Interview by Scott Preston
Born with a guitar in one hand and a…Oh crap, wrong Guthrie…Born among great artists, Annie Guthrie had many options for inspiration. At a young age she saw a picture of her grandmother Marjorie, a Martha Graham dancer, that motivated her to become a dancer. Her stubborn personality meant nothing was going to stop her. Eventually a knee injury slowed her down; that’s when her mother, Mrs. G, put a guitar in her hands and taught her a few chords. It didn’t take long for Annie to reinvent her love — she still dances, just a little differently now. She recalls her dad teaching her how to play Elizabeth Cotten’s song ‘Freight Train’. “My dad started off showing me the chords and saying, ‘Okay do this with your thumb,’ and he’d go away for a few months. He’d come back and ask me if I practiced.
I was in love and couldn’t put the guitar down, so of course I practiced. Once he realized I wasn’t giving up, he kept adding a new finger and another string.” Having been performing for as long as she can remember, Annie Guthrie is a prolific songwriter and versatile musician who defines her genre as folk-punk. She primarily plays acoustic guitar, bass, and autoharp. If you see her with a hammer dulcimer, run! Her songs are honest, ranging from light and funny to gut-wrenching heartbreak (mostly gut-wrenching heartbreak). No matter the topic, Guthrie never fails to bring a smile to the stage. Making her recording debut on Arlo Guthrie’s Power of Love album at the age of four, Annie went on to contribute vocals on Woody’s 20 Grow Big Songs, and More Together Again. Although Annie often performs solo or with her band, Guthrie loves the opportunity to perform and tour with her siblings as The GBabes, The Guthrie Family Reunion, and occasionally alongside Folk Uke. In 2011 she teamed up with singer-songwriter Bobby Sweet to form Bitter Sweet, supporting each other musically and with harmony vocals. Currently Annie is at work with Bobby recording her first solo album Dragonfly, due out soon. (from http://www.risingsonrecords.com/artists.html?a_id=21)
Jamband News: Why did you wait so long to release your own record?
Annie Guthrie: I have been a single mom for the last 20 years and thats been my priority. I wanted them to be a little older before I went off and did my music thing. Its not that you can’t raise kids in the music industry, my parents did it. I also have been running my dad’s company (Rising Sun Records) for the last 20 years and he always has something going on. Up until 10 years ago I only performed with my family, so my music was something I only did for myself. I always thought nobody wanted to hear me sing, so I would sing them at home or to my kids. Then one day my sisters and were sitting around in a hotel spending New Years Eve together about 10 years ago. I picked up a guitar and asked them if they wanted to hear a song I wrote. They looked at me like I was crazy but they ended up really liking it. I decided since my kids were older now, my son is 19, my daughter is 13, it was time to get the record out there.
Jamband News: Who did you have on the record, family members I assume?
Annie Guthrie: I actually went into the studio 4 years ago to make the record with my brother Abe and without a producer. We all ended up getting busy, my mom became ill and I was taking care of her. After she passed I decided I couldn’t do this by myself. I decided to get Bobby Sweet to produce my record. He is a local musician who I have known my whole life. He has worked on some family projects, played with my dad and with me as well. He really is a great producer and engineer so I figured we might as well work together. Now with Bobby producing my family can come in and just have fun and not worry about making any decisions. My brother Abe came in and played on about 6 tracks. I have 2 drummers on the record, Terry A La Berry has been playing with my dad since 1975 and is still touring with him. When he isn’t touring with my dad he is here working in the archives at the record company. The other drummer was Dan Teichert, who plays in my brothers band and who we have known for a while. Sarah Lee came in a did a shaker sessions with us for fun. Other than that everything else was done by Bobby and myself. I do play a lot of instruments, but the only one I am allowed to play on the record is the guitar (laughing).
Jamband News: Tell me more about the funding campaign you have going on for the record.
Annie Guthrie: I decided to do this on my own without any financial help from my family. They are incredibly supportive in any way that they can. Doing something independently can be a wonderful and an awful thing. I didn’t want to goto my dad, who has supported me as single mom for 20 years and ask him to fund my record. I really want to try to do it on my own. There is no way I could do it without doing a crowd sourcing campaign. To be honest I was pretty freaked out about the idea at first. But as I went along putting it together I got really excited about the different things I could offer to contributors. I have a series of really funny videos that I made. I am a really bad spokeperson for myself but I can sell you an Arlo record because thats what I have been doing for 20 years. I will be releasing the videos as the campaign goes along and I hope people find them as funny as we do. I even was able to get some family members involved.
Jamband News: I noticed the different amounts that people can contribute are odd amounts, why is that?
Annie Guthrie: It’s a bit of a OCD thing, I do everything divisible by 3. At first I had somewhat normal amounts and my sister asked me if it was making me uncomfortable and I said yes. She said just make them divisible by 3 (laughing).
Jamband News: What was it like to grow up in a musical family?
Annie Guthrie: There are 2 versions of that story, the one we tell everyone and then the real one. The real one is that its totally awesome, really amazing. It has been a honor growing up in this family, because I have been able to do things that other people haven’t been able to do. I have been able to travel and have music be the center of my life. Every one of the kids ended up being a musician in one way or another. Music was always around whether we were playing it or not. My mom always had music playing in the house. I remember Hoyt Axton, Ramblin’ Jack and The Dillards would come by and they would have jam sessions with my dad. Growing up with Pete Seeger was incredible, he was like a grandfather to us. It might seem crazy to be around all the people I just mentioned, but we knew them first as people before we really knew who they were. Hoyt really is a huge inspiration to me. My dad has recorded a lot of Hoyt’s songs, they were cousins actually. We used to go down to Hoyt’s house down in Nashville for family reunions. I remember one time Hoyt actually came over to babysit us kids. Thinking about it now I asked my parents “You didn’t really leave the house did you?” “I mean you left us alone with Hoyt Axton” and they just laughed. It was like having Uncle Buck around. He let us have all kinds of candy we weren’t allowed to have, it was awesome. The Guthrie kids all ended up working together and we work well together. There really isn’t anything like when we all get together on stage. We don’t even rehearse, we just get together. I think there are 15-16 of us now. My dad said he taught us kids to sing harmony when we were little because he said you can’t sing harmony without listening to each other. He told us those same principles will carry on into life. It will help you communicate with each other.
Jamband News: How many of Arlo’s grandchildren are getting involved in music?
Annie Guthrie: All of them. my brother and sisters, we all have kids. They all play an instrument, sing, something music related. Abe has 2 kids, Krishna who is about 21 plays guitar, he has an incredibly talented daughter who is about 17 and she just has a great voice and can play just about any instrument she picks up. My son is 19 and he plays bass, my daughter is 13 and sings. Sarah Lee’s 2 kids sing as does Cathy’s daughter. When I am on stage with my son and watching him play and listening to my daughter sing, I am just so proud. I just can’t believe I am on stage performing with them.
Guthrie Family Tour
11-21-2014 North Newton, MA High School sold out
11-22-2014 Great Barrington, MA The Mahaiwe Theater sold out
11-29-2014 New York City, NY Carnegie Hall