Becky Lee Is Big in Portugal

I was at Eastside Records, maybe a year and a half ago, when I found myself eyeing an EP from Becky Lee and Drunkfoot. It was an eye-catching package: a heavy paper case decorated with glitter and black permanent marker. After briefly wondering what a "drunkfoot" was, I bought the CD-R, cranked it up, and didn't take it out of my car for weeks.

I always tap the repeat button for the Tempe singer-songwriter's sparse and bluesy "Old Fashioned Man." She purrs in a warm, earthy alto: "But, oh, I'm just as broke up as a girl could be / Old-fashioned him, he don't want modern me," over a kick-drum beat, tambourine shakes, and intermittent guitar riffs. The instrumentation includes only the most deliberate flourishes. That intricate, hyper-focused attention to each element is no coincidence.

The Dallas native, whose surname is Walters, has more backstory than this page can handle, but I'll try.

Becky Lee
Heike Schneider-Matzikeit
Becky Lee

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Becky Lee is scheduled to perform at the Sundown Showdown on Friday, April 9, at the Yucca Tap Room in Tempe.

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Walters first picked up a guitar at 13, worked on music until 17, became a swing dance instructor, and moved to Europe to teach dance a few years later. Walters returned to the desert, burnt out after a five-year stint overseas, and then worked in the wardrobe departments for a Matthew McConaughey movie called Surfer, Dude (in which Willie Nelson portrays a goat farmer/weed dealer) and Young Americans, an unreleased coming-of-age story shot in Phoenix and starring Topher Grace.

"I go through phases of being heavily into something and focusing lots of time and energy into it," Walters says, adding that it gets tough moving from project to project. "I mean, I'm a Libra. Our sign is the scale, but I still don't know how to balance everything . . . Unless it's an instrument on every limb."

Walters has toured Europe four times, pairing up with Switzerland's Reverend Beat-man, as well as the late Sky Saxon of The Seeds: "[Sky] saw me playing in Germany and asked if I wanted to join their tour. I had some time between shows, and they had space in the van, so it all worked out."

She sang along with Saxon through three countries before resuming her own dates. Last summer, she performed as one of two musicians in a stage adaptation of Pulp Fiction at White Trash Fast Food, a club in Berlin: "It was like dinner theater on acid . . . nudity, violence, and celebrities in the audience," Walters says. Having made quite the impression, Hamburg's biggest pimp purchased 10 of her CDs. "Who knows what he did with those things?"

Time Echo Vintage is Walters' latest endeavor, an Etsy shop launched last October. "I missed working with clothes, love vintage, and needed another [source of] income besides music."

Her storefront is rife with delicate dresses, androgynous shoes, and mod accessories. But her music hasn't been put on hold. Becky Lee & Drunkfoot will play the second annual Sundown Showdown at Yucca Tap Room. Earthmen and Strangers' Ryan Rousseau, who is also Walters' boyfriend, assembles the fest. This year's bill includes a 15th-anniversary set from Rousseau's band The Wongs, and Gospel Claws, featuring Walters' brother Sloan.

This summer, Walter plans to head to Portugal, where her profile is especially high after working with Lisboan one-man band Legendary Tigerman. Walters collaborated on two songs, including a reworking of "Old Fashioned Man," for his album of duets, Femina, which went gold last year. Walters is now set to play her biggest show yet at Portuguese festival Optimus Alive, where she and all the Femina collaborators will perform individual sets.

"The event usually draws 60,000, and we're playing on the indie stage, which is 7,000. So that will be big for me. Future-tense memories are always pleasant."

 
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