Getting to Know Allie Farris, Falcon Ridge Emerging Artist
Allie Farris has been and will be a very busy festival performer this year. She’s hopping all over the country with appearances in Texas, Colorado and New York. As one critic says, Allie’s vocals are a “tour de force” and her musicianship is something else. After studying jazz at Berklee for a short time, Allie headed to Nashville where she had made a comfortable home base for herself and has gotten immersed in the songwriting scene there.
Allie Farris is one of 24 Emerging Artists chosen for this year’s Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. The Emerging Artist showcase is always one of the highlights of the festival. The musicians are chosen by a three-member jury and are given the opportunity to perform two songs (not to exceed ten minutes). The audience votes for their favorites and three or four acts are asked to return to the main stage the following year.
Tell us about your time at the Telluride Troubadour competition. I’ve heard that Telluride is one of the most idyllic festivals in existence. Was that your impression as well?
It was a dream come true to be a part of the festival, and get to meet the artists that were there playing as well. Everyone there was rooting for each other,which took the tension of competing way down. Living in Nashville at low sea level, though, made for an interesting transition once I got up to the high Telluride Mountains. :) But you couldn’t ask for a more well-structured, nurturing, beautiful Festival to get to showcase at. I’m very lucky.
Word has it that you’re also appearing at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in August. Is this competition similar to Telluride and Falcon Ridge — in which you only get about 10 minutes or two songs to impress everyone?
Yes, I’m overjoyed to say I’ll be at Rocky Mountain this year! I’ve been there only once before, last year, for their Song School in Lyons. I haven’t been entirely briefed on all of the 2014 Rules, but from what I understand it’ll be very similar to both Telluride and Falcon Ridge. Lots of nerves, but wonderful audiences with their hearts wide open.
Three of your songs on your latest EP are co-writes with Gabe Dixon, Robby Hecht, and Josh Goode. Was this your first time writing with these three musicians? How would you describe the experience of co-writing songs?
Josh and I met in my hometown, Dallas, and ended up writing that, our first song together, over Skype. Robby’s a great friend of mine, and we were in Austin at the same time last year when we wrote that song (our first) together. Gabe, however, is my most frequent co-writing partner I’ve ever had. We’ve written about 10 so far. Normally I would say that co-writing is a joint effort, full of compromises from two different points of view, but Gabe and I seem to really write well and in synch with one another. It’s very easy, like we’re on the same page.
You’re planning a “live” CD next and you’ll be working with Gus Berry who has worked closely with Liz Longley. What will he bring to the table? Is it tricky producing a live CD? Do you have to prep your audience as well as be ready for anything and everything that could happen at the recording event?
The live recording process for the CD last November was a chaotic, but life-changing night. I asked my Nashville friend and fellow singer/songwriter Nick Flora to come and emcee the event. He would come out before each act and prep the audience on when to clap, and how the evening was going to go. We even re-ran songs, which was pretty crazy. I was happy with the performances we came away with though. We’re mixing now, and it’s an incredibly special project. With Gus Berry, apart from his immense talent and ingenuity, he is an incredibly fun person to work with. Everyone deserves to work with a happy person who you trust and who trusts you, and that’s the kind of person Gus is. The CD is finished now, and I’m saving up to get it printed!
One music writer had this to say about you: ” she is a great mix of everything great about Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and Diana Krall … but something even more fresh and current for today’s world.” Since were recently a part of a Carole King Songbook tour, what would you say about Carole’s influence on your music?
Carole was a late discovery for me. I had been likened to King before I actually heard her music. But when I did and now that I have, I feel like I finally have a woman in musical history who I can look to, who I feel like I understand the ins and outs of where she’s coming from musically, because I feel the same way. Even though I haven’t met her, I feel like I have a musical mentor.
It’s always interesting to hear about contemporary singer-songwriters and what kind of music inspires them. Do you have any influences that would surprise anyone?
I’m a huge Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, and believe it or not, ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) fan. Pretty much anything Jeff Lynne has ever done, I’m a big fan of. I listened to ELO growing up, and I definitely believe it heavily influenced my songwriting.
What was your experience at Berklee College of Music? Did you graduate or were you one of the many who sought other avenues once they realized what their life path was while studying there?
I lasted only a semester, but I had the experience of a lifetime. Even though I felt the Nashville call so quickly, I managed to become heavily engrossed in their songwriting major, I had my own radio show, and I actually worked for Berklee as a piano tuner. I had an all-you-can-handle experience. I also left with many contacts and friends, and have afterwards become even more connected with Berklee through other alumni, like Gus Berry and Liz Longley. Berklee is the best school you can ever find for a learning singer/songwriter, no matter how long you stay. It always just matters what you make of the time you have.
Bottom photo by Patrick McCue
To learn more about Allie, visit her website.
Check out this video of Allie singing her song “Talk to Me.”