The Power of Music

Interview McCalla 1
As an artist, Deidre McCalla has released six records and has been touring since 1973. She has shared the musical stage with the likes of Tracy Chapman, Odetta, Suzanne Vega and Sweet Honey in the Rock to name just a few. McCalla has also performed at Carnegie Hall and this Summer will perform at the Kerrville Folk Festival. In this interview via email she shares her love of songwriting.

Jupiter Index: Were there any musicians whom you initially wanted to play like, or did you always want to craft your own sound?
Deidre McCalla: My heroes when I discovered the world of folk music were Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, Dylan, Eric Anderson, Simon & Garfunkel and many more. I taught myself how to play guitar by learning their songs and like every performer starting out most of my bar and coffeehouse sets were made up of covers. When I began writing songs it was not so much to find my own ’sound’ but to emulate what most of my heroes did - write the songs they sung.

JI: You have been creating music for over five decades. What has been the biggest change you’ve seen in the industry during this time?
DM: The biggest change in the industry was the introduction of the CD. With that music became digital and it opened up a Pandora’s box of issues with copying, sharing, and ultimately poorly compensated streaming. We’re still trying to figure it all out.

JI: You have an impressive body of work; what is your main inspiration when writing and recording your albums?
DM: Writing and recording are two very different experiences for me. I write songs because it is my way of figuring out the world around me. To put everything into an understandable perspective. I sing because singing aligns my senses. It makes me feel whole. I record albums because you need to have an album if you want to tour and perform live. An album is a very expensive calling card.

Interview McCalla 2
JI: How would you describe your writing process? How often do you write songs?
DM: My writing process is sporadic. I do not write often enough by some measure. On the other hand, I haven’t fallen into the trap of thinking every journal entry is a song so there’s that.

JI: So, back to the beginning. Where does your interest in music stem from?
DM: My gateway drug was performing. I have been a ham from an early age. Motown filled the home in which I grew up and then I discovered folk music while attending a boarding high school. I think that’s why my playing and songs have a stronger rhythmic feel than is typical of most singer-songwriters.

JI: Would you like to say anything more about your music or to your fans?
DM: I marvel that I get to do this work. At a music conference workshop I attended we were encouraged to write down what we wanted the audience to get out of a show. I reflected on a Bonnie Raitt concert I had recently gone to with my son and how absolutely great I felt when the concert was over. I realized that’s how I hoped my audiences felt. On the most basic level i hope they felt it was worth the price of admission; money well spent. i hope they felt glad to be alive and to have shared that time with me. I hope they believe that life is a great adventure and though some parts are hard there is beauty and joy to be found. That is why I do this.

by G.M. Burns