Carrie Rodriguez performing La PuŮalada Trapera (Live)
Carrie Rodriguez brings her ĎGive me all you Gotí tour to the Prescott Center For the Arts at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 7. Tickets: $18 at the PCA Box Office, 208 N. Marina St., Prescott, by phone at 445-3286 or at www.pca-az.net
"If Iím singing a sad song, Iím living that emotion. Itís real. Itís not just a performance."
By KAREN DESPAIN
When destiny tapped on young Carrie Rodriguez' shoulder and said, "Listen to me," the fiddler, singer and songwriter took it to heart.
She may have been only a kindergartner when she chose her life's path, but it became clear to her when she heard melodic strains coming from violins near her classroom.
"I was fascinated by the sounds I heard," she said. What held her in awe was a program that taught playing the stringed instrument to young children. She "begged" her mother for a violin, and halfway through that school year, she, too, had a violin tucked under her chin and a bow in her hand.
Rodriguez was just 5 years old at the time, and deciding to play the violin was "my choice," she said. "My parents didn't pressure me. I have never had any other interest. By the time I was 6 or 7, I was so involved with playing the violin, I decided that's what I wanted to do the rest of my life." And, she said, a career in the arts was quite acceptable to her parents. "I think I had the example around me," she said, recalling that she watched her mother, a portrait artist, paint, and that "on my father's side, everybody plays music."
Rodriguez will show off her prowess at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 7, at the Prescott Center for the Arts in collaboration with Folk Sessions. Tickets are $18 and are available by calling the PCA box office at 445-3286 or logging onto www.pca-az.net.
Even though the violin program ended at her school, the teacher became her private instructor through high school. Determined to become a classical violinist, Rodriguez entered Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio to continue her studies. During that year, destiny stepped in again.
"I decided I didn't want to pursue classical music. I missed the music from my hometown," she said, speaking of her Austin, Texas, roots. She yearned for the melodies of Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson and Hank Williams.
As she listened to their recordings, "I would sit around and play along instead of practicing my classical repertoire."
Then, "the one moment that changed it for certain" was an invitation from Lovett, a friend of her musician father David Rodriguez, to attend his concert when he came through Cleveland.
The famed performer asked Rodriguez to sit with his band during the sound check. She had brought her fiddle along, and Lovett offered her the chance to do a solo. "I didn't know what I was doing. I was a classical musician, and I bombed it," she said, adding that the group was kind to her, despite her performance flop.
Nevertheless, Rodriguez stayed for the concert and was so impressed by the fiddle player that she switched gears and enrolled at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she graduated in 2000.
She then returned to Austin and in 2001 landed a gig with Chip Taylor, the legendary American songwriter acclaimed for writing "Angel of the Morning" and "Wild Thing." He had seen her at a music festival and hired her to play fiddle with him on a European tour.
"He had me singing harmony with him," Rodriguez said, and this led to more performances together and recording "Let's Leave This Town" in 2002, "The Trouble With Humans" the next year and "Red Dog Tracks" in 2005.
"I trusted he knew what he was doing," she said of Taylor's encouraging her to write songs, including her solo album, "Seven Angels on a Bicycle," which came out in 2006.
Even though Rodriguez has been on her own since 2007, she and Taylor still pair up for performances from time to time.
"Two people and six instruments" - Rodriguez and guitarist, songwriter and singer Luke Jacobs - will share the spotlight for the Prescott performance, which is the last of a seven-week CD release tour for "Give Me All You Got," her first of largely original tunes in several years.
"In the making of 'Love and Circumstances' in 2008, I chose to sing other people's songs," she said. "I needed to step back from songwriting" - she never set out to be a songwriter in the first place - "and just be a singer for a while and think about the kinds of songs that feel important to sing. Doing that inspired me to write again," thus returning to a talent that Taylor had nurtured early on.
In fact, the two wrote much of "Give Me All You Got," including "Devil In Mind and "Sad Joy" together. Two additional songs, "Lake Harriet" and "Whiskey Runs Thicker Than Blood," were written by Rodriguez, and Taylor contributed "I Cry for Love" and "Cut Me Now." Jacobs and Rodriguez paired up to write "Brooklyn" and "I Don't Mind Waiting."
Austin beckoned Rodriguez back home after she had lived in the fast pace of New York for many years, she said, so she moved back to her hometown in early 2012.
For her, this lifestyle change means "a lot of new songs written from a more relaxed state of mind and is refreshing" from the frenzy of New York.
The Prescott show is bound to tug emotion, she said. "I certainly give everything I have every night. I learned from Chip how important it is to live in the moment of the songs I sing. If I'm singing a sad song, I'm living that emotion. It's real. It's not just a performance. Otherwise, I'm not being honest - the honesty of the emotion is what I want to give ... and if that reaches somebody, then I feel I've done my job."