With her latest outing, singer/songwriter Nora Jane Struthers is shaking things up. Not only did she recruit a new backing band — the Party Line — but she also took cues from the records of Americana stalwarts Hayes Carll and Jason Isbell when she went into the studio. Those two decisions melded together in her Wake, a self-produced, rougher-edged work bristling with energy and enthusiasm more so than any album she’s previously issued. Road-testing the songs and fine-tuning the arrangements first helped, but, really, the main difference was that Struthers was in love.
A lot of artists say they don’t write as well when they are happy, that they need the suffering and sorrow of heartbreak as a muse. But you’ve sort of come alive in the midst of a new love, right?
Yes, surprisingly! In love, I reached new depths of vulnerability and empowerment. I find inspiration in newness.
Is there a difference in your creative process for this new album or was it strictly an emotional shift, switching to the autobiographical perspective?
Well, there was definitely an emotional shift. I was also able to unbridle the creative process — to stop editing and judging while creating. This was very freeing.
When you write very personal songs, how do you leave space for listeners to insert themselves into the stories? Or do you just have to set that concern aside?
I think the more personal a song is, the more universal it can be. I’m not concerned with how other people will interpret a song when I am writing it; after all, we all bring our own life experiences to our interpretation of art.
What’s the trick for bridging the gap between the pairs of opposites in your life — “bluegrass and Pearl Jam” or, even, Brooklyn and Nashville?
I spent many years trying to compartmentalize the seemingly contrary elements of my life; it seemed simpler at the time. But, when I fell in love, I wanted to be known fully, and in order to allow that to happen, I needed to allow all the parts of myself to exist simultaneously. It was incredibly freeing. I had no idea how much energy I was using to keep all the parts of myself separated. Now I have so much more energy to spend in far more valuable ways.
How did you know the players who form the Party Line were THE players for you? Did the players come first and the sound emerge from there… rather than you having a vision and seeking out folks to fit it?
How did you know?! Yes, I picked the people and the people happened to play these instruments and that’s how the sound was born. Music is made by people… without wonderful people, I cannot make wonderful music.
This article originally appeared on Folk Alley.