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CONTENT

Filtering by Tag: ESSAY

A Conversation with Brandi Carlile

Ben Ashby

Christmas in August and a Music Crush Confirmed (or…)

Christmas Comes Early: A Magazine Writer and the Story She Will Be Telling For Years.

Liza Turner || August 2012


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She had me at “Cormac McCarthy”… or maybe “Dolly Parton”...

Oh, who am I kidding? In the most awesome movie cliché moment of my life, Brandi Carlile had me at “Hello.”

In August, I took a long lunch break – one justified with adoring phrases illogically strewn together in nervous excitement: “I love this woman. She is going to call… ME. I hope I don’t say something utterly foolish. Do I refer to her as Ms. Carlile? Her voice [insert any platitude about angels singing and/or music to my ears].” – and decided to spend the few minutes prior to my phone interview just practicing breathing…and securing my cell phone, the one I misplace about four times each day, close by my side.

You see, Brandi Carlile and Tim and Phil Hanseroth’s 2012 homage to the Seattle dairy barn-converted-into-studio production site, Bear Creek, has been on repeat in my car for months. I have been a huge fan of this Washington singer-songwriter since 2007. That year her second album The Story was released, which includes some of my favorite songs:

“Turpentine,” “Have You Ever,” and the title track. Her voice, smooth and pure and yet rich and haunting at times, stirs me. Her storytelling, descriptive of emotions we all experience, but articulated in a rare combination of beauty, intelligence, and occasional playfulness, confirms her status among those songwriting icons whose influence is apparent in her work: Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Cash. Her fluid positioning somewhere at the intersection of outlaw country, folk, Americana, bluegrass, and rock allows for creativity in sound and style.

I first encountered her comfortable and inviting stage presence in January 2009, at the Brown Theater concert in Louisville. Brandi remembers this concert as well because the crowd stood, entirely engaged, for two hours. Brandi seems smart and funny and simply “real” even as she and the Hanseroth twins do something pretty amazing on a stage many feet away.

When the opportunity came to interview Brandi, I exchanged multiple emails with her incredibly helpful, entirely unpretentious, press team, which brought me to my kitchen table, awaiting a call from “my” Brandi Carlile.

And the call came. A month later, my best friend Melissa and I stood outside a post-show meet-and-greet room in the basement of Nashville’s Cannery Ballroom, giant peel-and-stick guest passes adorning the shirts we spent far too much time picking out, talking to one of my idols. August and September 2012 will go down as two of my favorite months of my adult life.

And thus, I share with you bits and pieces of those conversations. Although part of me wishes you could hear the warmth, genuineness, and really damn funny, but good-spirited, sarcasm in her irrefutably distinctive voice, I can’t lie; a bigger (and without a doubt, more childish) part of me likes keeping that all to myself.

Q. What is one song, from any genre/artist, you wish you had written?

A. “Hallelujah,” by Leonard Cohen

Q. If you could perform a duet with or write a song with anyone, who would it be?

A. Dolly Parton (perform), Bernie Taupin (write).

Q. Favorite venue? Cities you’re particularly excited to visit this tour?

A. Favorite – Red Rocks; Excited to play – Beacon Theater in New York

Q. Describe a typical day when you’re on the road A. Wake up, down two cups of coffee, go for a walk with my fiancé [now wife] go explore the city we’re in, do a sound check, have dinner with the band, take a shot of whiskey, play the show, meet and greet afterward, movie on the bus with the band before bed.

Q. What are you currently reading and/or who are some of your favorite authors?

A. The Bible; Favorites – Cormac McCarthy (Outer Dark), Jon Krakauer (Into the Wild; Into Thin Air), Rob Bell (Velvet Elvis; Love Wins).

Q. How do you take your coffee?

A. Black – straight up trucker style.

Q. Favorite room in your house?

A. I’m kitchen-obsessed and particularly drawn to reds. All of my favorite kitchen tools and supplies are red.

Q. Favorite piece of art or furniture in your home?

A. Photo of Paul McCartney, taken by Linda McCartney, and given to my fiancé; piano from around 1900 that one of my best friends’ family members gave to me when I was 17. Two things that have traveled everywhere with me: a horse and a piano.

Q. What is the “Looking Out Foundation” all about? Other social issues of importance to you?

A. Growing up, I was a “fan’s fan.” I would follow people only when I loved everything about them. They had to be an activist who stood up for values I believed in. People like the Indigo Girls and Elton John set the bar high. I thought “if I ever get there, I want to give back some of the blessings I’ve been given by having this job.” The Looking Out Foundation serves to promote civil rights, environmental awareness and women’s empowerment.

Q. Describe the perfect Christmas morning. Do you consider yourself a good gift-giver?

A. God, kids, family: Waking up at my house, with my family all around, snow outside, coffee spiked with a little Bailey’s Irish whiskey, kids running everywhere. I’m an over-the-top, far-beyond-my-means gift giver. If I hear my dad say he wants a snowmobile, that’s all I can think about all year.

Q. What are some things few people know about you, but that you don’t mind sharing with us?

A. 1) I love to be humble and pious, but I drink champagne like soda pop. 2) I don’t know how to open a bottle of champagne. 3) I love to be laughed with, but hate to be laughed at. 4) I have eight animals – two chickens, a horse named Sovereign, two cats named Lanie and Blue, a Doberman pincher named Bailey and two goats named Tim and Phil.

Q. If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be?

A. Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King, Jr., Freddie Mercury. I’d also be in a band with all three.

Q. I’ve read that when growing up, you felt ostracized by some of those in the church community. What is your relationship with the church like today?

A. The church has been a stumbling block to LGBTQ rights and there seems to be a tragic misunderstanding between those voices. I have a lingering “bad taste in my mouth,” but I personally see no contradiction between sexual orientation and religion.

Q. How do you decide the artistic direction of your videos, websites, publicity photos, CD covers?

A. We’re [Brandi and the Hanseroth twins] are heavily involved with the storyline/plot of the videos. Grammy-winner, Michelle Holme (Columbia Records) plays an important role in designing CD covers. I don’t worry about photos too much as long as they look unaltered and honest.

How do you get down from a goose

Ben Ashby

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By: Greta Whitehead || Spring 2013

“Aren’t those geese beautiful?”

The geese belonged to my grandparents, Herman and Lola Render of the Walton Creek area near Centertown, Ky. Summer arrived and with it came more time at our grandparents’ home. It also meant molting season for the geese. Since geese typically molt (lose some of their feathers) during the summer, Mammie took advantage of Mother Nature’s help in harvesting feathers for new pillows. Their feathers sure made neat pillows.

My sister, Jo Carolyn Patton, and I, Greta Whitehead, lived in that neighborhood and were always at our grandparents’ home as much as possible. We had grown up around the geese but we were afraid of them. We knew that geese were sometimes used for security animals because they are so easily excited and alert you to impending danger by flapping their wings wildly and honking loudly to scare off suspected intruders. Still, we loved to find their big eggs. It was always special on Easter to have a big colored goose egg in our basket.

We were daring kids…especially me. I would make one of the geese mad just so it would chase us. The only time we were pinched by one was when we helped our grandmother hold the big geese while she plucked the feathers for her pillows.

She would turn one at a time upside down and hold it with her legs and start to work. Jo and I, as little girls, would try and hold their heads so they wouldn’t pinch her legs. We would get tired and let go a few times. Mammie would end up with black and blue legs but good, soft, fluffy pillows.

Herman Render and Lola Bennett Render, beloved Christian grandparents of our 13 brothers and sisters were near 80 when our family moved on in to Centertown. I have many good memories of Walton Creek people and the good life we had there. Though saddened by our move to town, many new adventures and memories awaited us there.

My dad, the local barber, felt it necessary to move to town so he could be close to his barber shop. Sometime in the 40’s, Dad bought an old Greyhound bus. He converted the old bus into a nice café that sat on Main St. It was quite beautiful, inside and out, with a fireplace, juke box, booth and stools at the counter. The “Blue Bus Café” became the hangout for teens, a safe place that was supervised by good honest folks who believed in their community and its future. Our parents, Raymond “Dick” Render and his loving wife, Lou, ran the café until they moved to Jeffersonville to work in the shipyards.

Times were hard and work was scarce so many families of our hometown had to move where they could find steady work. The Blue Bus closed but the stories of good times there live to this day. Other small cafés have come and gone in Centertown.

Each one had its regular customers who would enjoy a good cup of coffee and the stories shared around the table. More often than not, someone would bring up the Blue Bus Café and fond memories began to flow.

Although we missed our days at our grandparents’ farm, the Blue Bus Café occupied our time and life moved forward.

Lessons and values learned on that farm and in the Blue Bus Café never left us. Whenever I see geese I recall the fun we had helping Mammie make pillows. In reflection I can see that we were learning work and care for the family, but we just thought we were having fun. As I drive down Main St. in Centertown, my mind’s eye still sees that old Greyhound Bus that transformed to a wonderful hangout known affectionately as The Blue Bus Café…a safe place for youngsters to spend supervised time together knowing that Daddy and Momma kept a keen eye on each and every one of us.

SUBMIT YOUR STORIES AND ESSSYS TO EDITOR@FOLKLIFESTYLE.COM

A Look at Chernobyl // Barbara Arcuschin

Zachary Kilgas

Photographer Barbara Arcuschin submitted these eerie photos of Chernobyl.

It’s been over 32 years since the catastrophe, and less than 10 since the site was opened for tourism. The area surrounding the former power plant won’t be safe for human habitation for the next 20,000 years.

“Chernobyl is like the war of all wars. There’s nowhere to hide. Not underground, not underwater, not in the air.” 
― Svetlana Alexievich, Voices from Chernobyl

Common Thread

Ben Ashby

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COMMON THREADS

AN ESSAY BY MELISSA MCARDLE 

 


 

Her hands work effortlessly as she turns a skein of yarn into an afghan her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will warm themselves with on countless occasions…a piece of crafted art, a piece of her, a blanket filled with love and memories of the selfless woman who gave her everything for her family. Whenever a loving couple commits to happily ever after, a birth is announced, or a home is new to cherish, she creates an afghan for that occasion, a keepsake that becomes an instant heirloom in our hearts and homes. It is the one gift we all look forward to receiving, and when she requests the colors of our desire, we choose with thoughtful consideration. A colorful spectrum of soft woolen fiber fills the homes of her descendents, linking us together by one common thread, her loving handiwork, her patterns...a compilation of comfort in every loop, knot and row.

 

The winter months are when I dust off my needles and sort through the bag of yarns, easing my fingers back into the practice of knitting. It’s a hobby which remains dormant in the sun-filled months, yet tends to warm my heart during the long dark chilled evenings of the crisper seasons. My grandmother taught me how to knit and crochet, both skills I hold dear; a family-tree connection that I am beginning to pass down to my little girl. Recalling the early days, when I was eager to learn and dreamed of being creative like my grandmother; patiently, she watched as my unskilled fingers tried over and over to grasp the yarn and produce an outcome beyond a tangled mess of string. Rhythmic movements of her hands in complete synchronicity, forming a pattern, creating a comforting gift, she could have done it all with her eyes closed. Now that I’m older, I believe I understand why she enjoys this method of crafting: One’s thoughts tend to wander in a peaceful state as the rhythm unfolds and the final outcome of the creative consistency is a practical gift filled with joy and love. Whether I’m practicing my own handwork or wrapped up in one of her gifted afghans, I am reminded of her – warm, loving and safe, an endearing way to carry her with me forever and always.

 

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True Country

Ben Ashby

 

ESSAY BY: BLAKE PACK

When people dream of living in the country, I imagine they don't give much thought to the flies, pollen, grain chaff, and heat; the smell, wind, or dust. Growing up, the five-hundred head of livestock we owned consumed several tons of grain, hay, and corn each day; Let's just say not all of our dust was made of dirt. I don't know how the West was won, but I can imagine it probably conquered a few indomitable wills along the way.

 

I worked with these cattle in these conditions and I couldn't fathom thatthis land, this plain, was someone's romanticized dream of country life. I hated the work most. You couldn't escape the filthy combination of dust and grime, of animal and earth. When Grandpa said to be at the barn by seven, he didn't mean 0700, you were expected be there at 6:45 A.M. The cows wouldn't milk themselves at four in the morning, nor would the grain irrigate itself. The calves had to be fed, and the horses caught, all before nine if we were going to get to horse breaking.

 

I will admit the chore of breaking mostly fell to my Grandpa and father, but my brother and I had the privilege of holding the ropes as the colts kicked up the aforementioned dust. After several days of this repetition, the time came for my brother and me to run the horses like we were being chased by hellfire. It will never fail to amaze me how a colt in full sprint can reach back and bite his rider's shin without ever breaking stride.

I won't say it didn't have its rewards. We had our fair share of trips to the Palisades and Grand Tetons. Even if the trips required a wake-up call at five in the morning to catch horses, pack saddles, and load trailers. Six butts crammed into an extended cab '88 Chevy Dually for a two-hour drive, it wasn't ideal but it was all about the destination.

After several hours of riding, in these watercolor landscapes usually right about the time the pain from the saddle fell numb we'd return to the truck and, in reverse order, undo all the work of saddling the horses, repack, cram our butts back into the truck, and return home. Only this time, we'd stop by the first gas station we met where Dad would buy us whatever treat we wanted. At the end of our drive we'd drop the cousins and uncles off at their homes, leaving the work of unpacking to my brother, father, and me. Only when we had unpacked the horse trailer could we waddle home with our saddle-sore thighs and crawl into bed; Just to repeat it all the next day.

When people dream of living in the country, I don't imagine them giving much thought to the work and sweat that goes with a true country life, but that's just what I'll never forget.