In late 2011, I was watching BBB Channel 12/Oak Ridge’s Ciderville Farm and Home Show. It’s a weekly show that airs every Saturday at 7:30 PM with live local music and old-fashioned comedy. On this particular night, one of the show’s guests was Wendy Crowe, a singer/songwriter who also plays in the duo, Westwend, with Jonathan Maness. In this interview we discuss her upcoming solo CD, as well as her work with Westwend. Westwend is playing a few dates in North Carolina this weekend–on Friday at Twigs in Blowing Rock, NC and on Saturday at Banner Elk Cafe in Banner Elk, NC.
Tim O’Shea: How young were you when you first realized you wanted to be a singer/songwriter?
Wendy Crowe: I’ve always loved to sing, and I would pretend I was on stage every chance I got. However, it was about 6th grade that I really started practicing my writing. I had this teacher, Mrs. Morgan, who loved the arts as much as I did, so we were always singing and doing musicals. She helped me realize that you have to do what you loved.
How long have you been working on a new album? Do you have a target release date?
We have been working on my CD about a year. It started out very simple, but because of the fun we had making it my CD has turned out to be a great Country Grass style CD, with everything from Classic Country Songs from Merle Haggard and Ronnie Milsaps to some new original songs, Like Muddy River and Missing You. There is definitely something for everyone on this CD. The target date that I’m shooting for is September 17, 2012.
How did you come to be involved in the Ciderville Farm and Home Show?
Well, that’s an interesting story. I sang with the long running Tennessee Valley Barn Dance for 5 years. Mr. John Hitch was a huge influence in my life, as were all the musicians in the band. So, the Barn Dance was on a break and I have a good friend who does character acting as Ernest T. Bass. He asked me to go down to the Ciderville Show as Charlene Darlin’, So I did. When I got there I discovered all these people I had known the last 5 years were the same ones who were at Ciderville and had been playing with David West for years. It was so nice to be around my musical family again.
Your musical partner in Westwend–Jonathan Maness–is serving as the producer on the album, what made you realize he’d be the best person to produce the album?
Jonathan came to Ciderville to talk with me about my upcoming CD. It was an instant connection with creativity. We discovered how well we worked together those first couple of meetings about the CD. His ear for music is incredible. I had this idea of staying with my style, but adding some East TN to it that had influenced me so much. His attention to detail and what the song needed was also something that let me know he was the producer for me. It makes it easier to work with someone when it’s easy and fun, and that’s what it is with Jonathan.
How do you decide if a song you write is one you want to keep for yourself versus one you want to perform with Westwend?
Well, first it has to be one we both like, and Jonathan and I write a lot together. But some songs are just more like my diary, so those songs I like to keep for myself. I write a lot of personal feelings down and sometimes I think, If someone got a hold of my phone they’d think I was a crazy person. There is such a crazy mixture from every kind of feeling you can think of. Like Muddy River, I wrote it when I was homesick for my Mississippi home. Then, Song and Dance, that I do with WestWend, I wrote because I was washing dishes and thinking about how relationships have a cycle and we can stay in that cycle or change it, and most people choose to two step around their problems and it becomes the “Same Old Song and Dance”.
Will your cover of Landslide be on the new album? What is about that song that appealed to you?
It will be on the first album released in September. I’ve always loved the song since Stevie Nicks did it, but sometimes a song that you hear your whole life becomes your life story. We fall in love with someone, but then many times we lose ourselves and our dreams, become our dreams become someone else’s. That’s when you have to wake up and say, when am I gonna start doing what Iove again. Sometimes those people we have built our life around aren’t happy with the change, but we have to just accept the change and whatever comes with it. I had a friend tell me, “Life is too short to be unhappy, but it’s also too long.” You can’t always let the Landslide keep you down, at some point you have to break through the wreckage.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your musical career?
You know there are two, the first is getting to be around all these musicians who played with people I admired, like June Carter, and Merle Haggard. It is so cool to get to listen to stories about and learn the craft of how to be a good entertainer. I think David West gave me the best advice, “Always be the same person on stage that you are off and people will always love you.” That has stuck with me for years. And the second is that when I’m on stage I get to make people smile. Music is an escape for many people and having the chance to move them with my music and let them have that escape for an hour or two is very fulfilling for me.
How hard is it to juggle your family commitments and musical interests?
It is very hard. But I either try to work it out so that either my kids can come along or they are able to stay at home with their dad. I hardly ever leave my kids longer than a night or two when it comes to music. There may come a time when I have to be gone a week or so, but even then they will be with family, and I’m starting to think they like the vacation from me.
Anything you’d like to discuss that I neglected to ask you about?
I can’t think of anything, except that I am booking the rest of 2012 and starting to book 2013, with myself and Westwend. We are booking everything from house concerts, private events, weddings, and venues, to festivals. I’d love for everyone to check out my website and then our reverbnation. So, give me a call if they’d like and I’ll get them on the calendar before it gets full.