banner ad
banner ad
banner ad

A Dirty Dozen with KAREN BALLEW from THE DEER’S CRY – October 2022

| 4 October 2022 | Reply

Photo credit: Barbara Potter

According to a recent press release: “Americana/folk/world music band The Deer’s Cry is set to release its second album, Heal the Heart, independently on September 30, 2022. Even though hope permeated the new collection of 10 songs, the album’s creation grew out of dark, sad times. Recorded at The Dog House Studio (and with  mixing completed at Imagination Land Studio) – with Nick Bullock (The Winnie Blues, Ryan Montbleau, Hayley Jane) producing, engineering, and orchestrating, and with Ethan Howard assisting, and Adam Grover mastering – the album finds harpist/vocalist Karen Ballew grappling with the isolation of the early days of the pandemic and the stories of hatred and division leading the news, a heartbreaking set of circumstances. Full of uncertainty, she wrote new songs to follow the band’s 2020 debut, Rise with the Dawn, however, sparks of joy crept in; she noticed messages of transformation and healing throughout her work.” We get Karen 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?

Our new album, Heal the Heart, has been a journey. The album was a quest for healing and hope, and the result of walking along this path together was a transformative experience. I didn’t intentionally put hidden nuggets in the material, but I think there’s some interesting subtext and connections between the lyrics of the songs, certain phrases, and symbols that I think people will catch onto in a third or fourth listen.

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

I remember my grandma singing hymns with me, and we always watched The Sound of Music together. I sang with the Classical Youth Chorus of Abilene, Texas, and when I was 12 years old, we auditioned to sing in an international choir festival in England. We were accepted into this wonderful festival, and it was my first time flying overseas! We sang with other choirs and were also invited to give our own performance at St. Martin in the Fields. It was during that performance that I realized I wanted to be a musician, and particularly that I wanted to collaborate with other artists. We had worked so hard on that music, and to finally hear it come to life and make people smile and cry, to tell a story, and to share joy with people, that’s what I wanted to do.

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

I discovered the Irish vocal ensemble Anúna at a very pivotal time in my life. I loved listening to their recordings and later had the opportunity to attend several live concerts. Anúna moves around the space throughout the concert, they sing in a way that is real and unaffected, they listen to one another, and their music has an unmistakable atmosphere and primordial quality. Seeing them perform live guided my musical taste and led me to explore creating a transporting experience with my own music!

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

I’m a huge fan of the English folk singer-songwriter Kate Rusby. She has the most joyful personality! You hear this joy in her songs, but there are ones that will make you cry, too. Kate has a way of connecting to the deepest parts of human experience, and she writes about them in a way that’s both unique and relatable (like having a conversation with a wise and wonderful friend). I would love to collaborate with her someday!

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour? What do you like to do to unwind?

I love hiking and spending time with my family and two dogs. My husband is a cinematographer, so we enjoy watching films and shows together (and the awesome YouTube videos about script writing and filmmaking!).

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?

I’d describe our music as primarily folk, Celtic, and world fusion, with other influences blended in. Surprisingly, nobody has made a comparison that I disagreed with! Although I’m sure it will happen at some point, ha ha!

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?

While my husband, Brad, doesn’t perform with the band, he creates all of our music videos and video content, web design, you name it—he’s a part of the team! Anyway, Brad’s the one who cooks when we hang out, Bryan brings the best assortment of beers, Will keeps us laughing, and Patrick and I are always game to go to McNamara’s for the Irish pub songs!

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

I started listening to Celine Dion when I was 13 years old. Her voice, spirit, and dynamic performances continue to inspire me! When I was 19, my parents surprised me with concert tickets for her show in Las Vegas—I was ecstatic! I remember singing “Because You Loved Me” for a talent show in middle school. I totally cried when she came out for her opening song!

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?

The best part of being a musician is the opportunity to collaborate with other artists! Each person’s musical background is unique to them, and it’s so enriching to hear different ideas and learn from another person’s experience. If I could no longer be a musician, I think my dream job would be to teach poetry and creative writing to high school students! Mr. Monroe was my humanities teacher at Abilene High School. My brother encouraged me to take his class, and that’s when I found my voice as a writer, which would eventually lead to songwriting.

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?

To be honest, I haven’t really done a lot of press interviews until this album project, so there’s no question I’m tired of answering. I’m just thankful for the opportunity to share and talk about our music! One question I haven’t been asked yet is, “Where was your favorite space to perform in recently?” I joined a choir here in Nashville called the Portara Ensemble, and we performed in the Parthenon at Centennial Park in Nashville, a full-scale replica of the original Athenian Parthenon with a re-creation of the 42-foot statue of Athena. The visual aesthetic, reverb, and acoustics are wonderful!

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?

In college, I’d frequently get overwhelmed with all the class assignments and projects. I stayed up late studying, didn’t sleep much, and picked up lots of viruses because I was so run down. If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to chill out more and better balance my work with time for friends, hiking, and enjoying music! I remember on a particularly busy week, I totally forgot to go to one of my closest friend’s performances. He is an amazing artist, songwriter, and actor, now touring the country with musical theatre productions, one of the kindest, most talented, and humble people I know. I wish I could go back and drop whatever I thought was important at the time and go to his show! Work and career are worthwhile things, but friendship is forever.

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?

Moya Brennan and her family band Clannad have been a great inspiration to me. I used to teach at an Irish music school in Dallas, and in 2014, we traveled to Ireland, did a workshop with Moya, and sang at her family’s pub, Leo’s Tavern (Tábhairne Leo) in Donegal! I love how Clannad honors their heritage, records Irish language songs, and shares the living tradition of Irish music with the world. I also love their creativity in combining their Irish roots with original songs, jazz, rock, classical and other influences. I would love to go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions as they recorded their debut record, Clannad, released in 1973!





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.

Leave a Reply

Please verify you\'re a real person: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

banner ad
banner ad