You moved to Austin a few years ago from Athens, Ohio. How would you describe that music scene?
Athens, Ohio is one of my favorite places in the world. While it is not the tiniest of cities, it is much different from larger cities like Columbus, Ohio (my hometown) or Austin. Surrounded by trees and hills, it immediately draws you in and there is a strong sense of closeness there; I find myself longing for that place at times. It was nothing less than magical to have that environment surrounding a music scene where I could easily listen to budding musicians play at an open mic and then hop next door to see a full metal band or reggae or folk-rock artist playing at a bar or coffee shop. In a very short amount of time, I was able to explore and listen to diverse music in a close-knit community where people supported and encouraged each other regardless of differences. In particular, Donkey Coffee was an important launching pad for me.
It invited me to truly grow for the first time, to share my music, to not feel so afraid.
I’ve seen you play several times here in Austin. How has the music scene here had an effect on you?
When I first moved to Austin, I came without any true intention of becoming a part of its music scene. I knew that the city held endless opportunities regarding the exploration of music and I mainly looked forward to listening rather than performing. However, within our first months in Austin, my husband and I were fortunate enough to meet folks at some wonderful house shows [the Cotton House]. It was the first time that I was reminded of Athens and this formed the basis for me picking up where I left off. I gained more confidence in sharing my music and I realized that this felt really good. It was a pleasant surprise to find that, even in a city that is saturated with music every night of the week, it is possible to find oneself welcomed on a personal level by extremely talented and often humble artists. My perception of the music scene continues to change as I see these artists transform and, in turn, this has inspired me to continue to grow, to collaborate, and to take chances I wouldn’t have taken otherwise.
You’re currently working on your first release. Can you tell me about that process? How did you decide what songs to record?
Admittedly, the whole process is still extremely new to me. I entered into it without any clear plan of a direction I would take with the recordings and I am still figuring this out to some degree. For now, I am planning on releasing a very small 7”, hopefully within the year—just one song on each side. I think I chose these songs because they resonate the most with me and I feel like they always will. And, of course, I hope that they speak to people, that others can connect in some way. “Dead Man” delves a little bit, albeit vaguely, into establishing oneself in this world and passing into the other world—another existence—and finding serenity in that. “Waiting For the World” is really more of an ode or maybe a little bit of a shove to stop waiting for things to happen and just make things happen. This is advice I often need!
Where did you record it at?
I recorded it at Estuary Recording in Austin. Michael Landon engineered the whole project and made the process both easy and exciting. Not only was it the first time I had recorded in a studio, it was the first time I had heard my songs with full instrumentation. I was really blown away and it was a powerful moment… one I will never forget. It was also special to me that my husband Adam Torres and friend Aisha Burns (first met at the Cotton House shows) were a part of these recordings. Both extremely talented musicians and songwriters, and dear to me.
All of your sets in Austin have been as a solo act, but you recently put together a full band lineup. Can you tell me more about your new band?
The band is called Besos de Lobos and we are starting to book shows now. The band is comprised of my husband Adam Torres (bass), Rodolfo Villarreal (drums), and myself (guitar, vocals, Rhodes). This is another new experience for me as I have almost always performed solo.
We are currently working on songs I have already written, but my hope is that we all have a voice in the band as we progress and write new songs. Initially I thought it would be daunting, to play with other people, but I have found it to be fun and freeing more than anything. The music is melody-driven, sometimes psych-rock and other times psych-folk. It is teaching me a lot. I am learning to play around with louder dynamics as well as silence.
You have a very unique voice and your songs tread a very different road from a lot of folk musicians. What are some of your influences?
Oh, boy! This is a difficult question to answer and it is always changing. My first memories of music are of my parents singing songs to me before bedtime each night for many years, so that is the most meaningful influence and memory. The Beatles were extremely important and formative to me as well, especially John Lennon. They inspired me to start learning guitar and writing my own songs in the seventh grade. And Neil Young never fails me; I could listen to him all day long. I’m trying to think of other timeless influences and those would include Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Nick Cave, Al Bowlly, The Breeders, Harry Nilsson, Dead Moon, Cat Stevens, Leonard Cohen, Carole King, Erik Satie, Wilco, PJ Harvey, Sam Cooke, and I can’t forget Raffi.
You’re very involved with music in your work life too, right? How do you find the balance and the time to work on songs for yourself?
I am a music therapist and I work full-time at an inpatient psychiatric hospital with adults, children, and adolescents. We spend a lot of time writing songs, discussing lyrics, and improvising musically in order to build and reinforce positive social skills and coping skills. Together, we create music in order to express and process the struggle and growth they are going through. It is my most meaningful work and I feel very lucky to be able to connect to these people through such a compelling medium as music. While it is extremely rewarding, it can definitely become emotionally heavy at times and I definitely need to remind myself to work on my own music and other art at times.
It is all connected though… I use my own music to ‘cope’ as well. It is my way of processing life, of balancing the dark and the light, of bringing forth the shadows. I never force songwriting because I know it will come out when it needs to and when it does it will feel good. I have heard other artists describe their creations in this way and it holds true for me. I write songs because I must, and I trust that when they are ready to be shared they will emerge one way or another. That being said, I am always trying to be more conscious of making time and space for this work. A current goal I have is to be more disciplined in waking earlier in order to let creativity come forth, to make room both figuratively and literally.
Thai food or pizza?
Definitely Thai. Wouldn’t turn down some good pizza though.
Dawn or dusk?
Dawn with a good book, a dog or two, maybe a little Neil Young. And coffee.