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Carrie Rodriguez

on celebrating what it means to be bicultural, fiddle playing, and community.

Creativity is a paradoxical pursuit: The craft of making requires vulnerability and a certain kind of tenderness or openness to the world around us. At the same time, putting our work out in the world today can take a shit ton of courage and tenacity. This is a space to shine a light on the folks who are straddling these tensions and making us all a little better with their art. —Brené

Felix Contreras of NPR Music once said of Austin singer and songwriter and mesmerizing fiddle-playing and off-Broadway musical-writing Carrie Rodriguez — “I don’t think I have ever heard anything express so powerfully the kind of bicultural existence so many of us live.” We couldn’t agree more, and this special blending of diverse traditions is a priority for Rodriguez in all her projects, like Laboratorio, her annual four-part concert series that celebrates Latinx culture. 

One of Rodriguez’s frequent collaborators is the Latin-Grammy nominated vocalist Gina Chavez. Rodriguez and Chavez’s work with Brené started in early 2020 when she came to the duo to see if they would come up with the intro music for her podcast, Unlocking Us. And, as they always do, they made magic together in the recording studio that set just the right tone for the podcast episodes that followed. 

Rodriguez and Chavez, are coming back together, with Brené, on April 2nd for “A Night of Song and Storytelling” at the Long Center in Austin for a benefit for HAAM, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, a nonprofit that provides access to affordable healthcare for the greater Austin area’s low-income, working musicians.


Carrie singing on stage with Gina Chavez and Jane Ellen Bryant
Carrie (middle) singing with Gina Chavez (right) and Jane Ellen Bryant (left) at Gina’s EP release and Niñas Arriba Benefit show at Antone’s in Austin; photography by Nicola Gell.

Did you find this work or did it find you?

Pretty sure it found me. When I was five, they were offering Suzuki violin lessons to kindergarteners at my public elementary school in Austin, Texas. Once a week, when the teacher would come in for the lessons (which were during naptime, which I was very bad at), I would escape down the hall for a bathroom break and hear those squeaky squawky tiny fiddles playing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” . . . and for whatever reason, I came home and BEGGED my mother to sign me up and rent a violin for me. That was the end of that. Once I started violin lessons, I was like a fish in water . . . and I never wanted to do anything else with my life. Ever.

Photos from Carrie's childhood illustrating her love for music was born at an early age.
Throwback photos of Carrie in her earliest musical days — Left: Carrie at her first ever violin recital at age five. Right: Working on her rock ‘n’ roll guitar solo face at age four with her father, David Rodriguez; photography by Katy Nail.

What do you enjoy the most about creating?

In my most creative moments with music, whether I’m deeply concentrating on composing a piece of music at my desk, in the middle of playing a ripping violin solo with a band on a big festival stage, or singing a song in a recording studio with my headphones on . . . there is a sort of clearing out of clutter in my brain that happens. 

It’s like my day-to-day inner chatter and worries all fall away and I’m just . . . connected to something much bigger than myself. It’s such a quiet place, which is ironic because it often happens during the loudest moments! But I guess I’m just referring to the peaceful, quiet, connectedness of tuning in to something outside of yourself, or at least, outside of your conscious self.

A collection of photos of Carrie featuring different special guests for each performance.
Left: Carrie in the zone at Laboratorio, her annual four-part concert series hosted at the Paramount Stateside Theatre in Austin. She features different special guests for each performance and utilizes the visual arts, storytelling, and world-class musicianship to explore and celebrate Latinx culture; photography by Rachel Parker. Middle and Right: Carrie with two of her musical idols, Patti Griffin and John Prine. Middle: photography by Luke Jacobs of Perfecto Creative. Right: photography courtesy of Carrie Rodriguez.

And being a musician in Austin means being a part of an enormous extended family . . . we’re really here for each other — it’s a beautiful thing.

Is there a part of the creative process that’s tougher for you than other parts?

YES — writing a song is the hardest part for me! There are so many self-doubting voices that pop up as I’m writing lyrics. Anytime I first come up with a little chorus/hook/song idea . . . my first thought is usually — Oh my God, this is so cheesy! And the funny thing is, it’s usually the songs that I think are the most cheesy that end up being the best ones. I’ve learned over time that maybe when I think I’m being cheesy, what’s actually happening is I’m being honest, which can be really scary!

Carrie during a performance at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco, California in September of 2023
Carrie during a performance at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco, California, in September of 2023; photography by Phil Halperin.

What are three words you would use to describe your creative process?

Focused, tuned-in, zoned-out. 

Putting your work out in the world can be hard. Do you ever wrestle with perfectionism and/or get sidelined by criticism?

Absolutely. It’s terrifying to share something intimate and honest with the world. And yes, criticism sucks to receive, that’s for sure! But for every bad review, attack of imposter syndrome, or self-doubt that I may have, the beautiful connections that I make with people through my music keep my head well above water through it all. Having someone come up to me after a show to say that a song I wrote or performed helped them get through heartache, grieving a loss, or moving through a challenging time in their lives gives me all the fuel I need to keep on sharing.

Carrie photographed in a yellow dress holding a violin

Carrie started playing violin at age five. She studied classical violin at Oberlin Conservatory before turning her focus to the fiddle, which she studied at the Berklee College of Music; photography by Luke Jacobs of Perfecto Creative.

A family portrait of Carrie, her husband, and her son.

Carrie with her family — her husband and musical collaborator Luke, and their son, Cruz, in 2023; photography by Luke Jacobs of Perfecto Creative.

What’s great about being a musician in Austin?

Community — both the musicians and the music lovers. There is such an amazing support system here for us compared to other cities, whether it’s access to affordable health care for musicians (HAAM), mental health care for musicians (SIMS), or city grants given for live performances. Austin really does have a lot of organizations in place that help offset the high cost of living here. And being a musician in Austin means being a part of an enormous extended family . . . we’re really here for each other — it’s a beautiful thing.

Favorite bumper sticker? It can exist or you can make it up!

I’m stumped. Well . . . “Who arted?” is pretty good.

I’ve learned over time that maybe when I think I’m being cheesy, what’s actually happening is I’m being honest, which can be really scary.

Lauren Smith Ford headshot

By Lauren Smith Ford

Lauren Smith Ford is the editor in chief of and the senior creative director at the Brené Brown Education and Research Group. She has written for Texas Monthly, Elle, Southern Living, Teen Vogue, and Glamour, among others, and when she isn’t spending time with her three daughters, she can be found on the pickleball court.

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