For those that still do not yet know Ava Earl or her music, may I introduce to you one of the gems of the Alaskan music scene. She began playing music at 5 (four years younger than I stated in my previous article), by 13 was performing at SalmonFest, having recorded her first album one year earlier at just 12 years old. Now 18, a recent graduate of South Anchorage High School, and soon to be headed off to college, she is releasing her fourth album, ‘The Roses’, later this month.
This album has been a long time coming, in more ways than one. Not only has it been over a year since she and her family flew to Nashville for the recording session, but the idea for this album can trace its roots all the way back to 2017.
“A little over three years ago, my mom and I were going to see a Whistling Swan show because we love to do that together. I like to buy a CD at any show I go to, and I like to have (the artist) sign it. So I was in line after (Birds of Chicago) played and Ted Hawley was in front of me and he was like, ‘Hey, you guys should really know about Ava.’ We talked and they were like, ‘You should send us your music.’ So I did and a few weeks later they responded... ‘Sorry we didn’t reply right away, but this is awesome. Keep sending us stuff!’
So I just kept sending them things periodically, and I guess after Ali (Allison Russel) showed him some video I had on Instagram, JT (Nero) was like ‘This is phenomenal. I would love to produce an album for you’, and that was something I obviously wanted to do, so really we started planning it from there.”
Though this was not her first time traveling Outside to record, seeing as both her 2017 self-titled album, and her 2018 album Am I Me Yet? were recorded in Portland, Oregon, and while those also featured other artists (Andy Mullen on guitar & Anna Tivel on violin), and she has performed at various festivals around Alaska with a small band, this is the first time she has recorded with a full band behind her music.
“It was super cool,” she reflected on the Nashville session. “It felt like it all just came together. Sometimes only in two or three takes, sometimes more. Everyone brought in their own personal vibe that complimented my music, not changing the style or anything. I never knew my music could sound like that. It doesn’t feel like it is really different, just enhanced in a way, y’know?” She tells one story of the seventh song on the album, Chaos, where as they recorded it, Jamie Dick, who plays drums/percussion on the album, kept asking to do just one more take, and while many of those takes sounded plenty good to Ava, she trusted the musicians around her to make it even better.
“They were just a really great group to work with; everyone treated me like a professional musician,” Ava said. “If I said, ‘actually, let’s go in a different direction,’ that was totally fine. I hold a lot of respect for everyone I worked with, and it was really nice to know that they had that same respect for me.”
Though she has been performing professionally for four years, and is soon to have as many studio albums under her belt, she admits that she still has never taken a music theory class, playing wholly by ear — and by instinct.
“I’ve been told that I come up with really unique things — like when I was playing with Andy (Mullen) and Chris (Lesesne), they would often debate what the chord I was gplaying would formally be called because I basically just take a chord and then remove however many fingers I want to make it feel the way I want it to.”
Going into the recording session, she and her mother actually printed out lyrics to a bunch of her songs, so that the session musicians could write their own charts. In line with that, is the way she describes her own music as a whole -- a little unconventional. Last time we talked, she brought my attention to the genre of Alaskana (the genre she described as music inspired or defined by Alaska or Alaskan life). This time she leaned more into the more broad Americana.
“I feel now like my music comes froma lot of different influences. Obviously folk and singer/songwriter, but also rock, pop, and jazz. I know it is not new or anything, but it wasn’t until recently that I heard people talking more about Americana, and I think it’s cool that it is really all-encompassing — like through a lot of different lenses.”
The new album itself shows that progression. Tracks like Springtime, and Chaos are all much newer than tracks like New Light, and The Roses. In a way this album is an homage to her career to this point; where she has come from, where she is now, and where she’s headed. “It is just where I am now compared to earlier (in my career). Like I said, I have thought of myself (as a professional musician) for a long time, just because of what I do and the time and effort that I put in, but I feel like (because of this album) people will see that I really do want to do ‘this whole music thing’. It has been four summers that I’ve been touring in Alaskan and performing, but I feel like each new album is an introduction to who I am at that moment. She then added, “This album is also in a way a thank you to everyone who has supported me thus far -- everyone who has bought an album, donated to my crowdfunding campaign, and even given non-monetary ‘donations’ of their time or their wisdom, or shared a stage with me. There is a lot of inspiration to be had in Alaska, and I am and will forever be grateful for everyone who has raised me up.”
The Roses will be available everywhere on July 23rd. T
hat night, Whistling Swan Productions is hosting an album-release concert for Ava, and her Alaskan band of Andy Mullen (guitar), Marty Severin (bass), Charlotte and Clotilde Severin (backing harmonies), and Dawn Lindsay (violin), at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Anchorage. For tickets or more information, go to centertix.com. Keep tabs on all that Ava is up to @avaearlmusic on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, or her website www.avaearl.com. Also, be sure to listen to her latest singles on Spotify, or her previous two albums available on both Spotify and BandCamp.