Southwest Flair Magazine -NM (my unconventional upbringing)
Posted on October 18th, 2012
Interview by Bill Bruedigam for Southwest Flair
SWF: How long has it been since you have lived in the Southwest, in New Mexico; Silver City to be exact?
AE: I haven’t lived there full time for ten years but I’ve been building a house out there for longer than that. So I have a place that I call my own outside of Silver. I’m there once or twice a year for a few weeks to a month or a month and a half at a time.
SWF: With Silver City being such an alternative place, what influences did Silver City give you and are these still affecting your life today?
AE: When my dad got out of college, he went to the Peace Corps and he made a good friend down there in Bolivia, Bjorn, and when my dad came back to the states, he met my mom and they moved to North Dakota and started a family and Bjorn ended up being a part of a founding group who started an intentional group down outside of Silver City which was otherwise known as a hippie commune. When my folks moved from North Dakota, when I was about ten, we went down and lived in the commune there and there’s still a lot of amazing people down there who are artists and intelligent bureau-syncretic characters who I grew up with. Lots of music fans and musicians.
My whole childhood growing up there, from eight to ten, that’s when I started to play and learned to write songs. All my folk’s friends had their favorite musicians that they wanted me to listen to so I had people coming up to me and giving me cassettes saying, “you gotta learn this song . . . “; Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis. I had all these people wanting to encourage me through the people that they loved.
SWF: Those are some great people too, classic stuff. You were kind of immersed in it; your entire lifestyle there.
AE: I was, and I was hungry for it just because it’s such a small town down there, but there’s so many creative people in it, you know there weren’t many people coming through touring or anything but all those people had such big libraries of music and they opened them to me.
SWF: Listening to River Under the Road, it’s easy to see how your first album propelled your success. With your talents, you could have likely tapped into any genre so what lead you to the folk/alternative country genre?
AE: I think mostly it just is where I came from growing up in North Dakota in an even smaller town, there’s twenty-three people there now. There were no paved roads there or street lights or anything. And since my parents were such alternative types, it wasn’t like we only listened to stone country; we listened to the Grateful Dead as much as we listened to Merle Haggard. But that open land and the dirt and the sky of North Dakota and New Mexico was my city-scape. The trees and scrub oaks, that’s what you see down there and that was what informed my place to write from and that was the music that I most identified with growing up and when I first started to write. I was really in love with bluegrass and singer-songwriter stuff and when I first heard that finger-picking style it just hit me and the songs that I wrote were about my life or people that I love and stories that were around me, and that was all my personal history coming from the west and from the country. So I think that the genre classified from the outside, being called folk or Americana, but that’s just where I was coming from.
SWF: Yes, it’s embedded in you. So the next question is, your career has taken you a long way from New Mexico. What has been one of your most memorable moments in all of your travels?
AE: (laughs) Oh, I was playing in a band with this guy Joel Plaskett from Halifax, Canada, and we opened for Paul McCartney two years ago in Halifax for fifty-five thousand people. And I just remember that buzzing feeling of not feeling like you’re touching the ground, and the sea of heads and sea of people out in front, and it was just kind of this electric charge of sharing music with that many people.
SWF: That must have been amazing. Next question, when you play for Ana, what do you play?
AE: I am usually just moving around on the guitar not knowing what I’m doing, unless I’m playing a song that I’m writing. It’s a kind of a dance of writing a song where I’m learning it at the same time and it can be an anxious dance or it can be a thoughtless being lead-by-the-hand kind of thing and then at once it can be this joyous I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening-right-now feeling. A lot of it is just like wandering around in a city you don’t know without a destination. Just playing and playing and letting go so that you do not know where you’re going.
SWF: Yeah, that’s the best music. Music is your life, that’s what you do, but what else do you do, what are some of your interests?
AE: I really love to read and I love going to see writers read; that’s one of my favorite things about living in the city is going to see people read from their new work, that’s a real special thing to me. I love to cook. And I love to go see music.
SWF: When was the first time that you went to New York?
AE: The first time was right after I had moved to Austin, in ‘95, and I entered a song writing contest and the prize was to be flown to New York City and play a show and get spending money and be put at the Chelsea Hotel. I applied for that prize with this great songwriter, we became friends on that trip, this guy Lee Barber, and that was the first time, 1995.
SWF: And what was it like after coming from out here in the middle of the desert to be in New York City all of a sudden?
AE: (laughs) Well, let’s see . . . ‘95, I was nineteen, and I was so excited. All my ideas of New York were from TV and movies. We stayed at the Chelsea Hotel and I didn’t even know why it was famous, I was just such a bumpkin, and my friends came with me from Austin and kind of showed me the ropes, showed me around, took me to Chinatown, took me to Little Italy. We went to The Blue Note. It was just a phenomenal experience. Basically all of it was shocking.
SWF: I can imagine! In watching a recent video interview with you, you seem to have a very relaxed, graceful composure . . .
AE: Thank you.SWF: You’re welcome. What do you to do keep from feeling overwhelmed or swallowed up by it all?
AE: I don’t know (laughs), I like taking naps. I drink a lot of water (laughs) . . . no, I’m just so happy to be doing what I do and I feel very lucky to be living my dream. I feel very grounded in the work that this is and that it’s also my dream, and I’m not trying to be anything or anybody, I’m just happy to be doing this work and connecting with people through the work.
SWF: Well that’s it then, you’re not overwhelmed because you’re enjoying it too much to be overwhelmed.
SWF: You’ve been touring for your latest CD, Bad Blood, produced by Steve Earle, and how is this tour going compared to previous tours?
AE: I’ve got to say that I’ve also been blessed in the fact that my career has slowly been growing and I’ve been taking steps gradually and it’s better than ever. I’ve had my band out for more dates with me than I ever have and it’s just so fun to be able to go from zero to ninety, you know fill the place and then rock out with them and make a bunch of noise; it’s really fun to get people movin’.
SWF: When you play in the Silver City area, you’ve probably played there a lot, is it like a coming home thing?
AE: Yeah, I’ve played there a lot over the years and it’s a lot of fun. I played the Thirsty Ear Festival out of Santa Fe the first year they had that, whenever that was, ‘97 or ‘99 or something, ‘99 I think, so it’s fun to return there, it’s a great festival, it’s an old west movie set on J. W. Eaves Ranch, it’s pretty cool. I played South by Southwest again and they have a day party out on Willie Nelson’s Luck, Texas Ranch, which is also a movie set that was built for Red-headed Stranger and he bought it and so that’s two old west movie set shows (laughs)
SWF: I want to touch on your guitar before we get to the last question . . . you built your guitar yourself, with the help of Don Musser . . .AE: Yeah, my parents have a school called Down to Earth School, it’s based in reading, writing, arithmetic, basic science and history but they have electives based on the student body and the teachers come wanting to teach electives at the school, so they have teachers coming saying, “I want to teach this or I want to teach that,” and the kids get to vote on what electives they actually want to take, whether it’s German or calligraphy or astrology. And so Don Musser came in saying he wanted to teach astrology, and a bunch of us wanted to take that class. He also is a luthier full time, making guitars so he came in then and taught that class and after every class I’d go up to him and ask him questions about guitars. He called me that summer, which was the summer between my junior and senior years and asked me if I wanted to come out and work with him and work towards making a guitar, and so that’s kind of how it started and I ended up making a guitar and it’s been my main guitar since then, since ‘93.
SWF: It sounds great. It has an excellent sound to it. What kind of woods did you use?
AE: Spruce and mahogany.
SWF: It’s got a really sweet sound to it.
AE: Thank you.
SWF: Does it have a name?
AE: Well, no, it’s just an extension of me ‘cause I put my name on the twelfth fret . . .
SWF: Oh really? It’s your alter-ego then ey?
AE: Yeah, it’s my shadow.
SWF: Ok, last question, any future plans or projects that our readers might like to know about?
AE: I am writing, I’m working on a bunch of new songs and I’m excited about them. I have some ideas but I’m not sure about them yet because I don’t ever know for sure until the songs are whole, until I know how they relate to each other and then what a record would be, but there shall be a new record and hopefully it won’t be too long
SWF: We appreciate your talking to us Ana.
AE: Absolutely, thanks for all the great questions.
SWF: Do you have anything you just want to say to people?
AE: I love New Mexico and I am always so inspired when I come there and I love working on my house and actually one of my thoughts about a future project, it’s not going to be the next record but I’ve been thinking about how fun it would be to make a record of songs about New Mexico ‘cause there’s so many great ones.
SWF: Yeah, a lot of great stories, a lot of great places!
AE: It’s such a feeling, you know? The sky and the high, dry air, it’s just such an amazing place.
SWF: New Mexico’s good for the soul.
AE: That’s true, it is.
For more information on Ana Egge and her music and show dates visit www.anaegge.com
Interviewer Bill Bruedigam is a musician, composer and songwriter.