What I'm Grateful For ...
Artist photos courtesy of Thirty Tigers, Merge, Epitaph, Matador, Rounder, Fantasy, Memory Music, Atlantic.
The holiday season is upon us, and hand in hand with a rolling wave of celebrations comes the opportunity for reflection, responsibility, and gratitude, especially following the past 21 months of hardship. Like many self-employed people, musicians traveled a very tough road, uncertain when they could safely return to touring or working again, many without a secure safety net. WFUV reached out to eight musicians we love and admire — Lucy Dacus, Bartees Strange, Curtis Harding, Amythyst Kiah, Torres's MacKenzie Scott, Strand of Oaks' Tim Showalter, Maria Zardoya of The Marias, and Allison Russell — and asked them about three avenues of thankfulness and action:
As we approach Thanksgiving and the holidays, what have you been most grateful for in 2021?
Lucy Dacus: "My health, my home, and emotional support sweatshirt that makes me feel safe."
Bartees Strange: "I've been on the road for a big chunk of the fall. I'm pretty excited about being home with my family and the people who've had my back for so many years. Touring and playing shows is also something I'm extremely grateful for. It's pretty amazing considering last year we were all shuttered inside. Meeting people through music and these shows have been a gift."
Curtis Harding: "I’m most grateful for health and the opportunity to create."
Amythyst Kiah: "I've been incredibly fortunate to be able to live life on my own terms, being taught to be open to growth and the power of knowledge. I'm grateful for every person in my life who has helped me become the person I am and will continue to grow as."
Torres, aka MacKenzie Scott: "My health, mental and physical. I feel strong and capable of taking on hard work, which I love."
Strand of Oaks' Tim Showalter: "There are actually too many to mention, but my answer would simply be love. I have made efforts in my life recently to be more open and I am trying very hard to not be so inward focused. I’m grateful every day to have a partner/wife/best friend who inspires me every single time I think of her. I’ve also tried to invest in friendships deeper and protect the special relationships in my life. It gets harder as you get older and more set in your ways to really foster friendships, but the benefits are so great. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because the only thing expected to exchange is gratitude. That is so special for me."
The Marias' Maria Zardoya: "I’ve learned the real meaning behind friendship and how lucky and valuable it is to have friends who celebrate your wins and wipe your tears when you cry."
Allison Russell: "My chosen family and community. Collectively continuing to sit in our discomfort and beginning the long hard work of truth, reconciliation, and reparation. The transformative, sustaining power of art! Music has a critical role to play in addressing the empathy deficit and bridging the false divisions that keep us from seeing and treating each other as true equals."
Is there a particular cause or charity that is meaningful to you and why?
Lucy: "Seeding Sovereignty is a great organization that focuses on Indigenous liberation through many methods, like land justice, reproductive rights work, and food services. Speaking of Thanksgiving, it has such a terrible legacy, the least we can do is it acknowledge and make reparations wherever possible."
Bartees: "An organization i've recently learned about, and have been sort of fascinated with, is called Narrative 4. Basically, they set up conversations between people from different communities. Like a cop from the Bronx would have a deep story-based conversation with teenagers from Bronx. The stories they tell each other are about their upbringings or some other topic that shows some insight into their lives. I wish more organizations like these existed because I really truly believe we're in a society where fear of people on the other side of the tracks is making us crazy. We're not all that different — and organizations like these show people that. Check them out."
Curtis: "I believe charity starts at home first. We must be mindful of those who are in our house and close communities. With that being said, I’m a fan of Colin Kaepernick's Know Your Rights Camp."
Torres: "Speaking of mental health, the Loveland Foundation is doing important work getting therapy and other mental health-focused services to Black women and girls. Because I was able to file for unemployment and receive some financial assistance during the pandemic, the last several months were the first in my life that I was able to afford to see a therapist (via Zoom) and actually get help that I’ve needed for years. I feel strongly about wanting these services to be made available to every person who needs them (which I honestly believe is everybody), regardless of income. The Loveland Foundation is a good place to start, whether you’re capable of being on the giving end or are someone in need of the mental health services they offer."
Tim: "I have in the past donated through my band to Planned Parenthood and more recently the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. I would like to continue to research more outlets that I could either serve financially or with my time. I was an elementary school teacher during my twenties and anything having to do with creative eduction and ways to improve students lives would be something I’d be very interested in being involved with. If anyone has any good suggestions, I would love to know."
Maria: "We’ve always supported a charity called RAICES. It helps immigrant and refugee families and children here in U.S. We live in a country that’s made up of immigrants yet a lot of people don’t acknowledge that."
Allison: "Supporting the Indigenous community and honouring Truthsgiving feels especially important to me currently as we attempt to build back better in these pivotal times. Here in the U.S., November is National Native American Heritage Month. Like Black history, Indigenous history is American history, is World history. Is present. We have to begin the truth, reconciliation and reparation process somewhere. Here are some Indigenous-led organizations to learn from and support this Thanksgiving/Truthsgiving: NDN Collective, Mashpee Wampanoag, ReNew Earth Running and Rising Hearts. I have been learning so much from Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel and her Rising Hearts Foundation. The MMIWG2S (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People) crisis is ongoing - we need wider circles of BIPOC + LGBTQIA + Active Allies coalition in order to reduce harm and protect each other and our communities. Whitewashed history, and the pervasive insidiousness of white supremacist ideology, indoctrination, and violence is hurting us all."
When you look back at your life as a musician, what song are you most grateful to have written and why?
Lucy: "I think 'Thumbs' has made an impact that I can be proud of. On a personal level, I'm most glad that I wrote 'Triple Dog Dare' because it felt like stretching my skills and I'm really happy with how it turned out."
Bartees: "'Boomer.' I was so uncomfortable when I wrote that song because I thought it would be 'too much.' I didn't expect it to be understood. But my friend Brian Demiglio forced me to record it, and it's the biggest song on the album. I think there's something to that tenderness; now I look for it when I write songs. I'm more interested in the songs that make me uncomfortable. There's something to that.
Curtis: "There’s no one song that can carry that weight. I’m most grateful for the next song, always."
Amythyst: "It would have to say two: 'Black Myself' and 'Wild Turkey.' Those are two pivotal songwriting moments for me, the former being my sociopolitical voice and the latter my recognition of my grief and learning to embrace it and not let it dictate my future."
Torres: "I love the way you framed this question in relation to gratitude. It’s a bold thing for me to say, but maybe 'Sprinter,' which I’ve gotten the impression has helped some folks work through their religious traumas and other various forced childhood dogmas into (I hope) better and more joyous lives."
Tim: "I owe a lot to the song 'Goshen 97.' I wrote the song in probably five minutes and it connected to an extent that I was able to truly make music my job and honestly I think that song helped me travel the world and meet so many amazing people. It's also just deeply and immensely fun to play live. I am just so thankful for this life. Every day it feels like a dream."
Maria: "'I Don’t Know You,' because it was the first song we released as The Marias and a song that introduced us as a band to a lot of people. I’ll be forever grateful for that song for all of the opportunities it gave us."
Allison: "I am grateful for every song that I write — each one helps me feel more connected to myself, to my chosen family, to my community, to our one human family. Music saved my life and writing songs continues to save me and help me — not just survive, but thrive. If I had to pick one to highlight, perhaps 'Nightflyer' because I wrote it from a place of survivor's joy and grateful motherhood. It gets better!"
- Lucy Dacus released her third solo album (and FUV "New Dig"), Home Video, this year and did an FUV Live session with us over the summer.
- Bartees Strange's debut album, Live Forever, was released in 2020 and he was part of FUV's Juneteenth broadcast this year.
- Curtis Harding first visited the station in 2017 for an FUV Live session. His new album, released November 5, is If Words Were Flowers.
- Amythyst Kiah, who is also a member of Our Native Daughters with Allison Russell, Rhiannon Giddens, and Leyla McCalla, released her latest solo album, Wary + Strange, this year, an FUV "New Dig." She was also a part of FUV's Juneteenth broadcast.
- Torres is a longtime friend of FUV, and the Brooklyn-based musician did an FUV Live session with us this summer following the release of her fifth album, Thirstier.
- Strand of Oaks' Tim Showalter, along with Arlo Parks, co-headlined our first post-lockdown FUV Live concert in 2021 for Marquee Members at The Sheen Center on September 20. Tim's new album, an FUV "New Dig," is In Heaven.
- Maria Zardoya's band, The Marias, has released one of FUV's favorite albums of 2021, Cinema. The Los Angeles band will play Brooklyn Steel on February 17, 2022.
- Allison Russell's storied career has included several bands — Our Native Daughters, Po' Girl, and Birds of Chicago — and now her solo debut this year, with her critically lauded album, Outside Child. The Canadian musician and activist, who participated in FUV's Juneteenth '21 broadcast, will tour extensively in 2022, including a date at City Winery on March 7.