LONDON Boston-born Eileen Rose has a string of Americana albums under her belt, but her new record "Be Many Gone" has a more classic country feel, inspired by years of honing her craft in Nashville's honky-tonks with her side-project band, The Silver Threads.
"Nashville is just screaming hot right now," Rose said, speaking to Reuters on the phone from country music's spiritual home. "Everything's booming - it's on all the top 10 lists of the hottest cities in the U.S."
Nashville's profile has been raised by the TV show of the same name and country music is enjoying a revival, but Rose is careful to draw a distinction between the poppier country getting mainstream radio play and classic country music.
"What they are calling country now has given traditional country a bad name. I have nothing against it, but I wish they'd call it something else, because when I say I play country, people think I mean songs about pick-up trucks and being down by the creek. But that's not what I'm singing about."
Rose's new record recreates a warm vintage country sound with pedal steel licks from co-producer "The Legendary" Rich Gilbert, fiddle from Buddy Spicher, who has played with Bob Dylan and Emmylou Harris, and "slap" upright bass from rockabilly bassist Slick Joe Fick. Frank Black of The Pixies also delivers an atypical vocal on "Each Passing Hour".
Rose moved to Nashville in 2008, partly at the request of her publishing company, which wanted her to write with young country singers, but Rose found it difficult. Despite this, she felt at home in Nashville when she saw that "songwriter" was listed as an occupation on her bank account forms. "It was like a choir of angel voices came around," she said, laughing.
She now plays four-hour shifts with The Silver Threads five times a week on Nashville's historic Lower Broadway, covering classic country tracks by the likes of Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. "My voice is bullet proof," she said.
Here are other comments she made:
Q: You have a Sicilian father and an Irish mother. How has your Catholic upbringing influenced your songwriting?
A: Even if in your adult life you decide you don't believe in God, that stuff gets in your bones. And those stories in the Bible are so dramatic, you can draw from them. Songwriting is about economy, so if you can use an archetype like Judas, which says a lot with just the name, you can get a lot of depth in your song without having to use a lot of words.
Q: "Be Many Gone" seems more mellow than some of your earlier, acerbic work. What changed?
A: As you get older, the picture gets bigger - especially when people start to die. You re-assess what you think is important. In some of my older records I was hanging on to things in an angrier way. Now I don't really sweat the small stuff as much. Also, I want to write a song that's classic. I want to write at least one song that outlasts me and to do that you've got to write more universally.
Q: The new record includes "Prove Me Wrong", a song co-written with Boo Hewerdine, a long-time collaborator of Eddi Reader's. How did that come about?
A: We wrote that song years ago when I was living in a 100-year-old dairy cottage in Essex (England). I couldn't have been living in a more English setting and we wrote a country song. Maybe the universe knew I would be living in Nashville before I did. We wrote it as a duet so we're trying to get some dates together for when I tour Europe in September.
Q: You've now got your own label, The Holy Wreckords, with Gilbert. What have you got lined up for that?
A: With my next record I just want voice, acoustic guitar and pedal steel - I'm curious what would happen if I limit myself. Rich and I made a record at home called "Bones", which was really simple - bare-bones versions of my old songs and some new ones. We did it in two days and it sold really well. So I've started work on Bones 2 - More Bones!
(Editing by Michael Roddy and Larry King)