Today’s Feature – March 4-5: Caroline Herring

March 6, 2008 at 9:56 am (Today's Feature)

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Enough can’t be said about keeping an eye on your dreams – while just about anything anyone can say about “sticking to it” sounds clichŽ, it’s nonetheless important. American roots artist Caroline Herring, Mississippi-born and Atlanta-based knows exactly what it is to keep watch on her aspirations, even as life suddenly happens all around her. Having won Best New Artist at both the 2002 SXSW Austin Music Awards and from the Austin American Statesman, and releasing two critically acclaimed albums (Twilight and Wellspring), Herring would soon find herself juggling a marriage, two children and a career all at once. But she never lost sight of her passion… and her music wouldn’t allow her to do such a thing. Her latest release, “Lantana” is proof of this; an album about “finding a place to call home and making it home.” Obviously a record that is close to Herring, the collections will “fill your heart with hope one moment and sends a chill down the spine the next.”

Taking on the role of producer for the first time on this album, Herring worked with Rich Brotherton (Robert Earl Keen) to bring to life songs that address some very difficult subjects; songs “loosely themed on women at different points in their lives.” One piece in particular, “Paper Gown” is about Susan Smith, the 23-year-old South Carolina woman who drowned her sons. A murder ballad to be sure, it is not exactly easy listening – but is also a significant event that should not be easily forgotten.

At a live Caroline Herring performance, you can expect two things. First, to be entertained by a diverse mix of songs, some joyful and some heartbreaking. Secondly, that Herring will most likely be stuffed with dinner. She likes to play on a full stomach, which I agree, seems difficult. Get out and pick up “Lantana,” and dive into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Caroline Herring

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get started in music?

Caroline Herring (CH): I sang in church choirs from a young age and started taking piano when I was four years old. I didn’t start playing guitar until college, after my dad bought me an old Alvarez at a Canton, Mississippi pawn shop.

PEV: Growing up who were you listening to? Do you remember the first album you ever purchased?

CH: Unfortunately I do believe the first album I ever purchased was the Andy Gibb Flowing Rivers Album. I also bought Donna Summer’s Bad Girls album and LOVED listening to it and looking at it. I started listening to U2 and REM in high school, but Prince’s Purple Rain album and Michael Jackson’s Thriller were my favorites. Any folk or country music influence came from my parents’ record collection. I started listening to Joni Mitchell when I was about 16. In college I went through a huge Sarah Vaughan phase, especially when I lived in France my junior year. It was upon returning to the University of Mississippi that I really started listening to/loving folk, classic country, and bluegrass music, including Kate Wolf, Mary McCaslin, Peter Rowan, and others.

PEV: Tell us about the first time you stepped on stage, live, to perform.

CH: I had the leading female role in my first grade play, Millions of Cats. I played the Little Old Woman, and had to shake a very heavy rolling pin at my no-good husband. I also sang a solo. I must have had a grand time, for when I went home that night, my parents tell me I flopped down in a chair, looked up and smiled, and said, “Surprise me with something sweet.”

PEV: What is the best part about performing live on stage?

CH: I love the attention. And I really enjoy creating art and showing it as a singer/songwriter. I’m not a big entertainer, but I do enjoy telling stories, and at my best moments that seems to resonate well with audiences.

PEV: Was there a certain moment in your life that you knew music was going to be a career for you?

CH: I have always enjoyed singing and, more recently, playing. But it wasn’t until I spent some time in the music scene in Austin, TX, that I thought that I might make it as a musician. Perhaps it was one of those happy hours at Stubb’s soon after I won Best New Artist at the Austin Music Awards, and the crowd surged, and I realized that I might have a shot at some success. That was about six years ago.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Caroline Herring performance?

CH: I don’t really rock out at my shows, though sometimes I do play with a band. My songs are pretty diverse, and the themes of those songs are, too, so audiences get a good dose of traditional music styles mixed with some pretty quirky and more eclectic material. I do talk a good bit between certain songs, depending on how much of a build-up a song needs.

PEV: Tell us about your upcoming release “Lantana”.

CH: Lantana is loosely themed on women at different points in their lives. The sound is mostly acoustic, pretty traditional sounding, and more sparse than a lot of records. There’s some beautiful fiddle and banjo, as well as pedal steel and electric guitar. Rich Brotherton, my co-producer, can play almost everything, and he does on this project. I was pregnant when I made Lantana, and I think that factors into it as well, though I’m not exactly sure how.

PEV: How is Lantana different from other albums out today?

CH: I draw heavily from traditional music styles, while writing about modern-day things. I think that’s unique.

PEV: How is Lantana different from your previous works? How have you grown from your earlier works to where you are now?

CH: My first CD, Twilight, is much about girlhood in the South. After having two babies, I have definitely gone through major rites of passage into adulthood and womanhood. Lantana reflects these changes in my life, both personally and also thematically.

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

CH: My husband and parents are incredibly supportive of me. They’ve celebrated my successes and stuck by me during some lean times as well. Now that I live in Atlanta, friends here are excited as I am. In Austin most of my friends were young and single, but here, whether folks are in their 20s, 30s or 40s, they are settling into their adult lives, many with children, figuring out how to realize their dreams and reconfiguring those dreams

PEV: With all your touring and traveling, which city, International or US, do you think offers the best appreciation for music? As well which has been your favorite to perform?

CH:Internationally, I feel adopted by the Netherlands. i have played there numerous times in the past three or four years, and I love going there. On my last trip i visited Corrie Ten Boom’s house in Haarlem, and presently I’m trying to write a song about her which includes the Dutch national anthem, though writing three verses and a chorus about the Holocaust is proving pretty difficult. In the states, I love playing California and the Northwest simply because i find those places exhilarating and seductive. Especially Seattle. I also love playing the Northeast, and my great home away from home, Austin TX.

PEV: Who is in your CD player right now?

CH: I just bought my first Madeleine Peyroux album, finally, the one called Careless Love. It’s terrific. Martha Scanlan’s The West Was Burning just doesn’t leave the rotation, I truly adore her voice and songwriting, as well as Dirk Powell’s production. Sun Kil Moon’s Ghosts of the Great Highway and Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy are also circulating, as well as Steve Earle’s bluegrass record The Mountain.

PEV: Is there an up and coming artist you think we should all be looking into today?

CH: Martha Scanlan, Ana Egge.

PEV: On the day of a show are there any special rituals you have to do or superstitions you have for a good show?

CH: No. Except I like a full stomach before I play, which is unlike most every artist I know.

PEV: How has life on the road been for you? Best and worst parts?

CH: I’ve been off the road a while raising babies, so at this point road life is once again exotic and thrilling. But when a rental car leaked oil all over my suitcase and soft guitar case recently and I had to swap cars in an unknown city with 10 hours of driving remaining, I wasn’t thrilled.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about you?

CH: I was once a missionary in China.

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

CH: Writing. I love to write. Exercising at the YMCA, my Hip-Hop step class is my favorite. Eating whatever my dear husband cooks for me. Reading Louise Erdrich. Going to hear live music at Eddie’s Attic, a great folk venue in Atlanta.

PEV: In one word, describe Caroline Herring.

CH: Conflicted.

PEV: So far, what has been the most memorable part of your career?

CH: Watching the yachts as I played from the Newport Folk Festival stage. And singing “Knoxville Girl” with Charlie Louvin.

PEV: What is next for Caroline Herring?

CH: A very full calendar.

For more information on Caroling Herring, check out www.CarolineHerring.com

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2 Comments

  1. lisa said,

    I totally agree about Caroline’s suggestion to listen to Ana Egge. http://www.myspace.com/anaegge she is fabulous. nice article. love herring’s songs.

  2. roberto said,

    I beg introduce Website sale for electric guitars Super save today. – http://astore.amazon.com/buy.cheap.discount.electric.guitars-20

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