Photo by Jessica Knights

December 14, 2011

Josephine Foster’s little life

Outsider folk-artist Josephine Foster has traveled from her native Colorado to Chicago and on to Spain, exploring different facets of her music — as a solo artist, or with Born Heller and other combos, creating music that runs from the contemplative to the raucous. Arthur magazine’s Jay Babcock called her “A Grace Slick for the 21st century — and that’s all grace, no slick.”

LEO: You draw on many different historical eras to inspire your music. Do your non-musical hobbies or tastes inform your musical education? Or do you just seek out music from earlier periods as a music lover?

Josephine Foster: I am a music lover. One influential hobby when I was very young was being a water-ballet swimmer. Listening to crystal clear music from underwater speakers and dancing in synchronized motion with other girls was very magical. I chose LPs from the public library — Bach, The Beach Boys, Mantovani Orchestra, television-Western theme music — and made spliced compilations that flowed together into a three-minute routine. Then I choreographed very wild water dances to this music. Sometimes there were lightning storms and you would be watching the flashes of light as you came up for a breath, and the music was above and below the water. This activity led me to listen to many types of music, especially thinking of dance, and it was very influential on my imagination.

LEO: Have you learned anything from teaching music to others that you’ve applied to your own music? Do you study with any teachers yourself?

JF: One thing I feel reflected in my music directly, especially, was working with children, very young children — I prefer ages 3 and 4. To me, (that is) the age of a most fascinating aperture of that imaginative child state. They did affect me a lot, and some of my children’s songs I wrote to invite them into spontaneous improvisations within song. I did study with teachers, various ones, in my days of aspiring to an operatic career and, boy, I learned some good things, and sometimes got extremely confused. Hopefully I didn’t confuse too many people when I was a voice teacher, but being confused might be the nature of it. Learning to sing is not for everybody; I think it’s a Western modern activity, at the heart of it a healing process to unite divided, confused people. Some people have an intuitive flow with their voice and body, and others have psychological barriers reflected in their voices, which ideally a teacher can help out with. I love to teach singing and accept students to this day.

LEO: Ukuleles have become trendy recently, but you’ve been playing them for a long time. Does it make you happy or sad to see Eddie Vedder clutching a uke?

JF: Ukuleles are fantastic. My brother just picked it up, even. To me, any trend involving actually playing an instrument is a very, very good thing.

LEO: Some find your music romantic, some find it spooky, and some say it’s both. What do you hear?

JF: Well, I hear all those things, and other things, too. I am a romantic, for sure! Romanticism has its inherent shadow side.

LEO: Your husband is from Spain. Where is the best environment for you to make music?

JF: I’ve lived there for the past five years. The best environment for making music is with resonating people and even animals, and within acoustical reverberent structures, whether from architecture or nature.

LEO: What’s next for you?

JF: More songs from Spain, more of my own songs, and new collaborations from Nashville to New Mexico.

Josephine Foster with Parlour and Dane Waters

Friday, Dec. 16

Zanzabar

2100 S. Preston St. • 635-9227

myspace.com/josephinefoster

                                                     $10; 9 p.m.