Britt Olsen-Ecker, one-half of the Baltimore duo Outcalls, is making her mark, and not only (though mostly) by singing.
Originally from Greenwich, Conn., Olsen-Ecker, 31, moved to Baltimore to study vocal performance at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. During college, she started her own photography business, specializing in portraits.
Now she manages her band, her photography business, clients for whom she manages social media accounts, and non-Outcalls related singing gigs.
The band’s single “Keep Falling Over” was voted the No. 1 song of 2018 by 89.7 WTMD listeners for the station’s Top 89 songs of 2018 Countdown.
Even though January will be a slow month for Outcalls performances — Olsen-Ecker is on a three-week Birthright trip as this goes to press — the group plans to hit the ground running in February, beginning at the Songbyrd Music House in Washington, on Feb. 9.
How did Outcalls get started?
They started a few years before I joined the band. I was invited to play keyboard and sing in 2015, along with my good friend Melissa Wimbish. In 2016, we were a nine-person band, and decided to split the group in two. Myself, Melissa and a few other people maintained the name Outcalls and the others created another band. Since then, Melissa and I have been running Outcalls. We’ve performed all over the U.S.; we performed in L.A., we did a big Northeast tour in August and we’re just trying to play as much as we can.
It’s been a big couple of years for you guys.
It’s been an amazing few years. We’ve won a ton of awards, we just had the No. 1 song of 2018, voted on by listeners at WTMD. And we’ve been getting a lot of good feedback with the new sound. Melissa and I are both classically trained. The first band me and Melissa did was a ’90s hip-hop and R&B cover band called PB Jamz. We learned a lot about arrangement and vocal harmonies, but eventually we wanted to write our own music and Outcalls has been a fantastic opportunity to do that.
How does your classical training inform the Outcalls sound?
We explore a lot of vocal techniques. With “No King” — that was our big release last year — you can hear the classical singing. We blend it in with contemporary pop singing, but we love the element of drama that classical music provides.
And something we’ve been talking about recently is that we’re very conscious of taking care of our voices. A lot of our colleagues get tired when they go on tour. I’ve seen a lot of performances with big pop stars who are far into their tour and they sound tired. With this tour we did in August, we stayed really healthy. So it’s not just the writing, but even the way we take care of our voices.
How do you like Baltimore’s music scene?
Baltimore is great because there are so many underground venues, and when those venues close down others replace them. There’s never a shortage of places to play, and we all support each other and lift each other up and attend each other’s shows.
You’re going on Birthright soon, right?
I am. I’m leaving in a few weeks and I’ll be gone for almost three weeks. The great thing is that they extended the age availability recently to 32. I’d heard about Birthright, but it was never the right time to go. This particular trip I’m doing is very arts and music-centric. I’m really looking forward to learning about the music and culture of Israelis, especially the different styles of music and ways of playing music that exist over there. And the arts scene, I love learning from locals about that kind of thing. I’m doing a little wilderness excursion for a few days after that trip ends. I’m going to explore the deserts and the mountains.
Has your Jewish upbringing influenced your musicianship?
Yes. What I always loved about going to synagogue was the singing. It’s always piqued my interest. And there’s a very specific type of music that comes out of Jewish tradition. It’s always interested me and still does to this day. I hope I can learn more about that on my trip.
Connor Graham is a reporter for Baltimore Jewish Times, an affiliated publication of WJW.