FolkWorld Issue 36 07/2008; Article by Walkin' T:-)M

Chronicler of the Human Story
Eliza Gilkyson's Beautiful World

US-American singer/songwriter Eliza Gilkyson has been developed into one of the finest folk and roots music artists. Already known for well-crafted songs, the relaxed if not joyous feeling of her new album 'Beautiful World' is celebrating the beauty that shines amidst these dark days of war and corruption.

What were your influences and inspirations for your particular brand of Americana?

I was influenced by the "folk greats" of the 60's: Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins. I loved roots/blues/folk artists like Josh White, Dave Van Ronk and Spider John Koerner.
Eliza Gilkyson
Eliza Gilkyson @ FolkWorld:
Land of Milk and Honey (2004)
Paradise Hotel (2005)
Your Town Tonight (2007)
Beautiful World (2008)
Growing up in Los Angeles I listened to a Mexican Music station that was broadcast out of Mexico with a high frequency signal and fell in love with Mexican folk pop. Then there was "Wolfman Jack", broadcasting late at night out of Chula Vista California in the 50's and 60's, who introduced me to the Blues and R&B. So, as you can see, the roots of Americana were all around me growing up.

Your father is the well-known songwriter Terry Gilkyson. What does his music mean to you?

My dad is probably my most important influence musically because he loved dark melodies and well crafted songs with classic structure.I can hear bits of his melodies and song structure in my music today.

Your songs are often of a political and social nature, you call your point of view 'progressive patriotism'.

The first record I bought as a child was Phil Ochs' "I Ain't Marchin Anymore", an early politically oriented record. I was always interested in music that reflected a social conscience. But I do NOT think of myself as a political songwriter, rather a chronicler of the human story, the struggle to grow in consciousness, the dilemmas inherent in the individual and collective journeys within a society. Sometimes, especially these days that plays out in the political arena.

Your latest album 'Beautiful World' is, maybe not a departure, but quite different compared to previous works. How come?

I have been trying to find ways to convey the urgency of the current economic/spiritual/environmental crisis that is threatening humanity today without being too "preachy" or polarizing. Lately I have been balancing that sense of urgency and grief over the loss of the natural world that is so dear to me with a sense of wonder over all that remains, all that is worth fighting for. You can feel that balance in this recording more dramatically. There is a joy bubbling under the surface that is the backdrop for the darker material.

Is there a favourite track on the album?

I think the whole recording flows together as one musical journey, and all the pieces are necessary to create that effect.

I wonder why there are no lyrics in the CD booklet; you refer to your website.

Unfortunately this is the direction that many labels are taking due to the downloading phenomenon that is taking such a huge toll on record companies. I am not happy with it and I don't think I will omit the lyrics again.
Eliza Gilkyson
Icon Sound@
I have encountered a lot of frustrated buyers who are not computer oriented enough to find the lyrics at my website or who like to have a booklet that can stay with the cd. It's a huge transitional time in the industry and we are all just trying to hold on and see how it will stay afloat! But just to clarify, the words are as important to me now as they ever were!

You were working with Swiss harpist Andreas Vollenweider. What did you experience in Europe?

Working with Andreas was transformational for me. It was my first time to leave North America. I arrived in Europe as a US citizen and departed a "global citizen" with a whole new way of seeing the world. I saw how most Americans view the world as if we were the center of it and I was horrified by the arrogance of that perspective. I have worked very hard to shed that point of view .

The other thing I noticed right away in Europe was the conservation ethic in place, long before it was "fashionable", as well as certain "socialized" structures that guaranteed citizens good education, health insurance, worker rights and protections, things that in the USA would be taken as government interference. You were paying the proper price for petrol, beef, timber and natural resources long ago. In America these things have been subsidized and protected giving us the illusion they were unlimited. We are going to pay a big price for indulging that level of thoughtless consumption. Our whole economic growth system is based on unlimited cheap resources, an illusion... and now, the party's over!!!

What are your impressions of European audiences?

Real fans of Americana, very knowledgeable of the music and the players, sometimes a bit reserved and shy at the shows, but I have learned not to take it personally! See you in the UK in the fall 2008, and a trip is being planned to the Netherlands next spring.

Photo Credits: (1)-(2) Eliza Gilkyson (from website).

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