Script for January 2004, QMH:
Teresa Trull - I'd like to make love to you (1977)
[Welcome to Queer Voices on KPFT and this segment is called Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle and I'm here on the 4th Monday of each month to bring you an hour devoted to our culture's music. This is my fourth anniversary show, and I think I'm bringing you a good one. It includes two very special artist interviews. But you're hearing this artist for a different reason.]
That was Teresa Trull, one of the early pioneers of the women's music movement, and the song is "I'd Like To Make Love To You." That was from her first album, from 1977, called "The Ways A Woman Can Be." These days she's almost as well known for producing CDs for others, and she produced three albums for our first artist.
And that first artist is Deidre McCalla, and I'm very pleased to bring you an interview with her. She's been kind of a troubadour in folk and women's music circles for decades. Thirty years ago she released her first album, called "Fur Coats and Blue Jeans." It didn't really gain much attention, and she told me she was surprised I even had a copy of it. She became more known in 1985. That was when she recorded the first of three albums she would do for the Olivia Records label. Now, Olivia Records of course is synonymous with women's music. And this past year she released her latest CD. The name of it is "Playing For Keeps."
Here's a quote about her that I like. It's been said that Deidre McCalla's special brand of urban acoustic pop/folk is delivered with an honest, open heart, a celebration of the power and diversity of the human spirit. And I certainly can't disagree with that. Before we start the interview, let's go back to hear just a little of a song from that first album, from 1973.
Deidre McCalla - this magic moment (1973)
From the album "Fur Coats and Blue
Jeans," that was a bit of "This Magic Moment"
It really depends on what aspect of my music you're talking about. When it's me, live, it's just me and my guitar and especially when it's just girl and guitar, it gets labeled as folk music. I'm an acoustic, folk-based singer/songwriter. My studio music is a bit richer. When you're in the studio you have the opportunity to use all the musical colors within whatever type of musical range you want to establish. You can call in all sorts of musicians. You can really take the opportunity to bring out the elements of song that it's hard to do by yourself solo. But when you have the richness of other musicians in the studio, it's quite wonderful to do. And, and, in that, when you hear the music, you hear really a full range of the essential elements of folk and country and blue grass and island music, gospel, and r&b, and all of it comes together for me, so it's kind of hard to peg the musical style of the album, because to me it really is varied. The song is the thing.
Who is your audience?
Who is my audience? Whoever shows up. That's kind of a flip answer. I guess I could describe who shows up to the concerts, though. I find that people who find resonance in the songs that that I write, they find it relevant to their lives, and useful in their lives to listen to, are thoughtful people, people who love life with all of its ups and downs, people who know that we laugh, we cry, we all feel deeply and we move on. My audience has always been predominately women. I've been doing this before there was such a thing as the women's music movement. And I guess I've always been a feminist, and maybe that's why it has resonated predominately with women and feminist women. I'd say because I've been so much enmeshed in the women's music movement of the last twenty-five years, the audience is predominately women, predominately lesbian, but it's not that I sit down and write, and say, now how am I going to attract the lesbian feminist audience. I write for myself. Writing for me is really actually a very selfish act. Writing for me is my way of ordering the universe, of putting the world around me into a form that I can understand the events that I am living, either living myself or vicariously watching others live, or things that are happening around me. Songwriting and singing is my way of ordering the universe, and I feel very fortunate that my way of ordering the universe has resonated with so many people around the country, and that I've been able, because of that, to work full time as a musician for a number of years.
Which songs on the new album are getting the most response?
The song on the album that's getting the most airplay as I monitor folk DJ lists around the country it really surprises me it's a tune that I wrote honoring my mom's death. That's a song called "Walk Me Down to the River." It has a gospel feel to it. It's always very gratifying to a songwriter when you write something that is so very personal, so very specific to yourself, that is has resonance for a whole lot of other people. And I guess that's why the song is getting as much airplay as it is. So it's kind of neat to see this tribute to my mother getting played around the country. I hope that wherever her spirit is that she is smiling about it.
DM - walk me down to the river (2003)
Now I know the song "If God Only Knew" has been getting attention. How did that song come about?
The song "If God Only Knew" was my way of ordering the events of 9/11. It's one of the few songs in my life actually that was not written with a guitar in my hand. It was written while I was driving from my home to a show about 700 miles away, in Kansas, and thinking just about the events of 9/11 and how much the name of God was being bandied about in the media, every aspect, every side of this whole horrendous event that we've been through, was talking about how God was on their side, whether they call it God or whether they call it Allah.
And I just started to wonder how God felt about her name being bandied about. This is a song that I actually made available before the album was released. As our troops were about to attack Iraq in March, I actually put this song up on my website for people to download, and a number, and a number of people did, and a number of radio stations around the country played this tune, and I just wanted my voice at the time added to the voice of protest about the direction this country was taking at the time, and this song did that.
DM- if god only knew (2003)
And that was a very edited version of "If God Only Knew." Tell me about "Thanks for Asking"
"Thanks for Asking" was a song written on a dare. My Olivia pal and songwriting buddy, Dianne Davidson, once said to me that I was too nice in my songs, that my songs, especially my breakup songs, were always so darn fair. It was like, "Deidre, don't you ever get angry, don't you ever write from the perspective that, you know, I'm okay and you screwed up." And so "Thanks for Asking" was my attempt to write a one-sided breakup song, where I wasn't looking at both sides of the issue, and I'm not sure I successfully did what Diane challenged me to do, but it was as close to fulfilling her dare as I could possibly get.
DM - thanks for asking (2003)
And, since I do sort of a history show, I would be remiss if I didn't ask about some of the older songs. The title track of your 1992 album is "Everyday Heroes & Heroines." Can you please tell us it?
That song, I don't tell too many people this, because it just sounds too weird, was inspired by Joe Montana and Holly Near. When I lived in California I was a really big Forty-Niner football fan. I still am a football fan, and I was thinking about Joe Montana, and how he was the star of the Forty-Niner football team at the time, but he couldn't be the star unless he had, you know, a Jerry Rice, the wide receivers and the running backs and all the people, you know, protecting him, so you know, it was those everyday people that didn't get as much press as Joe Montana, that made Joe Montana Joe Montana.
And in the same weird connection, I was thinking of someone like, you know, Holly Near. And there are the Holly Nears of women's music, and then there are those of us on a slightly lower level, shall we say, that are still out there just slugging away, contributing to the whole cultural work that goes on. And Holly is one of those who is aware of all of us on all levels, so I don't mean to set her apart as if she doesn't know. But anyway, I was just, it got me to thinking about just the people in this country and in the world that get up everyday and do their lives, and do their job and do the work that is before them to be done. And it's really those people that keep this country, this world going, that make it all work. It's not a matter of a few stars that get all the glory. It's all of us, working together everyday.
DM - Everyday heroes & heroines (1992)
And back to your album "With A Little Luck;" I'd love to hear about the song "Would You Like To Dance?"
"Would You Like to Dance" is really me at a party or me in my bar days or in my hanging out days. I don't do much these days but hang out at a soccer field, but despite the fact that I am a performer, um, in social situations I am actually quite shy, and really the first verse describes pretty much what I used to do, which is: I spent the last half hour boldly holding up this wall. I'm a leaner, I lay off in the corner and watch things going on and wish I could ask someone to dance, but rarely have the nerve. A lot of women have really enjoyed that song, and very much understood how there's that element of the shy person in all of us.
DM - Would you like to dance (1987)
Is there a message that carries through your music?
The message that's carried through my music. That's interesting. I again go back to who the music has touched and possibly why. I think of a lot about being real, about being honest, about looking from a, as much as possible, as much as humanly possible, balanced point of view, that we're all innocent, we're all guilty in just about every situation. We all play our part. It is important for me to be myself on stage. I mean when you ask, is it important to be out, it's important to be myself, and being a lesbian is part of who I am. That certainly was a process that's taken years to be comfortable with, to publicly being out, as our GLBT movement has grown stronger in the last 30 years or so and created a much safer world to be out in. It has certainly become easier.
You know I play a lot
of colleges, and a lot of those colleges are in very rural places and
to be honest sometimes I do feel nervous about being out. And the way
that I'm out is very subtle. You have to be listening quick to realize
that the pronoun that I just said was she or her or whatever in relationship.
And sometimes I do get nervous about that when I'm in rural area, but
what grounds me is that quiet person in the corner, who I can see is
really glad to be there, but really nervous to be there. And I realize
that it may be that person, it may be someone else, but someone in that
room is gay. Someone in that room is a lesbian. And if I'm nervous about
being I realize, gosh, if I'm nervous and I'm leaving town in the morning,
they must really be nervous. And it makes me want to identify myself
more, because I think that breaks the ice, cause that starts to create
a dialogue and empowers that person, that one person in the room somewhere
who may be afraid to speak, who's feeling alone because they are gay,
in that rural college.
Okay, I want to get back to the new album, and to perhaps my favorite song from it, "Mama Loves Me." (2:00)
"Mama Loves Me" was originally just a throwaway tune. When my son was younger, especially, I used to sing to him a lot. It was my way of soothing him, of course, and I particularly wanted to soothe him on airplanes, so people wouldn't make us sit out on the wing. You know, people get nervous when you walk into a waiting area with an infant in your arms. It's like "oh my God, I hope he's not sitting next to me." And so I would make up songs all the time. It's not that our life is an opera, with music going on all the time, but you know we do spontaneously make up things. So "Mama Loves Me" started as something I spontaneously made up, to keep him occupied on a plane one day. But when I thought about the words as it was going out into the universe, I actually said, oh wait a minute, let me pull this back. And developed it a little more because the song is about different kinds of families, families with two moms, families with two dads, single parent families, families of mixed races and cultural heritage. And I realized how important it is that our children, especially the children of GLBT families, have music to empower them in their lives, to validate their lives, to celebrate their lives, and I fleshed out the whole song. And I've been singing it for a while in concert, and before the album came out what I would do when people wanted to learn the song, and be able to sing it to their children. I said, you know, in the folk tradition if you just send me a tape, I will sing it into my little, you know, messed up tape recorder at home and mail it back to you. And a number of people did that, and have been singing it to their children, and I hope adding verses on their own that speak to their own particular family. Our family needs, our families, GLBT families need more for our kids to just celebrate themselves with.
DM - mama loves me
Above article from This Week In Texas, Sept 6, 1991
And, this is a good time to remind you to be sure to listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Saturday night from midnight to 4 am, on KPFT, it's Queer Radio, with attitude. Also, I invite you to check out my website, at www.queermusicheritage.com where you can view the play list and see photos of the artists and recordings, and listen to the show anytime.
The next artist I'm featuring has been called by the New Yorker "a folk rock goddess." She has enough respect within the industry that Patty Larkin and Mary Chapin Carpenter have sung guest vocals on her CDs. One of her songs has been featured on the TV show "Dawson's Creek." And although the GLAMA awards were only give out for four years, 1996 through 1999, during that period she won four awards including Album of the Year, Out Recording of the Year, and Out Song of the Year. She won that one twice, and she was nominated for three other awards. Her name is Catie Curtis.
Now, I've just mentioned that she has won several GLAMA awards. GLAMA stood for the Gay & Lesbian American Music Awards, and I got these comments about Catie from one of the two founders of the GLAMAS, Tom McCormack.
Tom McCormack comment
Before we get to the interview I want to share with you just a little of the title track from her first album. This is very rare, and was only released on cassette. From 1989, this song is called "Dandelion."
Catie Curtis- dandelion (1989)
Catie Curtis has released seven albums
since 1989, and they are wonderful. They combine her unique approach
to folk music and her thoughtful lyrics. I've been a fan of hers for
quite a while. So I was very pleased when I was able to interview her
while she was in Houston in October for the Houston Women's Festival.
I actually loved growing up in Maine, up until the time I was a teenager, because it was really beautiful. We lived by the ocean. I feel very connected to the ocean. I love, you know, nighttime walking. You know even actually through high school I love that part of Maine, being able to like, you know, go to the ocean after dark and walk and hear the waves, you know, that's pretty intense, so I love that. But, I grew up in a small town and really there was not much awareness of singer/songwriters, or original music. There were cover bands, and you know my only exposure to live, original music was, you know, you go to the arena show to see James Taylor. You know, like that was my exposure to what I wanted to do one day. So, there were also not a lot of role models for me as a young lesbian. I mean, I wasn't really out to myself at that point but I just felt that it was not going to be an easy place to be, in a sense, it was not going to be an easy place to be myself. So it got difficult in the, you know, high school years but even now I enjoy going back to Maine cause it is a lovely place and a lot of really down to earth people.
How would you describe your music?
Oh, I guess I describe it as acoustic pop, and especially this new record, I've just made a new record, I've just signed a deal with Vanguard Records and I'm going to be putting out a record in March (2004) called "Dreaming In Romance Languages" and it's focused much more on the acoustic guitar. I play acoustic on everything and there's a second acoustic player, but then the rhythms are more like, you know, Sarah McLachlan pop kind of music. So I am happy though to embrace the folksinger label because often times I play solo and I play with my acoustic guitar and that seems to be how people describe me sometimes. But truthfully I listened to more pop growing up than folk and I think that even though I play the acoustic guitar and sing and um the lyrics are sometimes commentary on social, social issues, there's also an element of pop sound in it too.
What your songwriting process?
I write mostly at home. I take notes when I'm on the road and when I'm at home I look through my notes and remember the little song ideas that I had going. And then I just goof around on the guitar for hours at a time until I come up with either a rif or a melody or a little hook, that can be lyric or melody, that interests me, and then I'll usually spend days, you know, honing that one idea, trying to mine it further for what stories I can tell within that idea.
The song "Radical," from the album "Truth From Lies," won you GLAMA awards for Out Song and Out Recording in 1996. Can you tell us about that song?
"Radical" was written right after, God, it was like ten years ago, the woman I was seeing at the time had just come out to her parents, and they really didn't get it at all, and I wrote it sort of in her voice, talking to her parents.
Catie Curtis - radical (1996)
And, in 1999 Catie's next album, "A Crash Course In Roses," contained a song that also won a GLAMA for Out Song. That song was "What's the Matter."
"What's the Matter" was definitely about my home town, in Maine, and the feeling that I got when I was growing up that it was just sort of irritating to people when someone was different. You know, whether it was their race or their religion or their sexual orientation. It was like people couldn't be bothered to understand something different. It was just scary and unfamiliar and they would just rather not deal with it. And in the song I just tried to remind people that, like, it's probably more effort to be afraid than it would be to embrace and take the time to understand a different person
Catie Curtis - what's the matter (1999)
And, from that same album, there's another song that got quite a bit of airplay. That's the song, "Magnolia Street."
"Magnolia Street" I wrote when I was living on a street in Cambridge called Magnolia Avenue, but you know it didn't scan very well in the song so it became Magnolia Street. And I guess it was the first time I had been in a relationship where I really felt a sense of coming home to a place where I could imagine staying in this relationship for a long time, and so it felt like coming home but yet it was like very, very different from, you know, the home of my childhood, and it just felt like a very profound experience to be creating sort of a new sense of home for myself, through this new relationship
Catie Curtis - magnolia street (1999)
On to 2001 and the next album, called "My Shirt Looks Good on You." I just love the song from it called "Elizabeth," please tell us about that one.
I wrote that when I was on the road, opening for Dar Williams, and it was a long tour. I was in Newport, Kentucky, and I have to say it's not my favorite place in the world, even though it's very lovely. And as I sat in my hotel and as I watched the trains, one after another, these freight trains came over the Ohio River I was just impressed by the sort of the determination of the trains to keep coming, you know, like it's like they're on a schedule and they just continue to come over the bridge. And I just felt like that type of, uh, that type of consistency was something that, although I can't offer, because I travel, I can't offer my relationship in the sort of concrete sense, but I can offer it in the sense of being very, you know, my partner's very present in my mind at all times, and we stay in very close contact when I'm on the road. And I felt like somehow those trains really reminded me of that feeling of persistence in a relationship
Well, that song was kind of a milestone for you.
Yes, that's true. It's the first time that I used gender and said that this was a song about a woman, whereas I was saying in the past that most of my songs were pretty open-ended, could have been about, you know, anybody
Was it hard to get to that point, when you were ready to do that?
Yeah, what I did was, um, you know the song came to me very easily and I knew I wanted to play it the night I wrote it, so I played it in Kentucky that night, and I said to the audience, "You know, I don't know if I'm ever going to play this song again," and it was actually a show that I was opening for Dar Williams. And I still have a post card that has Dar Williams' album cover on it. It was a post card that was put on the tables of all the, all the tables of the show, and a woman who had been at the show wrote on the back of it, "please don't let this be the last time that an audience hears the train song." And I kept that, that night, cause a lot of people said, you know, you need to keep playing this song. But I've kept that in my little book where I write up my set list, because it reminds me that, you know, although it was scary for me to play it, it's meaningful to continue to play it.
What's the reaction been to that song?
You know what? The reaction has been really of course you know, first of all let me just say that because of the type of music I play, which is quite gentle, and because of the audiences that come to see me play, which are by and large like liberal and progressive and kind, I almost never get like a negative. You know like people aren't going to say, ever going to say like, "it bugs me that you're like a lesbian." You know what I mean? Like, no one's going to say that to me, so in general the feedback I've gotten on the song has been very positive. And especially I guess I have really enjoyed getting feedback from men who, who you know that song reminds them of their wives, or whatever, their girlfriend. And I'm like, I think that's kind of sweet, you know, that they can hear a woman singing a song about a woman and it reminds them of their girlfriend. You know I think that's pretty cool, and I think that's part of what I enjoy in my role as a singer/songwriter, as an out singer/songwriter is that, you know, I'm not just speaking to a lesbian audience, I'm speaking to a straight audience, too. And they are learning to do what lesbians and gays have always done, which is to hear a song, and they know, you know it's actually a man and a woman but you change it, to a woman and a woman or a man and a man, and you know now straight people are doing that with my songs, and I think that's pretty cool.
Catie Curtis - Elizabeth (2001)
That was the song "Elizabeth." How about "The Kiss That Counted"
I, I think of that as being a fusion it's both about the very first time that I ever kissed a woman, when I was in college, where I was like this is really going to change who I, you know, who I am and it's going to be really mind-blowing, cause I was very nervous about becoming a lesbian at first, when I was I college, you know, and on the other hand, I also think of it being about like, you know, getting together with my current partner, you know.
Catie Curtis -kiss that counted (2001)
Is there any message you hope your music gets across?
Ah, I guess that, more so than a message I would like for people to have a moment when they are listening to my music where they just like feel very, like a lot of pleasure, you know what I mean? I want my music to bring people a lot of pleasure because I feel like life is really aggressive. You know, our culture's very aggressive, and you know I'm not a very aggressive kind of performer. My music is actually more like sensual and gentle and groovy, you know, it has a groove and I guess I just want people to just really deeply enjoy it. And you know I guess if there's a message in it, it would be, you know, I preach the gospel of love, you know, I mean, love of all kinds. You know, the romantic, the intergenerational, family, friends, you know, it's like I just really want to warm people to trying to live their lives in a loving way and be tolerant of other people
Has your relationship with any of your earlier songs changed since you wrote them?
Ah, yeah, I think that I feel more bold about things now. I'm 38 and I feel a lot more comfortable with who I am. So, I think there were times when I first wrote "Radical" that I really hoped that inside, you know, when I sang it that the audience would think that it was more about something else, like interracial relationships or teenage angst, or something, and you know now I think I play a lot more with the fact that I know people know I'm gay and I and knowing that, that doesn't mean everyone who listens to it has to be gay, or that they have to be gay to appreciate it, but that I'm emboldened to sort of make jokes in the middle of the song, about, like, I'll say sometimes (sings) "and though I mind what people say (not really anymore)", laughs.
Okay, I've got one more song for you to hear, but before I play it, I want to thank you all for sharing my fourth anniversary show, and I want to thank Deidre McCalla and Catie Curtis for the very special interviews. If you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write me. And I wish you would. And again, my website, with information about all the songs you've heard is, logically enough, at www.queermusicheritage.com. This is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston, and I'll be back on the fourth Monday of next month with the next installment of Queer Music Heritage.
And back to Catie to hear about the song I chose to close the show. Of what song that you've written are you the most proud?
Ah, right now, maybe "Honest World," which is a song about being gay. I call it my gay anthem, and I guess the reason why I'm proud of it is I feel like for years, you know, I've written songs about all kinds of things, like my dad and the church in my town burning down, and you know, the sugar cane industry, I mean I've written about all kinds of things. But whenever I've written about gay issues I've always done it in a very skittish way, where, you know, I touch on it but it could be about anything, and not very clear, songs like "Radical"' and "What's the Matter" and "I Don't Cry Anymore" .they're sort of gay but they're also they could be about anything. I want them to be very universal. But then I wrote a song called "Honest World," which is on an album which is only available through the internet, called "Acoustic Valentine." And in that song I feel like I've managed to tell an interesting story of what it's like to be on the margins in terms of, you know, being told to cover up your life, and then being told, "well, if you cover up your life, you're going to have a terrible life." This sort of catch-22 that our culture puts gay people into
Catie's latest album is called "Acoustic Valentine," and it's available only from her site, sort of a present for her fans. For it she went into the studio with just her guitar and re-recorded some of her most popular songs, so it's kind of a greatest hits album, but redone more intimately. It contains one new song, the one she just described, "Honest World."
Catie Curtis - honest world (2003)