Montgomery News

Angela Easterling finds her ‘country’ far away from home

Angela Easterling brings some modern country to Ardmore's Milkboy Coffee on Saturday, March 29.
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alt Angela Easterling brings some modern country to Ardmore’s Milkboy Coffee on Saturday, March 29. alt
Angela Easterling found her home in a most unlikely place.
Easterling, a native of the small town of Taylors, S.C., didn’t find her calling to country/roots/Americana music until her senior year of college, which she spent, of all places, in California.
“I didn’t start listening to country or bluegrass music until I got older and left home,” Easterling said in a recent telephone interview. “I started listening a little more in college. Johnny Cash was the first I really fell in love with, and Hank Williams.
“Growing up here in the South, you’re so inundated with it, and it was not the kind of music that appealed to me. When I got away from here and discover the roots of it, like Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, the Carter family, I started listening to Emmylou Harris. When I was out in California, I started playing country music, running around with a whole group of sort of renegade country people out there.”
When she arrived at Emerson College in Boston, Easterling’s goal was musical theater. But as she started writing music, her path took a decidedly different turn.
“I discovered a lot of that music up there [in Boston] that I had not really listened to growing up. I started out writing more folky music, and people would say, ‘Wow, you sound like you sing country.’ It was just there, in my blood. When I started writing songs, that was just the way I wrote, so then I started listening to artists people told me I sounded like, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. The more I discovered it, the more I was inspired by it. I didn’t go out looking to be a country-type singer, but it sort of found me.”
The result of her time in California is captured on Easterling’s debut CD, “Earning Her Wings,” on which Easterling wrote 10 of the 11 tracks (the final one is an old gospel song originally penned by a distant relative).
Recorded “on a shoestring budget and a lot of love,” Easterling is joined by many of her friends from Los Angeles, musicians who have worked with the likes of Dwight Yoakam and Lucinda Williams, on an album that has helped Easterling earn her wings. Indeed, the album was named the Americana Album of the Year by Smart Choice Music, a UK-based online music store specializing in Americana and country music.
Easterling opens the CD with a gospel-inspired “River Jordan,” and proves more than able to touch the heartstrings on songs such as the emotional tribute to a personal hero in “Dear Johnny,” to the tender ballad “Accordion,” which tells the story both of small-town pride as well as a father-daughter relationship across the miles. She can also up the tempo with guitar- and fiddle-driven tunes such as “Eyes of a Fool” and “Feel Like Drinking,” songs that are sure to get your toes tappin’, whether they’re in cowboy boots, business shoes or flip-flops.
And while many of her songs touch on topics that are not new to the genre, Easterling provides a fresh approach and sound.
“In California, I had the freedom to explore different styles and blend different things together, and to just try different things,” Easterling said. “If I’d been at home and listening to this style of music, I don’t think it would have had the same impact on me as it had being far from home.
“If a song’s not interesting to me, I’m not going to ask somebody else to listen to it. Even if I’m talking about just an ordinary thing, I’m going to try to find a way to put my own spin on it. I try to keep it interesting so there’s that little twist that’ll be different.”
Take the song “Truck-Drivin’ Man,” for instance. Rather than an ode to her “knight in shining Diesel,” the upbeat tune, which is always a hit when performed live, is Easterling’s fish-out-of-water story of a country gal living in California.
It’s even gotten her in trouble once or twice.
“I was playing that song in Virginia about a year ago,” Easterling recalled with a laugh and a bit of terror, “and this guy came up to me with about one tooth. ‘I have a truck!'”
Though she jokes she might have to revise some of the lyrics, Easterling said the song is primarily a dig on California guys.
“I was on a date with a guy in L.A., and he kept looking over my shoulder the whole time,” Easterling said. “He would ask me a question about myself and he wasn’t paying attention to anything I said, he was just looking over my shoulder, and I was thinking, ‘There must be someone really famous behind us or something.’ So at one point I turn around to see who’s behind me, and as it turned out, I was sitting in front of a huge mirror.
“So this was my extreme reaction to L.A. guys. I’d prefer a guy who can change the oil in my car than the type of guy who can give me hair tips. It’s a fun song to sing, audiences really like that song. It’s probably not my greatest contribution to art, but it’s fun, it makes people smile and makes them laugh.”
Touring extensively over the next several months, Easterling will join the talented and always charming Carsie Blanton as well as Jeff Dernlan – who just released a follow-up to his highly regarded 2006 CD “Broadmoor” – at MilkBoy Coffee in Ardmore March 29.
“People [in the Northeast] still like that kind of music. It’s not something they’d usually see all the time and it’s different,” Easterling said. “I’ve even had people tell me they liked my live show more than the CD. Some people are not as open to listening to country, but they like the live show.
“When I perform, what I want to do is to take [the audience] on a journey with me. I really want to communicate, the things I’m talking about. It’s about the story, about the journey. It’ll be really mellow, down-to-earth, and we’ll be like old friends, tell our stories and laugh and cry and have fun.”

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