1) How did you get your start writing music?
I found my grandfather’s guitar in his basement when I was about 13 and I became infatuated with that thing. He played a little, and had brought that guitar to Tanzania on a mission’s trip. I just started playing the only two chords I knew over and over and eventually the rest just came to me naturally. I’m a self-taught gal. In my family, we always sang for fun, whether you sounded good or not. It wasn’t the quality, so much, as the comradeship. It was a way to connect to one another and have quality time together. Eventually, I started to write simple lyrics and sing melodies and everything began to come together. Maybe all the ingredients were always there they just needed to be mixed. I do come from a very literary family. Many of my kinfolk have quite a way with words, be it in day- to-day vocabulary, lecturing, poetry, or writing in general. I like to think some of it rubbed off on me, or it was just inherent. By 16, I was able to but the guitar, melody and lyrics together. I think it is what I was meant to do. I am a work in progress though and know that I always will be. Aren’t we all?
2) What is your songwriting process?
I get asked this question quite frequently and I have tried to explain it many times. I’ve figured out that it is different every time. Sometimes a melody pops into my head and I write around that, or sometimes an awesome guitar riff emerges from my fingers and I write around that. It really changes all the time. The first line of Poor June was actually written on the back of a paper plate in the lunchroom my junior year of high school. I knew if I didn’t write it down, it might pass me by. Many times my songs merge a number of people’s experiences together, and it becomes one. Sometimes the song is about me personally, and sometimes I am able to fabricate a song from hearing about someone else’s life. There is an unlimited supply of material for songwriting, not only from just living your own life, and gleaning your own personal experiences, but also from observing other people’s lives, and from learning, in general, reading literature and studying history, and using your imagination. Also, having the ability to listen is of great worth too.
3) Congrats on winning the acoustic category in our competition. Your album is pretty strongly “country” but the song you entered had a blues flavor to it. What genre do you consider your music?
Thank you! That’s a tough one. I’ve had trouble putting myself into a particular genre. Apparently, other people who’ve heard my music have as well. I originally started off labeling myself as acoustic, singer/songwriter. In many instances, early on, I ended up under the broader Folk umbrella. As my music has expanded over the last year or two, more country, blues, and even jazz influences can be detected. So the Americana genre probably houses more of my sound currently, more so than folk. I love to hear how others categorize me. It helps me out when I am forced to put myself in a specific genre. I just write and play, what comes out, comes out. Lately, people have been throwing around “country” in reference to my music. Upon recently discovering Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Loretta Lynn, I don’t mind embracing that. Truth be told, I’m just a mutt, a Heinz 57 artist.
Here’s a recent video from Hannah by Idlewild Creations.
4) Who are your primary musical influences?
Brandi Carlile is one of the artists whose sound and songwriting blow me away. Her recent album ‘Bear Creek’ was pretty much on repeat at my house, this past winter. Besides her, I am really inspired by the friends that I’ve made while playing music. Eric Lichter, Brown Bird, Jonah Tolchin, Poor Old Shine, Ian Fitzgerald, Besides Daniel and many, many more. Their music just speaks to me and makes me want to write better and explore new genres and ideas. Look them up and have a listen. Many artists in the trenches, so to speak, have a real handle on cultivating a fantastic musical product.
5) For our technically minded friends, what kind of guitar do you play?
I don’t know what it is about Takamines, but I just love them. Maybe its because its the guitar I first learned on and the tone just brings me back to the first time I plucked a string. I don’t know, but the sound of a good ole Takamine just suits me. Although, I recently bought a Fender Tele and I have been fooling around with that. I’ve had a Martin, and while I enjoyed it, and wrote a few songs with it, I always end up back with the Tak, it’s a comfort thing I suppose. I’d like to give a Gibson a whirl, but I think my heart will always be with my first love.
6) For our philosophically minded friends, do you have an ideology or message that you have in guiding your lyrics?
Emotion is certainly prevalent in my songs. If raw honesty can be detected, that would be a good thing. As I’ve been growing up these days, I’ve been discovering how often our emotions sometimes get the best of us. We succumb to a flood of feelings before we have a chance to reflect on the reality of things that happen. Sometimes, the worst things are the best things in retrospect. Sorrow, anger, even joy come pouring out before we know what’s best for us. However, that is the beauty of life, that element of human frailty, vulnerability, and finite realization, paired with those times we feel invincible and happy beyond measure. If my lyrics, in any small way, are relatable to someone else and can help them, well then that’s good enough for me. Be it that they know someone else in the world is feeling the way they do, or be it an anthem to sing out when times are wonderful. We do most of our living between the high and low tides.
7) What’s your favorite song to perform?
Right now it is actually the song that I submitted for this very competition. “Signs” is so refreshing to play live because the audience is always really responsive. When you can make people laugh with a song and also make them cry, I feel like you must be doing something right. But, my favorite songs to perform change pretty often. I’ve got a new song in the works that should be fun!
8) When I reviewed your album, I wrote that I hoped to hear more like “Poor June” because it was stripped down and simple. Do you enjoy doing acoustic solo work? Would you consider a full album with that set up?
I definitely would love to do that, a lot of the time I am solo at my shows. The stripped down and simple versions are more of an accurate depiction of what people will hear when they see me perform live. I will admit that the prospect of playing with more of a full band is appealing because I really haven’t had the opportunity to do it. I love playing music with others and usually it’s just me, and when I’m fortunate enough, I have my percussionist, Michael Bosco, with me. In studio, it’s a process of layering. But it’s true, there is something lovely about just a guitar and the artist.
(That’s MorganEve Swain, of Brown Bird (Newport Folk Festival), on the fiddle! Very exciting for me that she played on this track.)
9) What are your current projects? Are you touring to promote Open Road?
Right now I am slowly working on a new little EP, that has more of a country feel but I have no idea when that will be done. I am not touring at the moment, but if they right opportunity presents itself, I’d pack up to tour in a minute flat! I do have shows lined up which you can find on my Facebook page. I guess right now my current project is getting material for new songs, living life, meeting new people and going on new adventures, waiting for the next thing to happen.
10) What else would you like our readers to know about your music?
I’d like them to take a listen. If they’ve read this interview, they’ve learned a lot about my music already! I’d like the folks that do what you, Ear To The Ground Music, do, to get more recognition. I see you all lending a hand to musicians, and sharing knowledge for the benefit of avid music lovers. I’d like to thank you for that, and for reviewing my album, Open Road. Thank you for running your contest, and allowing me this interview, in hopes that people will learn a little more about me. Your time and efforts are appreciated!