A couple of years removed from her successful duo tour with Celeste Krenz, singer/songwriter Rebecca Folsom returns to a Boulder stage this weekend with a new CD, her first in four years and her ninth overall. Why not?
“Celeste and I had made a couple of songs, we were thinking that we were going to do another album,” she explained last week, “and then we both decided, eh, let’s not, maybe we’ll take some of these and use them individually, and one of those songs we recorded up at John Magnie’s Knucklehead Studio up in Fort Collins. But most of these songs were born out of, ‘OK, yeah, I want to make this album, pretty sure it’s going to be called Reunion — I don’t know why, I hadn’t written anything yet — and then began the process of writing.
“I also have my B.F.A. in fine art, and I painted for a number of years, showed my work, had a couple of art shows … but after I graduated college, my music came to the forefront and that’s what I concentrated on. So … I really wanted to reclaim that.
“I just wanted to do all my art together, rather than having them compartmentalized in my world. [Instead of ] spending two years doing an album and touring, and then stopping and getting off the road and then writing poetry books and doing that, and then painting, it was like, ‘Wow, what would it be like to just do all of them at the same time?’”
Artistic ambition is not an unfamiliar trait for Folsom, who has been publishing poetry in between her touring schedule for some years now, and it’s pretty unlikely anyone will find that the music got shortchanged this time around. Folsom’s recorded output has long been a textbook study in deeply crafted songwriting and letter-perfect singing influenced by the Nashville scene (where she worked and lived for several years up until her return to the Front Range a couple of years ago) and the classic songwriting stylists of the 1970s. The new CD features guest appearances by Tim O’Brien and Nick Forester of Hot Rize, John Magnie of the subdudes, Greg Garrison from Leftover Salmon and Richie Furay. And judging by the poised, achingly delivered gospel-shrouded title tune (ironically, the last song she actually finished for the already-titled CD), her local fan base will be glad to have her back.
For Folsom, though, seeing her original idea through to the end was part satisfaction and part relief — the most carefully assembled plans can frequently turn into something else entirely by the time the final mix goes down.
“Right, yeah, sometimes it morphs,” she agrees. “And so I was very pleased at how the album and everything came together. It was like, ‘Oh, I get it, I get what the snapshot is, I get what the mood is.’ I don’t know if I can put it into words, but I was getting sort of feeling like, ‘That’s what this is about.’ While I was in it, I was kind of in this swirl of dancing with the muse, with the painting and the poetry and different intuitions that would come. And the different things that inspired it.
“You know, I realized, as I was sending my press releases out, that it had been four years since I released an album. That’s a long time ... and there were a lot of things that happened in that time. The Fourmile Fire that happened up here, we’re right in the middle of that. That was very impactful for my whole neighborhood. Fifty percent of the people I know lost their homes.
“With the Rhythm Angels ending, the fire — there were a number of things during this period I went through where I felt like things were ending. But I’ve learned over the years that there’s a season for everything. Winters come in the art. So I kind of relaxed into it.”
Folsom’s art and poetry will hang at the eTown Hall on Spruce Street until mid-February. After her gig this weekend, she plans to line up a national release for the CD and head back on the road when the weather warms up. Folsom is planning to keep the business stuff in-house for now, but one never knows. Four years is a minor eternity in the music business; a decade and half of recording and touring experience puts Folsom in a good place but, despite persistent claims of its imminent demise, the music business is still awash with artists chasing their own niche markets, and a little of the personal touch still counts for something.
“I think we’ll self-distribute,” she says. “But we’ll see, I really don’t know at this point.
“I remember somebody asking me about a new CD, ‘How do you make it stand out’? I remember walking into the Fox [Theatre] years ago when I had just released a new album, and there were just literally stacks of CDs on the guy’s desk. I was just so pleased that I had gone through the trouble of handing it to him in person.”
Old school, indeed.
Rebecca Folsom plays eTown Hall Saturday, Jan. 26. Doors at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20, $100 for VIP tickets. Call 303-443-8696.