Quick Q and A with Alice Howe

Alice Howe is a bright new “star” in the folk universe.  Alice’s sweet yet powerful voice has made an impact on music fans up and down each coast.  She’s been touring and making music like it’s nobody’s business. Beware: she has many songs that will become “ear worms” and you’ll be singing them over and over for weeks at a time.  It’s all good!

Alice Howe will be playing “in the round” with Jim Trick and Freebo at the me&thee in Marblehead, MA on November 3.

To learn more about Alice, check out her website.

Here’s a video of Alice singing “Homeland Blues.”

So, tell us about the new recording that you’re working on. 

I am very excited to be working on my first full-length record at Aum Studios in Bakersfield, CA produced by folk-rock-blues icon Freebo (Bonnie Raitt 10 yrs, CSN, Maria Muldaur, John Mayall, & many others). The album will feature a mix of original songs and a few covers. Freebo and I first met at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance conference last November, and then reconnected at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City this February, where Freebo suggested that I come to California to try working together on a few of my new songs. I flew out for the first time in April for what turned out to be a very productive and inspiring first session, and we decided to record a whole album. I’ve been out twice more since, and we have plans to complete recording and mixing by May 2018.

What’s it like to work with Freebo, as a producer and as a musician?

After my first trip out to California, I knew that Freebo and I would make a great team for this record. He has worked with some of the greats, and brings over 50 years of experience as a bass player, songwriter, and producer to the studio. Our process is cooperative and organic, the kind of environment that I feel is very beneficial to me at this early stage in my career. I appreciate that Freebo strives to follow each song where it “wants” to go, arranging each mix to complement the song rather than coming in with a preconceived notion of how it should sound. We’ve co-written a few tunes, all of which will be on the record. Up until now, I’ve been very solitary with my songwriting, and it’s been a nice change to have a collaborator. In some cases, I’ll write almost all of the lyrics and then Freebo will work with me on finishing the guitar part, writing the bridge, tweaking the melody, et cetera. Other times, we’ll throw lyrics back and forth, riffing until we come up with something we like.

Have you performed more shows in the past year than in any other year thus far?  What’s your favorite thing about playing live?

This has been my first year pursuing music full time, and I have performed more than any other year! I feel as though it’s been a year of exponential growth as a performer. All the repetition of performing has allowed me to come into my own and get really comfortable.  It’s true, practice really does make perfect! Well, maybe not perfect, but definitely better and better. It was an especially busy summer with performances at Club Passim’s Campfire Festival, Caffe Lena, Caramoor Center for the Arts, and the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. I’ve been putting some serious miles on my Volvo station wagon! I love playing live because you have to be so in the moment to do your best work. If you think about it, so much of my time as a professional musician is spent on the work that it takes to get on stage: writing emails and making calls, booking shows, promoting the shows, and driving to the venue. When I get to enjoy the live performance, that’s pure joy!

What have you discovered about yourself this year and how will it inform you as you move forward in your music career?

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned this year is the incredible value of relationships in the furthering of my career. Attending my first Folk Alliance conference was a turning point in my career, as it expanded my world immeasurably, and I was able to reach a much wider audience in the Northeast and nationally as well. Everything I’ve accomplished this year has resulted from the relationships I have formed and the “team” I’m putting together. I’ve also learned that I made the right decision in quitting my day job and devoting myself to this pursuit. The positive feedback I’ve received and the deep sense of satisfaction I derive from this work is proof that I’m following my calling.

Who are some specific artists who have influenced you in terms of lyrics or music?

I was fortunate to grow up in a family that placed great value on music. My parents had a formidable vinyl collection, and I was brought up on their favorite artists. I love 1970s southern California songwriters like Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell, and the blues sung by Taj Mahal and Muddy Waters. Since I’ve been working with Freebo, I’ve been listening to a lot of Bonnie Raitt, especially her first few albums. I would say her first record is my favorite — I love the songs, her voice is an inspiration, and the band sounds like they are having a grand time.

Tell us about your EP that came out earlier this year.

I released my EP, “You’ve Been Away So Long,” in March of this year. I recorded the EP in Seattle shortly before I moved back to the Boston area, and it features five original songs. I love it because it’s raw, and simple – just my voice, guitar, my friend Jeff Fielder on guitar and dobro, and the engineer, Moe Provencher, on bass. The simplicity of the arrangements allows my voice and songwriting to shine. I was thrilled when my song “Homeland Blues” debuted as the #1 song on the April Folk-DJ charts.

What’s your songwriting process like?  Do you wait for the muse to visit or do you work at it day in and day out?

The songwriting process has evolved for me over the years. I used to wait for a bolt of inspiration, but over time I’ve found that some of my best work happens when I just sit with my guitar and sing and wait until something starts to take shape. There’s an improvisational element to it. I’ll be singing to myself, trying to let ideas flow as freely as I can, and I’ll strike gold.


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