Big Harp - 10.16.11

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Big Harp - 10.16.11Before starting Big Harp, you and Stefanie got married and had two kids. How did you know it was the right time to start making music together?

: We had our first kid and then played music together a little bit, but we didn’t have that much time. Once our first child got a little older and our daughter was still really young and it seemed like a good time to start. We called our friend Pierre, who recorded the album, and asked if he had any available studio time and he had some open. We sat down and played together for a week or two and then we went and made a record.

How do you think being married has affected your music?

Chris: I’m not sure if being married has affected it that much. I think that we both write the way that we write. I think, if anything, being married adds another dimension to how we work together. We’re so close.

To flip the question around, how do you think making music together has affected your marriage?

: I think it’s definitely improved our relationship. If we weren’t making music together, we’d be making music apart. It’s something that we would be doing in other bands. We’d still be making music. If only I played music or only she played music, it would be a big part of our lives that we wouldn’t be sharing, but we do get to share it.

Speaking of experiences and influences -- you have been part of a lot of acclaimed indie bands. How do you think playing with so many of these talented musicians has helped you grow as one (a musician) yourself?

Stefanie: It’s taught me how to be flexible and adapt my style to different situations and types of music. When I was younger and playing in my own bands I played only by ear. It wasn’t until I started working with established bands that I learned about chords and theory.

The album was recorded with Pierre de Reeder from Rilo Kiley. How did you decide to work with him?

Chris: He’s a friend of ours. Our son hangs out with his daughter. She’s a couple of weeks older than him. They’re friends and we’re friends. We’ve known him for years. We knew that he had a studio and it just made sense to call him. We knew that since he had kids, he would be open to the kind of schedule we wanted to work off of. A lot of bands are pretty far off of the 9-5 thing when they record. We wanted to start at 10 AM and finish around 6 or 7 instead of starting at 6 or 7 and going until 3 in the morning.

How did you end up signing with Saddle Creek?

Chris: We were sending the record around. They’re our friends and we sent them the record and they liked it. They said they wanted to put it out.

The opening track of the album is called “Nadine” and the closing track is called “Oh Nadine”. What’s the significance behind that name?

Chris: Nadine is my grandmother’s middle name. Back in the 40’s, she was in South Dakota. She went out to Los Angeles by herself when she was 15. She stayed there for a while. I took the idea of that story and built my own story around it.

Is it just a coincidence that both songs have the name in the title or are the songs tied together?

: The first song lays out the story. The girl gets married young and shoots her husband and goes out to California. The last song is a letter from her father.

Would you consider the album to be a concept album revolving around that story?

Chris: I don’t. To me, it’s just those two songs. I thought it was really nice to split them up and let them bookend the record. It’s not a concept album, I think all the songs are in their own worlds, except for those two.

Where did the title White Hat come from?

There’s a song White Hat on the record. It just seemed to sum up the record really well.

When you’re writing songs, how do you know when a song is finished and ready to be put out?

: I think with everything I’ve ever recorded, I listen back now and think about all of the things I could have done differently. I don’t know if I ever feel like songs are done. I feel like once you’re recording and you lay it down it’s done.

The song “Goodbye Crazy City” on the record was going to be recorded in a few days and I only had two verses and I just knew it wasn’t enough. I sat down and wrote four or five more verses and then we recorded it.

Stefanie, how did you get involved with Omaha Girls Rock! and how did that experience affect you? Do you feel as though it's had any effect on your music as well?

Stefanie: I first heard about the girls rock camps from my brother and sister-in-law. I immediately thought Omaha would be an amazing place to set one up, so I started calling friends and organizing things. We held the first one in July 2011. Watching the girls was incredible! Seeing how how much fun they were having made me rethink the way I make music. I want to get back to the way it felt when I was younger and first starting out.

How did that go? Will there be a camp next year?

Chris: Yes, there will be a camp next year. It was great. It was awesome. I was just watching her get this whole thing set up and it was amazing to watch. There were so many great women helping out. I got to go in one day to see the girls do their final dress rehearsal. It was great to see them all having so much fun and being so open and free. It was a great environment.

You'll be touring with Maria Taylor soon, and you've also worked with her and Azure Ray before. What was that experience like?

: Amazing! They’re two of my best friends. They’re both so easy-going, tour was more like vacation. Plus they’re both amazing and inspiring musicians.
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