Photo Credit: Jack Hirschorn
While many musicians have time when they’re specifically on the road or off, singer-songwriter Ana Egge is perpetually touring. But the fact of the matter is, regardless of how punishing it may become, maintaining a fan base is a full-time-plus job nowadays – especially when you cannot depend on a record label to help with some of the heavy lifting. Egge, who plays UT’s Cactus Café on Saturday night, knows that keeping her fans close-by is up to her; she tows the line by performing as many dates as she possibly can.
A Canadian native, Egge grew up with parents that moved her between North Dakota and a hot springs commune in New Mexico, something that has undoubtedly made it easier for her to adapt to a transient existence as an adult. She uses the ever-changing landscape of cities and faces to color her songwriting, which brims with fleeting encounters and snapshots of rugged humanity. And while Egge definitely qualifies as a folkie, each one of her releases has had it’s own distinctive flavor, unified by her breathy, booze-lilted pipes and inherent gift for storytelling.
The most recent, 2011’s Steve Earle-produced Bad Blood, focused on the resulting emotional fallout from relationships tainted by mental illness. Her foray onto the dark side proved quite striking, and Earle revealed himself as the ideal musical partner for the project. No stranger to such struggles, his musical instincts lent themselves to the songs quite naturally. The collection continues to turn up well-deserved accolades even as Egge readies her next album: in March, the track “Hole in Your Halo” was nominated for the Independent Music Awards’ Best Americana Performance.
We had a chance to catch up with Egge, a former Austin resident and happily married lesbian who now calls Brooklyn home, for a brief chat earlier this week.
As you’ve progressed through the years, has the process by which you write songs changed at all? Tell us a little about your process. Do you write one at a time, or do you always have a few songs going at once?
Songwriting for me is something akin to being a thermometer… or being turned on, or sensitive. Maybe I’ve become more attuned to the feeling that I should step away and work on a melody that’s running through my head, or write down the lines that are coming up. It’s like I’m writing songs that I fall for, that I want to sing over and over again.
Have you found time during your schedule to begin work on a new album?
Yes – I just recorded my new record and will be mixing it next month. I love it! I recorded it with a great young bluegrass band, The Stray Birds, from PA, backing me up. The working title is Bright Shadow.
If I’m not mistaken, you’re married now… how has that affected your ability to tour like you always have? Is it an issue?
No, not really. My wife is completely supportive. It’s hard though, to be away on those long 4-6 week tours. Especially if it’s overseas, with the time difference.
Bad Blood was dark – has playing the material for nearly two years now helped you work through whatever forces influenced the writing for that record?
Yes definitely. I’ve had a lot of open conversations about mental health with strangers because of these songs, which is powerful.
When you lived in Austin, what was your favorite thing about the city?
So many things were my favorite. My years in Austin – from 1995 to 2000 – were amazing. I fell in with the best crowd of musicians and writers and just flowered there. I loved living in South Austin. Barton Springs, Artz’, The Continental. I still miss Las Manitas big time.
Traveling as much as you do can be really hard on folks that don’t naturally embrace the ‘nomadic’ life – tell me a bit about why you love it as much as you do, and what you could change if you were able.
To quote Willie, “…the life I love is making music with my friends.” And when I met him a couple years ago, when we said goodbye he said, “I’ll see you on down the road.”
Ana Egge at Cactus Cafe
Saturday, June 1
Doors @ 8 PM, Show @ 8:30
Tickets are $12 – purchase here