19 September 2012

Geography's Creative Juices

Apparently September is "musicians and sense of place" month here at The Topophilian.

Today's quip comes from The Man, Mr. Heart of Gold himself, Neil Young.

In an interview by David Carr of the New York Times, this excerpt caught my eye:

“For whatever you’re doing, for your creative juices, your geography’s got a hell of a lot to do with it,” he said. “You really have to be in a good place, and then you have to be either on your way there or on your way from there.”

Best to always either be coming from or going to that 'good place,' it seems.

It's good to have goals.

18 September 2012

Erica Wheeler's Search for Sense of Place

Performing songwriter Erica Wheeler has spent 20 years as a touring folky and, as it turns out, has a great interest in "sense of place."

She recently wrote about being a "Sense of Place Sleuth" on her blog. In fact her whole website (and career, in many ways) revolves around what she labels "inspiring connections between people and place."

Erica Wheeler, 2012, as pictured on www.ericawheeler.com

"Wherever you live, there is a history, both natural and cultural," writes Wheeler. "And you can discover it through your computer or newspaper, and then just beyond your front door."

If you're in Wisconsin, you can step 'just beyond your front door' to catch a Wheeler live show, in Marshfield on the 20th and in La Crosse the 21st.

Keeping a fresh set of eyes is vital, suggests Wheeler. "You'll find places you never knew about or see familiar places through new eyes." I couldn't agree more.

12 September 2012

Jason Isbell and Americana

Isbell in Madison, WI, 2007.   
I've often been aware of how "place" fits in to so many good songs, not to mention the presumptive worldview of so many good musicians, writers, and other artists. 

This recent CBS News post about northern Alabama native Jason Isbell's "great year" at the Americana Music Association (AMA) awards caught my eye. The AMAs are a sort of Grammy's for the American "roots music" crowd. Other favorite artists of mine in this vein include Justin Townes Earl, Gillian Welch, The Avett Brothers, The Secret Sisters (also mentioned in the CBS article), and many others. 

Tonight they'll all gather in Nashville and, as Isbell recently tweeted "get to dress like @JustinTEarle for a while!" Funny guy.

I wrote about Isbell and his band the 400 Unit back in 2007 for Madison's alt-weekly newspaper Isthmus. I've been a fan since DBT days of "Outfit" and "Danko/Manuel." His latest album Here We Rest is nominated for album of the year.

"Isbell's upbringing left him with a strong sense of place," writes Chris Talbott of CBS, "...he's used it to turn heads in the Southern songwriting community, first as a member of the Drive-By Truckers and later as a solo artist."

The piece also quotes John Paul White of The Civil Wars, noting the strength of place-based lyrical attributes. While this approach is nothing new, it seems that generation after generation of songwriters (and others) rediscover such basic knowledge again and again.

I've blogged about this connection before, here. Now go out and find yourself some good "local" music!