A Q&A With Angela Easterling
The Soda House Concert Series. Have you heard of it? It’s in Mount Airy and has virtually no presence online that we can find (boooo!). This Saturday, the series will welcome Angela Easterling into the mix at 5 p.m. (which gives you enough time to check her out and then head on downtown to see Giraffes? Giraffes! at 8 p.m.!). She’s on her way around the country, and you should help support her travels, especially considering how her new album will be out on Aug. 14. We recently caught up with the singer to talk about some high praise she received from Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, what it was like writing a tune that The Boston Herald once awarded the “Best Political Country Song” prize and how hard it is to have a career in music while raising a two-year-old. Enjoy!
I started out as a youngster doing plays and musical theatre, so I always liked to perform. As I got older, I started writing my own songs and playing out in public. I found that I could create more of my own opportunities that way, so I decided to focus more on writing and pursuing my own musical career as opposed to acting.
I see on your website that you received some pretty high praise from Roger McGuinn of The Byrds. That’s some pretty high praise. How did that come about? How did you find out? And when you did, what was your initial reaction?
I first met Roger online via Twitter and he asked me to send him some music. After that, he said that nice quote about me. I was so honored – after all, he is a hugely influential artist on me and so many others. I couldn’t believe that he even knew who I was, much less that he really liked my music. I still consider that to be one of the greatest honors of my career.
I recently saw a live performance video for “Black Top Road.” Can you tell us a little about what went into the writing of that song? Where did it comes from lyrically? How did the structure take shape?
We live on a farm that has been in my family since 1791. It has been really threatened in recent years by so much real estate development in our area. That song was about a true event, when we lost a bunch of land and almost our whole farm to the building of a new road. I was so angry about what was going on at the time. That song just kind of fell out of me, fully formed.
Your new album is out three days after performing in Mount Airy. What type of expectations do you have for the record? Can you talk a little bit about what went into the process of creating this one? Where did you record it and with whom?
I am very excited about this album and believe it is my best so far. Many of the songs were inspired by my recent journey into motherhood over the last couple of years. It is probably my most personal album. It was a joy to record the songs with my musical and life partner, Brandon Turner, in Nashville. We really tried to keep it stripped down and close to what we sound like, live.
I read that “The Picture” was named “Best Political Country Song” by The Boston Herald. That’s quite the award. What did it mean to achieve that title?
It meant a whole lot to me. That song is very close to my heart. I wasn’t sure how people would accept it, since the song deals with a lynching, which is a very bracing subject matter. But to have such a high honor showed me that I was on the right path.
What are some of your career’s biggest highlights so far and why?
Definitely being chosen so many times for Kerrville, Wildflower and other songwriting competitions. It tells me that I am (maybe) good at this old songwriting thing (laughs). Another highlight is just having someone form a personal connection with one of my songs. That always means alot to me, when I hear that from fans.
Can you give us one or two instances in which your commitment to music has maybe been questioned? Maybe being out on the road got to you or you encountered a few of the tons of frustrations a career in music can bring?
I probably question it daily, especially now that I have a two-year-old. It is very hard to get out on the road and have to leave him behind. Thankfully, we have a large helpful family that pitches in, when needed. It is a lot of work, and that is not even playing the shows or touring. The part that gets to me more is the behind the scenes stuff – booking shows, promoting, etc. I love to perform. When it all comes down to it, it would be really hard for me to give that up.
Who are some of your major influences and why?
Emmylou Harris – she got me to “open my ears” to country music. Pete Seeger – for always working and striving and representing the best of what music can be. Johnny Cash – for his integrity as an artist. The Indigo Girls, Jason Isbell, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, all for making me want to write songs and then making me want to write better songs.
Where are some of your favorite places to play (cities/venues) and why?
We always love to play in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I wrote a song about the Flood of 1889 and since then, we have been going to play in Johnstown and love the kind people there. The Kerrville Folk Festival is always amazing. It is just its own world of wonderful people who love music and songwriters, and they let you feel the love. In general, I especially love playing house concerts, because they are intimate, special shows, where you really get to know the audience and vice versa.
Could you give us some names of some great lesser-known original artists we might not already know? Who are you a fan of and who should we keep an eye on?
I am probably the wrong person to ask about that – I’m afraid (that) the time I have to check out new music is severely limited these days. Plus I have to spend much of my time in the car listening to Elmo (laughs)! I will say that if there is anyone one left who hasn’t listened to Jason Isbell yet, you should do yourself a favor and check him out.
And finally what can we expect from your show in Mount Airy? Do you have any surprises in store?
Like I said above about house concerts, they are always a really special kind of show. I will be appearing as a duo with my partner, Brandon Turner. We will have lots of songs and stories to share!