Twinkle is barefoot and loud — all hoop earrings, blond hair and bell sleeves.
At 44, she’s far too young to have come of age during Woodstock, but when you hear her sing, you think otherwise. Her voice ranges from throaty to sweet, from scratchy to soulful — from Janis Joplin to Aretha Franklin.
The studio where she’s about to record a track for the Sarasota film, “Beautiful Noise,” is hot, stuffy and smells like a basement. Twinkle is twinkling with sweat.
Tucked away inside an unmarked warehouse off U.S. 301, the aptly named Top Secret Studios is filled with a bevy of characters, including recording engineers Roger Hughes and Moe Katiraee, “Beautiful Noise” producer/writer/director Steve Tatone and his co-producer and assistant director, Alex Rotella.
It’s 9 p.m. on a Tuesday night. The studio is as lived in as a college dorm. Bottled water and plastic cups are everywhere. In the middle of the heap sits a half-empty bottle of Crown Royal that in the waning hours of this recording session seems to have collected dust.
Hughes and Katiraee are at the control board, flanked by Tatone and Rotella.
Everyone is looking at Twinkle, who is at the microphone, gesturing wildly, whipping her hair into a sweaty snarl from behind a glass wall separating the recording room from the control room.
The usually boisterous crew grows quiet as the tiny free spirit with the big pipes belts out singer/songwriter David Poe’s infectious “Joy,” one of 21 songs on the “Beautiful Noise” soundtrack.
“I thought it was apropos not only to have someone of her caliber sing it, but to have it sung by a native Sarasotan,” Tatone says. “It plays during a very important montage in the movie. It opens the movie up in a completely different direction.”
Two days into recording and already the singer has “Twinkified” the pop song.
“Give me some balance and someone I can sing with,” she says into the microphone, her husky voice crackling into the control room.
“Can you not hear the girls singing?” Hughes asks.
“Yeah, but it’s really subtle,” she says. “And I don’t know if you want me to scream my guts out.”
“I want you to sing the way you’d normally sing,” Hughes replies.
“Normally I’d be out of control,” she says. “This is for a movie, though, so I want to have a controlled kind of out-of-control-ness.”
She picks up a plastic cup, gurgles a sip of water and slaps her headphones back on.
Hughes cues the music and the singer slips back into a zone. She throws her arms in the air, closes her eyes and sways her hips to the synthesized beat. This time she adds her signature squeal to the end of the refrain and drags out the word “joy” until it’s no longer a word but a guttural noise.
Born with the Cajun name, Schascle Ursula Yochim, Twinkle recorded her first four-track demo at Top Secret Studios. The tape led to her second eight-track demo, which led to her 1991 Warner Bros. record, “Haunted By Real Life,” which led to her guest appearance on VH1 and her performance with Eric Clapton’s band at the Montreux Jazz Festival.
“The life of an artist is not something I’d wish on anyone as a calling,” she says. “It’s not easy.”
Despite the success of her first album, she opted to stay in Sarasota, where she raised her two daughters, Ursula, 23 and Monique, 17.
Of her brush with stardom 20 years ago, she says this: “The strange thing is I didn’t freak out when things got surreal. I just got down to business.”
It’s been an eventful summer for the singer. In addition to her work on “Beautiful Noise,” she recently began hosting a radio show every Saturday on 106.9 WSRQ and giving private voice lessons.
These opportunities couldn’t have come at a better time. After spending her entire career in Sarasota, Twinkle was toying with the idea of taking her talent elsewhere, to a city with a larger music scene.
“I thought, as soon as my youngest daughter graduates high school, I’m outta here,” she says. “And, then I went out and sang with a group of old friends and I remembered why I live here. Running away wasn’t going to make me happy. I love this town.”
Back behind the mic, she lets out another raspy squeal. As the song comes to an end, the crew in the control room goes wild.
“Now that’s the Twinkle I’ve been waiting for,” Hughes exclaims.
“It wasn’t too much?” she asks coyly, running her hands through her hair. “You know how I get when I’m all jacked up on singing.”
“It’s probably one of my all-time favorite songs to sing. It always ends up sounding like R&B –– not hip-hop R&B, but Aretha-style R&B.”
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“I lose it every time I get to a certain point. It’s not on purpose. It’s all on the inside.”
“It’s one of those standards that everyone plays, but the way I approach it is completely different. Everyone thinks it’s my song.”
if you go
The filmmakers behind “Beautiful Noise” have organized a benefit concert to raise funds for the film. “Hot August Night,” starring Neil Diamond impersonator Jay White, kicks off 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 26, at the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium. For tickets, call 954-4165 or visit beautifulnoisethemovie.com.
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