Today’s Feature, October 28th & 29th: Corinne West

November 2, 2007 at 2:33 pm (Today's Feature)

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Corinne West, the singer/songwriter who is making a splash with her own genre of sound, takes much of her inspiration from the rich culture of Americana. A mix of country, bluegrass, western and blues, the songs of West drip with tradition, music that can find a familiar place in anyone’s ear. These are songs that can touch the thoughts of any audience.

Her music “is dipped in stories;” it respects not only her roots, but everyone’s roots. She learned much of this from her grandfather growing up, the man that introduced her to live music. Her grandfather seemed to know everyone at the shows he’d bring Corinne along to, “The two-beat would start and he would hit the floor with whoever was ready to step.” She’ll tell you, “It was love and magic and I was with my champion.”

All of these influences are evident in her latest record, “Second Sight.” The album is a culmination for West, one that shows off her unique talents in a whole new light. Producer Mike Marshall stepped into work with Corinne on the collection and “songs were interpreted from an entirely different angle.” You can see the hard work behind “Second Sight” at a live West performance where she has a reputation for “stirring up some dust and digging her heals into a performance.” She’ll get into “the grit of an edgy tune, and then be gentle with the curves and shapes of a ballad.” Try to get out and check a show. Until then, read her XXQ’s.

XXQs: Corinne West

Pen’s Eye View:. How and when did you first start writing and performing music?

CW: I was a musical child – singing, and making up songs to amuse myself. At my parent’s parties I would sneak downstairs at the tiny age of 5 and tug at a tall guest’s clothing. Once I had their attention I would beckon them to follow me upstairs to my room, where I would close the door behind them. I had the single (captive) audience sit on my bed while I proceeded to sing them a song. Once I finished, I would let them go… only to go back downstairs and find another adult to lure upstairs to sing to. Those were my first performances. I wrote my first song when I was 14. I think it was about idealism and unicorns.

PEV: Growing up, what kind of music were you listening to?

CW: My ears were singing to Fleetwood Mac, the Beatles, Barry Mannilo, and The Rolling Stones. When I was really young – I think there was some Gary Wright in there, and definitely Jackson Browne and Judy Garland. My folks had records that I would sit alone in the living room and listen to while checking out every corner of the album art. This kept me occupied for hours. As I got older I explored a lot of musical territory – from Metallica to Sinead O’Connor to Nina Simone to the Grateful Dead. As a child I loved the Stones and the Beatles the best, though my Mama loved The Who.

PEV: Do you recall a certain time or even in your life when you decided that music was going to be a career for you?

CW: When I was a child I would dream of being a lead singer in a musical. In my imagination I was Dorothy, or Annie, but more often Dorothy in the Wizard Of Oz. I had a highly active imagination and I spent a lot of time alone. I decided that I would focus on music solely about 4 years ago. Up until that time I was studying theatre arts, and making fine and functional art in metal and glass in a studio in the high sierra mountains. I came to a crossroads in which I saw that I could do two art forms and have them both be watered down due to lack of dedication, or I could choose one road. It was a difficult decision, and I thought long and hard – as I love designing in metal and working with glass…. but music won the battle and I have not looked back.

PEV: You said that you left school at an early age and traveled around with several other artists in an old school bus. Tell us about your time traveling?

CW: Traveling across America in the bus was nothing short of living in a different universe from the environment I was growing up in. I had a lot of responsibility. It wasn’t easy, but it was an incredible education. There are things you learn from the road that you don’t learn in school… regardless of how old you are.

PEV: In all your travels, which city (international or US) do you think offers the best environment for music? Why?

CW: That is a rough question. Some of my favorite shows have been in very rural towns that I hadn’t heard of until I was heading there to perform. I have also found that some cities known for music are hit and miss. The key is when the triad comes together – the audience, the venue / environment and the artist. That is when things sail, and I have found this can happen anywhere, but doesn’t happen everywhere.

PEV: Tell us about the first ever live Corinne West performance. Where and when was it?

CW: The first time ever besides as a young child was at the Con-School I went to, (which is another name for a secondary high school) was in 10th grade. It was in front of the whole of the school, which must have been 60 kids or so. I remember lighters in the air, and a bunch of giggling.

PEV: You have been in several bands but found going solo to be the best route for you. What is it about solo performances that you find works best for you?

CW: Honestly I almost never perform solo – but if you mean leading my own bands with my own material as opposed to being in a band … here is the drill. I have been in a handful of groups – and I have found that when the going gets tough, the tough sometimes go fishin’ – meaning that in order to have a band that will endure the challenges of recording, touring and having a common goal, you have to have a very unique group of people. I had difficult time finding that, and I became discouraged with bands breaking up – so I chose to branch out with my own material. (The bands I was in were regional bands, but I got the picture). I know that I can rely on myself to carry on and find a way out when I hit bumps.

PEV: Your debut album, “Bound For The Living” brought you tremendous success. Did you foresee the success with that album so fast?

CW: I did not know what to expect from “Bound For The Living”. I went into the studio with a handful of songs and my arrows sharpened to do the best I could do – and I walked away from the experience with”Bound”. I really had no clue about the right way to make a record. I produced the record myself, yet it was really co-produced as my engineer made the bulk of the decisions on the mix. The launch of that first recording was a solid indicator that I was on a road worth traveling.

PEV: How is your latest release, “Second Sight” different from your past work?

CW: On”Second Sight” I worked with a producer. That was the first major difference. Mike (Marshall) brought in an incredible band of top shelf musicians – including himself of course – and the songs were interpreted from an entirely different angle. Working closely with a producer was a huge learning experience for me.

PEV: Why do you feel that “Second Sight” is different from other albums out today?

CW: There is such an eclectic mix of music on planet at this point. I basically play Americana music… Music that is dipped in stories, and has roads leading to it from Bluegrass, Country, Western, the Blues… it’s an open field Americana Music. The first thing that comes to mind is that there are a handful of songs on the recording that were inspired by bluegrass forms – yet the lyrics that are in those songs are not in the bluegrass tradition at all, so it is a cross pollination if you will. I am interested in paying tribute to traditions, and then in the same song doing something that moves the form in another direction.

PEV: When you sit down to write, what kind of atmosphere do you surround yourself in?

CW: I aim for a place where I am free from distractions, either from myself or others. Being somewhere beautiful and free from clutter helps me to get to the goods as well.

PEV: Is there one artist that you have not collaborated with that you would like to?

CW: There are quite a few… I wouldn’t complain at all if JJ Cale, Porter Wagner, Emmylou Harris, Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Donovan, Guy Clark or the gents from Pink Floyd & The Moody Blues had a few hours to kill… there are many others really… dead and alive. I have not done a lot of co-writing up to this point. I look forward to it.

PEV: What is one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Corinne West?

CW: I spent a short stint restoring antique bi-plane wings at a small airport in Los Angeles County.

PEV: When you are not traveling or performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

CW: Spare time. I like the sound of that… I aim to spend as much time outdoors as I can. When I am off the road I have some favorite people I like to see. Daily there is much to do on both the musical and organizational end of touring. I also co-design my graphics so there is quite a bit of time spent on the visual art as well.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your success?

CW: The people close to me wish me the best – and are supportive during both the peaks a nd the low points. I have a few key people that really have my back, and it makes all the difference in the world.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Corinne West performance?

CW: Kick and velvet and songs with stories. I have a reputation for stirring up some dust and digging my heals into a performance. I am an animated performer. I like to get into the grit of a an edgy tune, and then be gentle with the curves and shapes of a ballad. My band, The Posse, is called such because up to this point I perform with a number of musicians all over the country, and in Europe. I am working towards having a full time band – and I can’t wait. Until that hour at a live show there is the chance to hear the songs interpreted by different high caliber accompanists depending on where you catch me.

PEV: How has life on the road been for you? What are the best and worst parts of road life?

CW: There is nothing like a crisp Autumn morning on the east coast, or a sunset in the San Juan Islands, or the buzz and push – pull – pulse of New York City, or a Georgia drawl. Without the wheels turnin” beneath me, I don’t taste the variety in the world. The down side is that moving around a lot is tiring, but so is yard work. Also, I can’t have a dog, or a turtle for that matter.

PEV: What inspires you to continually write and perform music?

CW: It took a long time for me to find what I am meant to do. I knew some basic things, like my interests lay in cultural anthropology, theatre arts, fine arts, stories, design, mythology, being in wild places, and of course music. After a lot of searching, I found music to be the medium that was large enough to touch on all of the things I love, while giving me an open palette to create. I have found the right art form. Now my charge is to continue to write and perform and find my edges, and break through them until I fall over dead, hopefully laughing.

PEV: In one word, describe Corinne West.

CW: Present.

PEV: So, what is next for Corinne West?

CW: Next is touring. Next is writing. Next is focusing more on the art of music as opposed to the work that goes into touring. Next is now, and the release of Second Sight. Thanks for the interview!

For more information on Corinne West, check out www.CorinneWest.com

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