Analogue Music | Chosen: Laurie Lewis on the Magic of Collaboration

Chosen: Laurie Lewis on the Magic of Collaboration

By Laurie Lewis

​I didn’t so much as choose my collaborators for 'and Laurie Lewis' as they, or Life, chose me. Every one of the people who joined me on this album are long-time friends and musical inspirations for me.

In a songwriting essay from sometime in the last century, I confessed that my initial impetus to start writing songs was a jealousy of Kathy Kallick’s ability to bring something completely her own to our 1970s band (the Good Ol’ Persons), while I would find a gem and rehearse it with the band, only to find it on the latest Emmy Lou Harris recording the next month. And so, of course, when I realized I was making a duet album, the idea of recording “Old Friend” with Kathy just seemed like the perfect fit in every way. The song might not have gotten written without her figuratively putting the burr under my saddle.

Three of my collaborators I have known since they were children. Molly Tuttle, Tatiana Hargreaves and Leah Wollenberg have all grown into formidable, deep and multi-faceted musicians. It is gratifying to know that I have had some impact on their development, and that I can call them dear friends. I think the idea for the album began when I got together with Molly, in order to fulfill a long-time whim of mine to record “You Are My Flower” as a duet. It wasn’t planned for an album, but just as a little dream fulfillment. That session was followed by the ones with Tatiana, and suddenly I had the beginnings of a concept album. From there, it was just a matter of picking the songs and finding the time to record with my friends.

'and Laurie Lewis' cover art
'and Laurie Lewis' cover art

I knew Mike Marshall was the ideal person to collaborate with on “O The Wind and Rain.” When I discussed the idea with him, he was instantly on board, and thanked me for the opportunity to explore this intriguing ancient ballad of love, jealousy, murder, and an ingenious fiddler.

I have Tom Rozum to thank for taking the journey with me into the realm of duet performance. That may not be daunting for many others, but for us both, as long-time band collaborators, it was terrifying the first few times out. Where are all the other sounds? Over the years of playing together, we learned to love, and embrace, the wide-open spaces surrounding two voices and two instruments.

Craig Smith and I have been friends and musical collaborators for over 40 years, and I could not imagine this album without at least one song with him. He toured and recorded with me for many years, but has become sort of reclusive these days, and I had to journey to North Carolina to flush him from his nest. But it was definitely worth the effort.

On my return from N.C., I stopped in Nashville to visit my old bandmate Todd Phillips. We played together for a dozen years at least, until he started touring with Joan Baez and then moved to Nashville. It was so much fun to delve into his unique interplay and sense of humor he brings to musical conversations.

Nina Gerber and I have been, in some ways, musical soulmates for almost four decades. But I generally play in a bluegrass band, and Nina backs up singer-songwriters. Neither of us are big talkers, but through her guitar we have had many a deep and eloquent discussion over the years.

That only leaves Barbara Higbie. Since we met in the late 1970s on the bandstand of the Golden Age Jazz Band, we have played together in Hills to Hollers and shared many a mile of high-country trails. While we were backpacking together last summer in the Sierra, we both hit on the idea of recording our former band leader’s song together.

i have many other close musical friends, and it was difficult to decide that, with 13 songs and a couple in the vault for later, the album is finished. I think there’s a Volume 2, at least.

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