Thursday, February 3, 2011

Carrie Rodriguez bringing her brand of folk, country music to Old Town School of Folk





By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Austin-based singer Carrie Rodriguez is glad that her father gave her a Leonard Cohen album when she was nine years old.

Rodriguez, www.carrierodriguez.com, is the daughter of the well-known Texan singer-songwriter David Rodriquez, and she has incorporated the musical lessons he taught her into her music.

This has been a busy month for Rodriguez. On Tuesday, she released "We Still Love Our Country," an album of duets with Ben Kyle of Romantica, and on Feb. 13, she will perform with Erin McKeown and Mary Gauthier as part of "An Acoustic Cafe Evening" tour.

The show will be at 7 p.m. at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Tickets are $22, available at www.oldtownschool.org.

I had the chance to chat with Rodriguez about her latest projects and her upcoming tour.


Q - So the tour kicks off in Chicago at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Have you played there before?

I have. It's one of my favorite places.

Q - So it's a good place to kick off the tour?

It is. Beautiful stage, beautiful sound. And the audience is usually pretty warm over there.

Q - And of course you did the acoustic tour last year. What did you like about it?

I love getting to see what other artists are up to. In the second half of the show, instead of a more typical songwriter in the round thing that you might see, we work on each other's songs.

It's really fun. As a songwriter, you learn a lot. It's also challenging, just as an instrumentalist, to find ways to help your friends out and make them sound even better.

And it's different every night. Since the Old Town gig is the first show of the tour, it will be extra loose and spontaneous.

Q - Last year was a pretty big year for you. You released "Love And Circumstance," which was very well received, reaching number #2 on the folk charts and #3 on the Americana charts.Was that important to you that the record did so well?

It always feel good when you know people are enjoying it and you get responses like that, because you feel you are on the right track somehow.

The best part of performing music is playing for people. The idea that you are making other people feel something is very rewarding.

But I'm also excited about my next project. I've been writing new songs, and I'm excited to play new material in this upcoming tour and trying the songs out on audience members.

Q - On Tuesday, "We Still Love Our Country," an album of duets you did with Ben Kyle of Romantica, was released. What was your idea in wanting to do the album?

Ben is one of my favorite singers. I've been on tour with his band quite a few times, and we always end up singing together, singing duets.

It's really exciting when you find somebody to sing with. It's that spark that happens. You can never predict when it is going to happen, but I think with Ben, we have a really nice way of singing together.

I wanted to put it down on tape. We've been on tour together a few times, but we don't get together that often, so it was really fun to put our favorite duets down and write a couple new ones.

Q - How did you choose which songs to cover?

It's really an homage to our favorite duet singers and our favorite duets. We're both huge Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris fans.

It was just kind of a tribute to our heroes and the music that we love. In calling the album, "We Still Love Our Country," we wanted to make an album of good country songs. Country can get a bad rap, with all the new pop stuff, which is not really country music.

They put a pedal steel guitar in there, but it's 90 percent pop. There is so much great history in the country genre, and we wanted to pay tribute to that.
 
Q - And I suppose people have labeled your music in different ways over the years. How would you describe your music?

That's a tough question for me. I have a hard time putting one name on it. The term "Americana" gets used a lot, which is fine, but I don't really know what that means anymore anyway.

It is American music for the most part. My influences are mostly American songwriters and instrumentalists. But I draw from old-time film music, I draw from jazz, I draw from folk singer-songwriters and some rock bands.

Hopefully all those things poke their heads out at some point in my music.

Q - And do you think your dad (Texan singer-songwriter David Rodriquez) has been a big influence in what you have become?

Probably. He's a folk singer-songwriter, and some of my first memories are of him singing me these political folk ballads. It's probably found its way into what I do now.

Q - I understand he gave you a Leonard Cohen album when you were nine and you hated it, but by the time you were 13, you loved it.

I listened to it for a solid year, once I figured out how good it was. But most nine-year-olds aren't ready for Leonard Cohen.

Q - So you figured out the importance of the album and got to love it?

I think that being exposed to good, serious music even at a very young age is so valuable later on down the road.

Q - And your great aunt, Eva Garza, she was a pretty popular musician in the 1950s, I understand.

Yes, she was a big star, especially in Central and South America. She had a few gold records on Columbia. She sang all in Spanish.

Q - Are you going to try to incorporate more of your heritage in future projects?

On "Love And Circumstance," I recorded a song that she had recorded. That was the first time I had ever sung in Spanish.

I love performing it. And I do have the dream one day of making an entire album in Spanish. But I don't feel quite ready for that yet.

I feel that I need some more heartache and tragedy before I am ready for that.


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