Rebecca Loebe's prize is tour with music legend

It took 21 years, but Atlanta-based artist Rebecca Loebe has officially graduated from her school production beginnings to the big stage. Her first performance at age 5 singing an excerpt from "The Little Mermaid" has led her on a circuitous route to the biggest show to date – opening for Mary Chapin Carpenter at the 6,000 seat Chastain Park Amphitheatre on July 17.

“I have always been drawn to music, it has always been my chosen form of expression," Loebe said. "I’ve tried other stuff, drama and painting...all sorts of different artistic expression. I felt music was a really good fit for communicating what I feel inside to people."

In college, Loebe studied audio engineering and thought she would pursue it as a career. Then one of her favorite teachers pulled her aside and suggested she would be much happier doing something more creative.

"That motivated me to give it another look," she said.

Loebe got a job at a recording studio and used the downtime to record her own songs until she had completed her first album.

She started playing shows, which got bigger and bigger and then led to touring. Now with her second album, "Mystery Prize" released in January, she is secure in her decision. “It is to the point where I don't want to do anything else," said Loebe, who cites Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Bjork as inspirations.

We chatted with Loebe, who currently plays 185 shows a year in 36 states, about her rise from kiddie singer to the "post-brontosaurus indie folk/crunk" force she has become.

Q: What is "post-brontosaurus indie folk/crunk" anyway?

A: It is my response to people who ask me to define my music. I find it hard to summarize what anybody does. The short answer is indie-folk, that sums it up. Crunk is a nod to Atlanta.

Q: Do you enjoy performing at local venues like Eddie's Attic?

A: I have been playing at Eddie's Attic since I was 15 years old. My dad took me, when I was in high school, to open mike. Even in college I would come home and play on Monday nights. It still feels like a really big deal to me to play the headlining spot on a Saturday night at Eddie's Attic. I’m still excited about that.

Q: In general, what do you think of the Atlanta music scene?

A: I love all the time I get to spend in Atlanta. For the past three to four years, I have been on the road 80 percent of the time. People think it is a little unexpected when I say I am from Atlanta. When people think touring singer, they think New York, Austin or Nashville. There are some incredible songwriters coming out of Atlanta. I recorded my last album in Atlanta. The producer and the engineer I wanted to work with were both in town. They are both really talented. I love the Atlanta scene and I wish I could spend more time in it.

Q: How do you feel about opening for Mary Chapin Carpenter?

A: It is definitely my biggest opening spot to date. And Mary Chapin Carpenter is incredible. She is just an incredible talent and I really appreciate the opportunity to share what I do with her audience. I also saw my first big concert at Chastain. The Everly Brothers in the early '90s.

Q: What do you hope the audience takes away from your performance at Chastain?

A: I love that moment when you get to see a lyric that you have written about your life land on someone else’s face. That is what is so universal about music, art, creating and sharing what is inside of you. I hope to make that happen on a larger scale.

Concert preview

Mary Chapin Carpenter with Rebecca Loebe

8 p.m., July 17, $15 -- $69

Chastain Park Amphitheatre, Stella Drive and Pool Road, Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000.