The New Moon Folk Club prepares to welcome Birds of Chicago, comprised of Allison Russell and JT Nero, who will be performing this Friday. This is Birds of Chicago first Canadian tour and Edmonton audiences will be delighted by their soul, gospel, and folk inspired tunes that conjure images of sultry summer heat. JT Nero, takes some time to chat with Folk on the Road before the show.
How has the tour been going so far?
Great. The rooms have been full of humans, folks have been spoiling us … there are homecomings at a lot of these stops for Alli, who has family scattered across the country — and, of course, I made this trek a fair few times with Po Girl.
How do you feel audiences have been receiving Real Midnight since its release in February?
I feel like it’s been hitting em them in the sweet spot we hoped it would. It’s a cathartic bunch of songs for us, and it seems as though a lot of folks are needing to wring themselves out in a similar way.
You’ve discussed the transformative and healing power of music, could you share a moment in which this was true for you?
There are lots of instances in which people will let us know that a lyric or a song has helped them through a particularly rough patch, and nothing in the world makes us happier than that… but as far as personal healing, it’s literally a daily thing – sort of a small and abiding miracle: you can feel miserable, sing a song about feeling miserable, and come out feeling LESS MISERABLE. Where else can I get that kind of trusty magic? Nowhere. Not that you feel miserable every day. But that you can transport through song — get yourself to a different place.. that’s the thing.
JT, you’re identified as the main writer for Birds of Chicago and Allison as the song interpreter – what does this collaborative process look like when you are beginning to work through a song for the first time together?
I play her a new song I’ve written for her … while she’s listening to it for the first time, I’ll hit pause every few seconds and say “do you like it? Do you love it?? You hate it, don’t you!!? I KNOW YOU HATE IT!!”
Uh, seriously, I try to skeleton a melody for her and a phrasing — but I am careful not to box her in too much, since she is such a masterful phraser and can do so much more with her vocal instrument than I can… I make sure to leave as much room for take it where it needs to go.
Folk on the Road first saw you perform at Mariposa Folk Festival in 2014. At that time you had a little one with you on the road, has touring with the family changed at all in recent years?
Our babe is not a babe anymore – she’s a toddler with the disposition of a grizzled rocker. In all seriousness, she’s 3 months shy of her 3rd birthday, which I am fairly certain is a challenging stretch for all parents (right?) and it’s no different for us on the road. She’s a wonder of a human, with endless energy, and we have to make sure we are building park and library stops and such into our schedule. It actually makes for healthier touring all around
Any concluding thoughts you would like to mention?
This is our first proper Canadian tour, and we are so jazzed by the response. We are going to get back in the studio in January, then hopefully make it back to Canada in the summer for some fests.
Upcoming shows at the New Moon Folk Club include: Tom Russell and Danny Michel. For more information on their season, please see their website.