I first saw The Mastersons play on the Cayamo cruise in 2011. When I found out that the Austin, Texas-based musical duo of Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore were appearing August 7 at Eddie’s Attic (at 7:30 PM), I reached out to Whitmore for a quick email interview to help spread the word. We discuss the new album, Good Luck Charm, which was released by the husband-wife team in June (and is available on iTunes, Vinyl or your local record store), as well as the advantages of playing a legendary cozy venue like Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, Georgia.
Tim O’Shea: How much do you enjoy getting to play more intimate venues like Eddie’s Attic (as opposed to the larger venues you play when opening for or playing with Steve Earle)?
Eleanor Whitmore: It’s easier to connect with your audience when they’re close around you. It’s a lot of fun to play places like Eddie’s Attic because you can interact with the crowd more, but there is a certain challenge to winning over a bigger audience in a large venue and we like doing that too.
With your new album, Good Luck Charm, a follow-up to your debut Mastersons 2012 album, do you feel the two of you have improved more lyrically or musically in terms of the quality of the material–or a little of both?
Absolutely. We have a few hundred shows under our fingers and have had a few years to grow as a band. Our new album is very reflective of that.
How critical was it to get to veteran Jim Scott to produce the album?
Jim Scott played a big part in shaping the album. He challenged us to write a lot of tunes and worked with us to pick the best ones. He’s also amazing in the studio. We had a huge task of tracking and mixing everything on the record in 15 days. He was a great coach and kept the atmosphere fun and relaxed so it never felt rushed.
This album seems to reflect your lives as a couple somewhat in some of the cuts, how hesitant were you to go in that direction, if at all?
With the last record, we really played down the couple thing. The writing reflects that and is a little darker with all the broken character love songs. We wanted to do something different this time so we embraced a lot of new subjects, including the straight up love song.
How did you go about deciding who to get to back you on the album? On a related note, will you be appearing with some supporting musicians at Eddie’s–or will it be you and Chris playing the songs (Either way, I consider the concert a must see, I must say).
We worked closely with Jim Scott when deciding on players for the record. George Reiff played bass on our first record, but he’s worked with Jim on the Courtyard Hounds records. Mark Stepro played drums and Jim was familiar with him through Sarah Watkins and Mark lives in LA so that was one less plane ticket. John Ginty played piano/organ on the record and has made a lot of records with Jim, so we were right to trust Jim on that.
We’re still building our fan base out there so we can’t always afford to take a band out on the road and there’s a lot of nuance and charm that happens live with us as a duo. We’ll be at Eddie’s Attic as a duo.
A recent American Songwriter review noted: “Eleanor’s impressive fiddle skills generally stay on low boil but when she lets loose as on ‘Anywhere But Here,’ you wish there were more examples of her instrumental talents.” As a musician, I assume you know best for the song when to let loose or not, but I am curious–what goes into your creative process when you decide to let your musical strengths take front stage versus blending so as to not overshadow an overall song?
The reviewer may have wanted to hear more fiddle, but my instrumental skills are all over the record. There are several string arrangements throughout the record and there aren’t very many people playing tenor guitar out there. It just depends on the song and not going for the obvious instrumentation makes the arrangements more interesting.