Traditional Values

Devon Sproule and Her Musical Maybes

by Brett Leigh Dicks

DevonSproule.jpgThe last time Devon Sproule came to town she had a vintage guitar dangling from her shoulder, a selection of songs as enchanting as the personality residing behind them, and a full house at the Lobero Theatre that wouldn’t let her leave the stage. It might have been Sings Like Hell that first introduced Sproule to Santa Barbara, but it is her considerable musical talent that has yielded a return invitation. This time around the Virginia native will be taking the stage at SOhO. Armed with a new album, she’s anxious to renew old acquaintances and likely to trigger an avalanche of new ones.

You had quite a visit with us last time — a full Lobero and a standing ovation. What were some of the highlights for you? What immediately springs to mind was the raw food. And it wasn’t just raw food — it was organic strawberries dipped in warm carob! Only backstage in California does that happen. And I had this wonderful old Gibson guitar I borrowed from a friend — complete with electric pickups and decades of dirt on the fret board. Good sound, good food, good drink, a good instrument, and an enthusiastic audience — playing music doesn’t get any better than that.

You have kept some impressive musical company — Kelly Joe Phelps, Dave Matthews, David Gray. Now Mary Chapin Carpenter makes an appearance on your new recording, Keep Your Silver Shined. How did the two of you cross paths? She actually heard one of my songs on the radio and took the time to find out who I was. I got an email from her one day that read, “Hi Devon, I’m also a singer/songwriter from the central Virginia area and I heard your song on the radio and I just wanted to tell you how much I like it.”

What was it like having someone of Mary Chapin’s stature working on your record? It’s so inspiring working with someone who hails from a different musical generation. She ended up singing on a traditional high lonesome song that we learned from an old country guy from deep within the heart of North Carolina. Mary Chapin added some harmonies that reflected what she was listening to in terms of traditional and country music when she grew up. It was the kind of song that she and her family would sing together.

You typically explore a lot of musical terrain within your sound. How do people usually react to that multiplicity? I get the “quirky” thing a lot. And I have resigned myself to that being a good thing, especially since I am still pretty young. But if people are still calling me quirky when I’m in my forties, I’ll have to rethink that.

How much of a balancing act do you find music to be? I try to walk a line between accessibility and musical integrity. And it’s tough at times because this isn’t a business where you can go to school, get a degree, get a job, and be guaranteed a future. It’s more a case of maybe if you dedicate yourself to an instrument and you work your ass off writing songs and then you happen to play in the right town on the right night and someone happens to be in the right mood and hears you, then maybe you might not have to work a day job anymore.

Do you work a day job? I don’t, but there are still plenty of maybes in my musical life.

4•1•1 Devon Sproule will be in Santa Barbara on Tuesday, October 3 at 8 p.m. at SOhO, 1221 State Street. Tickets are $7 with dinner, $10 without. For more information, call 962-7776.

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