Below is an interview that I done with rising Americana artist Angela Easterling, who recently released her new album, ‘Beguiler.’
C.W. Ross: You have an interesting story of going to the big city (Los Angeles) like a lot of artists think they have to do only to return to your small town southern roots (Greenville, SC) to find the success that you were seeking. What was the most important lesson you learned from that experience that you could pass along to other new artist who feel the need to head to the big city to jump start their music careers?
Angela Easterling: I would say that nowadays with all the resources that are available to artists online, it may not be necessary to be in a big music city like New York, LA or Nashville to have a music career. I’m glad I went to LA for a while because I really needed to get away from home and “find myself” so to speak, I also learned a lot about the business side of music while I was there. But I think I got out of it what I could and I realized I was on such a treadmill of trying to pay my bills and get by financially that I rarely even got to play any gigs. I saw that musicians back home were playing tons of gigs and actually making money doing it. Being in a large music market with so many other artists, it is really tough to get a good paying gig. It used to be that if you were good, you would go to a big music city, get “discovered” and signed and maybe make some records and tour. I think now it is up to artists to go ahead and “discover” themselves, release their own albums and tour. It is a lot of work but if you really love playing like I do, it’s worth it.
CWR: You’ve had some very complimentary things said about your music from some heavy hitters like Roger McGuinn (founder of the legendary folk rock group The Byrds) who referred to you as, “a bright shining star on the horizon,” going on to say “Her gift is so special…brought me back to the time the Byrds recorded Sweetheart of the Rodeo – tradition meets youthful exuberance.” When you hear praise like that for your music that must give you a little bit of a warm fuzzy feeling?
AE: Absolutely. Roger McGuinn is someone I look up to so much and is such an influence on my music. I can’t believe he even knows who I am, much less has heard my music and likes it. That is amazing.
CWR: I see that for your new album you were lucky enough to have back again the producing talents of Will Kimbrough, who has also produced albums for Rodney Crowell and Jimmy Buffett, along with being Emmylou Harris’ lead guitarist. That must really have helped out a lot having someone so talented working on the project?
AE: Will is one of the most talented and creative persons I have ever met. His energy is boundless and his ability to focus is impressive. He can play any instrument and well. I really trust him and his taste level. When he gives me guidance as far as what direction an arrangement, or vocal, etc. should go, I listen because he knows his stuff. I love working with Will. He is a super nice guy too and makes the process of recording so much fun!
CWR: Your music covers a wide range of subject matter including several songs with a strong point of view message behind them. From where do you draw the inspiration for your music? And how tough do you find it to walk that thin line between getting a point across and being entertaining while not coming across as preachy?
AE: I am inspired by things that interest me: family, history, the environment, social issues, etc. It is tough and I am very aware and constantly questioning myself about trying not to sound preachy or self-righteous. Many times I will frame something as a story so as to try to get a point across that way. I think that a story is probably the most effective way because (hopefully) people can relate to that and see themselves in it. I also try not to point a finger that I’m not willing to point back to myself or look at ways that I could do better. Many songs address my own failings and things that I am working on within myself as well.
CWR: I was looking at your very busy summer touring schedule and it looks like you’re hitting a different town each day and a different state every couple of days. How do you keep some sanity in your life living out of a suitcase and always being on the road?
AE: Well number one is that I love to play music and I love to travel. I love that my life takes me all these different places I wouldn’t otherwise get to go and I get to meet so many great people. It can be exhausting and some shows are less fun than others, but I love it. The main thing for me is protecting my voice and my health. I cannot party every night on the road like people think we musicians do (sorry to disappoint, LOL). Rest, vitamins, eating healthy, warming my voice up before I sing, trying not to do too much so I can save my energy for the show, these things are vital for me. If I get sick or lose my voice, the tour will go downhill real quick. I have great guys to work with in my band and we are truly good friends so they keep me sane. I trust them and I know I can lean on them if I need to. I also try to follow the baseball season to take my mind off of things that are stressing me out. Nothing makes a long drive go by faster than a RedSox game on the radio!
CWR: One of those many tour stops mentioned above will be in my hometown of Johnstown, PA on August14th at the Roxbury Bandshell. I know that one of the songs found on your new album, “Johnstown, Pennsylvania” deals with the 1889 Johnstown Flood. How did that song come about?
AE: Cool, you’re from Johnstown? We studied about the flood when I was in 4th or 5th grade and it captured my attention back then. I read several books about it and even wrote a screenplay about it when I was in college. (I still think that story would make a great movie). A couple of years ago, I thought, why don’t I write a song about it. It was a challenging song to write – trying to get such a massive story into a short song. It started out being 13 verses long, LOL!! It is an often overlooked, yet fascinating, tragic chapter in American history and I think there are lessons for us today in the story of Johnstown. We debuted the song there last summer and got a standing ovation. It was a very emotional experience for me to get to play that song there & have it be so well received. I can’t wait to go back there in a couple of weeks with my new CD.
CWR: Thanks for your time and I always like to end my interviews by asking if there’s anything we missed that you want to share with the readers?
AE: I’ll just say, thanks for reading about me & hope to see you out at a show sometime soon!
You can learn more about Angela Easterling and her touring schedule by visiting any of the following websites:
(Interview also published on Indie Music Stop)