Alt-Country / Americana / Country / Interviews / Soul / Stream

INTERVIEW: Lo Carmen

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NASHVILLE DREAMS AND WHISPERING TREES

Lo Carmen has imagined making her Nashville album since she was a teenager and now that dream has come true with Lovers Dreamers Fighters, an album written in rural Georgia and featuring a duet with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy.

Lo Carmen and her family have been based in the USA for the last few years with her husband Aden Young playing the lead role in the television series Rectify. The relocation has been a beneficial one for Carmen, allowing her to further immerse in American music culture and make her Nashville album a reality.

“I thought about it as my chance to make my fantasy album, in terms of always being a Nashville obsessive since I was a teenager. We were living in Georgia which is a five hour drive away and I realised I could make all my Nashville dreams come true,” she recalls. “I decided to indulge all my deeply country roots and not let it go in any other direction. My first band was called Honky Tonk Angels so it felt like coming full circle, finally recording what I first set out to do.”

The writing period in Georgia was influenced by her immediate surrounds, adding “a sense of space and nature” to the mood and content of her songwriting. “It was so beautiful there, being surrounded by trees, lone pines and creeks. That sense of history and the highways and people’s stories and voices. I felt very steeped in the culture and I felt like I could feel it whispering in the trees,” reminisces Carmen.

‘Sometimes It’s Hard’, The duet with Will Oldham (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) doubles down on the yearning melancholy already present in Carmen’s voice, the perfect blend almost coming together by accident borne from a studio discussion.

“I’d written that song as a duet and tried to think of some smaller Nashville singers I could invite, and I didn’t really know anyone. I asked the guys at the studio, and said as a guide, “if there was anyone in the world I could have it would be Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, do you know anyone like that?” and one of them said, “Oh, I’ll just get Ferg (engineer) to give Will a call, I’m sure he’ll do it”. I thought he was joking!” laughs Carmen.

Recording in Nashville’s The Butcher Shoppe and Welcome to 1979 Studios with session players such as bassist Dave Roe (Johnny Cash, Nikki Lane, Dan Auerbach) and pedal steel maestro Russ Pahl (Sara Watkins, Kacey Musgraves, Lana Del Rey) was a new, sometimes nerve-racking but ultimately rewarding experience for Carmen.

“With all the usual people I’ve recorded with in Sydney there was never any discussion about what sound we’d go for, we’d just play. This was completely different and yet the same, with a bunch of session musicians who do this every day. They were incredibly competent, confident and intuitive,” marvels Carmen. “It was very intimidating sitting in front of these musicians, playing my songs acoustically while they charted them. That was pretty scary, but much to my surprise they’d just get it immediately and it would come out just as I wanted it to, with very little discussion.”

Bringing the album to life on stage is the next step for Carmen. “I want to come back to Australia early this year and play some shows with my old gang. I’d get my dad (Peter Head) in there playing some beautiful honky tonk piano too.” says Carmen, highlighting what comes across as three of the most important things in her life, family, friends and music.

CHRIS FAMILTON

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