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Dropping in from the "Music-Sphere"

March 21, 2009

Hey there! So sorry it’s been a few weeks since the last entry, but it’s been crazy-busy. It seemed as soon as we kicked the skunks out of the house, the kitchen ceiling started leaking! Oh well, we’ll get that patched up sooner or later.

Call it fate or coincidence, but it seems that my never-ending search for new tunes has caused another musician to be pulled out of the “music-sphere” and into The Gorge.

And as usual, I didn’t see it coming.

The CD I found is called “Tough as Nails,” by a band called “Bad Luck and Trouble.” I know, I’ve never heard of them either. It looked like a pretty standard rock or blues disc, created way back in 1998 – in Troutdale – of all places.

As always, I’m reading over the credits, and there it is – Guest musician Tracy Grammer on violin. Hmm, this could be good. I threw it on the other day, and it was a really solid R&B sound – good singing – good playing. Tracy plays on one track, and it’s definitely a departure from Tracy’s genre – she’s steeped in the folk-acoustic-singer-songwriter scene. But I do understand, you’ve got to rock-out once in a while.

A few days later, Tracy’s mass email alert notified me that she’ll be in The Dalles early April, so I decided to contact her and see what she’s been up to.

For those who don’t know, Tracy was teamed up with Dave Carter in a successful Portland-based duo with several albums to their credit. They toured frequently and were hugely popular in the folk circuit.

Luckily, Tracy is still keeping up the tradition, even after the unfortunate death of Dave in 2002. Tracy currently lives in the Northeast. She still tours and collaborates with Jim Henry, a multi-instrumentalist.

And I’m sure her name will pop up again, on some long-lost CD, in the back of some dusty record shop. I just know it.

Tracy Grammer plays the Fireside Room at The Dalles Civic Auditorium on Thursday, April 2, at 7 p.m. in The Dalles. Tickets are available at Columbia River Music. www.silverwireproductions.com

Read Jim’s interview with Tracy Grammer here.

March 21, 2009

Interview with Tracy Grammer:

1. I recall seeing you guys (with Dave Carter) at Full Sail Brewery - must have been 7 or 8 years ago. Has it really been that long since you've played the Gorge?

I played the Fireside Room at some point after Dave died in 2002, but I'm not sure when ... maybe 2003? Suffice to say, it's been a long time. This will be my first solo show in The Dalles, part of the birthday tour 2009 (my bday is 4/8). I'm really looking forward to it.

2. It's obvious that you are still dedicated to performing music, even with major changes in your life. What keeps you wanting to perform?

I still believe in the songs of Dave Carter. I believe in them as strongly as I did the first night I heard them. I made a promise to our fans that I would do whatever I could to help keep Dave's legacy of music alive. So in addition to overseeing the administration of Dave's catalog, I hit the road often, singing his songs and telling our story. It brings me joy.

But there's more to it than that. I've loved the stage since the 3rd grade, when I was cast in the role of the Modern Major General in my elementary school's rendition of Gilbert & Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance." Loved it in 5th grade when I was the Duke of Plaza Toro; in junior high and high school when I performed with regional orchestras; loved it as a cheerleader, even, at those halftime rallies in high school. I guess I just like to be out and in front of people. Maybe it's a first-born thing. Maybe it's the Aries Monkey in me, always entertaining, always trying to get people to sing or play along. :)

I wrote on my website that "music is a channel of authenticity for me; I know I'd only be telling half the truth without it." Probably the most important reason I continue to sing and play music is that it gives me access to precious sides of myself that I'd have trouble finding otherwise. I wouldn't feel whole if I didn't get up and sing.

3. Who do you listen to nowadays? (who’s on your playlists)

Fleet Foxes, Richard Shindell, some native flute music, Shawn Colvin's Cover Girl album (always makes me feel at home when I'm traveling).

4. Overall, what's your recording process like - do you figure out everything and then go into the studio - or do you put ideas together and get people into the studio to see what happens?

You can never know what's going to happen in the studio. I think it's important to have a vision, but you can't hold on too tightly to it because beautiful, unexpected things can, and always DO, happen in the studio. The trick is to find people whose work you adore; communicate your vision as clearly as you can; and then play, trust the process, let things change and flow. It's group magic that makes the record, what I call the "ping factor." People "ping", or play off of one another, and in that careful listening new parts emerge, new beats take root, new textures inform the fabric of the work. It's a rush.

Most important to me is this: did I successfully tell the story? Because fancy textures and hip beats mean nothing if the soul of the song is lost in the process. Fortunately I have a cadre of musicians that understands what it means to serve the song. Together, we ensure that the story is told.

5. Any new CD projects in the works?

I'm thinking about doing another Flower of Avalon-type project this fall for release in early 2010. I keep unearthing more Dave Carter songs that have not yet seen the light of day. Not all of them are appropriate for me to sing, and in those instances, I'll need to get them into the hands of other performers. But the ones I can do, I will.

I'd also like to do an instrumental EP this year. My partner Jim Henry and I have created four EPs so far -- two are mine, two are his -- and we enjoy that process. Just two of us in a room, playing and singing in our home studio. Very organic. Our goal is to create a "six-pack" of seven-song CDs, so we each have one more to go...

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