Exclusive Premiere: Kristin Andreassen Gives Folk a Brooklyn Spin with 'Lookout'
Photo: Laura Crostra
Kristin Andreassen's music speaks of a time when porches housed rocking chairs, not rampant consumer overspill. A time when "Ladies bathed before noon, after their three o'clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum," to quote that greatest of socio-folk novels, To Kill a Mockingbird. But this folk/bluegrass singer and musician — who celebrated the release of her latest album, Gondolier, last week — doesn't live in Maycomb, or Lake Charles, or any storied rural town. She lives in Park Slope, and has carved out her own slice of other-timely country life in Brooklyn.
"We just had a show last night; I'm kind of in recovery mode," the bubbly Andreassen says, excusing herself for being a tad late for a Saturday-morning interview. "It was kind of a house concert with friends in Red Hook. The house is right on the water and it's a house-house with a real yard and chickens. Very unusual for Brooklyn.
"A friend of mine brought a giant ice sculpture to the show," she continues. "He's an ice carver and he'd carved this giant snow globe with a gondolier in the ice. It was so sweet. The show was like a pretend record release party among friends."
Now she's looking forward to the real deal.
Gondolier saw its release via Yellowcar Records on February 17, and features the lilting "Lookout," above. The album's roster includes her Sometymes Why bandmate Aoife O'Donovan, who will join Andreassen's band for a proper record release show at Joe's Pub on March 10; Andreassen will also put her guitar, piano, harmonica, ukulele, clogging, and fiddle-playing skills (or some combination of the lot) to good use February 27 at Jalopy. Though Gondolier isn't the 38-year-old's first solo record ("I call this my solo studio debut; I made my first one, Kiss Me Hello, in the kitchen"), it's the first where she focused first on her songwriting, and she didn't employ a piano or a guitar to bring these tunes into being.
"I actually write to body percussion; I literally sing lyrics and tap out beats on my body," she says, detailing her routine. "I fill in melodies and chords later. Doing it that way means there's more space in the song and you can go in and color it in, and define emotions or accentuate words afterwards."
Andreassen filmed the video for "Lookout" around Brooklyn, and the same Red Hook chicken coop from her impromptu record release shindig also makes an appearance in the clip, as well as a 19th-century wardrobe. It's a perfect blend of her vintage sensibilities and modern-day New York lifestyle, and one that fits Gondolier and "Lookout" like a glove. "That song was written during Hurricane Sandy when my friend's house got flooded really bad," she reveals. "But the song is more about time and the passage of time, and how that's the real big hurricane that hits you. That's me in the end, looking at one of my former selves."
If she's not gigging elsewhere (and Andreassen often is; her schedule — which includes regular band camps for the music education foundation she co-founded, Miles of Music — is remarkably busy), she holds down a casual Monday-night old-timey music jam at Lowlands in Gowanus. ("A lot of that is just friends getting together, it's just fun and I try and do it whenever I can.") Andreassen also got involved with Brooklyn's Jalopy Theatre after playing a few shows with Sometymes Why. "I started teaching a Wednesday-night clogging class there and became part of the family." (She picked up the hobby at school and later perfected it while living on a tobacco farm.) "When I started touring more I gave that up, but I still work with Jalopy to host events [like the] square dance and concert next week. Jalopy are my people."
In the past, present, future, or a perfect marriage of the three, Andreassen has clearly found a home for her generation-leaping folk sensibilities — and for the proper introduction of Gondolier — in Brooklyn. Even if the chicken coop isn't a typical sight to behold in the neighborhood, it makes perfect sense in her world that embraces old sounds and a new verve in equal measure.
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