Today’s Feature, November 21st-22nd: Antje Duvekot

November 21, 2007 at 8:28 pm (Today's Feature)

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Perspective. It’s what separates the true singer songwriter from the lip syncing aspirant. It’s what makes Antje Duvekot stand out even within a Folk Music scene where some of the most talented musicians practice. Antje’s perspective is unique. Born in Heidelberg, Germany before landing somewhere in Delaware, she has an outsider’s perspective on “wrong and right.” She has said, “A lot of Americans think, ‘This is the way it is.’ And in Germany, it’s more, ‘This is the way it is here.'” American culture itself provides the opportune place for an artist like Duvekot to step in and shine.

Perspective from others can be just as important… and Antje has plenty of big names throwing out their two cents on the rising folk performer. Legendary producer Neil Dorfsman says, “Her songs are stunning paintings of color and shade, and always generate the heat and light that real art should.” Boston-based folk pioneer and PEV alum Ellis Paul has even claimed “she’s going to be the next great American folk singer-songwriter. She’s writing songs we need to hear right now. I feel like I’ve been waiting for her to come along and join the club of traveling musicians that I’m in because we need a fresh voice to shake things up for all of us.”

Duvekot’s latest record, “Big Dream Boulevard” is being produced by another respected name in the industry, Seamus Egan of the band “Solas.” This release is different for Antje; it’s her first “deliberate studio record.” She refers to her other works as “snap shots” or “progress reports.” There are deep-rooted songs on “Big Dream Boulevard” like “Jerusalem,” as well as tunes with more of an edge like “Sex Bandaid.” They fit the style of Duvekot – her voice deep and strong, “letting us know she believes every word she sings.”

You can take her music for a test drive before you buy the album if you like – Antje is currently touring wherever and whenever. She is “trying to build a grass roots career so that means playing live and building a fan base.” Get out and see what she has to say after you read over her XXQ’s.

XXQs: Antje Duvekpot

Pen’s Eye View: How and when did you first get involved in music?

Antje Duvekot: I don’t know. As far as I can remember I was singing from the moment I was born. Pretty much lived for the vinyl kids records my dad played for me. There’s a recording of Christmas songs I sing as a five year old in which my brother sabotages my rendition of silent night. Apparently jealous of the attention. I should try and dig that up. So my extreme love of music was present from the start.

PEV: Born in Heidelberg, Germany and later moving to Delaware (USA), what kind of music where you listening to growing up? Who helped shape your sound?

AD: Before I was a teenager I was pretty much captive to the music the adults listened to. My parents, while they weren’t particular music-philes, luckily owned the compulsory collection of James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel, Cat Stevens and such. So I adored those few records (and still do) but I had no clue as to find my own music. When I got older I listened to the radio. It wasn’t until high school that I discovered folk music.

PEV: What was it about American folk music that attracted you to that genre?

AD: I discovered folk music by myself because let’s face it, it is not the kind of music that is on suburban high school kids radar. It started with a compilation from Philo or Rounder I forget. Containing folks like Ellis Paul, John Gorka, Cheryl Wheeler, Catie Curtis. Once I found that disc, I went after those writers with a vengeance and discovered the whole scene of modern singer-songwriters and with them the more traditional folk music.

PEV: Was there a certain time when you said to yourself, “Music is going to be a career for me”?

AD: Let’s just say that during my adolescence I didn’t have much of an idea about what is so great about living since I didn’t have an ideal home life and few friends to speak of. But this folk music really excited me and pushed my buttons so I think it’s only natural to gravitate toward that which makes you feel impassioned and alive. Especially if you are a messed up despondent teenager so I can say that in the abstract sense I had decided that I wanted to do this early on.

PEV: Tell us about the first live Antje Duvekot performance? What was going through your head?

AD: I started writing in high school but never performed until I was in college or college bound. I don’t really remember my first performance it might have been an open mic contest at a brew house. I’m sure I was a nervous mess. I won but… well, it was an open mic contest at a brew house.

PEV: Do you remember the first time you stepped into a recording studio to lay down your own tracks? What kind of feeling was that?

AD: Yeah, actually that was the prize of that contest; recording time. When I heard my songs back recorded I thought ‘now I’m a pro’ the songs are for real now. Set down for eternity. I don’t know… I was not a pro at all but those recordings definitely give me a good chuckle now.

PEV: Tell us more about your latest release, “Big Dream Boulevard.”

AD: It is produced by the brilliant Seamus Egan of the band SOLAS and I’m pretty proud of it. These songs span a good long while of my having been writing. There are old and new ones on here and they’re brought to life through great production.

PEV: How is “Big Dream Boulevard” different from any of your past work and how is different than other music out today?

AD: It’s the first deliberate studio record I have put together. Unlike the others, it’s well-thought out project. All my other semi-live recordings until big dream boulevard were just snap-shots. Progress reports if you will. It’s great to put something together with care instead.

Big Dream Boulevard is surely inspired by the type of production that you would hear on alternative female records such as Patti Griffin or Suzanne Vega but it also is unique due to the unique combination of Seamus’s sensibility and my songwriting.

PEV: When you write music, is there a certain atmosphere you surround yourself in?

AD: Not really, I tend to be inspired when my life is turbulent or if someone else inspires me (for instance I just toured with Peter Mulvey who is great and so I feel like picking up my guitar because of it) but I don’t require an environment per se. I just need privacy. The more the better. That is why I moved to a cabin in Vermont at one stage. When there’s no one around, I am definitely freer creatively.

PEV: In all your travels, which city, International or US do you think offers the best appreciation for art and music. As well, which has been your favorite to perform and why?

AD: Boston hands down. Boston is a great folk town. Unlike in many other cities, there are people of all ages that are into folk here. It’s not just the graying hippies from the 60’s. I personally find that that inter-generational factor lends the genre a feeling of urgency and relevance rather than musical nostalgia.

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

AD: Best parts: I have a job where people are happy to see me, glad I came and value what I do. I have had plenty of waitressing and public service sector jobs where people are displeased for one reason or another and don’t treat you as an individual but simply as a means to an end. I will never forget those jobs and thus never cease to be grateful.

The worst parts: there is a lack of routine in the constant travel of my job that makes it difficult to have particularly constant relationships without a great deal of effort. Many great people I meet once and then never again. And many of my relations at home don’t receive the maintenance that I would like to grant them because I’m so often away. So it requires a deliberate balancing act. Another downside is that traveling is simply tiring. As the adage goes they pay us folk singers to travel. The performing is the icing.

PEV: Have you come across an up and coming artist that you think we should all be paying attention to?

AD: Anais Mitchell and Meg Hutchinson.

PEV: If you could collaborate with one artist, alive or passed, who would it be and why?

AD: Paul Simon please. He’s brilliant.

PEV: What is one thing people would be surprised to hear about you?

AD: I keep my room really neat. My car is a disaster; I am generally disorganized, creative chaos. But my living space itself would make Martha Stewart proud. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I work from home, that’s my refuge. But most people tend to be surprised since this does not fit with the rest of me.

PEV: How is the music in the U.S. different from that you experienced in Europe?

AD: I really haven’t spend enough time in Europe since I left there as a child to have a good grasp of their scene. Certainly in England the folk scene seems to be alive and well. And I would love to go to Ireland eventually. PEV: What is currently in your CD player or who are you listening to right now?

AD: Joanna Newcom. Strange little girl with a harp. Reminiscent of Bjork.

PEV: When you are not performing or traveling what do you like to do in your down time?

AD: I paint sometimes. I like to go for long walks (oh, geez, now I’m starting to sound like a personal ad)… I like to do regular things: hang out with friends, see music, read books, write emails, play guitar… got no strange fetishes or cockroach collections… sorry.

PEV: What can people expect from your live performance?

AD: I usually play alone. I tend to narrate my songs in between.

PEV: In one word, what best describes Antje Duvekot?

AD: I take the fifth on that one. One word…. Ok. Sorry, I’ll try to answer your question. I really don’t know. Musical. How’s that? It doesn’t describe all of me…because I’m kind too, but….

PEV: What is next for Antje Duvekot?

AD: Touring, touring, touring. I am trying to build a grass roots career so that means playing live and building a fan base.

For more information on Antje Duvekot, check out www.AntjeDuvekot.com

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