. “I recorded a song, sent it in, and really didn’t think anything of it. I ended up being one of 20 finalists out of, like, 800 people. At that time, I had really bad stage fright, and I wasn’t chosen. It was the first time I had performed in front of a lot of people in years.”
A television appearance on the show America’s Got Talent in early 2010 earned Foster another shot at fame. “They had seen a clip of a local TV show that my band and I had played on. They contacted me and asked if I’d audition, and I did. I lost out to a hand whistler and an air guitar band, so I didn’t advance—but it really was a lot of fun.”
Angie Foster was introduced to music as a child, but she was hanging with an older crowd. “I got my start at Portland State University,” Foster says, “which is where [Grammy-winning bassist] Esperanza Spalding went to school. My mom was a single parent and didn’t have a lot of money. The instructor said, ‘I’ll teach her for free. The only caveat is, she’ll be taught in front of a class full of master’s degree students.’” Foster says the university setting helped to build her confidence. “I’m pretty comfortable in front of people,” she says, “because my screw-ups, and everything I did as a kid was done in front of about 25 other students.”
Foster eventually enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley, where she earned a degree in music. She says she didn’t do a lot of performing. “There was a lot of theory and history. Any playing I did wasn’t in front of a lot of people, so I sort of lost my confidence to play in front of others. [Eventually] I had such a positive response from friends, though—they really pushed me to get out there. So I recorded my first CD and started playing out.”
“My singing style,” says Foster, “is a cross between Sara Bareilles, Bonnie Raitt, and a little bit of the Motown sound thrown in. My keyboard playing is influenced by two very different genres. One is synth-heavy ’80s pop music like Duran Duran. The other is blues and soul, like Bonnie Raitt and Ray Charles.”
Angie released her latest CD in June 2010 and is anxious to record again. “I already have a lot of material for new albums, so I’m looking at how to fund them. If you do it right, it can get expensive. So that’s really the main goal in the next year, to get enough material together to start, or at least rehearse for, a new album.”