Raised in San Rafael and now living in Novato, Rebecca Roudman makes her living as a cellist in the Oakland Symphony and the Santa Rosa Symphony. She started playing classical music when she was 7 years old, and after graduating as a music major in college, it was all classical music all the time.
“But classical music has never my first love,” says Roudman. “It’s been everything else; blues and bluegrass and rock.”
Eight years ago, she took a musical detour in that bluesy direction, teaming with her flutist-turned-guitarist husband Jason Eckl to form Dirty Cello, a crossover smashup of cello strings and stomping blues rhythms that hit a note with Bay Area audiences almost immediately. “There was interest, people thought it was kind of cool and kind of weird,” says Roudman. “That’s the kind of people we are.”
Musically, Roudman’s biggest hurdle was learning to improvise on the cello during performances, not a skill that’s emphasized in classical training.
“It was an uphill battle at first,” she says. “Now, it feels natural, which feel good.”
Soon after they started, Dirty Cello expanded from a duo to a full four-piece band, and today the group includes bassist Colin Williams, drummer Ben Wallace-Ailsworth and occasionally vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Sandy Lindop.
This year is shaping up to be one of the group’s busiest yet. They’re currently preparing to release Bad Ideas Make Great Stories, their second record of 2019 after Bluesy Grass, which came out in January.
“It’s a pretty unique record because it’s made from personal stories of all our adventure we’ve been on,” says Roudman.
After a record-release concert at the HopMonk Tavern in Sebastopol, Dirty Cello again goes international, performing in England, Israel and Iceland over the summer.
“If people are expecting to see a classically-trained cellist playing mellow, smooth music, it’s not that,” says Roudman. “They’re going to hear something they haven’t heard before.”
Dirty Cello performs on Friday, April 26, at HopMonk Tavern, 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. 8pm. $13-$20.707.829.7300. dirtycello.com.