Artistic validation might not be such a big deal after 11 albums — by then, either you know what you’re doing, or you don’t. For Carrie Newcomer, though, the attention descending on her latest Rounder release, Geography of Light, makes her feel less old guard, more rejuvenated folkster.
Newcomer, who was born in Michigan but now calls Bloomington, Ind., home, phoned in.
LEO: Who were your musical heroes growing up? Anyone you turned
to, or still turn to, for inspiration?
Carrie Newcomer: I’ve always liked the singing poets, the ones that are using songs and songwriting to tell an interesting story. I do a lot of writing that isn’t songwriting — essays, poetry, short stories. Songs will come out of the thought process of those writings. But it’s something about songwriting, about that funky format. Every word counts in a song. I love that format. It calls me back.
LEO: How did your relationship with Rounder begin?
CN: I wrote my first album on my own label. I was traveling around the country performing in different areas of the country solo, and Rounder had been aware of me for a while. I think at a certain point, I was selling so many albums out of the back of my car, so they decided at a certain point, it made sense for a record company to look at what I was doing.
LEO: You told Minnesota Public Radio that you were a “theology nerd.” What is it about religion that makes it such a compelling subject matter for you?
CN: That idea of mystery, that idea of, “What is this relationship we have that’s something greater than ourselves?” There’s always been a spiritual current in my work; there’s always been a spiritual current in my life. At the same time, I think I’m one of a growing number for voices choosing not to put a sacred in such a small box.
LEO: Author Barbara Kingsolver is a huge fan. How did you two meet?
CN: Barbara is one of my favorite writers. I wrote a song inspired by her essay “High Tide in Tucson,” and I wrote to her. She responded with the most beautiful letter. I went out to Tucson and played a benefit with her for environmental programs. I find a lot of commonalities in our backgrounds. It is a wonderful thing when you get to meet someone you truly admire, and find you admire them more as human being.
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