“I love playing the small intimate rooms where you can look at people, where it’s not just performance, but I get to tell stories about the songs,” singer-songwriter Angela Easterling says. Easterling will perform at Ted’s Fun on the River on May 7. “You kind of feel like you’re getting to know the audience and they’re getting to know you.”
While her band has played for thousands at Colorado’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival, house concerts and small theaters are perfect for her folk-roots and Americana style of songwriting and storytelling. Easterling’s stories revolve around life experiences. With her husband and lead guitarist Brandon Turner, they play as a duo and full band for larger shows. Like a lot of romances, their friendship blossomed into more after Turner was brought aboard a few years back. Then they found out they had a baby on the way.
“It wasn’t really something we were planning for, but it turned out to be the most wonderful surprise,” Easterling says of their now 3-year-old son, Harrison.
Most of the songs written on Easterling’s latest album, “Common Law Wife” (released in August 2015), were written after Harrison was born in 2014—save for “Little Light,” which Easterling penned while pregnant and pondering what was in store for her future.
“I didn’t know if I was still going to be able to keep playing music,” she says, “if I was going to have to get another job or what was going to happen to the dream I’d been pursuing—especially nowadays when [women] are trying to do it all and we want to have a family and we want to have a career but don’t really know if it’s going to work. You just have to take one step at time.”
While her collection of songs were etched in real feelings, they also seemed to lack balance in the truths of those stories. Easterling wrote the title track of her record shortly before going into the studio to record, and approached it with a different tone than her other tracks.
“I just felt like I needed a song on there that addressed everything in more of a light-hearted way and a joyful way,” she explains. “I didn’t want to paint too dark a picture of where I was in my life because it was a really happy and wonderful thing that happened.”
To be certain she’d stay on the path forward in music, Easterling continued to book shows and actually planned out tour dates, starting five weeks after her baby was born. She admits it was a matter of luck and family support that allowed her to be on the road (sometimes two weeks at a time) with a 6-month-old baby. “One of the songs on the album, ‘I’m Alright,’ I wrote to the rhythm of him bouncing up and down in his swing,” she recalls.
Harrison has joined his parents on the road a few times and has even learned songs like “Aching Heart.” “Some of those songs he probably shouldn’t know the words to, but he does,” Easterling says. “[At] shows, Harrison actually wants to get up there and sing . . . and once he has a microphone, it’s hard to get him back down.”
Most of the time, they call on family when touring. Aside from being doting grandparents, Easterling’s parents have been supportive of her ambitions as a musician. Her passion for song comes from being in a musical extended family. Almost everyone on her father’s side plays instruments, reads music or plays by ear; and her maternal grandparents sang and played a bit as well.
“My great-grandfather was a songwriter and he had songs published in some old Westerns,” she tells. “I found one and recorded it on my second album, ‘Stars Over the Prairie.’ I never knew him; he died when my dad was 2 or 3 years old, but it was cool to get to record one of his songs.”
Easterling more or less discovered what she liked on her own, from music theatre to classic rock to country. She has made a couple of videos for “Common Law Wife” and “Hammer” to reflect the elements of nature, family and home—all of which are so important to her. Both were filmed on Easterling’s family farm in South Carolina where she lives. The farm has been in her family since 1791 and is still a working farm—part of her day-to-day life.
“It’s just as much an influence on my writing as anything else that happens in my life,” she says. “Like having children, [the farm] is a part of the family; it means so much to me and everyone in my family.”
After Easterling found out she was having a baby she moved back to the farm. Her song “Hammer” showcases the experience.
“There was a house here we moved into, and living here in house built by my grandfather, on this land that was worked by my family, definitely is one of the main inspirations for that song. It just seemed write to shoot that video here.”
“Common Law Wife” is a throwback to old country music videos: folks sitting around on bails of hay, playing and listening to music in a barn. It also features Harrison and her soon-to-be second boy Miles. “You can’t see him too good, but he’s in there, too!” Easterling quips of her then baby bump.
Today, Miles is 2 months old. Paired with a 3-year-old, songwriting is on the back burner currently, right behind trying to shower and eat. “After things mellow down in a few months, I’ll definitely be picking up the guitar again,” she tells.