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All I Ever Wanted
Artist: Smooth Breezers
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Puzzle Pieces, Wine and The Finest Kind: An Interview with Erin Ivey

We first met Erin Ivey about three years ago, prior to her performing on the MadeLoud stage at the Monolith Festival in Colorado. Since then, the festival has shuttered and Ivey has gone on to achieve substantial notoriety, from gracing the cover of Austin Monthly’s “Beauty Issue” to more serious acclaim like hitting the Waterloo Top 10 with her new album, Broken Gold.

For our second interview with Ivey we returned to the familiar environs of coffee shop/bar Rio Rita, where we chatted about her new album, solitude and bands, all the while sampling on pizza, tea and red wine. Hey - it was after five. Or almost.

You mention both Chicago and L.A. in songs on this album. Was Broken Gold written in other cities?

Yeah it was, actually. I took a writing retreat for six weeks in Michigan, and I started writing there - I had forty songs - and then I went on tour. I went to Austin, Houston, and then I flew to L.A. and New York, and then Chicago and back up to Michigan just to try out the material before bringing it back to Austin again - just to find out what songs people were asking for. While I was on the tour I wrote “L.A. Lullaby,” and most of the new originals were written up in Michigan. I definitely remember where I was when I wrote that song - I was sitting in my friend Chris and Courtney’s huge love seat in their living room. I think I wrote “You Got Your Wishes Wrong” in Austin, actually.

So not only are the songs about a lot of different places, but they were written in a bunch of different places as well.

Yeah. After that songwriting retreat I was so in the groove of writing every day, like getting up, having tea, and writing, writing, writing. It’s the morning pages paradigm, where you write and start the pen moving before your inner critic wakes up.

Huh.

...and then traveling and getting back to the regular life in Austin kind of dampens that.

But you found it was fruitful to write that way?

Yes. It took me awhile...I was there for six weeks, I think, and it took me a week to just be able to hang out by myself. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t really drinking, I didn’t have any drugs, and I was just by myself. I didn’t like it - I’m not used to that. It’s an interesting exercise to get alone...like, painfully alone. I did a five-hundred piece puzzle in like two minutes. I was desperate for stimulus.

I wanted to ask what it was like working with the Finest Kind on this album and getting their input. Was it helpful in some ways and frustrating in others?

That’s a really good question. The band I work with is kind of special. They’re not my band and are a separate entity unto themselves. So it was really nice that I could have a band and not have to manage a band. In a way it was like hiring talent - which I have done in the past - but it wasn’t like that. Rolff [Ordahl] and I have played together for years, and we’ve cultivated a musical relationship and a personal relationship. So it wasn’t just like hiring musicians, because we’ve been on this journey together, kind of alongside one another for a long time. I think I have the best of both worlds.

Within that dynamic, did you use your opportunity with the band to try, like, a heavy bass groove in a song or something like that?

Yeah. I would bring my songs to them, and we would work on them until it felt like it was my song but with a Finest Kind groove. And some just didn’t work, and some of them grew out of my working with the Finest Kind. “You Got Your Wishes Wrong” is one of those where I was like, “Hey, I wrote this with you guys in mind. Let’s see if it works.”

That’s interesting. So you’re writing with the approach of a full band now, whereas before you wrote with just yourself in mind.

True, and that’s a line I’m trying to walk very consciously. They don’t want me to stop being Erin Ivey, and I don’t want them to stop being the Finest Kind, and yet we share this middle ground that is really special. Honestly, I’ve been in marketing mode with this album, and I haven’t been writing a whole lot, but what I have been writing lately is just for me. There’s a song called “Canyon” and that one is just for me, I think. It gives me another perspective to write from, but it doesn’t supersede the writing that I do from my own heart.


I was surprised to hear some hip-hop on the record [the song “Go! Go! Go!”]. Was it easy to bridge those worlds together on the song?

We didn’t think of it until we laid the tracks down, and my manager at the time, Brian Conway, thought it would be a great hip-hop track. So he suggested we give Mic Flo a call - he’s a medical doctor and was doing his residency up in Ft. Worth - and he made the time to come to Austin and wrote the rhyme on his way down. And if it worked, it worked, and if it didn’t, it didn’t. Why the hell not give it a shot?

Sure. Why don’t more groups try to experiment with that, I wonder?

I don’t know! [pause] maybe it comes down to who you surround yourself with, who your friends are, who you make music with. I’m just really lucky here in Austin to have different friends with different artistic visions in different genres. I mean, if we weren’t friends with Mic, I don’t think that would have happened.

I know you’re in promotion mode, but can you tell us what you have next on your mind for recording?

I have so much in mind for recording. I still want to make the lullabies record, and I have plenty of songs, and it’s just a matter of going through this whole process again, which is exhausting (laughs). I’d like to get on the road - I’d like to see where, in the world, Broken Gold hits. And I’ll go to those places.

Upcoming shows:

Mar 18 - Austin Music Store at City Hall, 2pm
Mar 18 - Official SXSW showcase at the Flamingo Cantina with The Finest Kind, 8pm
Mar 19 - Continental Club with The Finest Kind, 1:30pm
Mar 20 - Live Music Core Workout Class at Bettysport, 10:45am

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