B&L: What animal do you associate yourself with (given our ties to oxen)?
Elsa Cross: Maybe like a German Shepard… I’m loyal and loving, but don’t f@ck with me.
B&L: Why music? Why do you seek it? Why do you create it? How’d it come calling to you?
Cross: Music definitely found me. I didn’t ask for this life! (Laughs.) I have always been drawn to music, ever since I can remember. As a gal in my twenties I was listening to a lot of classic country, rockabilly and punk. Americana music became something I just HAD to be a part of. My songwriting has always been a way to relate with people, maybe reach someone through a song.
B&L: What’s the making of a great show?
Cross: Charisma and genuineness. My favorite people to watch perform are those who look like they are home when they’re on stage. They suck you into their world and you don’t want to look away. That’s the best part of living in a place like Austin… there are incredibly talented, hard working musicians every which way you turn. It’s inspiring to see so many artists’ dedication and energy towards putting on a show.
B&L: Let’s talk about your upcoming record. What’s the story behind it? What’s it called? How in the world did you rope in musicians that have played with the likes of Iggy, Bowie, and Willie? That’s exciting…
Cross: There is no name for the record yet, that will come later. It started as a project between me and my guitar player, Tjarko Jeen. We’ve been playing together for over a year now, I refer to him as my “sensei”. He’s taken my songs to another level of musicianship. When we started playing together it just clicked. He has pushed me to improve and progress in places where I was a little stuck. Everyone wants a teacher like that! At first I was embarrassed of the areas where I had lack of knowledge, but I got over that quick and now am like, “yes, sensei” (laughs). The record is going to be produced by Hunt Sales. He has played with Iggy Pop and David Bowie (as well as a long list of other badasses), and was the drummer behind Iggy’s “Lust for Life” album. And that just makes me giddy as all get out! Hunt and Tjarko are good friends and play together in Austin. They like my songs because “they’re dark and a little f@cked up.” Kevin Smith, who plays bass for Willie Nelson, is Tjarko’s old friend as well. We asked him if he wanted to be part of the project and he agreed! So that’s how all that happened in a nutshell.
B&L: I understand you’re going to launch a crowd-sourcing campaign to help fund it? True? What are your feelings on crowd funding? It’s a nice thing to have in place, but it seems so strange in the sense that it’s fairly new territory for the music biz.
Cross: This is true! I need all my friends to help me this time! I’ve had mixed feelings about crowd funding in the past. But it’s becoming the new form for DIY musicians such as myself. With all the changes we’ve seen in the music business in the last decade, it’s very much become a do it yourself kind of world. Although it is a little strange in the sense that now everyone is so concerned with how many likes or followers they have, but I try not to get too wrapped up in it. I was just reading an article in Vanity Fair (it’s a ritual of mine to read Vanity Fair when I fly) about the 23-year-old musician Chance The Rapper who was just nominated for 9 Grammys. He was talking about his experience pertaining to non-traditional ways of getting his music out there and said, “After meeting with three major labels, I realized my strength was being able to offer my best work to people without putting any limit on it. And I honestly believe if you put effort into something and you execute properly, you don’t necessarily have to go through the traditional ways.” So there ya go. Makes sense to me!
B&L: How’s Texas treating you? How long have you been down there now? You miss the Granite State at all?
Cross: I love Austin. It’s my favorite part of Texas. It’s very much become my home. I love the people, the culture, the food, the music, the sun. The heat is a little much in the summer, but you kind of get used to it, and head for the mountains when ya can. I miss my granite state friends, the ocean, bon fires, and the smell of pine trees. But then I just come home when I can’t take it anymore.
B&L: Is songwriting an easy or arduous process for you? Are you a fly by the seat of your pants kind of writer, or do you have to schedule “office hours.” Do you enjoy the act of writing a song?
Cross: I write when it comes to me. I don’t like to write half-assed songs, so I wait until something really moves me. It’s the most satisfying feeling in the world when I write a song that I’m proud of. It’s an emotional thing for me. My songs are about my life experiences, so they’re very personal. If I get a wild hair and am holed up in my room writing for hours, and something good comes out of it, I have a burst of energy and usually want to play it for someone… Like eighty times in a row.
B&L: Let’s talk about the scope of your career from a moment from the standpoint of wardrobe. You used to always wear like an old-school flowing dress that looked like it was the hardest part of your pre-show preparation. (I speak so eloquently about wardrobe, I know). These days you look more like a wheelie popping badass (not in the “bro” kind of way…) How does “image” fall in line with the life of a performance artist?
Cross: (Laughs.) It was a natural transition from dresses to boots and a black shirt with jeans. There is something to be said about simplicity. No frills, just me and my band up here rockin’ out. And it’s a lot more comfortable!
B&L: What are you looking for folks to take away from the music of Elsa Cross when they place themselves in a position to experience it?
Cross: I just want people to have fun at my shows and want to hear more. It’s also nice to think that I might inspire someone. I’m inspired by people all the time. Like I said, my songs are little stories… I hope they are relatable and maybe comforting at times.
B&L: What’s one tune (or, heck, a couple) that exists out there in the ether that blows you away that you kind of wish you had written yourself?
Cross: Gosh that Chris Stapleton version of “Tennessee Whiskey” is killer. He breathed new life into that jam and I totally wish I had written that back in the day! So good.
And “Bloody Mary Morning” by Willie Nelson. Love that damn song.
B&L: What can folks expect when they come out to see you perform at the Word Barn on March 4th ?
Cross: I’ll be there with my guitar singing my songs and some of my favorite covers. Old Time Dave Talmage and Mary Dellea are backing me up! It’s going to be super fun and I’m really excited to play at The Word Barn, I’ve heard it’s super cool.
B&L: Question number 12. If you could have a dozen of anything, what would that dozen of something be?
Cross: Cups of your award winning clam chowdah! Duh.
B&L: I’m blushing.
Elsa Cross will make a homecoming visit the Word Barn in Exeter on Saturday, March 4th. Tickets are free (she’ll be accepting donations for her fundraising effort to get her next album out). RSVP to hold your spot here.