Twang Nation Interview with GRAMMY Americana Album of the Year Nominee Linda Chorney

The GRAMMY nominees categories that I cover does not come with choreographed dancers or share the stage with Rihanna. They appear further down on the list near Best World Music Album and Best Spoken Word Album –  the Americana/folk/bluegrass and the speck of trad country that might find its way into a movie soundtrack or liner note nods. This is the the pre-telecast posse, the back of the bus and behind the gym crowd. This is where the cool kids hang out. Where Lou Reed can sit between a nominee for Best Opera Recording and Best Comedy Album. These are the rough and rowdy mongrels of music.

I watch the nominee concert dutifully but it’s nothing to do with me or my readers.  I am waiting for the full list to be posted online. Then I run my eye over it. downward to the Best Folk Album, some nice surprises with The Civil Wars and Eddie Vedder.  Best Bluegrass Album, great to see the old guard Del McCoury and Ralph Stanley in the mix with Steve Martin and Jim Lauderdale. Next the big enchilada – Best Americana Album. Ry Cooder, Emmylou Harris, Levon Helm, Lucinda Williams legends all…wait…who’s this? Who is Linda Chorney?

I’m a frikkin “Influencer” for krips sake (or so Klout tells me), how is it I don’t know this person? Where did she come from and how, after 6 albums, is it that I haven’t heard of her until now? i like a to be surprised as much as the next music blogger, but sometimes there is this feeling that if you missed this artist how many others are sliding past your gaze. I needed to atone and find out who this person is.

So i did what any red-blooded Americana blogger would do – I Googled her. First off a video that appears to be centered on scuba diving in some tropical locale. She’s easy on the eyes, but how does she sound? First impression is Aimee Mann, Chrissie Hynde and Michelle Shocked on a serious Meet The Beatles! bender. I emailed her directly from her site. She can’t already have a layer of people to sift through for a conversation. I’m the the official GRAMMY folk/Americana blogger guy. I figure that that should account for something!

Maybe it did. Maybe I caught her at a vulnerable time in the wake of her nomination. Maybe she confused with with her friend Bryan Lang. Whatever…i had an interview set.

I hope the below exchange let’s you get to know Linda Chorney and you find her as charming and talented as I did. enjoy…

 

Twang Nation – So, how are you feeling?

Linda Chorney – I’m still a little but in shock but I feel great. When I told my mom and dad (about the Best Americana Album Grammy nomination) and my mom said this is one of her greatest moments since your birth for me.

TN – Wow, you can’t buy fans like that.

LC –  (laughs) When I was younger they paid for my demo tapes and have been coming to biker bars that I’ve played throughout my life. They’ve waited for me to get my big break and now it’s kind of come.

TN – Tell me a little about how you got here.

LC – I once broke the top 40 in the adult contemporary on the Friday Morning Quarterback (music industry news publication) with my song Living Alone. We thought then that something was going to happen. Then the day we had some deals on the table was on September 11th (2001) and everything sort of got put on hold. I said to myself that I didn’t die that day, and nobody I know died. How important is another song? So I didn’t take (the deals falling through) that hard. Though I took the the events of September 11th very hard and wrote a song about it on my third album.

TN – I’ve been blogging about this genre for several years and lived in New York City for 5 years, how is it I’m just now hearing about a Grammy nominated Americana artists based from New Jersey?

LC – Probably because I’ve been bopping around the whole world. I played on Bleecker Street for years, at Red Line and the Back Fence and a few other clubs. I’ve played the Hamptons. I like to travel! I’ve bartered my way around the world. I’m an avid scuba diver but diving costs a lot of money so when I travel I will write a few dive places and say “Hey I’m a singer/songwriter and will perform for your crew aboard or your place in exchange for scuba diving. Diving can easily can run you a couple of hundred bucks a day. One place that responded was the Bottom Time Bar in Palau Micronesia and that where I shot my video for my song Sink or Swim (see below) I played a weekend and was able to dive for two weeks for free.

TN – Not a bad gig.

LC – it was awesome! I also went to Mount Everest where I sang at 17,000 feet – I’ve sung below sea-level and sung 17,000 feet above sea-level.

TN – Did you know you were in the running for a Grammy nomination?

LC – From the feedback I was getting from Grammy 365 people. I said to my executive producer, “Jonathan is all the people that say I’m great and are voting for me actually do vote for me I think we might have a shot.” I had no idea what I was doing. This is my first time with the whole Grammy process, two weeks before the ballets were due I had zero contacts. My husband and I stayed up 20 hours a day and we wrote every single person we could on the Grammy 365 site to ask for their contact information. Out of the roughly 6000 emails we personally wrote – we didn’t have a staff it was just me and him – then around 2000 people responded and I asked them to consider my stuff. I was overwhelmed with responses. One guy was the historian on (Martin) Scorsese’s George Harrison documentary, he said very nice things about my stuff, he said it touched him and that he was going to talk to other people about me and get them to consider my music – this happened several time with others –  I was just blown away!

TN – Tell me the story about your executive producer and how y’all met.

LC – I was in Colorado playing a ski resorts, because the moneys good and I sell a lot of merch and get to keep all the money, and I would ski to my gig every day with my guitar on my back to perform at 10.000 feet. At one gig this quirky guy comes up to me after buying all my CDs I had for sale  and said “You have something special here. I’m a doctor but I wanted to be a musician, so I know how hard it can be. I’d lie to send you something.” I had no idea who this guy was or if he was hitting on me so I gave him a P.O. Box address and sure enough a few weeks later a chord-less mic and guitar pickup showed up in the mail and it contained a note that read “This is for you kid, way to go.” Over the years I got to know his family, and we became really good friends. Last year he approaches me and says “Linda, I want you to make the album you’ve never been able to make before, and I’ll pay for it.”

Every other album I’ve done has been out of my own pocket and I was always watching the clock , I didn’t have the money for live drums or more time for the engineer, I knew how to make a great album but I never had the resources. Jonathan says “I want you to do this album without compromise Linda. I’m going to give you the money for this album and I don’t want anything in return. I just want you to make the greatest album that you can and I want to be part of the process.” I was so touched by this! Jonathan also knows some musicians like Jeff Pevar (CPR) and Leon Pendarvis (band leader for the Saturday Night Live band) who is a great keyboard player. So he got them involved in the project. I knew Lisa Fischer (singer and background vocalist for the Rolling Stones, Luther Vandross, and others) because she sang background on my adult contemporary charting song Living Alone. And I knew bass player Will Lee (The Late Show with David Letterman, B.B. King, Cat Stevens, Ringo Starr, James Brown and many others), then I knew people here in my neighborhood (Asbury Park, NJ) who should be famous , like  Arlan Feiles, who has his own album coming out soon and to me is like Bob Dylan with a prettier voice. I had him sing a duet with me called Finally on the album and then I have a song on the album called Do It While You Can, with a kind of a Satchmo vocal vibe to it and Richie Blackwell (Bruce Springsteen) helped with that. So this whole thing is a passion project. There was no thought to “Let’s make this song four minutes so we can get radio airplay.”

The second CD (on Emotional Jukebox) has a symphony I fantasized about making (Mother Natures Symphony.) The 15 minute piece begins with classical to Bluegrass to folk then back to classical and then ends with a Beatles ending.

TN – Wow, you’re not one to walk the genre straight and narrow are you. You also cover Led Zeppelin’s Going to California on Emotional Jukebox.

LC – I do! I had to fight to have that on because I jammed it in the end with a  Flamenco solo by this guy Hernan Romero (Al Di Meola) who  this amazing player that was just in the Latin GRAMMYs who I met in Boston who’s been on a couple of my albums. I had this idea of the song that ended up being 7 minutes long and we still got airplay. They don’t make songs like that anymore. I like solos. On my song I’m Only Sleeping I put a whirly solo it it. I like music!

TN – Where was the album recorded?

LC – We recorded at Sear Sound in New York and Lupos Studio with Frank Wolf, who I’ve worked with in the past, engineering the project. He’s an amazing talent. I spent the most time on the album than anybody. I did all the editing and arranging myself on my Pro Tools at home at night with the master and poured over every single bar on the album to make sure I had all the instrumentation in all the right places so it was tasty, clean and interesting to me. that was my goal. I probably spent over 2000 hours on it.

TN – well your hard work is being recognized. When did you find out about your nomination?

LC – We were having a party that night and somebody gave me a mock GRAMMY because we all conceded to the fact that I didn’t stand a chance against these amazing and well-known artists – John Hiatt, Jeff Bridges, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Ry Cooder – who is one of my heros – there was just no slot open for an unknown. So all the people went home from the party and then I started getting all these emails saying “Congratulations.” “You have my support.” “I’ll see you in L.A.” I thought this has to be a mistake. This must be a chain email that I’m on and somebody else was nominated. Then I had a hard time finding the list of nominees online. Then we found the list of nominees on GRAMMY.com and there in Americana Album of the year was my name first on the list. I had to wake up my executive producer, Jonathan, at midnight to tell him about it. We freaked out.  He believed in me and my music and he’s such an amazing person.

TN – I love that you are on the nominee list, and that the GRAMMY Americana category appears to be a big tent where talent is rewarded no matter how what your profile.

LC – Early in the process I did put my album up for a lot of categories – best Album, and all of that. In retrospect i should have concentrated on the one category. I submitted for 8 but but as I was getting up to speed submitting my work it occurred to me that I might have been spreading myself too thin and that might not be in my best interest. So then I started concentrating on the Americana music category.

TN – Have you got your speech ready?

LC – (laughs) Not yet.I think I might have a mock one ready for You Tube and to post on my blog (lindachorney.wordpress.com) to thank the people that helped me.

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