Deb Cleveland: Energy, soul - and a whole lot of fun

EUGENE, Ore. -- Deservedly named Eugene's Best Blues Band in 2008 by Eugene Weekly, The Deb Cleveland Band knows that it takes a whole lot of talent and skill to put on a rocking show, but it is the energy that flows from vocalist and namesake Deb Cleveland that distinguishes her band from the rest.

Cleveland's rich, soulful voice often earns her comparisons to iconic female vocalists such as Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin, and the high praise is well deserved. Performing in Oregon for the last 20 years, she has been three times recognized as Eugene's Best Blues Singer by Eugene Weekly and was featured by OPB's Oregon Art Beat in 2005.

Occasionally singing roadhouse blues with The Vipers, she also fronts her own band, singing an eclectic mix of R&B, blues and funk.

"It's an R&B roots, Americana 'good ol' back in the day' kind of band," she says. "It's the energy we put in that makes a big difference."

A transplant to the Willamette Valley from Waco, Texas, Deb traces the beginning of her singing career to her childhood, when she sang gospel music in church.

"I was scared to death," she says of her first experience singing in front of an audience. "My voice would tremble and I would get butterflies. I didn't know what to do except get out there and sing."

Although she long ago overcame her initial stage fright and has since been a powerhouse singer in multiple Eugene-area bands, she is an unselfish performer without a trace of diva attitude. Her utmost priority when she's up on stage is making sure that everybody is having at least as much fun as she is.

When she sings, Cleveland tries to emulate the experience she had the one time she saw her idol Tina Turner perform live. Even sitting way up in the rafters, Cleveland knew that Tina was singing just for her.

"I'm not being selfish and I'm not just singing to the people up front," she says. "I want everybody to have a good time."

Although she cites Turner as one of her key inspirations, it would be wrong to say that Cleveland's style belongs to anybody but her. When she's rolling with the bass and "feeling the vibe," she loses herself in the music and lets go. For her audience, the result feels like an authentic glimpse into her soul.

"I feel like I try to give them me," she says. "I try to spread it all out so everybody can have some."