Monday, 17 January 2011

I Beg Your Parton?: Q&A w/ Addie Brownlee

In the latter quarter of 2010, my first stop at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City yielded a pleasant serendipity, catching an intimate early afternoon performance from singer-songwriter Addie Brownlee

With her bittersweet, lyrically intriguing songs, Addie caught the ear immediately and had fun doing so in a live setting. It's with great pleasure, then, that we anticipate her next show this coming Wednesday 19th January. 

A tribute to one of her significant musical influences, I Beg Your Parton? will see the singer take the Living Room stage with Martha Wainwright to pay tribute to the country legend inspiring the show title.  I took the opportunity to catch up with Addie over e-mail, to get the low down on the show:

H-T-A: Happy New Year! We last - and indeed first - crossed paths last October at CMJ. How was that show for you and what have you been up to since?

Addie Brownlee: Happy New Year to you too, Steve! I guess we'll catch up outside of this interview :) The CMJ/Paste showcase was a blast. I got to throw a bunch of koozies, and we met you! Since then I've done several illegal things that I can't talk about. Not really. I've been writing, getting ready for a SECRET show on January 19th at the Living Room. I also licensed Sea Legs to the Department of Justice and performed in a PSA they shot to bring attention to paying musicians fairly.

H-T-A: You released the East of Leaving EP last year after what looks like a fair old chunk of time from the previous release. Do you have any more material ready to go this year?

AB: I've been writing away. We're going to release a full length record this year as well. I try to only write when it's time. If what I'm writing doesn't feel authentic, I stop and get to work on all the other things involved in an independent music career. And I learn other people's songs. And sometimes, when I'm at a live show of someone who's work I really admire, I start writing like a crazed... crazy - during the show. Rude. But I try to be subtle about it. When a brilliant artist is vulnerable in front of so many people, sometimes it drags words of my own out of me.

H-T-A: 'Blessing' is a song that particularly caught my ear at your CMJ show, not least because of your impressive success in crossing the melancholy of lost love with a bitter wit that makes it all the more memorable. Can you share some of your feelings about that song or is it all said in the delivery?!

AB: It's nice that it caught your attention, thanks. I wrote what I felt, which is why when I got to the chorus I just kept writing exactly what I felt - all the things you're not supposed to think or say when you're wishing someone you loved well. 

H-T-A: How did you come to collaborate with Martha Wainwright? Presumably you both share a fine appreciation for Dolly Parton?

AB: Martha sang on my record, East of Leaving and on the full length record coming out this year. She's one of those songwriters who makes me start writing in the middle of her show. Don't tell her. I'm really excited about what she's chosen to sing. I know it's meaningful for her. Everything about the show gets me so excited I can't sleep!



H-T-A: What do the songs and style of Dolly Parton mean to you, both personally and in terms of influence on your own music? 
AB: Dolly is one of the great people making a few turns around the earth with all of us right now. She's written over 3000 songs. Which means next year's show shouldn't be hard to program. She's known as the 'Iron Butterfly' for her business savvy. I got the inspiration for this show, standing in line years ago to see her at Irving Plaza. The mix of people there was E-clectic! Passersby kept stopping and asking, 'Who's playing tonight?'. Because we were this crew (some motley, some not so much) of people who I guess seemed not to make sense together. The show-goers were like a mini data set of every demographic. People in cowboy hats, drag queens, me. Björk

H-T-A: We're eagerly anticipating the show next week. What can people planning to attend expect to see?

AB: We're eagerly anticipating it too! I've sung these songs all my life, but now as I sit with them, I'm so moved by who Dolly Parton is. The wigs and plastic surgery and 'it takes alot of money to look this cheap' persona is no doubt a part of her, but I wanted to make her writing and entertaining (including knowing when to sing a great song that's not her own) the focus. A birthday party/show for Dolly CAN'T NOT be a little silly, but it's not a tribute show (the band just stared at me when I mentioned wigs - somebodies were a wittle low on bwood sugar at wehearsal). 

I definitely sound and look nothing like Dolly. Except for the Lee press-ons. I sort of hoped that because of me being so different from her, people would get a chance to really focus on her music, no distraction from the words Dolly's been writing about her life, all her life.

Thanks again to Addie for taking the time to listen to and answer some H-T-A musical ramblings. Come out to the Living Room on Wednesday 19th Jan at 8pm to see just what goes down at this special show. 

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