by Kathy Sands-Boehmer
Antje Duvekot is a favorite musician in the greater Boston area. She spread her creative wings here and has made it her home and her fans are eternally grateful. Antje first few recording are now collector items and her brilliantly produced later albums are greatly cherished. Whenever Antje appears, her audiences request their favorite songs of which there are many and they have all been looking forward to her latest release which came out in September of this year.
Noise: Tell us about the title of your new CD, Toward the Thunder. Where did it come from?
Antje Duvekot: Richard Shindell was at the studio. He suggested I cover this Dar Williams song “The Light and the Sea.” We worked out an arrangement and sang it together with Richard playing the electric guitar and the song made the record. That’s when I realized how incredibly well the song fit the overarching theme. In “The Light and the Sea” Dar talks of the choppy waves and the struggles on the ocean in her little boat, but how there is always the light. You just have to look. It doesn’t desert you. So it’s about hope, perseverance and beauty, resilience and how we are never truly lost, even in the depth of struggle. It alludes to an adventurous explorer spirit. Most of my record is about these themes and so I used the lines in that Dar Williams song “As the days rolled by I turned my wheel toward the thunder/ taking on a challenge that I knew could take me under” to derive my title. It epitomizes everything I stand for. I think any artist-explorer types will understand this.
Noise: You wrote nine original songs on this album. (Disclaimer: I have not heard the album yet.) The title of one of your songs caught my attention right away – “Flint Michigan.” Does the song deal with the water crisis that has tragically affected so many in that city?
Antje: Yes and no. That song is kind of a vague protest song about how the little guy often gets screwed in this country and how we don’t care too much about the poor. It’s kind of a “day in the life” struggle portrait of a person barely hanging on and being lied to and trying to convince themselves that things are fine when they’re clearly not fine. I named it “Flint, Michigan” because I wanted to somehow prime people for what I was trying to say by putting that image in their minds, but in retrospect I wish I hadn’t called it that and left it vague ’cause it’s really about more than that. But who looks at titles anyway, right?
Noise: I was also wondering about the song “Mexico” and whether it had anything to do with immigration.
Antje: Hee hee. No. It’s a romantic song about two lovers who run away together. I have them absconding to Mexico seeing as how all things Hispanic are highly romantic.
Noise: “The Parting Glass” is a traditional Scottish song that I did some research on and discovered that a number of musicians have covered it in the past including artists as disparate as The Wailin’ Jennies, The Pogues, and Ed Sheeran. What led you to this song and why were you inclined to record it?
Antje: This song has been recorded sooooo many times. Some would think it a rather cliche cover to do and I considered that. Like for a second. And then I thought, “screw that,” I want to sing this song because it’s beautiful! Actually it was a TV show that reminded me of this song (Brothers and Sisters); it came on as they were closing down the family business. That reminded me of how I used to sing this song with Anais Mitchell at shows and I was like, “Yep that’s going on my record, even if it’s been done countless times before.” I love singing to a drone. It suits my voice.
Noise: You haven’t been touring as much lately. Does that feel strange to you? Or do you find that it’s helped bring some sense of normalcy to your life?
Antje: Well, I’m a lot poorer because of it. But a lot happier. I now live in Boston. I take Spanish classes, volunteer at an adult education center, lead the music program at the humanist hub, and see friends and neighbors. My home is now not just another strange place I pass through on my way to another tour on my way to encounter more strangers (albeit with a better bed and no check-out time in the morning). It is now actually a place to me. There are no words for how important it is to human mental health to be able to build something in one place. Being perma-transient sucks balls. Plus the shows I play now feel wonderful. I am more present and playing for people feels more deliberate, like a true privilege, rather than a permanent state of refugee status. Not to be melodramatic or anything [laughs]. For melodrama see track 5, “Caffeinated Warriors,” on Toward the Thunder about my growing hate-affair with the road. That being said, I am still touring a good amount, but I go out for a few days and come home, and I don’t do more than one away-tour a month with additional drivable shows sprinkled in. It’s been good for me and I think good for my art as well.
Noise: The last time I interviewed you, you were just getting more acquainted with playing keyboards and you mentioned how interesting it was to try out new instruments on occasion because they brought new sounds and ways to create to the table. Have you been experimenting with any new sounds lately?
Antje: Not as much. I still feel the most comfortable on the guitar. The piano has helped with writing as it evokes a different kind of melodic pallet. But I’ve actually ended up translating a lot of songs I wrote on piano back to guitar where I am still the most comfortable.
Noise: Do you have any guilty pleasures like binge watching certain shows on TV on Netflix or what have you?
Antje: I don’t watch a lot of TV. But I am sure I have some guilty pleasures. I like day dreaming and going for long walks. Maybe my guilty pleasure is solitude. I like to be social, I really enjoy it. But like your standard introvert I need some alone time to reset myself in order to have the energy to be among people again. I realize that 30 percent of the population is built this way, but for some reason it feels illicit and guilty to take this me-time. What’s up with that? I think America is a really extrovert do-do-do society. So if you don’t want to be a maker-shaker, doer, networker, 24-7, they make you feel guilty about it? Ha, or maybe just my own hang-up. But yeah, that and cookies. My guilty pleasure. Solitude and cookies. My next album title.
Noise: What’s your favorite pastime?
Antje: Drawing while listening to podcasts. I wish it were “attending huge parties”… but no, it’s drawing and listening to podcasts.
Noise: Do you have any creative aspirations that you haven’t attempted yet?
Antje: Hmmm… no… I adore making hand-drawn animated videos to music… so drawing. I adore making music and I adore drawing/painting but I haven’t been drawn to any other disciplines. Photography, poetry, writing, etc. don’t grab me.