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Monolith Interview - Erin Ivey

Monolith Interview - Erin Ivey

In the dense biosystem of Austin musicians, sticking out and making a living is a combination of the right songs, right moves, and right promotion that has no set formula. Fortunately for singer/songwriter Erin Ivey, exposure has led her from coffeshop gigs for friends into festival appearances and even a little internet notoriety. Ivey spoke with MadeLoud about listening to and playing music, old inspirations and new experiences.

MadeLoud: Austin's known for having a gaggle of singer-songwriters elbowing their way into coffee shops at any given second during any given day. How have you managed to stand out in such a dense battleground?

In Austin there are so many people playing, all the time. After I did my twice-weekly residency at Flipnotics and got to where I felt my act was really strong, like strong enough for me to not play sixteen times a month, I kind of pulled the reins back. I make every show an event as much as possible. I think my friends, who would see me in my bathrobe, would want to come out and see me in a dress. In a place that is so saturated you have to give people plenty of reasons to come see you, least of which is that they haven’t seen you for three weeks.

ML: You've also released records of 30s swing and jazz music. Where do those influences factor into your repertoire of styles, and where do they come from in the first place?

I’ve always had a fascination with the 20s and 30s, and with prohibition/depression style and fashion and music, and just really roots jazz. And I met a guy [Rolf Ordahl] who has that same fascination. His father taught him stride piano, and he’s made a life out of swinging, basically, and is teaching me about what swing is, and where it fits into the history of American music. We just work well together, and he’s interested in seeing my urban take on these old songs. The most wonderful part is how it has influenced my solo stuff. When I do my solo sets I usually have a guitar, but with Grand Hotel I’m just singing. I pay a lot more attention to controlling and reaching new heights with my voice, and getting my voice to do what my brain tells it to. It’s been good for vocal training and just for simplifying what I hear in my head when I’m writing.

ML: Another interesting project you've done is the "Austin Lullabies" project. Could you talk a little about its genesis?

The Austin Lullabies are the beginning of a collection of lullabies that I will hopefully be writing for the rest of my life. The first incarnation was three songs for my friend Molly’s daughter, Lilly, for her birthday. Ultimately I would like to turn it into a full-length record with an accompanying booklet, just all Austin artists and all Austin musicians. I’d like to get Willie Nelson on it. I’m playing at a festival with him (South Padre International Music Festival) so I hope that will be a good introduction and that he’ll be interested in it.

ML: Gossip maven Perez Hilton gave you a shout-out on his website. Did that make you feel happy or just icky? Or both?

He said very nice things, and I’m really grateful for the exposure. I was playing in Mexico when he did the write-up, so I had no idea. When I came home I had lots of email and voicemails, and I felt so popular. My first big check from iTunes was pretty much care of Perez Hilton. I totally appreciate that he said nice things, because it seems like he doesn’t have a lot of nice things to say (laughs).

ML: You also do quite a bit of music blogging. Are you an obsessive audiophile as well, and what has stood out lately as one of your favorite listening experiences?

You are what you eat. If there’s music playing, I can’t have a conversation. If I like something, if something really speaks to me, I’ll listen to it over and over again. It freezes itself into that time in my life. On the way over here, I’m not going to lie I was listening to the Flashdance soundtrack. I was feeling crappy from jetlag and wanted to feel 1986 again. What else…I just got back from Zambia and the polyrhythms just blew me away. Watching them move and clap, and the way they would pick out these crazy rhythms that I would never be able to hold onto. African pop is something I’m just now getting into.

ML: You'll be on our acoustic stage with similarly unplugged musicians. Have you heard many of these artists before? As a contrast, what's the loudest, most electric band you've ever been paired with?

I haven’t heard any of the other artists, but that’s the cool part – it gives me a chance to go into these relationships with their music with a clean slate. My most unlikely pairing was with Scout’s Honor, a screamo punk band out of Chicago. Jared Grabb, the front man, and I have shared a stage many times.

ML: Who are you hoping to catch during Monolith?

I will on purpose try to see Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, who are like the tightest band around. And I also want to see Blitzen Trapper, who I caught at Emo’s a year ago. I talked to them afterwards and I couldn’t remember the band name, because it’s a weird name. I love Portland. Maybe I’ll get in with them and crash on their couch when I’m up there.

Erin is performing Monolith at 12:30 pm on Saturday, September 13. To listen to Erin's new album on MadeLoud, click here.

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