After seeing Brianna Lane play for the first time in the fall of 2005‚ she never went away. Her musicianship had a subtle quality to it‚ and she kept the 15 people sitting quietly sipping their beer engaged between songs with stories about being from Minnesota and on the road. "So‚ this is my life‚" she said with a laugh while tuning her guitar. I was enthralled by her character and her independent approach: here she is traveling the country by herself‚ earning it one stop at a time by performing‚ selling albums‚ getting people to sign up on her email list and by trying to make a deeper‚ more lasting impression with each person listening. I remember thinking about the awesome force that told her to just go out there by herself and make music-that force that made her throw her guitar in the car and hit the road without looking back. And there she was up onstage pouring it out song after song. It felt genuine and real. I left curious about what was going to happen next.
The more I listened to Brianna‚ the more substance and depth I found in her songwriting. She can be simple in one song and provoke thought in the next. She can be just as easily dark and mysterious as she can be lighthearted and present. Her vocal range is just as intense when she's wailing it out with great force as it is when she's soft-spoken and whispery. And when you're least expecting it‚ she tends to be the most poetic. It all really comes out on her latest release‚ Let You In. She brought in some fine players to give the record an Americana vibe‚ and they nail it.
Mike McKinley: So you've got a little bit of downtime now before you go back out on the road?
Brianna Lane: Yeah‚ pretty much. I have probably too much downtime for my own good. I'm looking for a part-time job. Then I'll say goodbye to that and go on the road‚ and do it all over again.
MM: Is that the way you usually work it? You just go on the road for a while‚ come back home‚ see where things are at….
BL: Yeah‚ I made this deal with myself lately that I'm going to just tour in the fall and the spring‚ and then get seasonal jobs for the winter and summer‚ because I like being at home. I'm trying to be a ski instructor right now‚ so that'll be fun. And then I'm a daycare supervisor in the summer.
MM: How do you make that decision to say‚ "OK‚ this is what I'm gonna do‚" about hopping in the car and touring?
BL: For a while‚ I felt like I was touring just to tour. It kind of didn't make sense after a while‚ and I was like‚ I need a purpose for when I go out and do this. Last fall‚ I was touring behind a record. This spring‚ I'll be touring with my duo for the most part‚ and trying to hit up some new areas. So the purpose is to try and reach out to new people. And sometimes the purpose is to hit up the old places so people don't forget about you. But if the purpose is to go out and make money‚ that's just kind of silly because you get stuck playing these gigs that pay‚ but they're stupid and they're no fun.
MM: You're kind of at a point where you're like‚ "Wait‚ if I'm going do it‚ let's do it right." I imagine all the touring you have done‚ you kind of build yourself up where you're like‚ "OK‚ I'm strong in these markets. I've played them before."
BL: Yeah‚ I feel like I have a good sense. So I'll go down to Asheville‚ where I used to live‚ and play good shows there. And I'll go to the Northeast a lot because I know the Northeast totally rocks. And then I'll try other places out if people ask me to come there‚ or if I have never seen that part of the world before.
MM: When we spoke the last time‚ you were here [in Burlington‚ Vermont]. It was before the record [Let You In] came out‚ and I asked you if you were going to shop it around. I remember you saying you couldn't see yourself being on a label. I thought that was interesting‚ that independent spirit. So‚ why do you feel that way?
BL: I feel like I've surrounded myself with people who have done this by themselves for so long‚ and I have a good sense of the business aspect of it - and actually‚ I like some of the business stuff about it - so it just made sense that‚ why wouldn't that be under my control‚ instead of giving it up to people that I'm not really sure what they'll do with the album and the music. And I trust myself fairly well. I want to build a team - like I have a college booking agent right now‚ and I want to get a publicist - and I don't feel like right now in the music world you need a label to do what you want to do. I feel like if you have a good handle on the business side of it‚ why not do it on your own? And that's not to say community is not important‚ because I was looking at a couple of labels while I was putting the record out‚ and they were more like families of artists. They were more like‚ "Hey‚ let's look out for each other." It wasn't like a bunch of guys saying‚ "OK‚ this is what we want to do with your music because this is what we do with all of our artists." I was looking more for like a family and a co-op rather than for some of them to run the show.
MM: It's funny that I'm asking about the record and stuff‚ because you recorded it a while ago.
BL: Yeah‚ last January.
MM: So for you‚ you're probably on another level doing different stuff‚ but everyone else is hearing it for the first time.
BL: Yeah‚ it's a weird space to be in. But the funny part is that the record before that‚ Radiator‚ I did like that too. I recorded it in January and got it out to the world in September‚ and I didn't feel that same disconnect from it that I do with this record. I'm all ready to start writing new songs and start getting new stuff down. And maybe that's because I teamed up with Liz Stalher. We kind of morphed into this duo thing‚ and that's really new as well. I'm like‚ "Oh‚ wait‚ this is a whole new thing I can be doing‚" and that's exciting.
MM: I think it's great. I've been really enjoying it. There's quite a jump from the last album. I think it is an improvement‚ but I think the last album is really good too. But maybe it's something about the personality in the songs. I don't know - this group of songs sounds really strong together.
BL: I guess it was one of our goals‚ me and Evan Brubaker [the producer for the last two albums]‚ to make a group of songs that sit well together rather than having it be just any old songs that we like on the album. It was a conscious effort to bring together a group of songs that made sense together‚ so that's really cool that you got that out of it.