Monday, April 16, 2007

Uncommon Folk: Linda Draper

Uncommon Folk is a feature in which artists we admire talk about the music and other media that inspired and influenced their own work.

Linda Draper's fifth album, Keepsake, will be released by Virginia-based Planting Seeds Records on May 8th. A veteran of New York's loose anti-folk scene, Linda's songs are instantly accessible but hold plenty of depth. Her sturdy songwriting and calm, confessional vocals go down easy, but surprise with shades of darkness finely calibrated to remind listeners of life as it's lived. After a longtime partnership with the legendary Kramer, she worked with Major Matt Mason in producing Keepsake.

To record something with the intent of it being released on a Compact Disc (even though it’ll also be available on iTunes, etc.) is starting to feel like a nostalgic thing to do, especially with everything becoming digital/invisible/portable these days. CDs are starting to lose their sense of purpose, almost. Thinking about this is how I came up with the title for my latest CD, Keepsake, as well as a couple of the other songs that are on it, like “Cell Phone”.

From 1999 – 2006, I’ve moved 8 times - all around Brooklyn, Manhattan, or Queens. The good thing about moving this often is that you don’t accumulate too much junk. I actually enjoy throwing things away. I’m a packrat’s worst nightmare. But every now and then, I come across something that I want to hold onto.

In 2004, after bouncing around from place to place, I moved into what would be my 3rd basement studio apartment in Queens. When cleaning out the apartment, I discovered a bottle of prescription medication that probably belonged to the person who lived there before me. I looked up online what the medication was for. Apparently they either suffered from anxiety, depression or both. The first song I wrote while living in that apartment was inspired by the former tenant, someone I never met. It’s called “Kissing The Ground”. This song would find its way onto Keepsake, which I recorded in bits and pieces over the course of about a year, from 2005-2006. I was listening to a lot of Cake in 2004, in particular the Pressure Chief album. Thinking back on it now, the lyrics in “Kissing The Ground” were probably at least partially inspired by their song “Tougher Than It Is”. “End of the Movie” is another one of my favorite Cake songs.

Listen to Cake at MySpace

“Among Every Stone That Has Been Cast” was inspired by the music/melodic structure and phrasing of one of the best songwriter/poets of all time, Leonard Cohen.

Watch a video for "Chelsea Hotel #2" at YouTube

The lyrics that are in the title track of “Keepsake” came from my experiences of living in my 1st basement studio apartment in Queens (Astoria) back in 2002-2003. That building caught on fire. My upstairs neighbors, two kids and their mom, died in it. It was all over the news because the kids were related to the actress Marcia Gay Harden. I remember I was actually inside of my apartment making breakfast at the time of the fire. It was late Sunday afternoon in mid December of ‘03. (I like to sleep late on weekends.) I was in my kitchen when I first heard the sound of breaking glass, which I later realized must have been the windows upstairs exploding from the heat of the flames. Outside my own window I saw what I first thought was snow falling but then quickly realized were ashes, followed by chunks of fire, burning ember of tar and wood. I remember I looked out my front door and saw big clouds of black smoke and flames pouring out of the window a couple of stories above me. I yelled “Holy Shit!” a few times, grabbed my guitar and my cordless phone to call 911 and ran like hell out the front door – and then (of course) slipped and fell just like in the movies. Lucky for me, with the exception of a very tiny piece of ember that burned a little hole right through my favorite pair of jeans when I fell, I escaped completely unscathed -- as did my little black kitty.

I’ve gone through some trying times before as we all have, you know, but when you experience and see firsthand how fragile it all is, you can’t help but find it to be that much more valuable and worth fighting for – or running like hell for - even if it’s not that pretty to look at sometimes. The inspection later concluded that the fire started as a result of an unattended candle someone had left in one of the apartments upstairs.

Besides the song “Keepsake” some of the ideas for a couple of the other songs, like “Traces Of”, came from this experience too.

Back to the present: I finally gave into the ways of the world and bought my first cell phone the end of 2006. But I still don’t think I really need one and rarely if ever, answer it…much to the annoyance of most of my friends.

You can pre-order Keepsake here.

The Keepsake CD release party will be at the Cake Shop in NYC on May 26th, with Carolyn Alroy and Kat Hayman.

MP3: Linda Draper - Shine
Stream: Several songs at MySpace

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