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Carrie Newcomer

A Conversation with Carrie Newcomer (continued)

CN: Putting together a compilation album, it was a really interesting project. There are three new songs on it, but mostly it was a process of going back and listening to the older albums and really considering what's held up for me, what songs have become old friends, and what songs are requested often. And there's always a compromise, what songs does Rounder really like and would love to be on the compilation as well.

PM: Oh, they were vocal about that?

CN: Yes, they were. In general we agreed on everything, and there's nothing that I don't feel is a good song to put on the album. But there were a few that--I have eight albums on their label.

PM: That's a lot of songs.

CN: And some of it is deciding what will make a nice album as a whole, as well. You can't do a whole album of ballads, or it shouldn't all be one kind of song. So if you had a handful of this kind of song, one of them didn't get on the album. You like them all really pretty much equally. Well, there was some give and take that way, but in general, I think they were very supportive of the things that I chose, and I like what they chose, and it worked out fine.

PM: So, you've been with them so long now, how's your relationship with the company in general?

CN: Rounder has really been a wonderful company to work with. And I say that for a lot of different reasons, but my biggest reason is that they've always been a music company. My albums have always been seen by them as my artistic work, and they haven't dictated to me, "Now, we need this kind of song or that kind of song," or, "We need a top 40 hit," or, "We want you to not have these songs on because they're controversial." They've never done that. They've always trusted me as an artist. [dogs barking] Whoops, hang on, that's my dogs. Okay.

PM: Do they have a yard to run around in?

CN: I live way out in the woods--

PM: That's nice.

CN: --so they have lots of woods to run around in and things to chase. Let's see, where was I--oh, about Rounder. They've always been a music company, and they've always trusted me as an artist. And I appreciate that. It's not always like that, to say the least.

PM: Have you been working with some of the same people at Rounder from the get-go, or has it revolved in a predictable record company manner?

CN: Well, the person who first encountered my work and brought me into the company is Ken Irwin, who's an amazing person with really great ears, and he has continued to be supportive of what I'm doing all these years.

PM: And he's still there. That's great.

CN: He's still there. He's one of the owners. And there's a whole cast of characters at Rounder who are still there and who have been supportive since the very beginning. John Virant, who is now the CEO, has always been very supportive of what I'm doing. I hate to even pull out individual names, because there's a bunch. And it is interesting that so many are still there. So Brad Paul and--

PM: Oh, yeah. I know him. He's a good guy.

CN: Just a whole group of people who have continued to support what I'm doing, and are excited about this compilation album. That's been fun, too. I think there has been kind of a feeling of celebration with it, and I appreciate that.

PM: Oh, boy, that really sounds like family. Because I'm a Nashville guy, where you see the staffs of record companies revolve just, oh, with sickening rapidity.

CN: It's true. And Rounder has also put out a lot of good music. I've always felt good being part of a roster that had people like Alison Krauss on the label. And so many really interesting creative artists.

PM: And they do so many cultures and they do so some kinds of music. I mean, as you say, they're a music company.

CN: They really are.

PM: And that distinguishes them.

CN: And again, I truly appreciate that. In a land of the bottom line, they really have been a company that--well, they're also a company, of course they are. And they have to pay attention to those things so that they're still here to put out those records. But in the land of the bottom line, they really shine.

PM: It's a beautiful thing. You've been not only with them, but obviously on the road in support of your records for all those years, too. Is it possible to say anything about how the singer/songwriter business has changed in that decade, to your perception?

CN: Well, for one thing, when I first started doing this, I really didn't think it was something I could make a living at. A singer songwriter from the middle of Indiana--how unlikely was it that I would be able to make a living doing this thing I love? And it has been wonderful that I've been able to. I think earlier than the 90s, there was, for a moment, a greater opening for acoustic music and acoustic artists who were maybe crossing over a little bit more--when the Triple A format was more open to things that weren't quite as mainstream. In country music, that's when people like Mary Chapin Carpenter or Lyle Lovett came on the scene. It's a little harder now for people who are just entering into it, because things are more narrowly focused.

PM: Yeah, narrower and narrower.

CN: And since I've always been a crossover artist, I really find that narrowing to be a shame, because there's great music out there on the edges, and people doing incredibly creative things. There are great artists in the middle, too, but you don't want to lose people who are pushing the edges.

PM: Yeah, a lot of good action is always on the fringe.

CN: And for a while, there was the Americana format. I loved it when they came up with that title, Americana, because it was so wonderfully vague.

PM: Right. It didn't mean a thing, and it allowed a broad definition.

CN: Yeah. What is it that Lyle Lovett does, or Alison Krauss? Or the Jayhawks, or Wilco, or John Prine? And depending on where you're coming from, Nickel Creek--

PM: I've met several people that claimed to have coined the term Americana.

CN: Really?


PM: Yeah. So, having been on the road all these years--I don't mean to date you because you're a very youthful person--who are some of the favorite singer/songwriters you've come across on the road, famous or otherwise, that may come to mind?   continue

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