India captures people's hearts: American folk singer


"It is hard to know but I cannot imagine that there wouldn't be an influence," said Newcomer, who is performing in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Thiruvananthapuram in September-October.

"Everyone I have ever met who has travelled to India comes back and says they have been profoundly moved. India captures their heart. And I cannot imagine that I will leave here without being influenced in any way," Newcomer said in an interview.

"So, it might end up in my music either way, in the lyrics or in the music, somewhere," she concluded.

In a trip organised by the American Embassy in New Delhi, Newcomer will tour the country for a series of concerts and workshops with musicians and schoolstudents.
Sitting at the music room of the American Embassy School, where she worked with theatre and music students on performance and songwriting, she recalled her musical journey that includes a number in American acoustic band Nickel Creek's Grammy winning album "This Side".

It began in the city of Elkhart in Indiana. "My family wasn't musical. But in the city where I lived, there were many instrument makers," she reminisced. Because of this, she said, the schools there had wonderful music programmes.

"I started playing music through the schools. I picked up some instruments and I started playing music," she said.

She was just a teenager when she decided that she would write her own songs. "I loved stories, I loved poetry. So I picked up a guitar and started learning it, writing songs, creating stories and songs together."

After receiving a BA degree in visual art and education from Purdue University in 1980 she toured as a member of the folk group, Stone Soup, from 1982 to 1988.

Her first solo album, "Visions and Dreams", was released in 1991. This was followed by 10 more, including "The Age of Possibility", "The Gathering of Spirits", "The Betty's Diner" collection and the latest, "The Geography of Light", released in February 2008.
So how did she get attracted to the folk genre?

"I was always inspired by the singing poets. I loved artists who were combining poetry and stories for songs. Early on, I used to listen to a lot of writers like Johnny Mitchell, Bob Dylan, James Taylor...I heard a lot of their songs and started writing my own," she said.

There is something beautiful in an ordinary day - that is the theme Newcomer often goes back to when she writes her songs.

"Many writers have themes they come back to. The theme that I come back to often is the idea that there is something beautiful in an ordinary day. They could be small things, common things, (but) there could be something beautiful about (them).

"I have a song called 'Geodes'. It is about a rock. In Indiana, geodes are rocks that look like ordinary rocks but when you open them up, there are crystals inside. And I loved the metaphor... So, I use nature images often."

People and relationships too figure in her works. "People fascinate me...They are surprising and confusing and they are fun. I love people. So that often ends up in my songs too."

Her number "I should have known better", which featured in Nickel Creek's "This Side" that won the Grammy for best contemporary folk album in 2002, is something Newcomer cherishes.

It was American bluegrass-country singer and fiddler Alison Krauss, who holds the record for the most Grammy awards by a female artist, who introduced Newcomer to Nickel Creek.

"She (Krauss) was the producer of that particular Nickel Creek album," she recalled. "She knew of the song and she knew of me and she thought it would be a wonderful song for Nickel Creek to have. So she brought it to them and introduced them to me. They really liked the song and it was very exciting."

She performed in Kolkata Sep 22, and will do so in New Delhi Sep 24 and 26, in Mumbai Sep 29, in Chennai Oct 1 and in Thiruvananthapuram Oct 3.

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