Coming Up: Nora Jane Struthers

Coming Up: Nora Jane Struthers

Singer and songwriter Nora Jane Struthers grew up in New Jersey (her dad, Alan Struthers being a bluegrass musician), and worked as an English high school teacher in Brooklyn before settling in Nashville to pursue a career in music. She released her self-titled debut in 2010, the same year she won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival band contest. Now, Struthers is about to release her new full-length Champion, out October 13 as the follow up to the acclaimed 2015 album Wake.

Champion marks yet another progression for Struthers, balancing delicately between folk, country and rock, and exploring themes around personal vulnerability, adulthood and the struggles of grappling with infertility.

Struthers, now 33, was diagnosed with the condition premature ovarian failure, and many songs on her new album deals with her personal fertility quest along with her husband – and fellow musician – Jon Overton. With her poignant storytelling, Nora Jane Struthers has found a way of weaving personal struggles into universal narratives about hopes and losses.

We talked with Nora Jane Struthers just ahead of her new album.

Congratulations on your new album. What do we get and what’s it about?

Thanks! My new record Champion is a collection of 12 original songs performed by my amazing road band. Produced by Neilson Hubbard, we recorded this album here in Nashville, TN. The songs center around my relationship with my new husband and our fertility quest.

Yeah, I’m aware of the fact that this album deals with some very emotional issues of yours. How do you approach personal topics and make them resonate on a universal level?

I think Darrell Scott once said, that the more personal you get, the more universal it is. I have found that to be true.

I think ‘hope’ is a key word running throughout this album. What’s your view on hope in the current political climate?

My hope is that people continue to stay actively engaged in the political process. I hope people can see past their differences and empathize with one another. And… I hope we elect a new president in 2020.

Did you have a clear idea on how Champion would sound from the get-go, or did the album gradually evolve as a process?

I recorded this album with my long-time road band so I had a pretty good idea what it would sound like. I was just so pleased with how Neilson Hubbard captured the band’s performances.

Who are the most influential songwriters for you and why?

Tom Petty. The man was a master of distillation. Petty’s songs were so simple and so universal.

Gillian Welch. The woman burrowed deep into a mountain of tradition and carved out a whole new cavern where she tells her stories from a perspective that needed to be heard.

Tim O’Brien. O’Brien’s melodies and phrasing are a natural as river flowing through a canyon. He sings with such ease and transports me to where ever he is.

You’ve got a favorite poem you’d like to share with us? How and why does it affect you?

I’ll share a lyric from the great Leonard Cohen’s song/poem “Bird on the Wire”

For like a baby, stillborn
Like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me

This stanza reminds me that, sometimes, the things that hurt us in life the most, are so innocent; it is a waste to try and blame another for one’s own suffering.

What would be your preferred setting to ultimately enjoy your new LP?

I love this question so much. Great question. Loud. Turn it up. Crank it. Be with a person or people you love. Drink a yummy drink. Feel feelings. Be in a place where you can feel feelings.

How would you pair Champion with a meal or beverage?

Honestly, I think you should probably drink a really good beer, like a brown ale or a stout while you listen to this. Maybe a nut brown ale. But definitely not a pumpkin beer. This is an album for all seasons, damn it. (I just happen to drink brown ales and stouts in all seasons.)

When was the last time you were really moved by another album?

Caroline Spence’s newest album Spades and Roses moves me. Perhaps the most moved I’ve ever been by a record was when Jason Isbell’s Southeastern first came out. I was falling in love with my then bandmate, now husband, and that record tore me down.

And finally, if your music was a physical object what would it be?

A sledge hammer. I want it to tear down emotional boundaries. I want it to rip through social constructs. I want to forge a path out of sheer belief.

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