ENCINITAS — Three years ago, Cleopatra Degher was playing guitar solos in a rock trio at her high school in Sweden. Now 20 years old and residing in Leucadia, she just released her debut EP, four songs tinged with folk and country that reflect her move into singer-songwriter territory.
“Restrung,” Degher’s EP, is a nod to how much her music and life have changed since returning to Encinitas.
“I came back to California about two years ago,” Degher said. “I felt like a guitar with new strings — a new start.”
Degher was born in Los Angeles. She lived in Encinitas until she was six years old, then she moved with her family to Sweden. Being displaced inspired Degher to write her first song.
“It was about wanting to go back to America,” Degher laughed. “It was so goofy.”
She eventually warmed up to Sweden. But, even with the vast geographical distance, America was never far from her mind. Over the years, different kinds of American music styles helped drive her shifts in sound. Degher started playing guitar when she was 11 years old. As a beginner, she mainly strummed songs from bands located in the states. Musicians like Jimi Hendrix encouraged her to sing and play lead guitar in a Swedish rock band. In her late teens, she realized quieter Americana music was a better fit for her personality.
“It described who I am more,” Degher said. “I got more into the songwriting aspect and the vocals.”
“I’m not a real loud, showy person,” she added. “I feel like you have to be if you’re going to be a lead guitar player in a rock band.”
Tired of Sweden’s cold weather, Degher returned to Encinitas several years ago. Like when she left Encinitas, the move back kicked her into song-writing mode. Last summer, after “waves of inspiration,” she recorded most of her EP in Leucadia, while other instruments that color the album, a mandolin, fiddle and electric guitar, to name some, were recorded in Los Angeles.
Her dad, Darius Degher, a longtime musician, produced the new album. Darius said his daughter sang backup vocals on nearly all of the tracks of his new album Coyote Cantos, which comes out July 7.
“I’m continually, deeply impressed by her singing,” Darius said. “I say that as someone who’s played with a lot of musicians. Her voice is as good as any. Her guitar playing has gotten a lot better. She’s a natural.”
Degher has sung and played guitar at various local spots, including E-Street Café, where she held the release party for her EP this spring. The show was packed, Degher said.
“Being a new artist, you don’t always get a lot of people at shows,” she said. “But friends and family and others came out — there was a lot of energy. It was great.”
Once in a band, Degher said she’s enjoying playing solo gigs and the independence that comes with it.
“It’s different in a good way — it’s a way to be my own woman,” she said.
Next up, Degher plans on recording a full-length album early next year. She expects the next record to be simpler, stripped back, or what Degher calls more “folky, acoustic-y.”
And Degher said she’s thankful once again to call Encinitas home.
“It’s hard going anywhere else after living here,” Degher said. “The weather and everything is perfect.”
Degher will play a free show at the Hotel Indigo in San Diego July 18 at 6 p.m. “Restrung” can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon or at Lou’s Records in Encinitas. Songs and additional tour dates (Degher often plays in Encinitas) can be found at cleopatradegher.com.