Tell us about yourself and what you do?
Brooklyn gal with years of vocal training starts writing her own songs, meets a jazz guitarist from Staten Island and these two native-New Yorkers accidentally stumble upon a country sound. Using this foundation, they play around with ambient sounds, twangy guitar riffs and vintage jazz styles to stylize the songs.
How did you start out?
When I was 16, I decided to play guitar and I taught myself by attempting to play Beatles tunes. I used a songbook that was not really made for guitar so it was super confusing but I persisted. I started writing songs with the chords I learned as I suddenly had things to say, being a teenager and all. In college I studied ethnomusicology and listened to a whole lot of weird/obscure music. My studies in ethnomusicology taught me about musical cultures around the world and their influence on American music. That background has certainly shaped the music I write and perform. My songs combine traditional folk elements with all kinds of non-traditional ideas. When I met Rich Bennett in 2003, I was just beginning to perform my songs live in New York City. Over the years that we've been playing together, my song writing has developed along side his guitar sound and now we really work together on creating the landscape of the songs, bringing a cohesive style to the project.
What is your current release?
'Viewfinder' is my most recent release. A lot of critics have described the album as a "coming of age" record which is pretty spot-on. The songs really echo the complex and somewhat paradoxical feelings I had about turning 30. There's a potent element of suspicion and dissatisfaction throughout as well as expressions of gratefulness for being where I am. I recently listened to the album after not hearing it for several months and it struck me how very dark it is. We meant to make a dark album, but I think the darkness came out in ways that were different than we had intended. That is the amazing thing about writing and recording: it all works on such an unconscious level. Even with all the planning and arranging, the lasting message and mood echos the time and it is somewhat out of one's control. What exactly comes across becomes clearer with distance.
What is the best part of being a singer/song writer?
I really dig being on the road. It is definitely stressful but I enjoy the intensity. Traveling is one of my favorite things and I love discovering new places or, once I've discovered them, getting to revisit them now and then. It's nice to have a favourite taco place in one town and a favourite coffee shop in another. Rich and I enjoy trying out weird local foods (yes, we even tried Haggis on our last UK tour) and we absolutely love stopping at M&S for lunch along the road while in the UK. The food at rest stops in the US is complete and total garbage.
What is your most significant moment yet?
Well I'm about to marry my guitar player. That's pretty significant. I never thought I'd meet a guitar player who wasn't a cocky SOB and not only did I meet one who is kind and lovely, he is super talented, plays so tastefully, and has been behind me 100% in this crazy biz.
What are your biggest musical influences?
My music is twangy, folksie, and western sounding and I often get called a country artist, but I did not get there from listening to country music. The albums I listened to the most in my life are surprisingly not country. In fact I have a very limited knowledge of country music. Growing up in Brooklyn, I almost never heard it. Like a few years ago people started saying to me "Hey, you sound like Neko Case" and I didn't know who she was! Of course, I got really into her music once I was told to check it out. The albums I listened to the most in my life are Joni Mitchell's experimental jazz/fusion/free "Hejira," PJ Harvey's upbeat indie-rock "Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea," The Innocence Missions folky, bright and beautiful "Glow," Milton Nascimento's brilliant bossa-nova/fusion "Club da Esquina," and Steely Dan's slick pop-jazz "Gaucho." Lyrically, I think Joni Mitchell is still where I mainly draw from. Her songs contain so much emotion and metaphor, rather than story lines and details. When I first listened to her albums as a teenager, I would sit with the liner notes and read every lyric, just devour the poetry. I've always been attracted to music that a listener can slip into. I'm not so much interested in stories and events, like "this happened, then this," etc. The music I like is lyrically more vague. I like to leave room for listeners to interpret or relate in their own way.
What venue/gig do you most want to play?
Truthfully, I think my dream gig would be to go on tour supporting Tom Petty. Can anyone see about that?
What is your best/favourite song you have written?
A new song called "Another" which we'll be recording later in the year for our new record.
What’s your favourite album of this year?
Does it have to have come out this year or just be the album I liked listening to this year? I rarely listen to albums right when they come out and just find my way to them based on recommendations or chance, so the albums I discovered this year were not released this year. I think my most listened to of 2011 are Brandi Carlile's "Give Up the Ghost" (2009), Mark Kozelek's "Rock n Roll Singer" (2000), Merrie Amsterburg's " Clementine and Other Stories" (2006). At least they are all from the last decade!
What does the next six months have in store for you?
We will be touring the UK in January, playing some local gigs near to home in February and touring the Pacific Northwest in March. I'm not planning too many tour dates for April and May as I'm getting married in June but I do hope to begin working on the next record by August.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I have no idea. Thinking about being 41 makes me a little nauseous. Not that there's anything wrong with being 41, just that I think things are going to be really different in 10 years and it's a little overwhelming.
What’s the best thing about Americana-UK?
That you gave me this opportunity to be interviewed AND that you've reviewed my last 3 CDs. Folks in the UK have found my music through your site; that is really swell! Thanks for being a hub of good sounds over there.