I hope everyone had a restful and restorative holiday, regardless of if or how you celebrated! Melissa Carper released her latest album, Ramblin' Soul. right before the holiday. Carper has made an art of sassy, vintage-style country music, both in her work as a solo artist and her rollicking band Sad Daddy. Ramblin' Soul has a lightness to it that also demonstrates Carper's songwriting power. (I reviewed it in No Depression.)
But there's nothing better than letting two artists riff off each other, so I asked Julian Talamantez Brolaski to interview her. Julian's the lead singer of Juan and the Pines, and will be releasing their next album in 2023. They got on the horn with Melissa while she was, well, rambling. Below is an excerpt -- you can read the whole thing on Patreon, where you'll only be charged 2x a year!
(Photo by Lyza Renee)
I read that you were living on a vegetable farm in Texas. Is that still where you're living?
Yeah, I am. Me and my girlfriend, Rebecca who's in the Buffalo Gals, and she plays in my band too, and in Sad Daddy. We lived on an organic veggie farm. That's close to Bastrop, which is just like 40 miles east of Austin. And we rent a tiny house. When we first moved back there during Covid, we did work-trade to stay there because we didn't have very many gigs, but now we're just paying rent to stay there.
Yeah. How wonderful to live, where your food is grown and too, and to be part of making it grow.
Yeah, it's pretty cool. It's kind of what I've always dreamed of, having a little farm, but for now renting on somebody's farm is good.
I'm curious to talk with you about your songwriting. On the song descriptions for the new album you talked about “receiving” the song “I Don't Need to Cry” rather than writing it.
I think whether you're conscious of it or not, you're always kinda, you know, stealing something, something you've heard before.
It's really just feels like it's operating in the folk tradition in that way. So I'm wondering if you had ever done that on purpose. You know, like where you take old melodies....
I consciously used bits of melodies from an old song on “Old Sweet Home.” I was writing a melody on the banjo first, and then I put words to it, and it felt kinda like the melody was an old melody. You know, it didn't feel like something I'd really come up with on my own but it felt like a really pretty melody. I actually very rarely do that where I'll have a melody first and then I'll write words. Usually I'll have a little lyric and then I'll write the melody. There's been some songs--“Old Fashioned Gal” is one of them--where I used a Jimmie Rodgers melody for the very first line. And then I kind of got away from it.
I wanted to also ask you about this idea of the term “queer country.” You have some songs about being gay. Maybe this is a weird question, but I wonder if there's a difference between gay country and queer country? And I wonder if you resonate with the term “queer country” or “queer” in general.
I honestly haven't been wanting to think about it too much. I don't like labels and I don't like being labeled. I'll be happy when we come to a time where it's just normal, you know? But I do understand why we have to talk about it at this point, because we feel we can feel so alienated, especially from traditional country music. So when I write songs like “Pray the Gay Away” or or “Christian Girlfriend,” I'm just writing for my own experience and kinda writing a song that I hope helps people. For them being able to hear what it was like growing up and not feeling like I could tell anybody I was gay, you know? And I know the world is changing and getting easier, but I write those songs just because that's what I've gone through and, a lot of my stuff I write is from personal experience.
I hear you. I asked because this is for a gay country magazine. And it’s almost like “queer country” is emerging as a sub-genre. And I don't know if it's to do with being excluded from some other kind of scene or whether it's like deliberately making its own way?
Well, I think it's cool to celebrate it and, and you know, I'm all for that. I think it's great. I would like to be included in that, and in just the regular old broad genre of Americana music. But I think it's great to celebrate it. I think we need that.
You can read the full interview, including Melissa and Juan's musings on cars, Jimmie Rodgers, and yodeling, on Patreon!
Here are all of the queer country album releases this month! Let me know if I should add something to the list!
12/2 — Adeem the Artist, White Trash Revelry
Adeem the Artist has a profile in the New York Times! I’m kvelling!!!
Everyone loves Dolly Parton, and I thought this interview with a feminist Jewish author about her connection to the artist was interesting, with parallels to the queer community’s affection for her
Meet the Klezbians, your new favorite queer klezmer band. More importantly, this is a story about how music heals and empowers people — and why there are so many queer klezmer bands (it’s a thing!)
A reflection on the LGBTQ+ music scene in Iceland. What can we learn? And what’s it like to be queer in a country that doesn’t persecute you for it?
Devon Cole’s video for “Hey Cowboy” is a queer country delight, and the song’s smart minimalist pop ain’t nothing to sneeze at either
Just a fun note about guys being intimidated by Joni Mitchell
You can get almost 50% off the book Queer Country using this code: F21UIP
This thread gives advice on self-managed transition in Alabama and other states that restrict our bodily autonomy
12/31 — There’s gonna be a queer country New Year’s Eve party in Nashville featuring Chris Housman, Lila McCann, Autumn Nicholas, Shelley Fairchild, and Ty Herndon. Get your tickets now!
4/15 & 16 — The High Water Festival in Savannah, GA will feature a number of queer artists like Rainbow Kitten Surprise, SG Goodman, Orville Peck, Ezra Furman, and the Black Opry. Who’s buying a ticket for me?
This week's playlist features LGBTQ+ holiday music!
Thanks to Catie Pearl-Hartling for making a parallel list on Apple Music!
DEADLINE 12/2: Apply for the Black Opry Residency funded by WXPN and The Pew Center!
Submit your music and events to The Q LGBTQ Creative Network
This Twitter thread has a whole list of places to find jobs in the music industry
And here’s a list of resources for “women” entering the music industry — presumably they also encourage nonbinary participants
Submit your profile to the Country Everywhere which seeks to unite BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and disabled artists and professionals
Sign up to the Black Opry Revue’s interest form!
Check out the weekly Queerfolk Fest show in Nashville