Seated at a downtown coffee shop last week, Victoria Vox quickly noticed the table was wobbly and uneven.
Rather than ignore the minor nuisance, the 34-year-old singer-songwriter took the newspaper she walked in with, folded up a few pages and stuck it under the table's leg. She punctuated the correction with a shrug.
"I fix things," Vox said nonchalantly.
Born Victoria Davitt, Vox's do-it-herself mentality has served her well since May 2003, when she quit her managerial job at New York & Company in the mall of her hometown, Green Bay, Wis. Since then, music has been her only career.
For an independent artist such as Vox, that has meant winning strangers over, one coffee shop performance at a time. In one year, she says she performed more than 200 shows.
"I think [fans] like, most of all, the spirit and personality behind it," Vox, who moved to Baltimore in 2006 and now lives in Arcadia, said.
"They're like, 'Here's this girl. She's going for it. She does what she loves and has a blast, and I support that.' Sometimes I get emotional at my shows because I know there are people that are fully behind me."
She is not exaggerating. Earlier this month, Vox, a singer-songwriter whose main instrument is a ukulele, released her eighth album, "Key." All of its songs were taken from her "52 Song Project," a publicly funded challenge to herself to write and record a new song every week in 2012. She had hoped to raise $8,500 so she could dedicate the majority of her time to the project. Through Kickstarter and donations via her website, Vox says she raised nearly $22,000.
The outpouring of support reminded Vox, who plays Creative Alliance on Friday, how strong her bond is with fans.
"My fans have become my family," she said. "They'll come up and say, 'I felt like you were writing to me.' They understand it's not easy. They understand it takes money. It's really moving."
"Key" finds Vox, a Berklee College of Music alumna, headed down new avenues, both musically and lyrically. She points out "Sweetest Melodies" is written in a 5-4 time signature and has a "Sade-moodiness to it." The breezy "Out the Back Door" is about a kleptomaniac. Seeing her late stepfather in his coffin for the first time inspired "Mama's Lullaby."
"The girl [in the song] is with the mom when she gets the news her husband died," Vox said. "It's just a story, but that one, with the string arrangements … I get choked up."
The song's description sounds heavy for a singer using a ukulele, but for Vox, that's part of the point. In 2006, she made the switch from acoustic guitar to four-string ukulele. Knowing her new instrument was most-often associated with Hawaii and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," Vox says she was determined to elevate it beyond novelty. Her albums have been ukulele-based since 2006, and Vox has no plans to revert back.
She's challenging listeners' expectations, too: Last month, she released a "Boom Boutique," the debut record from Vox's side project, Boombox Seance. The result was a combination of mixing ukulele-based folk music with electronic dance beats.
Vox's commitment to the ukulele is strong, partly because it reminds her of the city.
"The possibilities with the instrument are endless," she said. "In a way, it's like Baltimore. I think it's like this underdog. Nobody expects much from it. It's my mission to be like, 'No, you can make really great music with this thing.'"
If you go
Victoria Vox performs April 5 at Creative Alliance at the Patterson, 3134 Eastern Ave. in Highlandtown. Del Rey will also perform. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for Creative Alliance members, $15 for general public. Call 410-276-1651 or go to creativealliance.org.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun