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In Character: Profile of singer Storm Large

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Sunday, April 01, 2007
StormLarge0407.jpg STORM LARGE, lead singer, Storm and The Balls

Photo by Leah Nash.

After the storm

Singer Storm Large finds TV fame fleeting — and that’s just fine with her.

By Stacey Wilson

On a gray afternoon, Storm Large is hunkered down at Meriwether’s in Portland, warming up over some white bean soup and merlot. Her signature long blonde hair is tucked inside a knitted gray hat and she’s wearing barely a scrap of makeup. It’s a decidedly plain look compared to the tight-leather-pants-wearing, classic-rock-belting diva the world watched on last summer’s reality TV show Rock Star: Supernova.

Seven months after the national spotlight has moved on, Large would like to clear up any misconception that she has somehow “made it big.”

“I think people assume that my stint on TV made me rich and now I’m jet-setting to exotic locales with the glitterati,” she says, laughing. “Really, the only level of ‘fame’ I enjoy these days is people chasing me through LAX and shoving cell phones in my face so I can talk to their relatives.”

The 37-year-old Large, who lives in Southeast Portland with her boyfriend of five years, has a new manager (currently working for free) and a publicist (whom she does pay). But she’s very much still in complete control, admitting that her fierce independence has probably hindered her shot at commercial success. (Large notes, however, that she recently hit her first big post-Rock Star milestone. “My song Ladylike was No.1 for four weeks in Iceland. Hey, you gotta start somewhere.”) She says she struggles to reconcile a deep, artistic identity with her basic “businesswoman” instincts to make a living and fears the two can never truly see eye-to-eye.

“But I think being on the show finally taught me I can achieve fame but still be in control of my career,” she says. “I can hopefully make money but still be me. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing.”

Viewers and the judges ultimately didn’t think the 6-foot-tall singer was right for the lead spot in Supernova, a rock band made up of ex-members of Gun-N-Roses, Metallica and Mötley Crüe. After she was voted off the show, making it as far as fifth place, Large says she got a lot of ‘You’re too good, anyway,’ and ‘Did you really want it?’ from loyal supporters in Portland, where with her band, The Balls, she’s been a nightclub staple since 2001.

“I really did want the gig,” she says. “Now I have to take the momentum from being on TV and roll with it as far as it will go. I can’t sit around and hope that people will mail me money because they loved seeing me on TV.”

Since the show, Large says she’s enjoyed downtime in Portland (usually spent hitting the gym, writing and dining out) while also trying to make the most of her heightened profile. But aside from occasional VIP-status on the red carpet, invitations to such exclusive venues as the Playboy Mansion (which she calls “silly”) and half-truth blurbs in celebrity rags, it’s been a slow burn. She’s been approached by a few labels with measly  offers, tips on how she can better market herself — lie about her age, lose weight, change her name to Stormy, among others — and invitations to pose nude in various magazines.

She says sometimes she thinks the biz simply doesn’t know what do with her. “There is always a need to equate a new artist with someone who’s come before. With me they probably say, ‘She’s Courtney Love, but without the drugs!’ Well, I am only me and I can’t pretend I’m someone who I’m not. And I’m definitely not new anymore.”

Large is no stranger to reinvention. After 10 years fronting various bands and playing San Francisco clubs, she moved to Portland six years ago intending to become a chef. But following a brief stint bartending at Dante’s, she spawned what would become the club’s — and the city’s — hottest lounge act. Large’s provocative “lounge-core” covers of everything from Abba to Olivia Newton John to Public Enemy won her immense cult status among Portlanders. “Her powerful voice, her sense of humor, her stage presence. Talent like hers is the exact reason we built Dante’s,” says her friend and the club’s owner, Frank Faillace, of her packed performances with The Balls.

She also stays busy with the occasional live performance, which of late has included lucrative appearances in Iceland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia (she credits her international appeal wholly to Rock Star) and surprise Portland gigs, such as her unscheduled appearance at Dante’s in mid February.

In a bit of poetic justice, the unadvertised show had fans spilling onto the sidewalk while across the river, Supernova, fronted by Rock Star winner Lucas Rossi, played to a half-empty Memorial Coliseum.

Determined to make good use of an ever-growing Rolodex, Large spent most of February in Los Angeles writing and recording new songs with Sheryl Crow’s producer, Jeff Trott. She hopes to have an album’s worth of material available on iTunes — she makes roughly 60 cents per downloaded song — and her website, www.stormlarge.com, by this spring.

With everything on her plate, Large says, she’s happy staying her own course until the right deal lands in her lap.

“If I get 40,000 people to download my song, that’s huge. That covers touring expenses for a year,” she says. “But for someone with a corporate recording contract, that’s seen as a huge failure. I’m not opposed to commercial sponsorship, but at this stage of the game, I make more money having fewer middlemen. I have total creative freedom right now, and for me, that’s everything.”

Large looks at her watch. “Shoot, I have to run and pick up my boyfriend’s son at school,” she says. “I told him I would help him with his math homework tonight.”

She pauses and smiles. “I swear, sometimes I’m so un-rock-and-roll it’s not even funny.”

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