Tell us about your tour vehicle.
I recently inherited my grandmother’s minivan, which has officially converted me to minivan fandom. I had no idea how awesome minivans have gotten over the years. Of course Mammaw kept it in great shape, and it’s a relief to have a quality, fully functioning sound system again. I had been touring in a beat-up 2001 Chevy Tahoe with busted speakers for the last several years. It was nearing 300K miles and was starting to require some hefty repairs–the water pump, then the A/C. The fuel pump went out on a tour while I was in Atlanta, and we were forced to cancel two gigs because of it. That was the final straw on touring in the ol’ Tahoe.
How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?
I’m fortunate to have some lovely friends all over the country who know the value of a healthy, home-cooked meal. Spending time at friends’ kitchen tables is one way we try to eat cheaply and healthy. We’ll also seek out the local organic/vegetarian/vegan-friendly co-ops or restaurants to counteract the free bar food we often get. To save money, I make my own coffee with a french press travel mug. Sunflower seeds are great at distracting you from hunger on long drives. Emergen-C is a daily must.
How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?
Very few, actually. This question would be better posed to Dave, our lead guitarist. He broke a string at rehearsal two days ago. Mine are perhaps more gently used, ha.
Where do you rehearse?
We rehearse in a room dedicated to music–guitars are everywhere, amps stashed on top of one another, a cherry-red drum kit matches the red walls strewn with white Christmas lights. A rustic tin alligator playing a questionable mandolin hangs from one wall while other music-related art adorns the others: a Bowie-like cartoon cat, a framed, quilted replica of my first album cover, a Fats Domino New Orleans Jazz Fest poster, a real gold record–not mine of course–, old show flyers, and a painting of Dave, Lucy and me playing a blueberry fest at Pearl River Blues organic blueberry farm in Mississippi.
What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?
I think “Take Me Out” was the title. Unfortunately–or fortunately–I don’t remember the lyrics. That would require some attic digging at my mom’s house. No thanks!
Describe your first gig.
Well, there were my early church days and a couple high school talent shows, but I think my first official gig–at a club, anyway–was at the Hi-Ho Lounge in Pre-Katrina New Orleans. The Hi-Ho is still there, but it’s a much different venue these days. Back then, there were holes punched (literally) in the walls backstage and a human-sized cage sat at the foot of the stage next to dirty, cigarette-burned, red-pleather booths. Someone got in the cage and acted a fool while I played my sad, young folk songs. A rock band made up of my college friends headlined the show and the whole night concluded with a loud, resounding recording of Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand” through the house speakers. It was bizarre, terrifying, and memorable in the ways first gigs should be. Like a rite of passage.
What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?
I have an MFA in creative writing that has landed me various gigs as a freelance writer. I still have a handful of clients, which helps pad the music career. As far as day jobs go, it’s not a bad one to have and one that’s proven helpful to me as a writer on a number of occasions. Before that, I sold flooring in post-Katrina New Orleans. Selling flooring is what motivated me to go to grad school. Despite learning a lot about home design and sales, it was terribly stifling to my creative pursuits. Driving the forklift was fun, though.
How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?
It comes from more sources than it did several years ago. I’ve learned how to take advantage of different kinds of opportunities–session work, playing in multiple bands, etc. I try not to think too much about or place too many expectations on income. It’s hard enough wearing all the hats we do as independent musicians. The accounting/banker hat is one I’d happily hand over to someone else.
What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?
I’m better now at interpreting what advice is helpful and what advice is harmful. That comes with getting to know yourself. So I guess I know myself now and wish I’d known myself when I started my career. That’s unrealistic, though, when you’re a late teen or early twenty-something student of life. Getting to know yourself takes decades. We’re still getting acquainted, I think, and that’s probably pretty clear on the new record.