Black Deer Festival Interview: Caroline Spence

Photo: Nick Barber

Caroline Spence talks about making her new album, playing festivals, and a talented friend to look out for.

One of the highlights of this year’s Black Deer Festival was the appearance of Caroline Spence at the Ridge Stage on a very hot Friday afternoon. Her new album ‘True North’ was recently released on Rounder Records. It is a deeply personal and emotional record that expands her sound. Whilst still firmly in the americana meadow, with this release also sees Spence wander through the gate and into the field of indie rock. Americana UK’s Clint West was lucky enough to get a few moments with her after her Black Deer performance.

Can I start by asking you about the album ‘True North’?  How did you approach it after the success of ‘Mint Condition’ which got so much favourable coverage? Did you feel nervous or under pressure to produce something even better?

Well, no not really. I think the timing of it, or the making of it, got rid of any sort of expectation. It was made in October 2020 and we just didn’t know what the world looked like, so any kind of before or after comparison felt less important. I really didn’t have that album in mind making this one at all and there wasn’t really the pressure because it just felt so joyful to get back in the studio and be with other musicians and the producer to do it. I think that probably if we hadn’t been going through the shutdown then maybe that would have been more of a narrative for me but I was just so happy to be making something.

Where did the songs for the album come from? Were they ones you already had, or did you write specifically for the new record?

Well that was about half and half. Half I’d already written over the last few years and the other half came out of a three-month period during 2020, so yes both.

How did you personally cope with lockdown? I suppose everybody coped in different ways.

In a way it was a welcome pause. I’d had the busiest touring season of my life in the few months before, I’d reached a lot of career goals, I had a lot of new voices in the room with me, team members and whatever and ultimately it was a really welcome pause. It allowed me to recalibrate and make sure that I was doing the things that I wanted to do and should be doing. I think that time taught me a lot.

I really enjoyed your set today.

Thank you

And what really came across was just how pleased you were to be out there.

Yes, I think just to make it through the time without touring I had to pretend it didn’t matter, because truly, if I could never play another show I think that I could be a really content person just sitting in my house writing songs. But now that I’ve been back out and being able to have that exchange with the audience and travel, I really do feel that something’s sprung back up and it’s just been really lovely.

Have you had a chance to look round the festival much?

I was doing that when they caught me and said that I was supposed to be somewhere else being videoed! So yes, a bit, but I’m looking forward to getting around more before I leave. It seems really cute.

You also appeared at the ‘Songwriters Session’ Did you enjoy that?

Yes, it was good. We were running a bit late, it was a bit chaotic getting through the traffic so I only just made it. I think when I went on stage I’d been there for seven minutes.

Had you met any of the other songwriters previously?

I hadn’t. I’d seen all of their names around in publications like your own, so I was aware of them. I think Emily [Barker] and I have a lot of friends in common too. It was a great opportunity to finally hear them all – my own little private concert.

Are you intending to come back to the UK and Europe soon?

As soon as I can. There’s nothing on the books right now and everyone is trying to come but I love playing over here and I will come back as soon as they will have me.

What is the difference between you own headline shows and a festival? When you play your own show most people have come specifically to see you and know your songs whereas at a festival, you’ll still have a certain amount of people doing that but there’s also a lot who will just wander in out of curiosity or to get out of the sun, so it’s an opportunity to get across to new people. Is that something you’re conscious of?

I think so, I used to try and care to that more but what I’ve also learned is that in the UK, maybe more than in America, people do try and see the whole set, so I want to make sure that those people are getting a good representation of what I do as well. I don’t think I always get into the full stories as I’d like to, and do with my own audience maybe, but I try to make sure that they are getting a little bit of the personality and breadth of what I do. It’s hard to squeeze that in to 45 minutes

Photo: Nick Barber
What’s next for you. Are you heading back home after this?

Yes this is the last of the gigs

Will you get a little break before you start playing again?

Not much. I get home Monday at 10pm and then leave again Friday at noon so maybe enough to just get my breath back.

Home has been Nashville for some while now but is there anything that you miss about Virginia?

I’ve been in Nashville about ten years now, but I do miss Virginia. There are some hills around Nashville but Virginia is in the mountains. Its in the valley of the Blue Ridge so everywhere you look you kind of have that. It’s like my heart loves that place and my family is there too

One of the things we like to do at AUK is to highlight new music and new artists. Do have anyone that you’d like to recommend to our readers, a friend or someone you’ve worked with perhaps?

There is a woman named Kyshona Armstrong, I don’t know if that’s someone you’ve come across, she lives in Nashville as well. She is, I think, such a special artist. I’ve been lucky enough to get to write a couple of songs with her. She just put out a song called ‘Out Loud’ that she and I wrote together. Her album ‘Listen’ came out in 2020 and it is just stunning. She’s such a powerful writer and singer.

Caroline Spence’s ‘True North’ is out now on Rounder Records.

About Clint West 321 Articles
From buying my first record aged 10 and attending my first gig at 14, music has been a lifelong obsession. A proud native of Suffolk, I have lived in and around Manchester for the best part of 30 years. My idea of a perfect day would be a new record arriving in the post in the morning, watching Ipswich Town win in the afternoon followed by a gig and a pint with my mates at night,
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