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A Dirty Dozen with THE LADLES – March 2021

| 17 March 2021 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “With the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling an entire year’s worth of tour dates, The Ladles decided to turn their only remaining gig of 2020 — a three-week summer residency in the quaint town of Springville, New York — into their extraordinary and spontaneous new album, Springville Sessions. Recorded over the course of four days in an historic former Baptist church, the collection mixes “folk sensibilities” with pop, jazz, choral, and chamber music, creating a “gorgeous” blend fueled by spare, acoustic instrumentation and “brilliant harmonies. Composed of fiddler/singer Lucia Purpura-Pontoniere, guitarist/singer Katie Martucci, and banjoist/singer Caroline Kuhn, The Ladles have always managed to walk the line between technical virtuosity and emotional intuition. But Springville Sessions finds the trio reaching new heights with a less-is-more approach, embracing their environment at the Springville Center for the Arts and recording the entire album with the stripped-down intimacy of a live performance. The result is an entrancing chronicle of a singular moment in time, a raw, organic record that hints at everything from I’m With Her and The Wailin’ Jennys to Mountain Man and The Staves as it finds connection and hope in the face of isolation and overwhelming uncertainty.” We get The Ladles to discuss new music, influences, and more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Lucia: This album was such a joy for us because it was a return to our original trio sound – three voices, violin, guitar, and fiddle. We think diehard fans will definitely enjoy that old school Ladles sound. Because our arranging process is so intricate, there are many small details that listeners may not hear the first couple times they listen through – small things like a change from “mm” to “ooh” in the vocals, or the addition of sneaky violin plucks in unexpected places! Also, doubled voices and added harmonies so we could sound like a whole chorus! We can’t wait for people to find those little hidden nuggets.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Lucia: My older brother played violin, and at the age of 6 I wanted to be like him in every single way possible, so of course I took up the violin. Somewhere along the way I fell in love with it – there was never really a doubt in my mind that music would be one of the most important things in my life for the rest of my life.

Katie: As the daughter of a jazz pianist, I grew up surrounded by musicians. My dad took me with him on his gigs, and I got to play my first wedding with him when I was 7 years old. It was exciting to see the places you could go and the people you could meet living life as a musician. That life has had a hold on me for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I was 20 years old and decided to attend the New England Conservatory that I think I truly decided to claim that life for myself.

Caroline: I come from a family of musicians, and I started singing professionally around age five, doing voiceover work and recording for jingles. There wasn’t a specific moment that I remember, but rather a lot of encouragement from my family and peers to keep pursuing music as I became an adult.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

Katie: The three of us listen to a wide array of music. On tour in the car, we’ll listen to everything from Hank Williams to Thundercat to Meredith Monk, and many in between. When writing and arranging songs, we aren’t initially thinking of a certain inspiration or style, but looking back, we’ll often hear obvious influences. For example, “Thank You” feels reminiscent of The Chicks and “The Friends You Had” reminded us of some early Dr. Dog.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Caroline: The Chicks, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Emily King, and Fleetwood Mac.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Lucia : We are big fans of Andy Shauf – we feel that his clean, careful arranging and honest songwriting voice is similar to ours, and it would be an absolute thrill to work on a song with him someday!

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Katie: The Ladles is folk music that makes you nostalgic for something you can’t quite remember. Lush three-part vocal harmonies and thoughtful, intricate arrangements create an otherworldly atmosphere that draw you into the story of each song. We were once described as singing fairy sprites, which was definitely not our favorite comparison. (Granted we were wearing a lot of glitter, but still.)

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Caroline: Our delicious meals are often a joint effort- we’re all Italian, and we all love to eat. And we really, really enjoy wine. After dinner, we often end up laughing about some of our favorite funny memories from tours and performances past- we’ve got a lot of material there.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

Caroline: Pete Townshend, December 29th, 2018. I met him backstage before an Equity Fights AIDS charity concert. We talked a bit about tenor banjos. His parents used to own a music shop that sold them. I went into nerd mode.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

Lucia: The best part of being a musician for me is the opportunity and ability to express myself creatively. To connect to something beyond myself to process my own life, emotions, and experience. I also love meeting and connecting with new people, and being a musician gives you the opportunity to do that both indirectly through people listening to your music, and directly through shows and after-show chats. If I could no longer be a musician, I would be a holistic healer – just speaking for myself personally, not the band. I have no idea what that would look like, but it is something that has always resonated with me deeply.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

Katie: We would love to be asked about how we find and build community with our music! In the folk scene, there is a beautiful tradition of house concerts – people host a show in their living room or backyard and invite their friends and neighbors. There’s usually a potluck dinner afterwards, and oftentimes the host puts up the band for the night. Getting to play around the country through this word-of-mouth network has been such a special experience. We’re so grateful to be connected with these hosts and to know their communities. We would be happy to never be asked “Are you sisters?” ever again.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Caroline: As a band, we make an effort to communicate with each other about situations that we’ve felt less than happy in. From there, we work together to figure out how to handle similar experiences going forward. That being said, We’ve been a band for 6 years, and we’ve endured a lot of unsolicited advice from people while selling merch after a lengthy show. We’re not opposed to feedback, but it’s intrusive to sidle up to someone you don’t know, who’s just been performing for you, and immediately start instructing them on how they should change… a lot of people feel entitled to use our time this way, and I’m not sure they would act like that if we weren’t young women. We’ve learned how to respond/end it quickly, but in the process, I think we’ve all spent way too much time smiling and silently nodding at these people until they leave. I would love to go back and tell them all to just… please don’t.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Lucia: This is super hard, but Rumours by Fleetwood Mac would be entertaining to witness the drama/actually amazing music being made at the same time. That record for me is the summer I was 15, dancing to it every day with my sisters. I also have to throw in any record made by Stevie Wonder in the 70’s – to witness that level of musical genius would be astounding. On some of his tracks he plays pretty much every instrument. Stevie Wonder’s albums from the 70’s mean everything to me – groove, emotion, love, connection.

BONUS QUESTION – Due to the current world situation with COVID-19 / quarantine / shelter in place, what have you discovered you miss the most from your life before the pandemic struck?

Caroline: Without a doubt, live shows in packed venues. Nothing can replace a real, in person audience- and there’s nothing like getting to hear your favorite artists live, in a crowd of other people who love them too, dancing together and jamming out.




Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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