Interview by Scott Preston
Patty Larkin grew up in a music and arts oriented family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Descended from a long line of Irish-American singers and taletellers, her mother is a painter, her sisters both musicians. She learned at a young age to appreciate the beauty and magic of the arts. She began classical piano studies at age 7, and became swept up in the sounds of pop and folk in the 60’s, teaching herself the guitar and experimenting with songwriting. An English major, Larkin wrote songs throughout her high school and college career, starting out in coffeehouses in Oregon and San Francisco. Upon graduation, she moved to Boston and devoted herself to music, playing on the streets of Cambridge and studying jazz guitar at Berklee College of Music and with Boston Area jazz guitarists. “I wanted to learn as much as I could about the instrument, how to read for it, how to play anything. I realized the enormity of the task, and somehow gave myself permission to climb the mountain. I’m still learning.”
Patty is a rare combination of talents. Over her 10 CD history, she has honed a reputation as a “musician’s musician”, working with some of the brightest talents in American music. Long a favorite with critics, Patty is that unique level of artistic sophistication – one that her audiences have come to appreciate and her new fans will love. Patty Larkin has achieved a personal best with “Watch the Sky.” The ever evolving artist has continued to search for a new voice, a fresh palate. Watch the Sky. Watch Patty Larkin.
Cincy Groove: How would you say your latest album “Watch the Sky” differs from your previous ones?
Patty Larkin: One difference is that I played all the instruments. That is something I hadn’t attempted before. Its is very atmospheric and I took some chances that I hadn’t before.
Cincy Groove: What brought about the La Guitara project that you started a few years ago?
Patty Larkin: It was a way to highlight the women guitar players of the past and to celebrate women’s contribution to the instrument. I don’t think I’m finished with that project. I had to take a break from it and put something out of my own material. It was very exciting musically for me and I think the audience enjoyed it as well. We had 3 or 4 very different artists and we would all play together at different points in the show. It was a combination of music and styles and really seeing these great women artists play the instrument at a really high level.
Cincy Groove: How did you end up getting your first record deal?
Patty Larkin: It was with Rounder Records. Rounder had bought Philo Records and made it their singer/songwriter arm of the company back in the mid 1980’s. I lived in Cambridge, MA and played at this club that had been at the fore front of the folk music scene in the 1960’s, it was still around and going pretty strong. Every once in a while somebody from Rounder Records would show up because they knew the owners. I think they signed me because of the response I was getting at the club and the fact I was starting to get some regional recognition. When I had my cd release show for my first record I had Tracy Chapman and Shawn Colvin open for me. I have the photos to prove it.
Cincy Groove: What was it like growing up with such a musical/creative family?
Patty Larkin: I didn’t really think it was anything that different other than the fact that I knew it was a focus for us and not everyone else. My older sister was quite an accomplished classical pianist. I on the other hand was not a good pianist. I would just go into my room and start writing songs when I was in high school.
Cincy Groove: How do you feel the internet has affected the music industry?
Patty Larkin: I think when its all said and done its going to be a good thing. There really isn’t a way to stop it anyway (laughing). Mainly the fact that I’m involved in more of the grass roots, independent side of the music industry will result in me benefiting more from more information being out there about my music. I think its going to turn into more of touring scene to make a living as opposed to selling cds. Because no one is really selling any cd’s right now. Right now I don’t think the record industry knows whats going on. Its really a brave new world, if you don’t jump in you will be left behind.
Cincy Groove: Where is one of the strangest places you have had to play?
Patty Larkin: It was definitely with out a doubt a show we played at an event called PJ’s Pig Roast and Music Fest. It was a biker festival and I think everyone was completely drunk. I asked to get paid before I went on, we were in and out of there pretty fast.
Upcoming Patty Larkin tour dates
for complete show details visit http://www.pattylarkin.com
19 September 2008 Binghamton, NY Night Eagle Cafe
20 September 2008 Phoenixville, PA Steel City Coffeehouse
21 September 2008 Saratoga Springs, NY Caffe Lena
3 October 2008 Falls River, MA Narrows Arts Club
4-5 October 2008 Cambridge, MA Club Passim Legacy Series
17 October 2008 Ogunquit, ME Jonathon’s Restaurant
18 October 2008 Francestown, NH Old Meeting House
28 October 2008 Kodiak City, AK Kodiak Convention Center
30 October 2008 Fairbanks, AK Pioneer Park Theater
1 November 2008 Anchorage, AK PAC
2 November 2008 Palmer, AK Red Beet
7 November 2008 Eureka Springs, AR Ozark Mountain Folk Festival
14 November 1008 Pawling, NY Towne Crier Cafe
5 December 2008 Chester, NY Bodles Opera House
23 January 2009 Portland, ME One Longfellow Square
24 January 2009 Dedham, MA Home Grown Coffeehouse
13 February 2009 Middlebury, VT United Methodist Church
13-14 March 2009 Elgin, IL Blizzard Theater
28 March 2009 Macomb, IL WIUM/WIUM Public Radio