Interview With Danny Schmidt & Carrie Elkin – Performing Tonight 5/19 at Southgate House Revival

Danny Schmidt, Carrie Elkin
Danny Schmidt & Carrie Elkin

Interview & Photos by Scott Preston

Danny Schmidt & Carrie Elkin
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Southgate House Revival, 111 E 6th St, Newport, KY
$10, 7 pm doors, 8 pm show
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It’s a special treat when Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin, who normally tour separately and solo, get to share the stage together.  If the chemistry seems especially sparkful, they come by it honestly, as they are a rare breed: a romantic partnership in real life, not just musical life.  And the two together on stage makes for a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

Danny Schmidt is best known for his riveting poetic lyrics, which have drawn favorable comparisons to Leonard Cohen and Townes Van Zandt for their depth and complexity.  And gypsy spirit Carrie Elkin is best known for her incredibly soulful and dynamic vocals, which have drawn favorable comparisons to Patty Griffin at her most powerful, and Nanci Griffith at her most intimate.

Together, the respective strengths they each bring, individually, merge into a much greater whole . . . a performance of great energy and spirit . . . and one that audiences seem to be able to connect with on a multitude of levels, at once: Emotionally, Spiritually, and Intellectually.

Cincy Groove: How often do the two of you get to perform together?

Danny & Carrie: Well, for about four years, we almost never performed together . . . we just criss-crossed the country, and only got to see each other coming and going. So last year, we decided to try and perform together, every show, all year . . . just song-swapping every night. And turned out great. Folks seemed to like the personal and musical chemistry . . . and it was great for our relationship. So we’ve continued to book ourselves that way this year, too.

Danny Schmidt, Carrie Elkin
Danny Schmidt & Carrie Elkin

Cincy Groove: How often do the two of you get to record together? Any plans on a full length record?

Danny & Carrie: We’ve just begun a proper duo album. We’re hoping to finish it this summer, but we’ll see what the schedule allows. Previously, we’ve sung a lot of harmonies on each other’s albums . . . but we haven’t made a full-on duo record til now.

Cincy Groove: Are you working on any new projects?

Carrie: After a really intense few years on the road, I’m going to take a break for a few months and finish up the writing for a new record of my own. I’m quite excited to have creative time again. Will also be working on the duo record with Danny, which will be great fun.

Cincy Groove: Are you working on any new projects?

Danny: I’ve been writing quite a lot. Some of the songs seem more appropriate for the duo project, and some seem more appropriate for the solo project that I’m cooking up, too. The duo project will be more relational in theme, I’d say. Whereas the solo project is filled with more allegorical songs, I’d say.

Cincy Groove: Has it been nice for you to perform back in your home state of Ohio?

Carrie: I love being back in Ohio. Have had the opportunity to be here twice in the past couple months. Took a day off and went to Athens to check things out to see how my alma mater is doing. I love Ohio….I will always feel a deep connection to it.

Cincy Groove: I see that the two of you have recently become engaged, congrats! Tell me how the proposal went down, was she surprised?

Danny: Thanks for the congratulations! It’s been a fun stretch for us, for sure. As for how it all went down . . . well, there’s quite a story to that. I proposed in a song at the end of my SXSW festival set . . . and the surprise of it all made for a double-edge sword. I think it’s best told by this video, really:

Cincy Groove: Do the two of you have a favorite place in Austin to perform?

Danny & Carrie: We LOVE the Cactus Cafe . . . it’s a historic listening room that has a lot of mojo in the walls.  A lot of incredible Texas singer-songwriters have sung a lot of classic songs in that room.  And that legacy really does seem to permeate the place somehow.  We love sharing songs there.

Cincy Groove: What do the two of you enjoy doing when you are at home in Austin?

Danny & Carrie: We love the normalcy of a schedule, and we love to see our friends and feel like part of the community again. And we love that we can really settle down and write and create. That’s what drives this whole thing that we do . . . our songs . . . and it’s nice to get to sit down and have the writing and the creation be our main focus . . . as opposed to the logistics of the road, and the performances being our main focus.

Danny Schmidt & Carrie Elkin
Danny Schmidt & Carrie Elkin

Cincy Groove: How do the two of you feel about how the internet has affected the music business?

Danny & Carrie: It’s hard to speak to this too much, cause neither of us were really engaged in the business of music before the internet. So we can’t really make a proper comparison. It is amazing that we can write a song one day, record it at home, and then basically distribute it internationally instantly on the internet. That’s kinda mind-boggling. And then again, the ease with which your recordings can be stolen and “shared” internationally instantly has largely killed the main traditional income stream for musicians, so it’s slowly choking the infrastructure of the industry that used to support the music.

But the decentralization of media influence on taste-making, and on publicizing the music, has been an incredibly democratizing thing. There are so many ways now that people can find out about great music, in whatever niche they’re interested in. And then again, outside of ridiculous pop “music” with major label financial support, there’s no way for musicians to reach “the masses” all at once. It’s a slow trickling process of gathering fans now, rather than the instantaneous avalanche it once was.

So it’s all a mixed bag, seems to me.

Cincy Groove: Are the two of you looking forward to the summer festival season?

Danny & Carrie: Yeah, we love playing festivals. It’s a great way to reach a lot of people at once, which is nice. And we love the community element of festivals . . . we play our set, and then we actually get to sit down with our artist friends and hang out with them. It’s a real treat!