Interview by Scott Preston
Caroline Herring digs deep—deep into the rich soil of American roots music for her sound, and deep into the recesses of her own consciousness for her themes. The musically understated, psychologically intense songs of this Atlanta-based Mississippi native ponder the eternal verities while probing the complex nature of contemporary existence; she delivers them in a fine-grained alto replete with the residue of hard-earned insight.
On Lantana, her beautiful and eloquent third album (Signature Sounds), Herring fills the listener’s heart with hope one moment and sends a chill down the spine the next. This pivotal album, which documents a personal and artistic crossroads for its author, cements her status as a truth teller, and no matter how bitter or disturbing the story leading to the truth may be, she approaches it clear-eyed and straight-on, getting down to the nub of it with quiet tenacity. No wonder fellow artist Dar Williams, who co-headlined a European tour with Herring in 2006, described her as “the elusive ‘real thing.’” (from carolineherring.com)
Cincy Groove: What was it like when you first moved to Austin? I know you came from a pretty small town.
Caroline Herring: It was intimidating, but it was good, its always nice to have connections to plug into when you move to a new place. I was going for my PhD in American Studies which I never finished, but I was able to meet people that way. As for the music scene, I didn’t even think I would be playing out for a while so I just went at my own pace. There was a cafe I worked at just so I could see the music for free.
Cincy Groove: How did you recent trip to Europe go? Where did you play?
Caroline Herring: I just got back 2 weeks ago, I played in The Netherlands and Belgium for about 10 days. I absolutely loved it, it was my 5th trip over to Europe. In past trips, I have played at the Celtic Connections in Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom, Paris, and last year a festival in Denmark.
Cincy Groove: What music was playing in your house when you were growing up?
Caroline Herring: A lot of The Kingston Trio, my dad was really into that 50’s folk music. I also listened to a lot of gospel, classical, and R&B music. I really didn’t listen to any country at all at the time. As I got older I discovered bands like REM, U2, Joni Mitchell. Then in college I started listening to more contemporary folk music and classic country music, like the Carter Family.
Cincy Groove: Tell me about the live radio show that you started early on in your career.
Caroline Herring: I started a live audience radio show called Thacker Mountain Radio and its still running 10 years later. Lines used to be out the door, 400 people would come every Thursday at 5:30pm. My band at the time, The Sincere Ramblers, wanted an outlet to perform and we briefly experimented with a radio show when we approached the owner of this independent book store to see if he would let us use his space. He agreed as long as half the show could be for writers. So half the show was dedicated to music, half to writers, and we opened and closed the show. I learned a lot watching other people play. I think Gillian Welch played 3 times and Peter Rowan was guest number 6. Peter was very instrumental in helping to get my music out there. I remember Peter telling me I need to start writing. I was writing a little at the time, but I soon started to take it more seriously.
Cincy Groove: I understand with your latest record, Lantana, was the first time you have acted as a producer.
Caroline Herring: Yes I co produced with Rich Brotherton. He also produced my last record, Wellspring. I was very much a part of the process from start to finish. After participating as much as I did on my first two records, it was fun to be able to produce. It wasn’t a heavily produced album, pretty much acoustic. There weren’t a lot of different instruments on the record.
Upcoming Caroline Herring tour dates:
For complete show details visit carolineherring.com
July 17 Green River Festival Greenfield, MA
July 18 The Living Room New York, NY
July 19 Green River Festival Greenfield, MA
July 21 Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour Lexington, KY
August 16 Red Light CafeAtlanta, GA
August 23 Hal and Mal’s Jackson, MS
September 11 Camp DeSoto Mentone, AL
September 12 The Evening Muse Charlotte, NC
September 18 Coffee East Easton, MD
September 19 Jammin Java Vienna, VA
September 20 World Cafe Live Philadelphia, PA
October 03 private concert Austin, TX
October 18 Concerts at the Crossing Titusville, NJ
October 25 Forty Acres House Concerts Chapel Hill, NC
November 07 Uncle Calvin’s Coffeehouse Dallas, TX