When Carrie Rodriguez last visited town, she took to the Lobero Theatre stage with the immortal Chip Taylor. Having only touted her wares as a fiddle player for a short period of time, it was on a cramped stage in an Austin record store back in 2001 when Taylor and Rodriguez first crossed paths. Enamored with Rodriguez’s playing, Taylor quickly extended an offer to Rodriguez to join him on tour. Much has happened for Carrie Rodriguez since then-something to which Santa Barbara will no doubt bear witness when she plays SOhO this Saturday night.
“Going out on my own was very scary in the beginning,” confided Rodriguez. “I have been on the road with Chip for five years now and you would think that experience would give you confidence, but, to tell you the truth, playing by myself has really felt like starting over. Being up there and having to lead the show is a whole other thing. I do find myself thinking a lot about what Chip would do in this situation, but, after a while, I started to get more comfortable, and now I am really starting to have fun.”
Taylor’s offer gave the classically trained Rodriguez an opportunity to play some serious fiddle in a contemporary setting, and eventually led to her also taking command of the microphone. Backing vocals led to dueting, which then led the pair to recording and performing side by side. With Taylor’s support, Rodriguez started composing her own material and the results have yielded her debut solo album, Seven Angels on a Bicycle.
When it came time to head into Manhattan’s infamous Avatar Studios to record Seven Angels, Rodriguez brought together an illustrious gathering of collaborators. Old friends Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz were only too pleased to contribute guitar and lap and pedal steel, respectively. When the album finally came up for release, more and more live solo opportunities began to manifest. Despite Rodriguez’s meteoric rise to fame, the significance of her musical evolution is by no means lost on the ascending singer/songwriter.
“It has been both exciting and nerve-racking,” Rodriguez said. “Every once in a while I will be onstage and be [at a loss] for words and have a flash where I wonder, ‘What am I doing and how [did I] get here?’ But of course I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I feel so lucky that I met Chip and this crazy string of events happened, because I love doing this. I would never be able to go back now and be only a fiddle player.”
After having toured with Taylor, Rodriguez is no stranger to the exhilaration and trepidation that comes with performing live. Still, she feels the turning point in her solo career can be traced back to a recent string of dates with Lucinda Williams. Rodriguez believes the experience of playing in support of one of music’s true icons-and dealing with all the demands that come along with it-really brought the people in the group together and molded them into a band.
“Opening for Lucinda Williams, it really did change something,” mused Rodriguez. “I was opening up for one of my heroes. It was a high-pressure gig. And we were playing in theaters for 2,000 people every night. We were the opening act and people are not always at their most attentive. : But something really magical happened through that experience. The entire band came together and stepped up. : After that, I felt like I wanted to have more of those experiences with this band, and the guys felt the same way, too.”
Carrie Rodriguez takes to the stage for an early, all-ages show at SOhO (1221 State St.) on Saturday, August 25, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. For more info, visit sohosb.com.