Home Interview Interview: China Forbes (@ The Birchmere, 6/5/24)

Interview: China Forbes (@ The Birchmere, 6/5/24)

Interview: China Forbes (@ The Birchmere, 6/5/24)
China Forbes (Photo by Adam Levey)

Less than a few weeks ago, vocalist China Forbes, best known for her work with Pink Martini, released her first solo album in 15 years. The Road, published via Heinz Records, feature 11 original songs. China produced the album with engineering by Gregg Williams in Pink Martini’s hometown of Portland, Oregon!

China Forbes tours in support of The Road with a date at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, on Wednesday, June 5! Parklife DC contributor Matt Bailey caught up with China between tour dates for an email interview about the new album.

Matt Bailey: Tell me about The Road, and the creative process behind it? Was it 15 years in the making?

China Forbes: The Road was 10 years in the making. I’m constantly writing songs and mostly personal songs, and I started making these demos in 2014. I worked with Rickey Minor in Los Angeles, I worked with Steve Sundholm in Portland, and I worked with Chris Funk for a couple of days before Covid shut us down. All of this was happening between Pink Martini tours, and so that stretched time. After working with all the different producers and engineers, I realized I really wanted to keep the music simple and as unproduced as possible. All of it revolved around the piano and the voice and I just added the things that are necessary to enhance that simplicity. I ended up finishing and producing it myself at Gregg Williams’s studio in Portland, Oregon

MB: Speaking of that 15-year gap between solo records, was that your intention? Why so long between projects?

CF: It was never my intention for this album to take 10 years. It takes me a while to distill the different elements into knowing what I want to do. Pink Martini tours about six months a year and that constantly interrupts the flow of anything I’m doing. When I come home from a tour, I have my son and friends and maintaining my house and the business of my life — and once the momentum stops, it’s hard for me to get going again. I love nothing more than working continuously, all day and all night. I love riding that energy and I love being in the studio. But the interruptions are a setback.

Watch the official music video for “Full Circle” by China Forbes on YouTube:

MB: Does being part of Pink Martini fulfill you creatively in a different way than your solo work? And How so?

CF: Oh Yes! Pink Martini fulfills the glamorous side of me, the elegant dressed-to-the-nines part of me, the dancing part of me, and the ensemble-loving part of me. It’s a big group, a big family and a group effort. I write Pink Martini songs that are romantic and funny and universal. With my solo work, I’m opening up my actual heart, talking about my actual life, singing about my feelings, my growth, my wisdom in a totally different vibe. I play the piano and sing the songs, and I feel very connected emotionally in a different way from Pink Martini performance. Pink Martini is about joy and twirling and bringing everyone to their feet. My solo work is about bringing everyone to their knees, reckoning with stigmas, and then standing back up again and feeling hopeful and resilient.

MB: What can fans expect from the show at The Birchmere? Will you play much of The Road?

CF: We will play all of The Road along with a few tracks from my last album ‘78 and some great songs that have inspired me. This music is about real life which we are all experiencing in different ways. My way to handle my own feelings is to write songs, and I find that the songs help others as well. Not to mention that they are beautiful and catchy and will be performed by a great band comprised of Gregg Williams on drums, Phil Baker on bass, Dominic Castillo on guitar, and China Forbes on the piano. We have a lot of fun and we’re all really excited to play these songs together. People can expect to laugh and to cry and to feel authentically alive.

MB: You just did two shows in Oregon to celebrate the release of The Road. How did they go? Did they exceed your expectations?

CF: The shows in Portland were fantastic! It was so exciting to finally perform all the songs with the band for the first time, and work out a few of the kinks before we get to The Birchmere! People were so excited and curious about the new band and seemed truly moved, and the energy in the room was loving and supportive.

Watch China Forbes perform “The Road” live for 101.9 KINK on YouTube:

MB: Your sister is also a creative person. Did you grow up in a household that fostered imagination and creativity?

CF: We really did. My father had a lovely voice and was incredibly creative and open and free. My mother played piano and produced theater at the Theater Company of Boston where my dad was the lighting designer. So, we grew up backstage, watching plays from the wings. At home, records were always spinning in our apartment and my parents had a great collection from Bob Dylan to Fleetwood Mac to Maria Muldaur to The Beatles, and on and on. There was an upright piano, an old broken guitar on which I taught myself chords and wrote my first song. It’s nice to have lots of musical instruments around. We were encouraged to draw and paint and sing and write songs, and truly had artistic freedom from the beginning.

MB: Anything else you want to share?

CF: I am thrilled to return to the legendary Birchmere. Pink Martini has performed there many times, and I performed there solo for my last record release 16 years ago. The hallways are lined with posters of all the artists who have played there and it’s awe-inspiring. The whole band and I are truly grateful for the opportunity to come back and see everybody at The Birchmere.


China Forbes performs at The Birchmere on Wednesday, June 5.

Buy your tickets online now!

China Forbes
The Birchmere
Wednesday, June 5
Show @ 7:30pm
All ages



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