Key master 

Eliza Rickman’s songs sound like a music box that plays a blend of Florence + The Machine and Danny Elfman’s scores for Tim Burton films, all thanks to her accidental secret weapon: a white toy piano.

“I actually started using it out of — debatably — either necessity or laziness,” Rickman said. “Most of the venues in L.A. don’t have pianos, and I was lugging around a god-awful, 90-pound keyboard. I took it with me to a coffee shop because it was a hell of a lot less trouble to transport than my keyboard. I didn’t even care what it sounded like.”

It proved to be more beneficial than the powerhouse singer imagined.

“I discovered that night that it complements my voice really well,” Rickman said. “Writing songs on it has forced me to have a more minimalist approach. I’ve had a ton of people tell me that the pairing of my voice with an antique toy piano is creepy, but I think it’s dainty and sweet. I’m all about dainty and sweet.”

That split-second decision shaped her burgeoning career. Her two albums showcase the chanteuse’s background in classical music and orchestration.

“I was an arranging major in school, and learned to orchestrate specifically for strings,” said
Rickman, who plays a free show Saturday at Istvan Gallery. “Even the
songs that don’t feature strings are intricately arranged, and I’m
quite proud of that.”

charming brand of classically inspired chamber pop recalls Andrew Bird,
PJ Harvey and Kate Bush. That touch of Gothic influence manifests
itself in a poignant Nick Cave cover to close out her current CD.

“I think ‘Into My Arms’ is the best love
song ever written, and I had to try my hand at it,” Rickman said. “I’m
glad my recording of it seems to resonate very strongly with people.”

emergence of effervescent singers nationally surely aids her ascension
through the indie-music ranks, even if she’s blissfully unaware of the

“I’ve actually
never thought about that. It totally makes sense to me, but I’ve been
kind of in my own little world, musically, for about 10 years,” she
said. “I’m a bit oblivious to what all is out there. I’m still listening
to my Siouxsie and the Banshees records.”

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Joshua Boydston

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