Though she’s a South Carolina native, singer-songwriter Angela Easterling says many good things about New Jersey.
Last year, Easterling and her guitarist, Brandon Turner, played the Ukrainian American Cultural Center in Whippany as part of the Splatter Concert Series. Tomorrow night (Aug. 20), the duo will return to the UACC.
“It’s a really neat venue,” says Easterling. “It’s small and intimate. It’s a great place to sit around and tell stories and sing songs. It was cool.”
She laughingly adds that after last year’s show, she and Turner saw that an Indian wedding was being held in another part of the center. They soon found themselves (she asks not to use “crashed”) in the wedding reception.
“Only in America would you have a Ukrainian center with an Indian wedding and my concert at the same time,” she says.
In a larger sense, Easterling appreciates the reception that her roots-rock songs have garnered in the Garden State.
“We love playing in New Jersey,” she says. “It’s a great area for live music and for music fans who want original music. That willingness to support songwriters is so important. I checked my mailing list, and I have more members from New Jersey than from North Carolina.”
Still, Easterling’s southern roots inform many of her songs. Her new CD, “Beguiler,” is filled with country-rock story-songs. One of the most pointed is “Manifest Destiny,” which starts as the tale of Cherokees forcibly removed from their land and draws an analogy with the way governments can seize property for public use.
That song is based on her autobiography. Easterling’s family farm in Greer, S.C. – which dates back to 1791 – was subdivided so a road could go through it. She described the situation in “Blacktop Road,” the title track from her 2009 CD.
“ ‘Manifest Destiny’ could be called ‘Blacktop Road, Part Two,’ ” Easterling says. “I learned that we’re not the first people on this land, and we’re not the first people to be kicked off this land.”
Easterling reports that her family is still holding on to the farm.
Many of her new songs – like the songs from “Blacktop Road” and her 2007 debut, “Earning Her Wings” – spring from personal observations and experiences. But Easterling says that recording “Beguiler” was different from the making of her previous CDs.
“This is the first album I wrote where I had a band,” she says, referring to guitarist Brandon Turner and drummer Jeff Hook. “I put them together to play local shows (in South Carolina), but I realized I had something special in them. So I wrote the songs for them to play.”
Easterling’s forthright lyrics and her musical melding of country, folk and rock have gradually won her a following. Roger McGuinn, the legendary guitarist with the Byrds, has praised her approach as “tradition meets youthful exuberance.” She has also been a finalist at respected festivals in Kerrville, Texas, and Telluride, Colo.
If Easterling has learned anything in her travels, it is the importance of being open to new things.
“You always have to be prepared that your plans might change,” she says. “It’s the combination of being prepared and practiced, as well as being flexible. That’s the kind of thing you pick up from experience.”