B&L: What animal do you associate yourself with (given our ties to oxen)?
Delmhorst: Deer and great blue herons leap to mind, in a pretty unconsidered way.
B&L: Why music? Why do you seek it? Why do you create it?
Delmhorst: It’s the most reliable conduit I know to the deeper layers of humanness, emotion, intuition, and spirit. And playing music with people is one of the most profound ways to communicate and share energy that I’ve ever experienced.
B&L: What’s the making of a great show?
Delmhorst: One funny thing about live shows is that there are usually two separate realities happening on and off the stage. Any performer will tell you that sometimes you struggle through a whole show feeling lost or flat or uninspired, only to have people say that it was their favorite show ever – and the opposite situation happens too. But that said, to me what makes a great show is everyone in the room getting to the same place, even for a brief moment. There is a feeling when you’re playing the right song in the right way to the right people in the right room at the right time, that is like tapping into the central current of the universe, and it’s powerful and astonishing, like having a dream in which you realize you can fly.
B&L: Let’s talk about your latest recorded effort, “The Wild.” What sort of goals did you have for yourself when you set out to make this record?
Delmhorst: To make an album that had a consistency of mood to it, so that the listener would be escorted to a certain place and get to stay there for a while without getting dragged out of the mood by wildly different intensity levels or styles. To experiment with combining our two (Jeffrey Foucault & my) aesthetics and processes, which can diverge pretty dramatically. To gather friends together to create music, and to have an excuse to all tour together as we are now!
B&L: Is the wild a scary or comforting place? Can it be both? What sort of inspiration exists there? How do you capture it?
Delmhorst: It can be, and is, both. The record talks more about the elemental wild in each of us, our original animal nature, and the tensions between that and our more civilized selves. The same is true for that wildness as for the actual wilderness – it’s magic and inspiring, it’s unruly and dangerous, and it’s our ancestral home but that doesn’t mean we know how to survive there.
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”? What, in general, do you get from writing? Is it work? Is it cathartic?
Delmhorst: There are waves, or seasons, to my engagement with writing. I’ll go a long while without doing much and then hit a vein and find several at once. I try to be more regimented about it sometimes but it’s just not how it works for me. Starting songs is pure pleasure; finishing them is work. I accumulate half songs all the time and then make time to get away from home and finish them. My process is akin to fishing in a real deep lake where you can’t see what’s down there. Bait up the hook with a phrase or a chord change, drop it down there and see what you pull up. There are surprises, unexpected things get dredged up from the bottom, and it is, yes, often a cathartic experience.
B&L: What do you hope folks take with them when they experience the words you string together? Is it strange when folks congregate in front of a stage to hear you sing your songs? Or do you find solace in the experience?
Delmhorst: It’s become such a normal thing to have a room full of people staring at me while I sing that I usually don’t give it much of a thought, but if it’s been a few weeks or a month since the last show it can suddenly seem bizarre all over again. I have one friend who’s a yoga teacher and another who’s a minister and when we compare notes on our work there are a lot of commonalities. The content is different but the role we play is the same; serving as guide to a group of people who have gathered together in a room to go an essentially personal journey. It’s something people need, and when it’s working best it has very little to do with me personally. I’m quite satisfied if a song means something completely different to a listener than it meant to me. Once they leave my house, they’re not really mine anymore, and they’re certainly not intended to tell other people about my life – they’re tools to help listeners access some of the levels of their humanity that don’t necessarily come into play during their day full of schedules, commitments, and earthly tasks.
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?
Delmhorst: You know, I never really think this way – it’s like seeing a tree and thinking “I wish I had made that tree.” But a few that leap to mind off the big pile – “Peace of Mind” by Neil Young, “Horses” by Rickie Lee Jones, “Everything Is Free Now” by Gillian Welch, “Young Man in America” by Anais Mitchell…
B&L: What can folks expect when they come out to see and Jeffrey perform at the Word Barn on October 27th? You guys don’t tour together often…
Delmhorst: The show is the same five people on stage the whole time (or, possibly at the Word Barn, spilling off the stage). For half the show we play Jeffrey’s songs and I sing backup and play viola, and the other half we play mine and he sings and plays guitar. It’s the same band but it feels a little different depending on whose songs we’re doing; who’s driving the ship.
B&L: If you could have a dozen of anything, what would that dozen of something be?
Delmhorst: Probably because I’m on tour right now the first thing that comes to mind is a dozen great shows in a row where the room, the sound, the audience, the band, and all the intangibles line up in the best possible way. There’s no such thing as this I don’t think – if you even get two great ones in a row you usually know there’s a heavy lift coming your way very soon – so I think if it did happen we might get raptured up to a higher plane of existence – but I’d like to see what it felt like.
Kris Delmhorst will make her first appearance at the Word Barn in Exeter on Friday, October 27th. She’ll be sharing the stage/bill with her husband Jeffrey Foucault who is making is stop at the venue. Tickets and information can be found right here.