Opening for Suzanne Vega; online Interviews…happy new year!!

Hey folks,
Happy New Year 2008!!! I’m still up in Maine taking it easy trying to recover from some back pain and hanging out with the family trying to prolong the holidays and time off from the city as long as I can. But here is a blog on opening for Suzanne Vega and also two interviews I recently did that are posted on online blogs you can check out:

When I was a kid one of my first memories was of driving down to Maryland with my mom in the old station wagon and listening to “Luka” I had that song stuck in my head for a long time, it was quite memorable and also marked an era, which was sometime in the 80’s I guess. Later I owned “Days of Open Hand” and “99.9” and of course “Tom’s Diner” so needless to say I’ve always been a fan of Suzanne and opening for her was quite an honor.
I’ve seen her perform twice before in Bar Harbor, ME and in Somerville. She travels with a full band and they put on a pretty solid show. The cool part about playing with someone is that you get to hang out with the band backstage and meet everyone. I watched some of their soundcheck, did mine, then we hung out backstage. The band members were quite friendly and nice to chat with, most of them were studio musicians from NYC. Suzanne was a bit cold at first but warmed up eventually, she’s very much a New Yorker and kind of guarded.
The show was great, it was at a church in Portland, ME and it felt pretty full, maybe 300 people or more. I had a 35-40 minute set and put a lot into it as you could hear a pin drop and you feel the pressure to get whatever you are trying to get across. And the audience did respond, maybe cause I’m a Mainard like them, or hopefully because they liked it. After the set I went out to my merch and did sell a lot of cds and did the signing thing (which I’ve always found ridiculous but whatever). There was lots of positive feedback. And then I felt that feeling that I knew I’d feel which is “if only all my gigs were like this one”. But they are treasured spots I know, and it’s quite an honor to even be asked.
It was their last night of a really long tour and they were actually driving in the tour bus all the way back to NYC that night so they decided to go out for a drink while the roadies packed up. I was invited and went to a local Portland bar on Congress Street to have a few drinks with Suzanne, her drummer, and her technical guy/bodyguard. She had a few carmel martinis and I had two glasses of red wine. We got loose and talked about “the DiVinci Code”, Michael Moore’s new film “Sicko”, online dating, and all sorts of other random topics. Basically everything but music which was nice.
At one point some drunk guys who were waiting for the bathroom (our boothe was the last one in the row and we were right next to the bathroom door) came up to our table and tried to talk to us but Suzanne was really weirded out and had her big dude shoo them off pretty quickly with the “we don’t know you” treatment. It was funny because I think she thought they knew who she was and were trying to get close to her but in reality they were just drunk Mainards who were just being friendly because that is the kind of place Portland, ME is. Suzanne said “if this happened in New York there would be a fist fight by now”. And that was when I was glad I’m from Maine and not from a city like that.
But anyway, it was good fun, she was nice to talk with. She has a daughter, Ruby, who is 13 or so and is remarried and just seems pretty professional and not very “rock and roll” as she said to me, but I totally understand, especially considering she’s been around touring for like 20 odd years and is probably pushing fifty, I’d treat it like a job too if I had a kid at home waiting for me. Anyway, the drummer and guitar player were great fun to drink with, all really nice people in the band. It ended when the bar was closing and they had to get on their bus back to NYC. The funny ending to the night was that they all took a photo of us outside the bar and Suzanne and I were in the middle right next to each other. But the funny part was that THEY took the photo and then left and I didn’t even have my camera on me so I was like “shit, missed that opportunity, but now oddly they have a picture of me…”.

Here are two websites that have recent interviews with me you can check out:

HERE THEY ARE IN PRINT, please go to websites though:

Getting to Know . . . AUDREY RYAN
by Kathy S-B · 1 January 2008

Audrey Ryan is one of the most eclectic performers I’ve seen this year. She’s comfortable with any number of instruments and always seems to have a trick up her musical sleeve. Audrey is a native of Mt. Desert Island, Maine, yet there’s a very distinct urban feel to her music. She’s not afraid to experiment and have fun with her music. Get a taste of what Audrey is like by checking out the music and the video on her MySpace page. Audrey tours a fair amount here and in Europe so there’s a good chance that you’ll see her in your neighborhood soon!

Q: Your style is most definitely one of the most original and dare I say quirky sounds that I’ve heard in some time. The good news is that it’s impossible to pigeonhole you into any particular genre. I hear bits of jazz, folk, pop, electronica, etc. That’s a good thing, don’t you think?

A: I do think it’s a good thing, mostly because I’ve been able to avoid boring my audience and fans, but more importantly, myself. As soon as I get tired of playing the guitar I switch to accordion, then when I get sick of that I go to keyboard or fiddle, and for Christmas I got a banjo which I plan to also add into my act. As far as the songwriting, I think you are right that it’s definitely on the “quirky” side, both lyrically and otherwise, my songs are very personal and one article called me a “genuine weirdo” when they listened to my new CD, “Dishes & Pills,” so whatever that means: quirky, weird… I guess in the end one thing it definitely ends up being is original. And that’s very important to me. I really steer away from derivative work, both in my own writing, and as a listener of others. If it’s derivative then I’d probably rather listen to the real thing. If someone’s ripping off Bob Dylan that to me is really boring, as I’d much rather just listen to Bob.

Q: I understand that one of your main influences in Joni Mitchell. What do you admire about Joni’s body of work and how does that translate to your own work?

A: Yeah, I’d have to say that Joni is kind of “it” for me when it come to female singer-songwriters. She just has everything: she’s an amazing songwriter, engaging and literate lyrics, an incredible voice, her overall musicianship is solid. I can’t really say a bad thing about Joni except that maybe some of her later records are kinda bad… But she has so many incredible records like “Blue,” “Court and Spark,” “Clouds,” in her early years, that it’s hard to really top those.

As far as what translates into my work, I’d say that like her I write very personal stuff, if you listen to my newest record, then by the end of it you pretty much know me, or at least a lot about me and my life and feelings about things. Joni wrote really from the heart about her life and love, I feel like I know her through her lyrics, or at least about all of her many, many relationships with men. We also have a somewhat similar singing style, basically we both use our higher register a lot and arpegiate and such. Overall she’s probably been the biggest influence on me of all times. And when I get reviews they usually reference her and most people who listen realize she’s some sort of an influence on me. But I definitely have my own thing going on, again getting back to that concept of “derivative” and “original” work, if I really sounded like her I’d be ripping her off and I have no interest in that. It’s funny though, I think before Joni I didn’t have anyone I truly looked up to as the supreme singer-songwriter but ever since I’ve never come close to loving someone’s work as much. I’m also a huge Dylan and Neil Young fan, but there is something maybe about Joni being a woman that ultimately the connection is unbeatable.

Q: You’ve traveled all over — Australia, Africa, and other exotic places. What made you set up a musical community in the Boston area?

A: I moved to Boston after college and after having spent a year in Australia and Asia. I chose Boston because my Dad is from Haverhill and I had spent a lot of time in Boston as a teenager because I went to a boarding school in North Andover. Plus my grandmother wanted me to move there, so I kind of did it for her and to be close to my home in Maine. So it was all those things combined. Otherwise I think I would have gone to NYC, and I still might. But Boston is a pretty cool musical city, there are tons of musicians, and plenty of clubs, I think what it seems to be missing is some real industry, there certainly seems to be a lack of that.

Q: “Dishes and Pills,” your newest recording is an interesting mix of all types of instruments and production. Can you tell us a little about how this CD was recorded and how heavily you were involved with all the various production details that make the CD such an amazing aural adventure!

A: I recorded the CD with Stephen Brodsky (of “Cave In”) who is a really amazing musician and also great at lo-fi recording. We recorded 9 of the songs in his and my rehearsal space using a four track. We would just do drums and guitar/keyboard/piano live first and then dump it to a computer and add all kinds of things. I’m a big fan of layering and I own and play tons of instruments so it was really easy to go wild, and even overboard in giving the songs lots of bells and whistles and quirks.

I also recorded 4 of the songs at my loft on my own, playing everything, and I know very little about recording besides how to press record on a very basic and old computer program. So it still surprises me how good those songs came out, they are arguably some of the best ones, but I think it’s because I had total control over them and added and subtracted what I wanted before it went to be mixed. I think what really made this record special was the fact that it was done low budget on a four track in a rehearsal space. If you listen hard enough you can hear cars driving by in the background. Then I did spend some money on having it mixed and mastered and that is what really made it listenable to everyone else, those two processes really glued the whole thing together so that it’s one piece of work. And I have to say, I started recorded it the summer of 2006 and finished it early in the winter of 2007, so even though it was only released this fall, it’s been around a while now for me, but I still love it and am very proud of it, which is great. I don’t feel that way at all about my first record. I think this one has more staying power, and I like that feeling.

Q: Do you enjoy the recording experience more than playing live?

A: I like both really, but I have to be in a certain mood to record on my own, whereas I will do a gig rain or shine usually I tour a lot so I must like gigging but sometimes after I’ve played too much (like my last 7 week tour in Europe where I played 43 shows in 50 days….) I just want a break and I lay low and spend a lot of time in my studio just messing around, practicing old and new songs, and maybe doing some recording if I feel like it. Actually, when it rains or snows I tend to like recording a lot more, it seems to be more of a bad weather thing, maybe because it’s a good excuse to stay in all day and work on something.

Q: What are your dreams and plans for 2008?

A: Hmm…I don’t really know to be honest. My manager Dave surely has some things up his sleeve. I have some Northeast shows booked in January and February and I’m planning another tour down to SXSW in March. I will also probably go back to the Midwest in April as I usually do. Beyond that I’m not really sure, I think I’ll go back to the UK/Europe again, maybe this summer for some festivals, but definitely in the fall, my label there will most likely want me to come back. As far as “dreams”, well, I’m still looking for a US indie label to release my record and help me out stateside, and I’ve also been working on some publishing and licensing stuff that I hope to make progress on in the New Year. I guess we’ll see…

This interview is by David Rogers and is on “Wicked Local: Raising the Bars”

Q: Hi Audrey, I have to admit, I can’t seem to pin down what kind of music you
write. I hear a lot of different influences including The Cardigans, Joni
Mitchell, jazz and when I hear you live you sometimes sound a little like
King Crimson. Is musical diversity something you strive for, is it just a
byproduct of the way your brain is wired or something completely different?

A: I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that I’m a little ADD and get bored pretty easily, I also like all sorts of music; jazz, country, folk, rock, bluegrass,…Plus even though I consider myself to be a pretty good guitar player and a decent violinist and piano player, I’m really more interested in playing every instrument under the sun in a competent way then just one like a perfectionist. I also had a lot of jazz and bluegrass influences back in college because my main gig was playing fiddle in all sorts of bluegrass bands and in jazz ensemble, so I was listening to Miles Davis, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, and Herbie Hancock plus Bill Monroe for like four years, so that makes it’s way into my music. Then when I moved to Boston I got more into the contemporary and indie scene, I started listening to Radiohead and Wilco and then all the other amazing bands that are making interesting original music. More recently I’ve really gotten into Sufjan Stevens and other innovative singer-songwriters. I get a lot of comparisons to him actually, but I think that’s more because I discovered him after I had made my own style of layering and multi-instrumental approaches to songs, and then I was like “wow, this guy does what I do but way more thought through…”. Joni Mitchel, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young are probably my biggest and most long lasting influences as they were what got me into being a singer-songwriter in the first place back in middle and high school. So I guess, yeah, I’m all over the map, and the music is hard to pin down in it’s genre and style. But that’s what I like about it. I make music that interests me so I don’t get too bored with it. As soon as I get bored with my music I change it up, try a new instrument. Pick a new genre of origin. I guess that’s the ADD in me, there is no doubt that I have a very short attention span.

Q: You just finished a residency (often a weekly gig at the same place that can
last months) at the Pickled Onion in Beverly. Many local musicians play them
including David Johnston, Andrea Gillis, Dennis Brennan and others. Do you
like residencies? Are they helpful to a career or can they be a hindrance?

A: I think residences are a mixed bag, they can be a great thing, and also a drag. That one at the Pickled Onion was more on the drag side. But I’ve had pretty good residences at the Abbey Lounge, the Middle East, and back home in Bar Harbor at some clubs. Basically I think good residences are ones that your at a cool club and the staff treats you well and your friends like to come there, and you meet new people and make new fans, and maybe you even get paid decently. But that certainly isn’t always the case. I think for some bands who have had residences for 2+ years it’s a really great thing for them because it’s like a weekly rehearsal in public, bands can get really good if they play that consistently and work out their music in front of people. I’d be into that but the truth is I don’t really have a specific band I work with all the time, I just have a handful of people I play with randomly and if they can do a gig they show up, but most of the time I end up doing stuff solo or duo with just my drummer. In some ways I wish I had a tight band, but I also know how hard that is, and what a drag it can be trying to keep 4+ people on the same page, especially when you are the “leader”. So I think for now I’ll just enjoy my one-off gigs, solo tours, and only do a residency if it presents itself and seems really worthwhile.

Q: On the same subject, you sure do play a lot of gigs. You’ve played around
here, up in New Hampshire and you recently came back from Europe. Do you
pretty much spend all your waking hours on your musical career or do you
have a “real” job?

A: Currently I don’t have a “real” job, I just play music. But who is to say how long that will last. For the past three years I’ve taught music part-time in order to ensure I’d be able to pay the bills, but my touring just kept becoming more and more frequent, then I got signed in the UK, so that’s when I quit my teaching gig. But I’m not really sure that I’d recommend other people quit their jobs for music. I actually think having a day gig keeps your perspective on things, the truth is, we all need to make a living and the music business is brutal, only a few lucky people can really “make it”. I’m not even sure I’m one of those lucky people, I’d like to be, but I also think that the second you make music your livelihood it gets really stressful and not as fun as it was when you were happy if you made twenty bucks at the end of the night because “hey, that’s like, almost a tank of gas”…(or not really these days). Anyway, you get the idea. Do it cause you love it, not because you want to make a buck.

Q: You just came out with a new CD “Dishes and Pills.” Can you go into what
makes this collection of songs different or better than the previous one:
“Passing Thru?” And on a side note: what can fans look forward to in terms
of future projects.

A: I think “Passing Thru” and “Dishes & Pills” couldn’t be any more different. My friends and fans who’ve listened to both sometimes say it doesn’t even sound like the same artists, and it’s true. I’ve changed and grown a lot musically and otherwise between 2004 and 2007. I actually put out 2 EPs, one in 2005 and one in 2006, and if you listen to those you might see the bridge of how thinks changed a bit more. I started out very much in the “jazz meets singer-songwriter meets pop music” sort of vein. Norah Jones had just gotten big and I thought I was onto something, but unfortunately I wasn’t…On “passing thru” there is a vibraphone player and most of my chords are jazz chords. There is a Latin and a Bossa Nova tune thrown in for good measure, all original, but heavily jazz influenced. But again, that’s around when I stopped listening to Miles Davis and started listening to Radiohead. Things changed real quick then. I was more into the idea of electronics and even getting weird, which at times I did. I’ve always written songs that I think are accessible, but sometimes you need to spell it out for some people and other people like the mystery. My dad likes “Passing Thru” because it’s a pop record and it’s pretty obvious what’s going on. “Dishes & Pills” is WAY more cryptic and personal. I’ve been told by people that it’s a record you could listen to numerous times and still find something new that you didn’t hear before, and it’s true. It has tons of layers, and tons of really personal lyrics and things to sit on. I’m much more proud of it as a result. When people say to me “I don’t get it” I smile because I know they just aren’t challenging themselves. So yeah, I’m glad I made a really interesting record that makes people think a bit more than just some diluted and derivative CD that will end up in their next yard sale.

As far as future projects, I don’t know, watch out…I have about two or three records worth of material right now and I’m just trying to think of what direction I want to go in next. One project I already have five songs recorded and may just finish that one as my next full length. It’s actually not that weird, but it’s still very layered and so far I think it’s really cool material. The other project I plan to only play piano and keyboard as the main instrument, which will be a big change from guitar being the start of things. Then I just got a banjo for Christmas and I’ve been writing on that and thinking of doing some more “minimalist” stuff. Plus my manager wants me to put out an instrumental CD because I gave him a demo of all my original songs I’ve written sans lyrics. So yeah, there is a lot of places I want to go and am going, but I guess we’ll see what gets completed first.

Q: Finally, you periodically promote/arrange a night of music featuring several
bands in one locale. I think that’s a great idea but I’m curious if creating
a musical scene is part of your strategy in terms of your career or is it
something you just think is really cool.

A: I do monthly loft shows at my rehearsal space, I’ve been doing it for two or three years now and they’ve become really popular as “underground” DIY kinda shows go. As far as my motives, I originally started to do it just to have a party with live music and enjoy it in a fun and cheap way (considering how much it costs to go out, pay a cover, and then buy drinks all night). Over time it evolved into it’s own entity, a way to promote and enjoy music I like with people I like in a somewhat controlled environment. I really just do it because I do think it’s cool, because I happen to have a cool space and I’m not afraid to use it. Because I like to put on events, even though I get stressed out and have to clean up after everyone usually, it’s still worth it. There wasn’t much “strategy” behind it at all except that one day all these people started emailing me like “wow your loft series is so cool” and “hey, aren’t you that girl with the loft?” and then I realized it had sort of put me on the map within my musical community. And I do play a short set at every show, so maybe that’s some ruthless self promotion, but I give myself the least amount of time and the worst slot, it’s always about the other bands, especially the touring bands. I don’t make any money at it, I pay my costs then try and give the bands some gas money. I think really it’s all about the community.
Nowadays it’s so tough to get known in a national scene, let alone international, it’s virtually impossible, it’s about as likely as winning the lottery, so you might as well quit that dream and just focus on your local scene, on having fun in your own neighborhood, and maybe just being locally “famous” or more importantly just having a really good time. My loft shows rule, I’m not afraid to say that because there is plenty of proof. Every time I have one people come up to me afterwards and say “this was the most fun I’ve had in a long time, this place is special”. And it’s because it’s friends and community and good music and it’s not about making money for some shitty club that could give a damn about all that.