CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Angela Easterling traveled a long way to jumpstart her musical career — she went home.
The alt-country singer/songwriter, who performs Wednesday at a special FOOTMAD show at Unity of Kanawha Valley, said that after she went to Los Angeles to pursue her musical dreams, she wound up starting over in upstate South Carolina.
“In Los Angeles, I spent all my time working and trying to make ends meet — and not much time making music,” Easterling explained. “When I did a show, I had to call all my friends and beg them to come.”
She sighed. “In L.A., everybody was in a band. Everybody was in a play.”
On a return visit to her family’s 200-year-old farm in Greenville, she saw friends doing what she wanted to do in California: making music and making a living at the same time.
Easterling came home to stay and started playing out, but things had changed. Urban sprawl was taking over. Housing developments were springing up like mushrooms after a rainstorm and the county wanted to put a road through her family’s property.
The county ended up winning that one.
“We lost a bunch of land,” she said.
In the end, Easterling’s family lost about a third of what was left over from a dozen generations, handed down since the end of the American Revolution. Now, they’re down to about 60 acres, which her family lives on and raises cattle.
“We’re surrounded on all sides now,” she noted.
Coming home and watching the land disappear into the hands of developers gave Easterling an entirely different appreciation for her upbringing.
“I used to ride around with my grandfather on his tractor,” she said. “I rambled all over the place, and my mother, she used to raise chickens and pick cotton there.
“I didn’t really think anything was special about the place until I grew up.”
The experience, she said, influenced her songwriting and contributed to moods and material for her last album, “Blacktop Road,” and her latest, “Beguiler.”
“I think there’s a sense of loss on my album,” she said, “but I think there’s also a sense of hope.”
Nowadays, there are fewer family farms, particularly in the East, Easterling pointed out. A familiar way of life has eroded, but maybe it’s not entirely gone.
Even with all the sprawl, a lot of people are embracing nature and working the land in little ways, with backyard gardens and trees. It’s different, but maybe not everyone has forgotten there’s something magical about growing things.
What happened with her family’s farm reminded her that, if you want to have something, you have to be willing to work for it and fight for it.
“The thing with land, I guess, is: Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”