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Caroline Herring Interview by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Caroline Herring Interview by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Lamitschka:  Music has many new fans throughout Europe who may be hearing about you for the first time. How would you describe yourself and the music you play to someone who has never seen or heard you?

Answer: I am a singer/songwriter in the business for about 20 years now. My first tour in the Netherlands was in 2002, I believe. Since then I’ve returned to play in the Netherlands over a dozen times. However, audiences change, and I took a several-year break from playing music, so most will not know me. My music has varied in genre through the years - classic country, Americana, folk, full band, solo - but my style usually includes modern lyrics with traditional musical sounds. This new album, Verses, is once again different, as the words are not my own, and they are by no means modern...

Lamitschka:  What is your latest CD and how's it doing?

Answer: My latest CD is called Verses. The first song is a Robert Herrick poem called ‘What Sweeter Music”, which I arranged, and the remaining are all meditations on Old and New Testament verses. Initially, I wanted to write an album of songs on the Trump era, but realized that before that happened I needed a grounding in some wisdom beyond my own when dealing with the anger and despair I felt. The North American version of the album has 22 songs; this one has about half of that, plus two new songs. 

Lamitschka:  Do you write the songs yourself? If not, how do you go about finding the songs for your CD?

Answer: Every morning for months I sat on the floor in my writing room, picked psalms and gospel verses, and then compared the texts with about eight different Bible translations. I initially wrote 50 or so. Some of my lyrical arrangements rely on multiple translations, and one can learn what translations I used by reading the booklet accompanying my North American album.  I found the verses themselves in multiple ways. But after I had written a final arrangement, more than once, those verses somehow affirmed themselves by surfacing in some different way in my life. One particular time I went to New York City and played my arrangement of Psalm 30 at 5th Avenue Presbyterian Church. The night before, we went to see the play To Kill A Mockingbird on Broadway. The play actually ended with Atticus Finch quoting Psalm 30: “weeping may last for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.” As for my word-by-word rhyme scheme, I played the verses like puzzles. Most of the psalms are indeed songs, but even then I had fun turning and shifting while making up the melodies. 

Lamitschka:  What is the difference between your last CD and your current one?

Answer: I recorded my last CD for adults, entitled Camilla, in 2012. On Camilla I went ALL OUT. It is a full-band sound, Mary Chapin Carpenter sings on the album, and many friends from my days with the 2011 Cecil Sharp Project in England played and sang with me, too. Perhaps I worked harder on this album than any of my other six previous. Much of this album was quite political, focusing on particular individuals from the Civil Rights Movement of the American South, mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia, and my pilgrimage to Washington DC with my then-four-year-old daughter to the Obama inauguration. In one song, I tell Southerners to “let the traditions burn down.” Like most efforts of all recording artists, this album did not get the traction I wanted it to get. Soon after, somehow, it seemed as if most musical doors were closing for me, from musical collaborations and friendships to legal issues. I found myself really tired. AT that point my family went to Germany for six months for my husband’s teaching, and took intensive German there, and returned to the US ready for a change. I returned to graduate school and got a master’s certificate in Applied Linguistics, and started teaching ESL and Civics to women who were refugees in Georgia where I live. I can say sincerely that this experience has changed my life, so much for the better. The music business, at least for me, was a study in narcissism. I needed out of that cesspool. Others handle it beautifully, but I lost sight of myself and needed to focus on the needs of others. After teaching for five years, I have now stopped and am working on writing again. For the first time in many years I am excited about performing again. And I needed to put out this simple album, Verses, in order to get myself in the right headspace to begin again. Singing and songwriting is a gift, life is a gift. My husband and children are a gift. I don’t deserve any of it but am grateful for it. My favorite recording is of Psalm 131. I love how it ended up, and I like the sentiment, especially in the face of the Trump era, one which is so full of such heinousness. “My heart is not proud, my eyes are not lifted high. I have stilled my soul and calmed my heart. Like a weaned child with its mama, so is my soul.” We have absolutely got to get centered and out of our egomania in order to deal with what is happening right now in our world. There is no way I can get back into the music business unless I pretty much stamp this on my forehead. Perhaps I should get a tattoo. 

Lamitschka:  Your current single is being played by radio. What do you feel is special about this song that makes people want to hear it?

Answer: If it is ‘What Sweeter Music,” then I am thrilled. Bert Pijpers of CRS has always supported me, even with this unusual album of mine, and adding this song to the European recording was my thank-you gift to him. 

Lamitschka:  What will your next single be?

Answer: no clue. All the songs I am writing right now SUCK. 

Lamitschka:  What kind of songs do you like to record the most?

Answer: Songs with lots of drums. 

Lamitschka:  What is your favorite song among all the songs you have recorded and what's the story behind it?

Answer: already answered, psalm 131. I went to a retreat center called The Green Bough in central Georgia, where I sat in silence a couple of days. One of the directors there met with me for 30 minutes during that time. At one point, she looked at me very intensely and said, ‘read 131.” I did. 

Lamitschka:  How much creative control do you have over your music?

Answer: Perhaps too much control over this recording. It is so simple. Even simple recordings cost a very lot of money. 

Lamitschka:  Do you have any interesting stories about how fans have been affected by your music?

Answer: The people who have listened to this recording are moved by it. People on their deathbeds, new mothers with their babies, people struggling with cancer. People experiencing the full range of experiences life offers us get this album maybe even more than I do. 

Lamitschka:  Who inspires you musically and how deep do your musical roots run?

Answer: I will always draw from the traditional music genres of the South - Mississippi Delta blues, classic country, bluegrass, country gospel, black gospel. I don’t listen to those genres so much anymore. Honestly I like silence more than I used to.  I watched Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace documentary on an international flight recently, and this has always been one of my very favorite albums. Spike Lee somehow got the footage from it and recently made a documentary of it. Everybody: stop what you are doing and watch it. Just seeing Aretha Franklin do what she did, along with the musical director and the choir director, and the choir behind her - it is enough for us Americans to try and wrest this country of ours away from all the forces working to destroy it. This one album and documentary, and Aretha Franklin’s performance, were good enough reasons for the United States to be founded in the first place.  We have done one thing right. 

Lamitschka:  What do you think about today's music scene versus its post and where do you see it going in the future?

Answer: I will always love authentic voices, un-altered voices. I will take flat or sharp over electronic, always. I so wish we could go back to analog recordings. My 15 year old daughter asked for a Polaroid camera and a turntable last Christmas. Maybe one day soon we will want real music again. 

Lamitschka:  If you had the chance to change something about the music industry, what would it be?

Answer: I would stop all streaming services and I would make Amazon in the USA sell all music (and everything else) for the SAME price as all music stores and bookstores. That would pretty much take care of all of the problems, wouldn’t it? 

Lamitschka:  As an artist, you so many tasks such as recording, touring, interviews. What do you like best, what's your favorite activity?

Answer: Singing into that microphone. 

Lamitschka:  What was your big break that got you into the music business?

Answer: I moved to Austin, TX for graduate school in August 1999. I had just made my first EP and was hoping to play music in Austin. I was SO scared. So, in my apartment, between classes, I would work on songs. And I started praying, “Dear God, please let me play out somewhere by Halloween.” Well, September went by, then most of October. Then, on October 29th, I got a call from Peter Rowan, whom I had met when running a live-audience radio show in Oxford, MS, called Thacker Mountain Radio. Peter asked me if I would play with him in the Texas Hill Country on Halloween night. I did. When I got there, his voice was so hoarse he could barely sing. So he had me sing some of my songs, with his band, which soon became my backup band. I won Best New Artist at the Austin Music awards two years later. 

Lamitschka:  What drives you?

Answer: my kids. 

Lamitschka:  What does it take to be a music icon?

Answer: A great publicist. 

Lamitschka:  What's unique about you that will differentiate you from other artists?

Answer: my voice. 

Lamitschka:  What has been your greatest challenge in music business?

Answer: practicing on a regular basis. 

Lamitschka:  What moments in your career stand out in your memory as highlights and achievements which you are proud of?

Answer: I loved playing with Arlo Guthrie at a festival in Tonder, Denmark in 2006. And I loved being on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion in 2011. And I have loved every single trip I have made to the Netherlands. What a great country. I love it more than any other, perhaps because it has loved me. 

Christian Lamitschka ( Ch.Lamitschka@t-online.de ) for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

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