|Mary Gauthier — Trouble & Love |
Mary Gauthier — Trouble & Love
≈••≈ Mary Gauthier’s new album, Trouble & Love, is a brilliant collection of truthful and personal songs that reflect a total human experience: Love, loss, and a life transformed. Anyone who has loved and lost can’t fail to be moved by this devastatingly beautiful record.
Born: 11 March 1962, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Location: Nashville, TN
Album release: June 9th, 2014
Record Label: In The Black Records
01. When A Woman Goes Cold 3:52
02. False From True 2:56
03. Trouble And Love 6:16
04. Oh Soul 5:27
05. Worthy 5:00
06. Walking Each Other Home 4:18
07. How You Learn To Live Alone 5:08
08. Another Train 5:31
≈••≈ On stage at a sold-out McCabe's in Santa Monica on Saturday night, Mary Gauthier immediately jumped into songs from her forthcoming album, “Trouble & Love,” offering up “False From True” and the title track.
≈••≈ Then she explained to the audience that she had decided to bring out the new material at the start “so you wouldn’t think the new songs accidentally got happy.”
ven before her critically lauded 2005 breakthrough, “Mercy Now,” the Louisiana-born singer and songwriter recorded three albums that shone a light on some of the darkest corners of the human heart, but in a way that ultimately uplifts listeners. Her subsequent albums, “Between Daylight and Dark” in 2007 and “The Foundling” in 2010, are equally powerful collections that landed on many critics’ year-end top 10 lists.
≈••≈ “I like the blues,” she said Saturday, “but it’s good to sing the blues, it really is.”
≈••≈ As she told The Times in 2010 about her album "The Foundling," which explored the emotions of her history of being left on the doorstop of a Louisiana orphanage as an infant and then raised by a couple who adopted her: "There's no pain in telling the story for me. The pain was in living the story. But I've survived, so telling it is liberating and healing."
≈••≈ In many ways, her country and folk-rooted material is the antithesis of the feel-good bromides flowing out of today's Nashville. But her razor-sharp eye for detail and her commitment to unsentimental self-reflection puts her in a class with greats such as Kris Kristofferson, John Prine and yes, Bob Dylan. Her songwriting has won fans among fellow musicians who have recorded her songs, including Jimmy Buffett, Blake Shelton and Tim McGraw.
≈••≈ Gauthier is spending a rare chunk of time in Los Angeles because she also is performing and answering questions tonight, April 21, during a session at the Grammy Museum downtown, where she'll go into greater depth about her songwriting with moderator Scott Goldman.
≈••≈ In “When a Woman Goes Cold,” the first track from the new album (due June 10), Gauthier captured a world of emotion surrounding a relationship that disintegrated with just a few evocative strokes of her pen:
I must have missed a sign
Or missed a turn somewhere
I looked in her eyes
There was a stranger there
≈••≈ As usual, the darkness in Gauthier's songwriting was leavened by the humor of her between-song comments. She told a story about a fan who waited until she’d signed autographs after a show to question her about “When a Woman Goes Cold,” mimicking a deep, foreboding male voice saying, “You know her, don’t you!”
≈••≈ Her two-hour set, which included a brief guest appearance by rising country singer and songwriter Jaida Dreyer, touched on several of the cornerstones of her repertoire with the same intimacy and insight that makes it easy to understand why a fan would think Gauthier somehow had tapped the heartache in his own life for inspiration.
≈••≈ "The breakup songs that offer instant gratification, to songwriter and listener alike, are often the ones that either strike while the anger is hot or skip right to the part where a busted old love is replaced by a new one. Those are the fast-paced action scenes of romantic dissolution. Who would want to dwell on the quietly agonizing, drawn-out times between; the times when a person can feel like a broken record of heartache?
≈••≈ Mary Gauthier, that’s who. She staked out exactly that sort of thorny, transitional narrative territory the moment she began writing songs in her 30s, and later gave it a name with the album Between Daylight and Dark. So it’s not out of character for her to spend all eight songs on Trouble & Love working her way through stages of grief over a relationship, depicting each one as an all-consuming, transformative experience and stumbling onto blue notes that didn’t exist before.
≈••≈ To be affected by these songs, you don’t have to know anything of Gauthier’s backstory (Louisiana orphan addict chef turned sober troubadour), the respect she commands across gender lines in the Americana scene, or the heavyweight catalog she’s built out of unflinching introspection and Southern Gothic-shaded storytelling. ≈••≈ Still, it’s all the more moving to hear her depiction of utter aloneness when you’ve picked up on the profound sense of instability in her earlier songs about love, or heard her give voice to primal feelings of rejection on her previous album, The Foundling.
≈••≈ Here, Gauthier begins not with anger, but with the wrenching folk-rock testimony to impotence that is “When a Woman Goes Cold.” “There’s no war; there’s no argument; there’s nothing,” she said in a recent interview. “When it happens, it’s like being chopped off at the knees. There’s no going back.”
≈••≈ Gauthier presses on instead, through a song that sounds like it could be a generations-old spiritual, though it’s actually a prayer of repentance to the self (“Oh Soul”), and one (“Worthy”) in which she borrows devotional language that appears in evangelical Christian praise-and-worship choruses (unknowingly, she says) and directs it inwardly, too. After that, there’s no hiding behind self-pity, no rushing a rebound and no tidy resolution — just a slow and steady gathering of strength."
Written by Stephen Trageser June 9th, 2014 at 3:48 pm; Score: 4 out of 5 Stars
By JEWLY HIGHT, June 01, 201411:03 PM ET
© Photo credit: Singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier will appear April 21 at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. (Steven Counts)
A Conversation with Mary Gauthier
Mike Ragogna: Mary, it's been four years, right? How could you do that to us!
Mary Gauthier: What did I do? Oh, the records. [laughs] It takes a while, man! It's hard work, writing these things.
MR: What went into this one? Take us on a little tour of Trouble & Love.
MG: Well, it's a story of loss. There's the beginning and the middle and the end of the process that we go through, mostly when we lose something important to us. I tried to capture that while I wrote this thing. I wrote thirty-five songs for this record and eight songs made the cut.
MR: Since only eight songs made the cut, does that mean the others were purely for the purpose of a catharsis?
MG: It's not for a catharsis, really. The process is about trying to capture lightning in a bottle. Songwriting tends to try to make sense out of utter chaos and put a story to it with a beginning, a middle, and an end, under four minutes, that then we look at and go, "Oh yeah, that's what happened! I couldn't make sense of it when I was in it, but yeah, I've been through that. I don't really write for catharsis, I get that kind of work done in therapy. I've come to terms with the fact that I'll probably be in therapy all of my life. [laughs] Every time I think I'm done, I'm not. I write to make sense of things that are confusing and emotionally complex and like Hank Williams, I try to simplify it so that I can play it for people and they can look back at me and go, "You're not alone, Mary, yes, I have felt this too." In that simple act we somehow create a connection that means a lot to both the artist and the listener.
MR: The song "When A Woman Goes Cold," that in particular seems to set a lot of the tone of how you were feeling at the time. What do you think about that?
MG: I'm not sure if I got into how I was feeling so much as how she was
feeling. I think the song captures a phenomenon that might or might not be unique to women, which is that once you push a woman past the point of no return, she can't come back. There's a place where she disappears. I have experienced this from both sides, I've been that person and I've been on the other side of that person, and I've seen it enough to consider a phenomenon, and that's how the song was born. I'm like, "Okay, I thought it was just me or just her, but it's happened enough for me to think maybe there's a universal in there," and as a songwriter I'm going for the universal always. My personal diary is irrelevant to most people and it's not good enough, it's not deep enough, I'm looking for human nature and I think I nailed something there, because the way audiences react, particularly women, tells me a lot of people have experienced this thing.
MR: And there's another song like that, "I've Learned To Live Alone," which to me is as blatant a statement of what you went through.
MG: Yeah. You know, when you reach a certain age you've lost someone, it's just part of life. We connect and we move along and then it disconnects and there's loss, and that loss is a grieving process. The goal, I think, is to not stay stuck in the sorrow but to keep moving through it and keep the heart open. I think it's hard to explain what this song captures, but I think the character's moving forward, reluctantly, doesn't want to let go but has to. It's beginning to move past the sorrow into acceptance. There's a matter-of-factness about it that tries to speak to acceptance. In the acceptance of the loss comes some peace.
MR: Mary, one of the albums that affected me the most over the last couple of years was Mary Chapin Carpenter's Ashes & Roses. Now here comes your album that touches the same nerve in some respects. Is there something in the water? I'm not making light of what you went through to get to this album, but it seems like songwriters are connecting even more deeply with their lives for their art.
MG: I agree. I think Bob Dylan showed us that songs can rise to the level of literature and he proved it over and over again, that's why they keep trying to get him a Nobel Prize for literature, because there is no Nobel Prize for songwriting. There should be, and he should be the first one to have that put around his neck. He taught us that songs can go to the place where literature goes, which is a deep exploration of the human condition, and Chapin is one of the very best, Chapin is brilliant. Her songwriting is incredible. I walk with the knowledge that this is my goal, this is what I want to do as a songwriter, I'm hoping to connect in that way. Ultimately what I want is for my songs to outlive me, I want my songs to keep being played even after I'm gone.
MR: And it's not so much about your personal legacy but the legacy or power of what you're saying.
MG: Exactly! It's so that people can go, "Yeah! Me too, me too. I'm not alone. This is not just something that's happened to me because God hates me." This is the human condition, this is what we are here to deal with and most of us end up in the position to have to deal with it. It's biblical in scope, some of these things are just going to repeat in perpetuity. Each being comes in and boo, some of this is going to happen. So I think it creates hope, when you see yourself in songs, even if the songs are intense and considered "sad songs." I think sad songs can be very helpful, as long as they're honest. An honest song, there's life in it. That's why I didn't make a record with thirty-five songs, that's why I didn't put all those songs in it, because some of them were just too sad, it wasn't the truth. The truth is that sadness is a temporary state in grief. You move to acceptance, and through the acceptance of what's gone down your heart reopens and hopefully, love will come back. It almost always does if you're open to it.
MR: That's why I used the word "catharsis" earlier.
MG: I kind of flinch a little at "catharsis" because it just sounds so "confessional." I'm not saying I'm not confessional, I'm just saying that I wanted to go all the way down to the human condition. I don't want it to be a melodic reading of my diary, to me that's just incredibly boring.
MR: How did you approach this album, and moreover the whole batch of thirty-five songs? Was it different from the last time you made a record?
MG: The process was about the same, you sit and stare at a blank page with a guitar in your hand until something happens, the process remains the same. I have a writing room, I have totems in my writing room from so many different places I've traveled; I've got a Harry Potter wand that was given to me by someone in England; I've got eagle feathers given to me by an American Indian, I've got hobo nickels given to me by hobos, just a pile of stuff. I've got a Bob Dylan 45 of "Positively Fourth Street" that was given to me by a woman in Belgium; it's an absolutely 45 in perfect condition. I've got stuff in here that was given to me in love and kindness, so it surrounds me in my writing room and I come in here and sit down and work. I'm hoping to conduct electricity somehow, I've got a lightning rod hanging out the window, looking for the lightning, and if that doesn't change, that doesn't change.
MR: You've got a few cool people guesting on this project, too, such as Beth Nielsen Chapman. What was the recording process like? What were you up to?
MG: We were up to something that was really old-fashioned. We recorded on tape, we didn't use computers and Pro Tools and so forth. We recorded on tape and that required dusting off an old tape machine and finding tape to record on to. We didn't use headphones, we all sat together in the room and played together. it was stripped down, the old-fashioned way, the way Sinatra recorded. Get everybody in there and you play together. I think that's my favorite, too, because there's an honesty in it and there's also a humanity in it, there's imperfections and, for lack of a better word, mistakes. But oftentimes the mistakes are the most beautiful part. So we just stripped it down, I got the best players that I could get my hands on in Nashville, Guthrie [Trapp] is an incredible guitar player, Lynn Williams is an incredible drummer, and we just played them. We played the songs four or five times and we knew when we had it, and when we had it we moved on to the next one. We cut this thing in less than a week.
MR: When you listened back to Darrell Scott's performance on your track "Old Soul," what did you think?
MG: That still takes my breath away. He just outdid himself. He is incredibly gifted, he's one of the most gifted artists I've ever met and he's a dear, dear friend. We just put him and said, "Just sing. Just sing, Darrell. Just sing. Get in there and just sing," and he sang his heart out. I'm so very grateful that he took time out of his unbelievably busy schedule to come work with me on this record. He contributed so much, he's just phenomenal, and I bow to him, he's a monster. We've been working together for a long time, we've taught songwriting together around the world, we've been friends for a long time and it's been a real joy to watch the world come to find him and finally see him get his deserved claim. He's been great forever.
MR: I bet it's nice to have supportive friends accompanying you on musical adventures.
MG: It's fun to share with people that are also on their own journey. We give each other standing ovations, we're very supportive. Nashville's not competitive, not the circles I run in. We can see what each other's done and it inspires us, but we're not trying to crush each other, we're trying to help each other because we realize how hard this is, what we're trying to do.
MR: Excellent, that's so healthy, and it's so not what the atmosphere was when I lived in Nashville.
MG: Well you were probably around commercial country music.
MG: This is not that. We're trying to be artists, we're trying to be in Paris with the creative types at the turn of the century. We're looking for Gertrude Stein, we're looking for truth and beauty on a level that surpasses what's come before us. We're digging for diamonds and gold, we're not digging for country fucking radio. Every now and then something accidentally happens and you land here and it's great because it just pays the bills like you wouldn't believe, but that's not the goal.
MR: Many have covered your material such as Jimmy Buffett and Blake Shelton.
MG: Yeah, every now and then they find songs and record them and I'm so grateful. I've got to tell you, it really helps. But we don't sit down with that as the goal, that could never be the goal for me. I don't sit down and try to figure out what Blake Shelton would record. I just try to get to my truth and every now and then it intersects with their truth, which is a great honor.
MR: Are you proud of your albums in that way? You're pretty confident that your career has followed that paradigm until now?
MG: Yeah. I know that each record I've put out is the very best that I could do at the time. With that I can live peacefully, I have peace around my work because I know I never, ever, ever stopped for a moment until I knew it was the best I could do, every single syllable, every single note, I didn't phone in any of it. The best that I can do is the best that I can do and I have that peace. Yeah.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
MG: The way I see it, and I believe this is true, the entire music business is an inverted pyramid, and the tip of the pyramid sits on a song. There would be no music business without songs, so the song is what matters. You've got to get your songs right, and for me your song's not right until you're utterly honest. So my advice is to strip it down, be vulnerable, get real, get honest, people resonate with that and it matters more than anything. That's been my experience and I think that's why I have a career.
MR: Are you going to be touring?
MG: Oh, I'm touring like crazy. I'm working with Iraq War veterans, US soldiers, we've got an organization called Songwriting With Soldiers, I'll be with three other female writers working with female vets who have incurred trauma in Iraq and we're going to help them tell their story through song, and in that we're going to hopefully take that giant step from victim to storyteller. Once you tell your story it no longer tells you. We're hoping to help them. Then I'm going to the UK, I've got a conference I'm speaking at, I've got tour dates and tour dates and tour dates, I'm booked all the way through January at this point. When this record hits, I'm gone for a year, period. I'm out of here!
Transcribed By Galen Hawthorne (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/)
♣ Dixie Kitchen (1997)
♣ Drag Queens in Limousines (1999)
♣ Filth and Fire (2002)
♣ Mercy Now (2005)
♣ Between Daylight and Dark (2007)
♣ Genesis (The Early Years) ( 2008) — 15 track compilation from the 1st three albums
♣ The Foundling (2010)
♣ The Foundling Alone (2011) Acoustic Demo's of songs in development, from The Foundling
♣ Live at Blue Rock (2012) 11 mixed new and old tracks plus a hidden Mercy Now
♣ Trouble and Love (2014)
|Mary Gauthier — Trouble & Love |