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Cara Luft

A Conversation with Nicky Mehta  (continued)

PM: One of the things I really like is that all of the women are very good guitar players of different kinds. And so the rhythm is always there without the studio band having to cut the rhythm, so you know that the groove happens live.

NM: Right.

PM: And Cara really seems like she's a rocker on the acoustic. She gets that acoustic rock sound going on. She's the propulsion behind "Old Man," for instance, right?

NM: Uh-huh. She's an incredible guitar player. She brings a lot to the group in that way, for sure. She brings a lot to the group in other ways as well, but her guitar playing is really front and center. And she's not only a great player, she's got a great feel for everything, and she just knows what to do with songs. She's a very sensitive player as well, and is really aware of how her guitar sounds and how to get the most out of it in a live situation and in a recording situation. She's got a great guitar, too.

PM: What is she playing? Is that an old Guild?

NM: It's a Martin, actually.

PM: It's a Martin, yeah. Is it an old one or a new one, do you know?

NM: It's an old one. I wish I could remember the exact model, but it's quite an old one. She loves that guitar, but it really gets put through the paces because she does a lot of alternate tunings. I think she would prefer to have two guitars to be able to keep them in different tunings.

PM: And on 40 Days is she alternately tuned a lot?

NM: She is on--let me think, here. She's alternately tuned on "Come All You Sailors." And on "Untitled" I think she's alternately tuned as well.

PM: Now, she played some good electric on your tune, "Ten Mile Stilts."

NM: Yeah. And that was the first pass, actually, on "Ten Mile Stilts." She just did that once. And she hadn't played much electric before.

PM: Oh, really? That's where my question was going.

NM: She'd never played it seriously, I mean.

PM: Like been in a studio situation and tracking one.

NM: And she'd never played with that equipment either, because what it was, it was a pedal, and it was a new piece of equipment for her. [the Line 6 Delay Modeler, as it turned out]

PM: Do the three of you ever think about, say, "Well, why doesn't somebody play the bass?" and "Why doesn't somebody play lead?" Or is it usually just three acoustics or piano on stage?

NM: It's a bunch of different things. But it's funny that you say that, because Ruth just yesterday said, "One of us should learn bass." We've been talking about that forever, actually.

PM: I mean, you get so much mileage that way, obviously.

NM: Yeah. And we have been introducing new instruments. We introduced new stuff to the record--like Ruth's learning the accordion. I've been learning more harmonica and more percussion.

PM: It's a talented trio.

NM: I'm actually just writing a song on piano now, and I don't play piano. I play some keyboards when we need them, if they're very simple things. But I want to learn more keyboards.

PM: With all the spare time you have.

NM: [laughs] And Cara picked up the mandolin again. I think she's played a little bit in the past, but not a lot. So she's really getting into that. And we're trying to incorporate more and more instruments as we go. But yeah, I mean, it's easy for us to create a full sound if we're swapping instruments all the time. There are actually very few times where it's three guitars. In fact, there's only one song where we play with three guitars.

PM: I see. I'm really hot to catch a show, but there aren't that many U.S. dates on the books yet.

NM: Well, it's starting to happen.

PM: Because now Red House is putting out the record.

NM: Yeah.

PM: Who's booking you in the States?

NM: Well, our agent in Canada books us in the States at this point. We have a West Coast tour in September that's coming together. We have the Albuquerque date in about a week, but we don't have our visa yet. See, that's part of the problem about going to the States, it's so hard to get into the States. But yeah, so we're coming down. We also have some dates on the East Coast, I believe in early December. It can be really challenging, because you don't know if you're going to get your paperwork, and you don't want to book all this stuff and then find out you have to pay--because otherwise you have to pay $1,000 American to get into the country.

PM: Ow.

NM: And it's just a huge ordeal, so that's what's been difficult.

PM: Well, be it the West Coast or the East Coast, I will definitely catch you guys at some dates.

So let's talk a little bit about the amazing support band that's on the record, too. I mean, that [guitarist] Kevin Breit is a bad dude.

NM: [laughs] He's pretty amazing, isn't he?

PM: Yikes. Yeah, I've reviewed a couple of records that he was on, he always brings so much to the table.

NM: And he is such a fantastic person. We were very honored to have him. He played with us, in fact, this past weekend.

PM: Oh, yeah?

NM: He was there with a band named John and the Sisters [see our review]. I think our manager had gotten in touch with him or something. So he came to our concert on Saturday morning and just sat in and played on a few songs. He played on stuff that he didn't play on on the album. But he knows the album really well, because he really likes it a lot. It's a huge thrill to hear that someone like him likes what we do, because he's a top session player.

PM: Plays with Norah Jones and all, sure.

NM: He doesn't necessarily need to like what he's playing on, but he really did in this case. And he said his kids are obsessed with the album. [laughs]

PM: Wow.

NM: He said they've been making him listen to it a lot. So yeah, he just sat in on a bunch of stuff. And he's a lovely person, and a great player, and the audience was just thrilled to see him on stage with us.

PM: Where was the Vancouver gig that he played on? A festival?

NM: It was the Vancouver Folk Festival, yeah. We just got back from there Monday night, and then we head off on Friday for the Hillside Festival in Guelph, Ontario.

PM: And [violist] Richard Moody also played some great stuff. Is that Ruth's brother?

NM: That's Ruth's brother, yeah. And he's just an incredible musician. He plays with a lot of different bands in Winnipeg and some touring artists. He writes his own stuff as well. But yeah, he's an incredible musician.

PM: He was a real presence on the album.  continue

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