Interview

Jumping Fire with Evie Ladin

The Evie Ladin Band

Evie Ladin's music doesn't fit neatly into any one genre or niche. The award-winning songwriter plays (and teaches) clawhammer banjo, sings and dances, has immersed herself in African and Appalachian music studies, and boasts a calendar packed not only with gigs, but harmony singing workshops, dance and body music festivals. This week, she celebrates her band's latest release, Jump the Fire, with a show at The Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, where she’ll perform her new songs as a folk operetta. As she prepared for the show, and her upcoming "Solstice Roadshow" with The Stray Birds, Ladin answered some questions about her latest work.

Q: Tell us about the songs on Jump the Fire. How did they evolve, and the folk operetta emerge?

Evie Ladin:  This particular collection of songs came from a songwriting retreat I did in the Winter of 2014, unplugging myself for a week in the redwoods and collecting all the song kernels I had recorded and scribbled during the past three years of busy touring.  I needed to give myself space to just focus on new ideas, and woodshedding!  When I emerged, I brought a host of songs to the band, and they really liked all of them, which surprised me.  We then started workshopping them, and getting [bandmates] Keith [Terry (bass, Body Music, percussion, vocals)], and Erik [Pearson (guitar, bass, banjo, vocals)] to contribute their compositional and arrangement ideas.  When we were playing around with track order, I found that one approach was to actually tell a story with the trajectory of the material, and the folk operetta emerged! The songs follow our hero from festival season through falling in love, deepening, starting a family, dealing with the slog of adult life, loss, loneliness, and finally dusting yourself off, getting on with it, and ultimately starting all over again.  The big cycles.

Q: You're working at an interesting intersection of folk, dance, storytelling and teaching. Do you find bridging those scenes seamless and/or are you often the main bridge?

EL: To me it seems seamless — so obvious.  In most culture, music and dance, and art for that matter, are inseparable, but that’s not as much the case in American music any more.  To me these varied expressions are all a part of the same creative experience and I love blurring those boundaries.

Q: You tour pretty extensively, and are from the East Coast.  How did California become home, and how does it/where you live now inform (or not) your work?

EL: Seems the only reasons to really move are for love or money, and it was both that got me to the Bay Area in 2000.  My now-husband and musical partner invited me to join his group, and after the trial period, I was already entrenched in a long-standing band, teaching, developing a social life within the music and dance community.  Oakland reminds me a lot of my years in Baltimore. Living in urban areas informs the rhythms I hear, and the electricity of life.  I like being around so much diversity, even if our music seems to appeal to a mostly anglo crowd.

Q: What can the Freight audience expect?

EL: For the CD Release show we are so excited to play the CD through in order — to tell this Folk Operetta story for this one show only!  We are also unveiling a new adult coloring/songbook in collaboration with illustrator Sam Bartlett so audiences can “color along” with the story. We are also launching the Solstice Roadshow — tours on both coasts with the Stray Birds from Lancaster, PA — now based in Nashville.  They are a great band pairing with us. We’ll be heading up through Oregon and Washingtom with them this month, next month a big circle between Boston and Philadelphia.

The Evie Ladin Band appears with The Stray Birds, Thursday, May 19, 2016, 8:00 pm (doors open at 7:00 pm) at The Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley, CA. More information at http://www.evieladin.com.