A Conversation with Carrie Newcomer (continued)
CN: Oh, gosh... Well, I think touring--I took a break from the road this fall. I was off the road for 10 weeks. That's the longest I've been off the road since 1990.
PM: Oh, come on!
CN: Yeah. That was the longest break I took, to just be home and spend some time out here in the woods and do a lot of writing, very focused writing. So I've actually--I think you have to have a bit of wanderlust to tour, and have a real love for places and people in order to like touring. I love this country in that there are so many different personalities. I mean, every area of the country, every region of the country, has its own personality. There is the tribe of the South--
PM: Big time.
CN: --and the tribe of Minnesota--
PM: Oh, yeah.
CN: --and the New England tribe. And I just love it. And there's landscape and there's language. And you know when you cross the Mason Dixon you can get good grits in a diner. I love the personality of places. And touring has really allowed me to see that and experience that close up, because I'm not an artist that--okay, I'm not the Rolling Stones. I don't get in a jet after the show. It's just not how I tour. So I really see the country, and talk to people very intimately and close up. And it has changed me. All that touring has really made me have a much greater appreciation for other places, but also for my own home area. I'm really a Midwesterner, and I appreciate that voice, and what that voice is about, and what it has to offer.
PM: All the songwriters I know or some whom I interview, I always hear some kind of road-weariness or jadedness or bitterness in their voice when they talk about touring. I don't hear a trace of that in yours.
CN: Well, I just had a nice long break.
CN: But also, I think part of it has been a balancing thing, that I decided a long time ago--I have a daughter, and one of the things I did is I decided to tour in shorter blocks. Some people go out there and they're out there for months at a stretch, and I have so much respect for them. It's a hard thing to do. But I never really toured that way. I do a lot of--I'll fly out to a section of the country, I'll do a week or a circuit there, come back, work very regionally at home, then pop out to another part of the country. So if you look at my schedule, it never looks like this nice, long, logical, money-making tour.
PM: Right. God forbid.
CN: But what I've always done was made sure that I was grounded, and I would come home and be really present for my daughter, and have a place to put my feet down.
PM: In all that traveling, have you run across certain songwriters, famous or otherwise, who really changed you, that really--
CN: Oh, absolutely.
PM: Any that come to mind?
CN: Well, I was touring with Alison Krauss for a while, and Union Station. I opened one of her European tours.
PM: What a joy.
CN: Oh, gosh. And then, here in the States, too, I did several shows with her in different parts of the country.
PM: I don't think there's a better live band out there than hers.
CN: I don't think so, either. There are artists--I think opening for her so many nights in a row got me to appreciate the idea of musical elegance. These are people who can play. You hear them warming up backstage, and they can play circles around most players.
PM: Yeah, most anyone, yeah.
CN: Yeah, I mean, these are people, if you want a lot of notes, they can play them. But everything was always about the music and it was always about the song. When a song needed something flashy, then someone would be more than happy to step out and do it--
PM: Yeah, right. If the song needed something flashy, Jerry Douglas would be glad to do it.
CN: But if all a song needed was something very simple, an arpeggio and a pause, that's all they'd do. It was all about creating the most powerful music, and this idea of elegance, really elegant playing. That's changed me and inspired me. I mean, I always appreciated that, but maybe just seeing it in action so many nights in a row just really brought it home to me that what you don't say is just as important as what you do say in music.
There is a certain attitude of elegance that I aspire to as a writer and as a performer. As a songwriter, I mean, we have so little time to make a statement. We have how many verses--maybe four verses--and choruses, and perhaps a bridge, to get a really powerful story across. So it has to be about elegance of language. Every word has to work. Every line has to move the story in a meaningful way. Again, listening to other artists who work in this way--Mary Chapin Carpenter is wonderful that way. I opened for her once here in Indiana. Just listening to her and her lyrics and how she does that--a lot of artists that I've worked with are in that category of just truly elegant writers.
PM: Yeah, she's a very strong writer.
CN: Yes, very much so. But that idea--I love [laughs]--okay, the longest Scrabble game I've ever played was with three other songwriters, because it couldn't be a good word, it had to be the best word.
CN: It's like, "Go, go. It's been a half an hour."
PM: Do you remember who they were?
CN: Sure. My husband, Robert Meitus. And Buddy Mondlock.
PM: Buddy Mondlock. [laughs]
CN: You know Buddy?
CN: And his wife Carol?
CN: Yeah, yeah. We were actually playing one of the Kerrville cruises. And one afternoon we decided to play Scrabble. And it's just a bunch of songwriters playing Scrabble. It's just, "There's a better word. I know there's a better word."
PM: [laughs] Oh, yeah, I can really see Buddy and Carol doing that. Tell us about your husband, Robert Meitus.
CN: When I first met Robert, he was in a band called the Dorkestra.
CN: He was the head dork.
CN: And when I first started touring, we did some double bill tours, where the Dorkestra would back me up, and I would sit in with the band and be a Dorkette.
CN: And it was kind of like Muddy Waters meets Elvis Costello meets John Prine.
PM: Really? That's my kind of band.
CN: Oh, man, they were a great band.
PM: And he was a guitar player or--
CN: A guitar player and songwriter. And now he's a copyright and entertainment and internet lawyer, so he does intellectual property and entertainment law.
PM: Really? Oh, I need to know him.
CN: He's a wonderful--he teaches now at a couple of universities, in particular internet and entertainment law. But he practices as well. I think a lot of folks have appreciated working with him because he's seen the music industry from the artist's point of view.
PM: Is there a firm name that our readers should know?
CN: Well, he works right now with Baker & Daniels. They're in Indianapolis.
CN: I can give you--I don't know, would his e-mail address be appropriate?
PM: I think so.
CN: It's just email@example.com.
PM: Okay. We'll link to that in the interview, if you don't think Robert will mind.
CN: No, I don't think he'll mind.
PM: Okay, good. Yeah, because that's terribly interesting.
CN: I think it's been especially good for people because, as I said, he's coming from a place of having spent many years being an artist.
PM: Right. It's perfect. continue