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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