Ara Lee, when pressed, calls herself a singer-songwriter. But the image of a wispy, soft-voiced, guitar strummer that might come to mind couldn’t be farther from what she does. Call it soul, call it folk, call it gospel, Ara sings like a woman with something to say, in a voice that makes you stop and listen, with lyrics that make you remember why you decided to be human once upon a time. Crediting Nina Simone and Rumi among her influences, Ara is equally comfortable with stripped down acoustic-driven folk and her signature soulful, tribal grooves. Known for her commanding stage presence, Ara Lee’s shows, often called “musical church,” cut straight to the gut. Backed by her band they're nothing short of a full tilt revival.
Raised in the deep South, in a church where instruments were not allowed, Ara grew up shape-note singing, learning to make music only with the voice. "Harmonies were a part of daily life. Music wasn't music without three parts. We would sing songs from our old blue church hymnal - it was the one place where everyone could meet without agreeing on dogma." A move to New York City as a teenager gave her the chance to use her vocal chops beyond her front porch and she began a ten year incarnation working as a back up singer and studio vocalist. Now based in Portland, Oregon, Ara's roots in Appalachia color the songs she writes. "People say I sing gospel, and maybe that's true, but I prefer to call it secular gospel. I don't identify with a specific faith, I sing about the things that I think are simply human. To me, live music is the place where you taste something truly sacred. It's why I sing, it's why I write, it's why I do what I do."