Q&A with John Statz

john statz early riser cover art

On May 1st, Denver singer-songwriter, John Statz, released his new album Early Riser. It’s an album that encompasses a few of the events that defined 2019 — Notre Dame fire, Brexit, and Trump’s racist attacks on the congresswomen of color last July.  It’s a thought-provoking album that is worth listening to, and, possibly, doing a little self-evaluation while playing it. So, naturally, I wanted to ask John a few questions about his album, and he obliged. Below is that little Q&A.

CFM: Are there hints of a consistent, underlying worldviews through the album? What do they say about the nature of reality, morality, and humanity? Are there ways in which this engages with, endorses or even challenges, your audience?

John Statz: I think that there are two underlying worldviews simmering throughout much of  Early Riser. One is a sense of unease with our modern world, both distress with the inequality that exists alongside extreme wealth and general anxiety that society is fraying at the edges. The other is a need to find your peace and your happiness, to live your life and grow, despite the chaos. This reflects my own personal experience with reality, one of ingesting news, caring deeply about it, getting upset, calling my representatives in congress, donating some money to a campaign or cause, and then needing to also step away for the sake of sanity. We can’t let ourselves become entirely consumed by this madness around us or we will spend years of our lives miserable. I also want to recognize the privilege in that last statement, as I can choose to remove myself from a reality that others cannot. I hope it challenges the audience to think about how they exist and experience life and joy in a world that can make it difficult.

CFM: How did current affairs shape the songs on Early Riser? How do they shape you as an artist and as a person?

John Statz: The first single “What Would You Call That?” was written in July of 2019, shortly after the president told four congresswomen of color, essentially, that they should “go back to where they came from”. I read many accounts from people of color on social media sharing how many times somebody had told them to go back to where they came from, I began to understand that this was a common racist remark which I had never experienced for obvious reasons, and I became mad. I mean, can you believe that there are people, many people, who are convinced that white privilege isn’t a real thing? So I wrote a song with a bunch of examples of it and asked, “what would you call that?”

As I said above, I’m a person who reads thed r news, listens to NPR, aneads presidential biographies in chronological order. (I’m on Benjamin Harrison.) News, history, politics, it’s all one and it’s in me.

CFM: Do any of the tracks express the point of view of different persona and character, like “Table in Between Us?” Or do they seem more autobiographical?

John Statz: Yes, “Table in Between Us” is definitely somebody else’s point of view. I don’t have any kids or a wife, as the song mentions. I wrote this song on tour in Italy a couple of years ago after a long conversation with a friend over there on the nature of romantic chances that pass you by. I took her point of view, basically, and made it sound like it could be about me. I guess that’s the exception on this record, though, everything else that sounds autobiographical mostly is.

CFM: Were there particular songs, or even lines, which stick in your mind because of their lyrics?

John Statz: I’m really proud of the co-write on the album, “All the Wild”, which was written at a songwriting retreat last summer with a fellow Colorado songwriter, Gabrielle Louise. The song is about how taming something – the wilderness, a child, a partner – changes that thing and potentially ruins what made it special. I love how each chorus changes, especially the last one on relationships: “all the wild has been tamed, the wonder covered up, by fear pride and blame, control and mistrust.” We worked really hard on that song, to make it make sense, and there are so many words!

CFM: Do you detect any clear purpose in the way the album is structured? Is there a sense of progression or grouping? Or does it seem more like a string of stand alone tracks?

John Statz: I wouldn’t say that they are stand-alone tracks, no. The songs are meant to fit together. They are very much a product of my life and the events around us during the year 2019, when most of these songs were written. There isn’t necessarily one tidy narrative that ties them together, but I do feel that they represent the balancing act I’ve lived in recently, and I hope others can relate. As for the progression or track order, I’m not sure on that, but the songs felt right in this order. I definitely wanted to open with “Rainy Days in the U.K.” as it pretty clearly lays out the balancing act, and I knew I wanted to close with the Joni cover, “Come in from the Cold”, which felt like a summary of covered territory.

CFM: What does the album’s title — Early Riser — reveal, if anything, about the album’s impact and themes?

John Statz: Early Riser is an insight into the duality of my experience with reality. I wake up early in the mornings, too early, when I’m stressed or feeling anxiety about the state of things. I also wake up early often so that I don’t miss anything, a sunrise, a chance to sip my coffee in a quiet house, or an early start on a hiking trail. One is stress, the other is dealing with stress.

CFM: What is it like to work with people you admire like Jeremy Moses Curtis, Jeffrey Foucault, and Billy Conway? What qualities do each individual bring to the album?

John Statz: Gosh, it has just been such an honor to work with people like Jeffrey, Jeremy, and Billy. Jeffrey, who produced my 2015 album  TULSA, is one of the absolute best living songwriters and a terrific mentor. Jeremy and Billy are the best rhythm section I can think of, all three are wonderful human beings. Jeremy and Billy were co-producers on this record alongside myself and Kate Hannington and their ideas are very much present in the songs, it was entirely a collaborative effort. Billy brings so much thought and purpose to his music-making, he has generally thought hard about something before he mentions it, and therefore his suggestions are always spot on. Jeremy is a natural with production, he hears a song clearly and takes it to the chopping block like a surgical pro. He knows how to trim the fat.

CFM: I read the Billy Conway has just been diagnosed with stage four liver cancer, how is he doing right now? Is there anything people can do to help Billy during this time? 

John Statz: I don’t know the ins and outs of Billy’s medical situation, but we’ve been in touch a bit and I know that he is hanging in there and still finding some joy and beauty in life. He just released his first-ever solo album, and the number one thing you can do to help him AND yourself is buy it and listen to it:  https://crazyviewrecords.com/. I’ve been singing along with the first track “Get Well” over and over, it’s a wonderful song for the times. There is also a spot on Billy’s website to donate to help cover his medical expenses, and I know every bit is extremely helpful to he and his partner Laurie.

Purchase Early Riser: Bandcamp; Amazon
John Statz: WebsiteFacebookTwitter; Bandcamp; Vimeo

Tyler Childers: “It’s a Damn Good Feeling to Come Back Home”

A conversation between friends

Interview by Michelle Hanks

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Tyler Childers at Moontower Music Festival in Lexington, KY on August 26, 2017. Photo Taken By: Matt Wickstrom

 I first interviewed Tyler Childers in Dec. 2013 for Nine Bullets (though it didn’t post till Jan. 2014) after one of his intimate Black Sheep Burrito & Brews shows in Huntington, WV. He’s come a long way since then, having now released his third record, Purgatory, which was co-produced by Sturgill Simpson and David Ferguson. Childers was on his way back home to Kentucky when we talked, preparing for his homecoming show at Moontower Music Festival in Lexington and looking forward to being reunited with his wife, Senora May.

How are you feeling now that your month-long tour out west is winding down?

Every day and every gig is bringing me closer to being back home. I’m looking forward to it. I’m not in a rush to get back home, necessarily, but I would like to see my family and friends and maybe have some time to be by my lonesome, be with Senora, and have some time to write. I’ve got a lot of things coming and going, and I’m looking forward to having some time away by myself to write. It’s kind of hard to get some time alone on the road, you know.

I can imagine. You’ve been really busy touring lately, and your career and new album are getting a lot of recognition right now. Is that sort of buzz distracting for you?

I mean, it can be, if you allow it to. You can’t lose sight that this is the time to focus and to work and a time to focus on more things than just the writing. Right now, it’s time to work and play shows. It’s “road dog” mode. [laughs]

[laughs] Sure. Well, how’s your reception been on this tour in general? I know you’ve not been out that far west before.

No. I’ve always wanted to, but there wasn’t an opportunity before. It’s been exciting to see new territory and to meet up with a lot of people from back home that have moved away. That’s been one of the greatest things. And for that I really have to thank people like Shooter Jennings for playing my music really early on on Outlaw Country on Sirius… people like W.B. Walker and his podcast [Old Soul Radio Show], being as well-respected as it is…  people like you and your work with Nine Bullets, you know, sharing my stuff on a bigger platform… You know, all these people standing behind my music for a long time and getting it out there when I physically couldn’t get out there to play it.

You mentioned looking forward to being able to get some time to write once you’re home. What does your writing process look like?

Well, I’ve written songs in a lot of different situations, from the back of the van full of equipment and bandmates and my manager to, you know, my front porch. I’ve written in all these different places, but I do look for time alone away from outside influences and distractions, a place where my mind can be free to wander. Sometimes a song comes out of nowhere, though, and needs to be written at that moment. I just have to adapt to the situation and write.

Which songs have you written that have come out of having to adapt?

I wrote “Banded Clovis” in the back of the van from Fayetteville to Huntington, but it was so loud from the hum of the road and no insulation in the van, I could barely hear anybody anyway, so it was like I was by myself. [laughs] Sometimes I get lucky and write a song in a couple hours like that, and sometimes I have to put one on the back of the shelf and come back to it years later. “Tattoos” was one that hung out in the closet for a little while before I finished it. But it’s always important to try to come back to those songs, to either fix ‘em or finish ‘em. John R. Miller said one time, “You gotta write all of ‘em, even the bad ones.”

“Universal Sound” is one that means a lot to me and seems to mean a lot to other people, as well. I envision you having written it out in nature. How far off am I on that?

That was one that kind of evolved over time. The idea started when I was out by myself in nature, yeah, and then was slowly pieced together through other experiences.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading Ram Dass, and that’s kind of where a lot of the ideas in the song came from. He talks about… I don’t know how to explain it… a kind of “God core” that we all share… that we’re all part of a bigger picture, and I like that. The lyrics “I’ve been up on the mountain / And I’ve seen his wondrous grace / I’ve sat there on a barstool and I’ve looked him in the face” come from that. He [Dass] goes so far as to say that we’re all God in drag. I don’t know if I get behind that exactly, but it’s an interesting notion as to how you should handle people and treat people and how you should respect each other and take every moment and experience and be fully in it, you know. We’re all entitled to those beliefs that get us through, whatever they may be.

For sure. What other songs have you written that weren’t on Purgatory that you intend to record on future records?

Everything I feel good about going out and playing in front of people, I intend to put down on a studio album at some point in the future. That’s kind of how I test out what I keep and what I don’t. If I sing it over and over and over again, night after night, and it still means something to me, and I can still sing it with conviction, then I know it’s got something that makes it worth keeping. We’ve been doing a lot of two-hour gigs on the road, and Purgatory is just 38 minutes worth of stuff, you know. There are a lot of things I intend to get to over time. Just one thing at a time, I guess.

That’s all you can do, really. So, I’d like to actually talk more in-depth on your parents and your home life. Your mom is a nurse, and your dad worked in the coal industry in some form or another over the years. Those are both hard industries. How did seeing that growing up impact you, if at all?

It definitely instilled the worth of a dollar in me, and, you know, working hard for what you’ve got. They both worked really hard to put food on our table. I was very lucky to have a very close-knit family, too, that helped me see that, you know, I have to do things for myself. Nobody’s going to do it for me. That inspired me to get out and get on the road and play my music, because I wanted it to be heard. I wanted to have an opportunity to pursue this for as long as I could, to see if it would be affordable and realistic to provide for me and mine. That kind of “go get it” attitude they instilled in me fueled what I needed to do, and I’m really grateful.

I bet. It also seems like you were granted a lot of freedom in your youth to pursue your musical endeavors.

Yeah, it was kind of, like, I got my license and my first set of keys, and I was able to play shows. I got a lot of guidance from both my mom and my dad and my grandparents – I spent a lot of time with my Papaw. There were a lot of rules and restrictions growing up, of course, but at a certain point, they just trusted that they raised me right. [laughs] I had some experiences after that, messed up a time or two, but I always had freedom to make mistakes, as well as their support. Again, I’m just really grateful for that and to be where I am.

Childers resumes playing shows starting Sept. 8th in Madisonville, KY and will be opening for the Drive-By Truckers in Hazard, KY on Sept. 24th. You can also catch him during his residency at The Basement in Nashville and on tour on various other dates now through Dec. 2017.

Tyler Childers: Website; Facebook; Twitter
Buy PurgatoryWebsite; Amazon; iTunes

(When Michelle isn’t helping musicians spend more time creating with her virtual assistant business, Your Gal Friday Rocks, she’s freelance writing about music on her blog at No Depression.)

Q & A With Lydia Loveless

Photo Credit: Blackletter/ Patrick Crawford

Photo Credit: Blackletter/ Patrick Crawford


Two years after the critical success of her breakout second album, Indestructible Machine, Lydia Loveless comes out rockin’ and swingin’ with her fourth album, Somewhere Else, which is by far my favorite release of 2014. I have a feeling Somewhere Else will be a strong contender standing its ground firmly in the pantheon of many end-of-the-year-best-of lists. And, I’m willing to put good money on it. Somewhere Else is a damn good album showcasing Lydia’s more mature writing (“Verlaine Shot Rimbaud” — look them up) and her sultry, knockout voice. Every time I have pressed the “play” button on Somewhere Else, I don’t want to be anywhere else. So, after listening to the album, I had to ask Lydia a few questions, and she graciously accepted. Read the interview below.


CFM: How did you become involved in the type of music you play/sing?

LL: Hard to say. I guess music is in my blood, we were always listening to records around the house when I was a kid. Lots of new wave, pop, classic rock, a little country. And, when I started playing guitar, it was easiest for me to learn Hank Williams songs and just strum and sing, so country ended up being a huge influence. It all got kind of mixed up.


CFM: Where do you usually gather songwriting inspiration? What is your usual songwriting process? What is your favorite part of the process and why?

LL: Life, books, movies, other people’s problems, particulary things people say to me…So, if we have a conversation and it ends up in a song, sorry. It almost always starts with lyrics, or at least a hook, but occasionally I’ll just have a melody stuck in my head. My favorite part is when I realize I’m actually writing a song that I am going to complete, and I’m not just messing around with ideas.


CFM: You have released four albums, how has your music evolved since the first? What makes Somewhere Else different from your previous albums?

LL: Well, my first album is literally like, the first songs I ever wrote. So I feel I have definitely matured and honed my craft a little more. I don’t think those are bad songs (well, some of them are pretty stupid), but they’re the thoughts and I guess yearnings of a 16 year old girl, so they’re a bit awkward. Somewhere Else is me as an actual grown up, hahaha. I’ve improved on guitar, vocally, and I just generally feel more comfortable in the studio and making decisions now. I’m fine with letting the music go where it needs to instead of trying to cram it into a genre.


CFM: If you could pick a song to describe yourself what would it be? Why?

LL: “Somewhere Else.” ‘Cause I wanna be! Or, do you mean someone else’s song? Probably “Bohemian Rhapsody” ’cause I’m a lunatic and all over the place mentally all the time.


CFM: Just for fun…fill in the blanks:

–CFM: Without music, I would be…
LL: Unemployed.
–CFM: Music is…
LL: Therapy.
–CFM: My music makes me feel…
LL: Energized.
-CFM: I write songs because…
LL: I have to.





Purchase Somewhere Else
Lydia Loveless: Website; Facebook; Twitter

Q & A with Scott H. Biram

nothing but blood
Grit, dirt, booze, and 18-wheelers are often associated with country-blues-punk rock foot-stomper, Scott H. Biram. Not often do you link him with a baptism, but you’ll find Biram emerging from a crimson river in some state of ecstasy, guilt, or deliverance on the cover of his new album, Nothing But Blood. Recorded at his home in Austin, TX, Nothing But Blood is a catalog of hardcore stories of wrongdoings and redemption with a shit-ton of soul and spirit. Although no one knows whose blood is in those baptismal waters, we are certain that Biram is no stranger to it, second chances, and rebirth. As a life principle, blood is an integral part of our lives (obviously) and religious rites as it is usually used as an offering for atonement and blessings. So, whether this is what Biram intended, I’m unsure. But, there is no doubt that Biram offers his blood, sweat, tears and soul sacrificing himself to and for his music, and Nothing But Blood is a loud and spiritual declaration of just that.

With that being said, Biram was kind enough to answer a few questions about himself and Nothing But Blood.


CFM: What can you tell us about the new record, Nothing But Blood?


Biram: I’m excited for it to be coming out. It’s been finished since July ’13 but we had a few speed bumps on the business end of things and had to hold off. I’m ready to see what the people have to say about it. It’s a typical “Biram Release” for me. A little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll…a little bit blues, a little bit heavy metal.


CFM: What influences your music and drives you to continue performing?

Biram: My two biggest influences in my songwriting are probably my growing up in a small country town, and being on the road. I write about a lot of stuff and I’m influenced by a lot of things but these two are what I seem to go back to the most.

As far as continuing to perform. I have to. It’s built in to me. I have to play for people and perform. I’ve always been like that. Also my bills aren’t going to pay themselves!…and it takes money to make money.


CFM: What do you think has been your biggest break or greatest opportunity?

Biram: I hate to say it but I think my head-on collision with an 18 wheeler back in 2003 got me a lot of press! Heh. I don’t recommend it though!

Honestly, I think the biggest thing that has given me the little bit of success I’ve experienced is that I have worked very hard for all this. I have never treated this like something that should just be handed to me. There’s a lot of kids out there these days that think that’s how it works…that one day somebody just sees your band and says “Hey, here’s a shit ton of money. Keep doing what you’re doing.” I’m sure there are people that this actually happens to but it’s not typical. Also people who let others take the reins for them on the music business aspect have a tendency to get ripped off. I’m in this for the long haul. Even if I had a big hit, I’ve come too far and done too much already to be a one hit wonder. I’m a no hit wonder! Ha!


CFM: What song would you most like to be known for? Why?

Biram: I don’t have any one song. They’re all important to me.


CFM: What has been the wildest thing that has happened while touring?

Biram: Crazy stuff happens all the time…or not. My mind always go blank when I get to this question. Meeting Billy Gibbons back stage a couple years ago at my show in Hollywood was pretty awesome. He’s a big guitar hero to me. Playing on The Tonight Show was pretty awesome. I think the most intense thing to happen on tour was the time I went out by myself and drove through four blizzards. I saw a bald eagle flying through the snow in a little break in a whiteout I was driving through. I knew I was going to be ok. ‘merica. Heh.





Purchase Nothing But Blood
Scott Biram: Website; Facebook; Twitter

Interview – Eliza Carthy

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©Elly Lucas     
                   
Eliza Carthy‘s history is like a colourful mural, painted with a wealth of experience over twenty-one years of touring and detailed with an impressive discography. I attended a gig recently at the MAC in Birmingham [UK] starring this favourite daughter of English folk-dom and her current collaborators Jim Moray and the Wayward Band, and had a chance to catch up with her in person. I found her down-to-earth, real, quite the English northerner, with an ability to interpret folk music using an alternative, out-of-the box approach. That’s her… and suddenly the title of her biography and compilation album makes so much sense.  We talked about her music-steeped history, the state of English folk music, and how she balances her busy life as a mother and musician.

Your parents were musical pioneers here in the UK during the 1960’s folk revival.  Do you have any favourite memories from your early years in connection with the musical environment you were brought up in?  

Well, yes I do.  Aside from being brought up on the UK festival and folk music scene, falling asleep under folk club tables and things like that, I’m very emotionally connected to the Sidmouth and Whitby folk festivals…  I have lots and lots of good memories.  I remember Jody Stecher coming to stay at our house as a child, when he was touring the UK with Krishna Bhatt, and with his wife as well, and I’ve spent many happy hours at their house in California.  Once we had a lovely Cajun family come to stay with us, and they cooked jambalaya in the back garden; it was absolutely amazing! I have some very good memories of the American folk scene.  I grew up going around with my parents [Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson] when I was a teenager and that included (when I got a bit older) doing their American tours as well, playing the Iron Horse, and the Ashokan folk camp, Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia, places like that.  On the English folk scene, growing up in a musical family, I knew a lot of traditional singers; not just performers, but people who had learned music from their families, like the Copper Family, Walter Pardon, people like that, so… I feel I’ve had a very rich musical life.

Was there ever a period where you thought “This is what I’m going to do”, or did it just happen?

I did think that I probably would end up doing this. I think it was a bit more “Barbie pop star” in my head, but [laughs]… I pretty much saw myself doing this kind of thing.  Bob Dylan was a big hero of mine when I was a kid, troubadour songwriters, you know; I saw myself there with my baby on my back… that sort of thing.  A nice thought, but not very practical!

Where did the title of Wayward Daughter come from?

It came from the biography that was written last year, so I guess it was Sophie Parkes’ idea.  Originally, the album was supposed to be released in conjunction with the biography but we had some delays so it came out about six months later.

Do you ever feel that people are trying to stereotype you as a particular type of artist?

Not that people are trying to, but… I think that people encounter you at one or another stage in your life or in their lives, and you will always be that thing to them. So in some ways I was at my most successful when I first started because my second album [Red Rice] got the Mercury prize and it sold close to 70,000 copies, so… a lot of people see me as a tinkerer, as somebody who likes to try folk music with beat.  It’s part of what I do but I’m also a songwriter, and there are lots of strings to my bow these days.  I do perform in these big “bells and whistles” bands, but I also perform solo, and with my father, and still with my family regularly as well.

Your roots are steeped in English folk heritage and I really admire the way you’ve started with these traditional English songs and just taken them somewhere else, often incorporating other cultures (like with Imagined Village) and other collaborations you’ve been part of.  Do you feel like you’re on a mission to keep these old songs alive or do you just sing them because you enjoy them, or is it a mix of the two?

I think it’s a bit of a mix of the two, really. I can relax a little bit now, but certainly when I started [aged 16] English folk music was a lot less well known than it is now. We have this incredibly rich scene of young performers now playing English folk music in various different kinds of ways. We have bands that get into the charts, and we have festivals full of people playing English folk music.  In 1995 it was not like that at all, so I did feel the need to wave my own particular flag.  Celtic music was very popular in the 90’s and I felt like it was swamping any interest in our own music.  I knew so many people who played Celtic music and didn’t know that English folk music existed.  There was a huge Cajun scene here as well in the 90s and they were playing the blues, and they were playing old-timey music, and nobody was playing English folk music. I really felt that English musicians needed to pay attention to their own culture before they started having a go on other people’s!

Definitely.  I know when I first moved over here, I thought traditional English music was “Riverdance”!  I’ve learned a lot since then.

Yeah, well, and you know, whilst I adore The Lord of the Rings –I do adore The Lord of the Rings—  Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings as an English saga; he didn’t write it to be full of Irish pipes or indeed Finnish music, this sort of wifty wafty Celtic music everywhere.  These were things that were written specifically for the English, you know, and it does grate. I want people to know that there are historically accurate and also exciting versions of our own stuff that’s out there. Filmmakers need to make exciting and “out there” choices, you know; there’s only so many times you can hear the modern Irish pipes in a medieval Scottish movie!

Are there any out-of-character cover versions that you’d like to do, that you haven’t done yet? 

Out-of-character cover versions would have to be something like “She Moves Through the Fair” for me –something I would never do!– or “Loch Lomond” or “Danny Boy”; I don’t know!  They’re good songs in their own way, but…! Me and the girls –the fiddle band I play with [Carthy, Hardy, Farrell, & Young]– we’ve been thinking about doing an album of Julie Andrews covers.  I have two children now, two little girls, so I watch Mary Poppins a lot!

You seem to have an ability to tie together the past and the future, creating this music that has the potential to be appreciated for many years to come.  How do you feel about the expectations on you?  Do you think people have expectations about you being “the future of folk music”? 

No, not anymore.  I’ve been around too long now.  People think I’m part of the woodwork; I’m at that stage now!

Have you thought about touring further afield?

I have.  We’re touring the States at the Easter break next year: myself and Saul Rose and our regular guitarist Dave Delarre.  We’ll be promoting Wayward Daughter. Oh, and then I’m going to New Zealand with my dad [Martin Carthy] in October. I’m all about Europe at the moment.  I’m trying to get into Europe because there’s this huge folk music scene there and they have no idea that English music exists.  That’s my little bugbear at the moment, trying to let the Europeans know that we’re here.

I get the impression that you’re involved in a lot more than touring and recording.  What are you doing closer to home?

Well, I have my two little girls now, so I’m doing that; but the next big thing, aside from recording and touring, is that I’ve taken the position of associate artist at the Sage Gateshead for the next two years.  I’ll be curating different shows, putting stuff on, interesting collaborations, also working with the Sunderland jazz degree course, and the Newcastle traditional music degree course as well.  I’ve got some ideas for projects involving traditional English percussion and dance, so I’m going to be busy. It’s going to be good fun!

How do you find a balance with all your busy-ness? 

I just treat it day-to-day, to be honest.  I try to give my children as much time as I can.  Since their father and I broke up, they tend to go with him now when I work. And it’s hard, because I miss them, but no other mother of toddlers gets the kind of sleep that I get sometimes and I feel very grateful!  It was harder last year when we were breaking up and everything was up in the air, but I think we’ve found a nice balance now; things are really settling for them and they both seem really happy. My eldest is starting school in September, and she’s really excited about that. I’m so proud of her.

Last question… Are you one of those strictly-strong-tea-swilling Northerners or do you sneak in the occasional cup of coffee while deep in late-night writing sessions?

No… I only have a cup of tea with my breakfast!  I don’t drink tea all day.  I have coffee in the afternoons and then usually, gin in the evenings. Or wine, or rum.  I’m quite fond of rum.

Buy Wayward Daughter [album] Wayward Daughter [book]

Eliza Carthy: WebsiteFacebookTwitterYouTube

Interview – Rue Royale

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I recently caught up with Anglo-American duo Rue Royale, as they release their single “Set Out to Discover” in advance of their upcoming (September) album Remedies Ahead.  The beauty of Brookln and Ruth Dekker’s talented husband-wife musical team lies in their strong lyrics and brilliant vocal harmonies.

Let’s start right back at the beginning.  When did you guys get together as a band and how did it come about?

BROOKLN: We were already married for 3 years by the time we started making music together. We were living in Chicago. I had been playing in another band (Trevorside) that had just broken up. In fact, I think it might have been the very same night that I came home from a band meeting where we decided to dismantle the band that we wrote our first song together, ‘Even in the Darkness’ from a song-nugget I was already kicking around. It was a very natural thing. Our family had joked about us starting a band together but we had always thought it was a cheesy idea. When we wrote ‘Even in the Darkness’ we put it up on Myspace, I think the same night. We immediately were getting positive responses from friends and family who would easily tell us if they didn’t like it. It felt real and more importantly it felt good so we followed the thread.

RUTH: It had to happen that way, like an accidental happening. We never planned it and I don’t think anything would have happened if we had tried to “become” a band, it was a natural reaction musically and directionally to what was happening in our lives at the time. We were “whispery” folk because of the crazy neighbour upstairs who would yell at us for being loud.

Do you write most of your music together or separately?

BROOKLN: It’s an evolving process. Sometimes one of us writes more than the other of a particular song but we’re a team and always end up finishing the song together. We can both write songs without the other’s help but not Rue Royale songs. Those songs take both of us.

RUTH: It normally starts with Brookln pacing around playing guitar parts and murmuring vocal parts. I join in and we wrestle with it and each other finding meaning for the melodies. It is normally a very intense process.

What musical instruments do you play? (I’ve seen you play live a few times and can vouch for your musical abilities, so don’t be overly modest in explaining this one!)

BROOKLN: Well, for Rue Royale-live I play guitar, bass drum & vocals (may be playing with a bit more percussion and sampling soon)

RUTH: At this point I play keys, glockenspiel, percussion (shakers and snare drum) and a sampler. I do play the guitar albeit rustily at this point!

Who are some of your strongest musical influences?

BROOKLN: Our musical influences are always changing and we make a conscious effort to not mention other artists when we’re writing or producing in an effort to stay out of the way of what needs to happen or escape creatively. Saying that, I grew up on Gospel, rock and folk. I tend to listen to anything involving Mark Koselek, Thom Yorke or Fleetwood Mac members the most.

RUTH: I don’t know who actually influences my musical contributions to the band. I love the artists Brookln just mentioned but I also grew up listening to Brit-Pop and northern soul which I do hear in our music when I listen back. Electronic artists like Air really played a part in our journey at the beginning too. I really enjoy listening to jazz alot and can get stuck in that for months on end.

To describe your sound to people who haven’t heard you before, I’d call it “chilled, slightly melancholic indie singer-songwriter folk-pop sung in late night lamplight with unlimited coffee”.  How do YOU describe your music, and how would you say it’s evolved since you released your self-titled debut LP in 2008?

BROOKLN: I don’t typically describe it. I normally cop-out of this question but for those who haven’t heard us I’d say we play harmony-heavy hypnotic, vocal, guitar and pulse driven songs of yearning. The changes to our music along the way the same as are those that life brings. Simple evolution. We still play our hearts out..

RUTH: I have recently quit coffee because it makes me crazy but I like your description! I think we have taken more risks as we have grown in confidence. I am playing a sampler right now which is a big leap from the early days but I can still hear the electronic influence even though it wasn’t played out during the first album.

Remedies Ahead is your third album, recorded with the help of Kickstarter. Can you tell me how that came about, and how it worked out for you?

BROOKLN: We had heard of Kickstarter before. We’d followed a couple of projects and saw how it worked. Basically, we couldn’t afford to make the album we wanted to make. We wanted to get into a studio with our buddy and co-producer Paul Pilot for a couple of weeks with nothing to do but make a record. Both of our previous albums were recorded in home studios where distraction is easy to come by. We had run a small pre-order to help raise the money to press our Guide to an Escape album in 2010 and it seemed to go really well so we thought we’d give kickstarter a chance. The Kickstarter campaign was a lot of work. I mean a lot of work. It’s not easy to send out enough reminders to family, friends and fans that they all see it and have enough chance to respond to it without annoying everyone who isn’t interested in responding or seeing these messages. But we got there and went over the minimum we were asking for. Our family, friends and fans are amazing.

You have a large following in Europe and the UK and your fans here have plenty of chances to see you play live. Do you have any future plans to tour in the US?

BROOKLN: It’s really tricky for us to get over to the States to tour because Ruth is English and we need a work permit for her to be able to perform (legally). We’re working on this but at the moment we don’t have any help Stateside. So it’s a bit tricky.

You tour extensively in Europe, but maintain a home in the UK. Where would you like to live, if you could choose anywhere, and why? 

BROOKLN: Good question. We don’t know. It’s something we talk about a lot though! We have a dream of a small country house with a garden, a small orchard and studio but in what area/country we know not.

RUTH: We have spent so much time away from “home” and have friends all over the place it makes it hard to know where to be. We miss the seasons and the warmth of Chicago summers so wherever it will be it needs to be a little bit warmer!

You play a lot of European coffeehouses. Do you actually drink coffee?

BROOKLN: too much.

RUTH: argh! I am trying to quit…. I have tasted some incredible coffee and Brookln makes a mean cup in many forms, he is a true coffee fiend.

Watch the title song from their last album, Guide To an Escape:

Buy single Set Out to Discover

Rue Royale: Website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube

An Introduction: Penny & Sparrow

Tenboom

Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke are Penny & Sparrow, hailing “from the heart of Texas” –Austin, to be exact.  This indie band self-released their album, Tenboom, last year using a Kickstarter project.  I’ve enjoyed listening to Tenboom and wanted to find out a bit more about them.

How long have you guys been together as a band? We’ve been together as a band for about two and a half years now. We started off as roommates in college, and then began recording a few songs here and there as a hobby, which has now turned into much more than that! We released [single] Creature on iTunes and had so much fun with the process that we haven’t stopped. Interestingly, we now live together again – we moved into a giant house with our wives so we could write and play music and be roommates again.

I noticed that you do a lot of great covers. Who can you cite as some of your strongest musical influences and how do you incorporate the sounds you love into your original music?  Thanks! We both have our own musical favorites that mesh and overlap really well when we write. We both love bands like The Swell Season, Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, and Mumford.

Do you write your music together, or separately, or a bit of both?  Our songwriting process works well for a duo, we think. We both start off writing separately in our free time, Kyle mainly focuses on the music and melody, and Andy loves lyrics. When we sit down together we’ll bring all our ideas we are confident with to the table at the same time and mesh the two together. At this point there’s more overlap with who does what.  Apart from a few songs, we always write songs together.

What gave you the idea to go for the Kickstarter project and how did it work for you?  Where did the name of your album come from?  We were hesitant to do a funding campaign for our music, but were encouraged by some friends who believe in us. We were blown away by the response, and are so thankful for those who supported the project. [Tenboom] came from a conversation we had about a woman named Corrie ten Boom. She has an incredibly inspiring story, and we thought “ten Boom” was a beautiful name.

What’s next for Penny & Sparrow? Like I said before, we’re currently living under the same roof, writing songs and touring. We are a month away from recording another album. Between this and touring throughout the States, we’ll be pretty busy!

Tenboom beautifully showcases Penny & Sparrow’s subtle, vocally-driven acoustic sound. There’s a guitar.  A kick drum.  Some keyboards.  A bit of quiet percussion. The thread that draws this album together, made apparent straight from the beginning in “Just and Just As”, all the way through to the ending lullabies “Patience, First” and “Patience, Please”, is the flawlessly sweet harmony of Kyle and Andy’s vocals, with the afore-mentioned classic rock/country background evident in their style.

Buy Tenboom

Penny & Sparrow: Website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube

Interview – Pilots & Errors

Pilots and Errors Annex

Earlier this week I sat down with Travis Wilburn of Pilots & Errors to talk about his new home-recorded album Annex, a great collection of melody-driven songs that he released last week. Among other things, we discuss his recording process and the role his hometown of Lexington, Kentucky (where I also happen to reside) played in the creation of the album. The interview below has been edited for length and clarity. Enjoy!

What was the genesis of Annex and the inspiration behind it? Did you have a theme in mind when you started writing it or did it just kind of transpire into one?

When I was writing it I was trying to wrap up some ideas from July (debut release). A lot of nostalgic ideas, things having to do with home—the physical place of Lexington. When I first started writing songs for this album, it was during the recording process for Broken Hearted Friends (second release). The song “Dog Days” is the oldest one on here. That was a little over two years ago.

It’s surprising to hear that “Dog Days” was the first song recorded because that one stands out from a lot of your songs as being different, with just the banjo and mandolin. You don’t use as much reverb on it.

With that one it was difficult to get a version recorded that I was pleased with. April of 2011 is when I started doing Broken Hearted Friends, and that was a song I kept getting hung up on. The album version is about the fourth or fifth different version I attempted. I’d go through it and hate the way it sounded and then I’d play it live again a couple weeks later and realize I wanted it to be on the next release. I just felt good about it. The album version wasn’t the first song I recorded for Annex, just the first song I wrote for it. I wrote it on guitar, but on the album the only instrument played in the entire song is banjo. There are four layers of banjo on it.

Really? I kind of thought I heard some mandolin in there somewhere…

The banjo is capoed up on the 7th or 8th fret. As soon as I started playing around with that arrangement, I felt like I finally had it. After I finished that song and was pleased with the version I had, everything snowballed after that. I was really able to get it together and get the album going. I’m glad it worked out, because lyrically I felt like it had to be on whatever the next release was.

Trav common folk

Touching on what you mentioned earlier, you wrote on Facebook a while ago that you had to go to North Carolina to write about Kentucky–Lexington in particular. I know Annex has been pared down some. Do you still feel it’s essentially about Lexington?

Yea, I think so. It’s definitely pared down. At least for me, though it may not be explicit to other people in the lyrics, when I think of this album I think of Lexington. And Carolina is even touched on a bit. It was important for me to be able to start writing about the things of home when I wasn’t in the midst of living there. The name of the album and the track “Annex”—that’s one of the parking garages in downtown Lexington.  And “Von Aly” is the alleyway right down the street from where I lived for the past year. So if the title is nothing else, it’s definitely Lexington-centric. Emotionally, when I think of the album and listen to it, it’s Lexington to me.

How did you decide which songs made the cut?

I wanted to have an idea and theme come across. I recorded these songs all the way through last fall, winter, and spring, and even into summer. I’m used to recording in a week or two weeks time and releasing it the week after that. So I think there’s definitely a thread running through these particular songs both lyrically and emotionally. I feel like they are all connected.

How many songs were there in the pile to choose from?

Fifteen solid, completed songs, so it’s literally cut in half. One reason I did that is because I didn’t want it to come across as boring. And as much as I try to put some variation in the songs, I feel like with a home-recorded album, at least at the stage I’m in now as a recording artist and songwriter, I don’t even think I would want to listen to fifteen tracks of mine in a row. I think thirty minutes is the perfect length.

So what comes after Annex?  Are you taking a break? Working on bonus tracks? Tweaking songs that didn’t make the cut?

I’m back and forth on this because I’m still closing the door on Annex and at the same time trying to figure out that next step.

I’d think you have to take some time to soak in the joy of releasing it and getting it out to people.

I think I will. I don’t want to move on from it quite yet. Eventually I might re-work some songs from these sessions for a larger, more official release like this one was, or maybe just do a quick release of some b-sides that didn’t quite make it. A lot of them are recorded and I like their sound–songs that just weren’t part of the theme or didn’t add to the cohesiveness of Annex. So something soon, probably several somethings, which is kind of exciting. Maybe a few EPs. Some experimental stuff under a different name. Maybe some instrumental things. I’ve got some time coming up set aside to figure all that out. I don’t want it to be another two and a half year wait. I do want to say that. Whatever it is will be something a little more free-flowing and organic instead of contemplating down to the second every single thing I do, which I did with Annex. We’ll see.

Download Annex for free

Pilots & Errors Facebook; Twitter; Bandcamp; YouTube

Q & A with Carly Maicher

Released in August 2011, I discovered Canadian singer-songwriter Carly Maicher’s debut album, Hiding, through a tweet from Devon at Hearth Music sometime in December. And, when I first heard Hiding, I was taken aback by the crystal-clear soulfulness of Carly’s voice and it quickly became one of my favorite late-in-the-year discoveries for 2011. So, if y’all haven’t had a chance to listen to Hiding, please do after reading this great interview with Carly.

CFM: When did you become interested in music? What is your earliest musical memory?

CM: I suppose I have always been interested in music, even as a small child. My earliest memories are of participating in school theatre productions and going in between loving it, to being way too shy to do it. Not much has changed to be honest!

CFM: Have you always wanted to be a folk singer-songwriter? When did you start creating and writing your own songs?

CM: I started writing my own songs, on the piano, around when I was 12 or 13. My focus had been on the piano for many many years, and then I switched to guitar when I was about 15 or 16 and taught myself the basic chords, and over the years my style has transformed more so into folk music.

CFM: Why did you move from Manitoba to Grand Manan, NB? What did you do while living in there? How did Grand Manan influence Hiding? What did you learn about yourself and your music while living in Grand Manan?

CM: I was given the opportunity to live on Grand Manan Island sporadically after my family bought a summer home there. The summer home was not going to be used on a regular basis so I decided to take advantage of it and move there alone. The original intention was to go for one summer (I moved at the end of April 2008) to work on songs and to record this ‘home made’ album I had been wanting to record (super super lo fi). My grandparents are from the island originally which is why there was a connection to the place. I ended up staying the summer and loving it, and I continued staying and staying and staying until almost 4 years passed by.

Originally I had a job at a bakery, and then I got a new job as a waitress at a busy restaurant that I ended up loving. I met so many strangers who were tourists to the island, which the island strives off of in the summer time. Time kept passing and even though I was writing new songs, I wasn’t exactly following through with recording the album I had wanted.

I spent a lot of days hiking, sitting, pondering, watching, observing waves crash along the shore line, amazed by how fast the tide goes in and out and how much water travelled. And I spent many many nights on the beach having bon fires and singing songs to the moon.

Basically, the island was a total paradise and I was living a dream.

I became the manager at the restaurant and began using the restaurant as a music venue, and then eventually I started a folk festival (Summers End Folk Festival) which will be going into its third year this year.

What did I learn about myself? I learned independence in a pretty extreme way. I also learned about how some of the simplest things in life is what matters most. And even though I’m not currently on the island, I am still learning off of my experience there.

CFM: Describe Hiding. Which song best represents the album as a whole? Why?

CM: Hidingis basically about my journey there in a bigger picture. It originally wasn’t intended on being that because I had already had compiled a list of songs that I wanted my first album to be, but it became that. It’s about leaving all of the familiar things behind and experience the beauty and sadness of being totally alone.

What song best represents the album as a whole? Why?

That’s a super tough question. Each song sort of explores a different feeling, or thought. When I was living on Grand Manan, I definitely struggled with the thought of loving the solitude vs. missing everyone, and the life I left behind.

It’s like ocean vs. prairie. Not really knowing where in the world you belong. I think the songs are up and down like that too.

CFM: Was this your first time working with Zachary Lucky? How did you meet? What was it like to tour in the Prairie Roots Revue with Lucky, Northcote and Ryan Boldt? Any favorite moments?

CM: Yes, this was my first time working with Zachary Lucky. We met when Zachary was recording for a mutual friend of ours, (Kayla Luky).

Prairie Roots Revue was honestly, hands down, some of the best fun I have ever had. I loved spending 8 days with those boys – they are all so great. We laughed so hard. And connected on so many levels. And it was such an honor to share the stage, and share some songs. If I could do that tour over and over again for the rest of my career, I would.

CFM: Also, for those of us who follow both you and Zachary on twitter, what’s with the love/obsession with the Canadian ranches, horses, & the dramatic series Heartland?

CM:What a great question. Um. Well, we stumbled upon the series Heartland and got hooked. That’s the gist of it! There is some seriously addictive drama on that show! I guess the other obsession with it just comes from pining for that kind of lifestyle. Living out in the country surrounded by beautiful natural.

CFM: What are your plans for the future?

CM: Well, I will be heading out on a pretty long coast to coast tour with Zachary Lucky beginning in March, for his CD release.

After that – well I plan on doing lots of camping this upcoming summer (which it will almost be when we get back!). I’ll be busy planning a 3rd festival for a while too. And, I’ll probably come up with some plans to record a new record in that time. And maybe get a tan.
Carly Maicher: Facebook; Twitter; Myspace
Stream & Purchase Hiding

A Q & A With New Canadian Songstress Jenny Berkel

It’s hard to believe Jenny Berkel has only been writing songs and playing the guitar for four years. Born out of a love for writing poetry, Jenny started to create music around her written words while living in an empty apartment in Winnipeg. After a year  in Winnipeg, she traveled Canada and Europe the spent two months in Belfast, Ireland where she found her voice and started performing alone. Two years ago, Jenny moved back to Winnipeg where she spent eight months working on her EP Gather Your Bones when tragedy struck her family, which in part led to her phenomenal full-length debut Here On A Wire.

This afternoon I was able to chat with Jenny about herself and Here On A Wire, which has already been released in Canada and is climbing the college radio station charts, but has yet to be released in the United States. New to the whole music business thing, she is working out some kinks on the business end, and is hoping to release it in the Spring. Meanwhile, you can download the three-song preview of Here On A Wire for free and her EP Gather Your Bones for an affordable price on Bandcamp.

CFM: When and how did you first become interested in music? Who were your earliest musical, or, even, non-musical influences? Are there any current artists who inspire and influence you and your music?

JB: I grew up going to a church full of hearty singers who all seemed to have an ear for harmony, so I’ve been surrounded by music since I was small. The harmony lines in hymns still get me – they can be so haunting. My family used to listen to a lot of 1960s rock and roll – not a lot of folk, actually, other than Simon & Garfunkel. It wasn’t until I went to university that I discovered many of the great folk legends that most people grew up on – Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell. Soon after I discovered folk music, I began writing songs.

CFM: Was there one particular experience or instance that helped you to realize music could be a career? When and what was it?

JB: About a year ago, I took the train across eastern Canada to do my first solo tour. My sister joined me for the first half of it, and we did a house show in Hamilton. There was something about the buzzing excitement in the room that convinced me this was worth pursuing.

CFM: How has growing up in Ontario surrounded by both the forests and urban landscapes affected your music? Has moving to Winnipeg changed your music? If so, how?

JB: Our home was nestled beside a deep ravine and forest, but only about 15 metres away from a busy highway. I think growing up next to that severe contrast gave me a perspective that often shows itself in my lyrics. Winnipeg is very isolated compared to southern Ontario – when you drive into the city, it seems to erupt out of nowhere. Moving to a place like that, and so far from home, might contribute to the melancholic feeling of my music.

CFM: How would you describe your music and songwriting style? What do you think makes your music unique and special?

JB: Somebody recently used the term “haunt folk” to describe my album, which I’ve taken a bit of a shining to…

CFM: Can you describe your creative process while making and recording Here On A Wire?

JB: I wrote and shaped most of the songs while living in a one-room studio in downtown Winnipeg with a good friend, her dog, and my cat. I was waitressing about 25 hours a week while preparing to record. Because I was sharing such tight quarters and working so much, it meant being very organized with my time in order to work on music. I was lucky enough to have the aid of my sister, Kristen Berkel, and my producer, Matt Peters. It was so helpful having fresh ears involved in the project. We wanted to be sure that despite all of the extra sounds, the album stayed focused on my vocal and guitar parts, so we were very careful with the arrangements.

CFM: Describe Here On A Wire. Are there any themes? Do you have a favourite song or is there a song that is more personal than others on this album? Which song and why?

JB: Here on a Wire is a quiet collection of mostly sad songs. Throughout the album, there are images of ghosts, dreams, lost love, and cityscape. I’m not sure I have a favourite song, but I think “Come a Long Way” draws the whole album together, both lyrically and emotionally.

CFM: On an album where all of the songs seem to have similar sounds and styles and flows easily, how does the spoken word track, “Awaken In Stars” fit? It keeps within that same dreamy, mellow, and somewhat melancholy vibe of the album but what was your purpose? Why a spoken word? What did you want the listeners to gain or experience from it?

JB: The poem was written by a good friend of mine, Michelle Elrick. We’ve spent the last four years side by side, almost glued at the hip – this has often caused our creative projects to delve into similar themes. About a year and a half ago, we did a tour together to launch her first book of poetry (To Speak) and my first mini-album (Gather your Bones). We would incorporate both elements of our projects into one performance. As a long time lover of poetry and a strong believer in Michelle’s poetry, I really wanted her words on my album. I gave her all of my lyrics and she came up with that piece, which I find very moving. I think listeners will react the same way.

CFM: Name a song, any song, you think best represents you during this time in your life. Why?

JB: “If I’ve Been Fooled” by the Weather Station. I can’t stop listening to it. It’s wrapped itself around my whole apartment.

CFM: What are your future plans?

JB: Here in Winnipeg, we’ve entered the part of winter where we plug our cars in at night, so I’m trying to stay warm while working on getting this album heard. I’ll be doing a lengthy tour in the spring to launch it across the country.
Jenny Berkel: Website; Facebook
Download & Stream Here On A Wire
Purchase & Stream Gather Your Bones EP