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Mom by Day, Diva by Night


Photography by Jessica Miller

Most weekday afternoons, Renée Sebastian picks up her two sons from their Danville schools. But some days, her husband drives the carpool so Sebastian can fly to New York, where she assumes her other identity: soul singer extraordinaire. For the past few years, Sebastian has been performing in Manhattan music clubs as well as running the Blowout Lounge soul program at New York’s famed Hammerstein Ballroom.

Her bicoastal commute inspired the song “Good Morning Son” on her new album, in which Sebastian croons, “Good morning son, time to get up and run, I love you.”

 “Writing that song, the words and melody came to me very quickly,” she says, sipping green tea in a Danville sushi restaurant. “It’s about that feeling I get when I’m so sorry to kiss my sons good bye, but I know I have to go make music.”

Currently on a nationwide tour to promote her new album, Mrs. Sebastian, the 34-year-old plays piano and sings, and accompanies her sound with top instrumentalists, some of whom have performed and recorded with the likes of Joss Stone and Jay-Z. In March, her band performed at the South by Southwest festival in Austin—the largest showcase for independent musicians in the country. She’ll play San Francisco’s Elbo Room on May 7.

Sebastian grew up in the Philippines, where she trained as a dancer and singer, and moved to the United States to study computer programming. She came to the East Bay in the late 1990s to work as a consultant for Chevron. A stress-related injury required Sebastian to cut down her computer hours but gave her time to reignite her performance passions. She took to the stage professionally in New York in 2005 and joined the Mamapalooza tour of mom-musicians.

Despite the demands of her career, Sebastian intends to keep the family right here in the East Bay suburbs—she says the area might not offer the hottest scene for soul singers, but its schools and community spirit can’t be beat. www.reneesebastian.com

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