Interview: The Quiet Power of Folk Artist Leslie Nuchow
Strength and courage come in many forms. Singer-songwriter, Leslie Nuchow, is a profound example of both. Nuchow not only demonstrates courage in baring her soul through her music, but she had the strength to put her family first over everything, including her music career which she placed on the backburner for over ten years. After the long pause, she then had the courage to put herself back in the spotlight not knowing if there would be an audience to return to. Nuchow's new album, Balm for Gilead, expresses very poignantly her emotional journey she's had with life, love, loss, and healing. Her songs exude grace and strength in their stark honesty and simplicity that speaks to everyone. Here's a brief glimpse into the world of Leslie Nuchow...
Having been away from music for over a decade, what finally helped you decide to make 2016 your "comeback" year?
LN: I finally felt like I had something to say! When my son was born I fell so deeply in love with him that there wasn’t much space for anything else. And then a couple of years later, when I might have started exploring my creative voice again, my mother became very ill. I cared for her for about 8 years. After she died, my grief cleared a path out into the world again. I saw everything around me as a song that had to be sung. I felt like I had something to say again.
Did you find returning to the stage easier or more difficult than when you first started performing?
LN: Both. I felt propelled by something larger than myself. I HAD to write these songs. I HAD to make this record. I HAD to sing them for people. That was the easier part, because I just followed that energy. The harder part was feeling vulnerable about standing up after so many years of sitting down. But, like all challenges, we just show up the best we can and face our fears with as much courage as we can muster.
Congratulations on your sold-out show at Joe's Pub in October! Did you find having a full room easier to perform or did you feel more pressure to deliver?
LN: Thank you. It was an amazing night. The audience was so warm and supportive. There was so much love in the room! I was relieved so many people came to hear me. I really didn’t know if they would. I definitely found it easier to play to a full house that night. That said, I’ve had some intimate and deeply connected shows with just a handful of people in the audience, and also I’ve experienced being more distant from myself with a packed house. It’s all about connection and energy. And both of those were there in spades at Joe’s Pub.
You had written your new album, Balm for Gilead, just two weeks after your mother passed away. What was that songwriting process like for you?
LN: After my mom died, I went to the country alone for 2 weeks. That was when I wrote most of the lyrics for Balm for Gilead. They just spilled out. I couldn’t write fast enough. It felt amazing. It felt like God, my mother and everyone that I have ever loved who is no longer here, were cheering me on. It was a beautiful, beautiful thing to experience such a powerful force. The music came later and was just as magical.
Any particular song on the album you favor most?
LN: What comes to me first right now is "Water."
The Water that’s here is the water that’s been
Are Jesus’s tears in the lake when we swim, when we swim
The snow in the Andes becomes the Black Sea
The hail in Montana fills up Galilee, Galilee
Everything’s close and everything’s far
We drink from the same well yet we’re all blown apart, blown apart…
We are all connected to each other, to the earth and to the animals.
These are not just empty words. We truly are all connected. We need each other to survive. And water is one of our strongest life-givers. When I see what is happening to the brave and peaceful people of Standing Rock, I am devastated. I believe that we all know the truth deep in our hearts. We know that water is more precious than oil. We know that when governments and corporations value money over people, it is wrong. We know that seeing unarmed, non-violent people standing up through prayer and song to protect their land and the water source for so many, only to be shot at, sprayed, beaten over the head with clubs, and put into dog kennels, is wrong. We know this. We know that if we desecrate the earth, there will be nothing left. We know. I hope that my music helps to connect us all to the deepest, truest parts of ourselves, because when we live from that sacred place we can only do what is right and just.
What can we expect to see from Leslie Nuchow for the rest of 2016 and early 2017?
LN: I would love to sing for people as much as I can.
I have a show on 12/12 at 7 pm at Rockwood Music Hall - Stage 2.
Here is the link for tickets: http://www.ticketfly.com/event/1365767
I will have some more gigs in the new year around the northeast and out west this summer. Then I will hunker down to write my next record. You can always stay in touch with what I am doing through my website: leslienuchow.com
I hope my music helps (even just a little) to heal our broken parts.