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Photograph by Curtis Cartier
The Natural: UCSC student Christine Le aced the Britannia Arms Songwriter's Showcase, despite the fact that she didn't know it was a contest.

Walk-on Home Run

UCSC student Christine Le entered the Britannia Arms Songwriter Showcase on a whim--and won.

By Curtis Cartier

WHEN Christine Le entered herself in the Britannia Arms Songwriter's Showcase, she had no idea it was a contest.

"I thought it was an open mic," says the stunning 21-year-old musician and UCSC student. "I came with my guitar and they said that someone hadn't shown up and that I could play in their spot. It was pretty surprising when it turned out to be a judged competition."

Despite her naiveté, Le won that round and eventually advanced to the final competition last Tuesday at the Britannia Arms pub in Aptos. There, she wowed both the judges and audience members with her crystal clear voice and poppy guitar work, capturing first place overall. Now she'll be rewarded with eight hours of free recording time at Mars Studio in Aptos and is looking to turn her folk pop numbers into career-starting hits.

"At school, a lot of times I'm in class writing lyrics instead of taking notes," says Le, who's in her third year studying psychology at UCSC and will soon leave for a four-month study-abroad experience in Barbados. "I'm really excited to go to the studio and get some of these songs recorded."

Le's music, like any decent musician's, is tough to pigeonhole. With influences ranging from the Beatles to Esperanza Spalding and Natalie Cole, she draws on a wide swath of musical backgrounds. Classically trained on the piano since age 6, she's also no stranger to music theory or to performing. Lyrically, her songs are mostly romantic. Both "Trouble" and "Grain of Sand," which she played during her winning set last Tuesday, are written about a past relationship.

"The first song was about infatuation and about commitment. I think both men and women sometimes have a problem with commitment," she says. "I just try to be honest in my songs and tell it how it is."

Ken Capitanich of Mars Studio says he's thrilled to work with the young musician and that, with a few lucky breaks, she could be on her way to the top. Capitanich is responsible for organizing the Songwriter's Showcase. Each year, he says, he sees talented musicians with plenty of potential, but most are in need of some added direction. In Le's case, however, he says she's already on the right track.

"I think her songs are very easy to connect with," he says. "She's got a modern and fresh approach and her dynamics are very good. I think she's a rising local star."


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