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Arts: On eve of album debut, performer returns to ‘home base’

By James Williamson
Coastal Observer

One of Elise Testone’s rituals before stepping on stage is brushing her teeth. “I just have to,” she said. “Anything light and casual, I’ll make a joke, smile and laugh before we go on stage.”

Rituals are important. That’s why Testone will be back at Pawleys Island on Saturday.

This marks her ninth year performing at the Pawleys Island Tavern. For the 2011 American Idol finalist, it’s one for the roots.

“There are all different levels and it starts with coffee shops, talent shows, recitals, bars, stages. I’ve gone all through those stages and since coming from a national level, your publicist and manager say not to play local. But I want to do the frickin’ show because I’ve been playing there forever. It’s like a home base.”

This year is especially important to Testone’s musical career. Her debut album “In This Life” is due for release on Feb. 11. “It’s been a long time coming,” she said. “Most of my energy is focused on preparing the release of that album.”

A few days ago she received CDs in the mail. The original release date was in the fall. She felt that the album was not ready. “It wasn’t a rushed thing for me. I’ve wanted to do it my entire life and I wanted to do it right. There are a million loose ends to tie up and details to hone in on before you even release it. If I released it earlier it wouldn’t have had as much momentum.”

Testone recorded the album in studios around Charleston and clung tight to her band of local musicians. It required a great deal of time; she spent 12 hours a day mixing the album and sometimes 40 hours on a one-minute section of a song. She also organized the album’s photography and artwork with a local artist. “I did my hair, makeup and clothes. It’s really rewarding to do it yourself if you can,” she said.

All of the songs are originals, four of which she co-wrote. “The whole album is a very cohesive story. Every song is different,” she explained. “It’s about being hurt, relationships not working out, not following your gut or succumbing to someone else’s opinion when someone tries to make you something that you’re not, learning from those things, being true and following your heart and not waiting around.”

From the PIT, she’ll go to California then back to Charleston for her release party of “In This Life” on Feb. 13 at the Music Hall. “In my mind it’s almost like a pre-party for what’s to come,” Testone said, “and it would be nice to start the year like that.”

If you go

Who: Elise Testone, singer songwriter

When: Jan. 18, 9 p.m.-1 a.m.

Where: Pawleys Island Tavern

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