I started this interview series because I wanted to know more about the people who share their work with the world and inspire me to show up, be seen, and live brave.
Carrie Rodriguez is one of those people. Meet Carrie!
Carrie, an Austin native, is a fiddler, singer, and songwriter. Live at the Cactus and Give Me All You Got are her latest albums and I’m crazy about them! She’s singing songs about love, heartbreak, and vulnerability, and I’m singing along.
Carrie says, “I’m laying out some extreme emotional highs and lows, which feels good. Brooklyn is co-written with guitarist Luke Jacobs and it’s very autobiographical. I remember thinking, do I really want to share this? I decided, of course, why hold this back? It’s something that a lot of people can relate to—the acceptance of failure in a relationship, learning from it, and moving forward. ‘Brooklyn’ is also a song about taking a pause in order to really experience what you are feeling, something I find increasingly difficult in this modern era of constant communication and stimulation.”
While Carrie’s father, David Rodriguez, was an accomplished songwriter, and took her on tour with him in Europe when she was a teen, song craft, like improvising on fiddle and singing, didn’t come automatically to Carrie. After sitting in on a sound check with her dad’s old Houston pal Lyle Lovett, she detoured from a degree as a classical violinist at Oberlin Conservatory and set herself on course to become a fiddler at the Berklee College of Music. There, her teacher, Matt Glaser, and her fellow students, including roommate Casey Driessen, helped her “find my groove and let go of that wall I had put up as a classical player.”
With the release of Live at the Cactus and Give Me All You Got, Carrie says, “As a singer-songwriter, I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s a lifelong learning curve, and I hope I always stay as excited about it as I am now.”
I met Carrie a couple of years ago at the Texas Conference for Women. She blew me away! She’s the trifecta for me – beautiful singer, soulful songwriter, and kick-ass fiddler. The version of Wild Thing that she does with Chip Taylor is one of my very favorite songs. Her song Tragic from Give Me All You Got gives me goosebumps and Cut Me Now . . . whew . . . “I jumped into this fire.”
Let’s meet the inspiring woman behind the music!
On Vulnerability and Courage in the Arena
Creativity, innovation, and truth-telling can feel very vulnerable in our scarcity culture which is why we often feel deeply inspired when we see it. We’d love to know more about how you find the courage to share your authentic self and your work with the world.
1. Vulnerability is: letting go of that powerful fear of what others might think and replacing it with an awareness of how all of us FEEL.
2. What role does vulnerability play in your work? Vulnerability is a huge part of the process of writing a song, as well as performing one. Not every songwriter writes about their own personal experiences and interactions with the world, but I find it hard not to.
I’ve found that the more I am willing to reveal of myself, especially on an emotional level, the more easily people can relate and connect to a song. I have a similar approach with live performances. The more I pour myself into the emotional core of the song, almost reliving the story of the song as if it were the first time I experienced it, the more people connect to it.
Does this mean that I occasionally spray the front row of the audience with a fine mist of spit during a heated vocal performance and that my face gets contorted in painful looking expressions at the exact moment that a photographer is taking a live shot of me? YES! I’m OK with that…hopefully my audience is too.
3. What value inspires you to show up even when you’re fearful and/or uncertain? Whether I’m performing for a mostly empty room of 30 people (those are often the scariest shows) or a packed convention center of 5,000 women directly following a moving talk by Brené Brown (as was the case at the Texas Conference for Women where I met you!) every performance that I am a part of leaves me feeling more connected or…at the risk of sounding new-agey… more plugged in to the universe. There is something very cathartic about sharing deeply felt emotions through music with a room of people. Hopefully the folks I am singing for feel the same way I do!
4. What’s something that gets in the way of your creativity and how do you move through it? Comparison. There is a Teddy Roosevelt quote that one of my favorite musical groups, Over the Rhine, brought to my attention – “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
The minute that I start comparing myself, my songs, my musicianship, and my CAREER to others is when I start losing my own creative voice. Choosing to be an artist as a profession not only requires a thick skin, I think it requires blinders sometimes. The more that you can really tap into what is true to you, the more your music will resonate with everyone else around you. On the contrary, trying to conform to what’s popular in the moment, what you are hearing on the radio, what you think people will like…that can be artistic poison.
5. It’s often difficult to share ourselves and our work with the world given the reflexive criticism and mean-spiritedness that we see in our culture – especially online. What strategies to you use to dare greatly – to show up, let yourself be seen, share your work with the world, and deal with criticism?
Even though the on-stage Carrie has the same emotions as the at-home Carrie, I still try to reserve a little part of me that is separate from my stage/professional persona. On stage, you will rarely catch me without full make up (my war paint) and some kind of party dress. It may seem a tad superficial, but it helps me to feel strong, confident, and well-prepared for whatever comes my way – good or bad.
At home I drop the war paint. There, I can often be found in my slippers drinking wine and trying out a new recipe on my sweetie. Or taking a dorky power walk with my best friend through the hills of West Austin and discussing life’s biggest conundrums. It’s important for me to not only feel a sense of pride and joy from my professional successes, but from my success at home as well. The nourishment I get from my close family/friend relationships really helps put things in perspective when I get a particularly stinging review.
6. Describe a snapshot of a joyful moment in your life. Performing in the kitchen of a 15th century villa in Tuscany after eating the best meal of my life. We were on tour in Italy, and graciously invited to this lavish 8-course meal with new and old friends we had met during our travels. When I asked Costanza, our host and masterful chef of the evening, what I could possibly bring to the meal she answered, “Just bring a few songs!” And so we did…It was a magical night of exquisite food, conversation, music, and a whole lot of gratitude.
7. Do you have a mantra, manifesto, or favorite quote for living and loving with your whole heart? “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” The quote has questionable origins, but most likely was written by Rev. John Watson under the pseudonym Ian MacLaren. It’s a good one to remind myself of when attempting to live and love with my whole heart while traveling…especially in airports!
Now, for some fun!
From James Lipton, host of Inside the Actor’s Studio
What is your favorite word? encore
What is your least favorite word? never
What sound or noise do you love? Hoot owl outside my bedroom window
What sound or noise do you hate? Those yowly late night cat fights outside my bedroom window
What is your favorite curse word? Shitlimb (For all the non-Texans, as in- “Damn, cousin Eddie sure got hit with the shitlimb!”
From JL’s Uncle Jessie Meme
A song/band/type of music you’d risk wreck & injury to turn off when it comes on the radio? Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE country music, but I get awfully put out with some of the pop country I hear on the radio these days… I like songs about drinkin’, and I like songs about trucks, but a song that includes everything – drinkin’, trucks, God, flags, AND cut-off shorts?
Favorite show on television? Guilty pleasure: Parenthood (I love how the entire family has a living room dance party at the end of every episode.)
Favorite movie? Black Orpheus
What are you grateful for today? My loving relationships – with family, friends, and even those who I haven’t met yet, but am connected to through music.
If you could have anything put on a t-shirt what would it be? One of my mother’s paintings
Favorite meal? Pinto beans, freshly baked cornbread (NOT that sweet cakey stuff, but the real thing like my Grandma used to make in a cast iron skillet) turnip greens, and a few slices of a ripe homegrown tomato on the side.
A talent you wish you had? sewing
Favorite song/band? Chet Baker …anything he sings with that honeyed voice of his
What’s on your nightstand? The novel Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, a book of Sunday New York Times Crossword puzzles, and a good mechanical pencil.
What’s something about you that would surprise us? I have an uncanny gift for memorizing numbers
From Smith Magazine’s Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six Word Memoirs from Writers Famous and Obscure
Your six-word memoir: Curly Texican fiddles with reckless abandon.
To celebrate Carrie’s new album, we’re giving away three copies of Give Me All You Got. Just leave your name in the comments section and we’ll draw winners on Monday.