In separate email interviews with the ET, headliners Carrie Newcomer and Libby Roderick talk about “This Land is Our Land,” their upcoming concert of original music about environmental and social change.
Tell me about “This Land is Our Land: Music of Environmental and Social Change.”
CARRIE: This is a concert of music written by Carrie Newcomer and Libby Roderick. The concert will feature an opening song by the Corvallis High School Choir and a closing song that gathers local musicians with us to sing. Libby and I will perform two sets. The sets will feature informal conversation and songs. Libby and I will be asking one another questions about how the natural world and images from the natural world appear in our work. We will explore the different ways in our art form and our careers we have approached the ideas of the natural world, justice and social change.
LIBBY: This Land is Your Land is the brainchild of the wonderful people at the Spring Creek Project whose mission is to bring together environmental sciences, philosophical analysis, and the creative arts to “find new ways to understand and re-imagine our relation to the natural world.” Recognizing that music has always played and continues to play a critical role in uniting, inspiring and empowering people working to restore and protect our communities and our planet, they wanted to host some events to highlight that role. (Think of the role music and singing played in the civil rights movement, the labor movement, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, etc.) This concert (and the two workshops on writing and songwriting for social change) will feature two singer/songwriters who have devoted their careers to music that uplifts the human spirit in the face of the large forces that threaten the quality of life for people and for our life support system, the earth.
How did you get involved with this project?
LIBBY: I got involved because they issued me an invitation to do so, and have participated in a number of previous events sponsored by Spring Creek. I have always found their events to be deeply thoughtful and inspirational and well-grounded in both the human and natural communities. Spring Creek seeks to serve and include the widest number of people in the region in meaningful, authentic, solution-oriented conversations and events about the most important issues of our times, and I am delighted to support their efforts in any way I can.
CARRIE: I was invited by the presenters of this wonderful community event. I travel internationally as a songwriter, workshop facilitator and artist in residence. I was delighted to be invited to join the Corvallis community and Libby Roderick to celebrate our relationship to the natural world, and who art can be a powerful asset in our work for social change.
The theme of the concert is centered on environmental and social change. How did you translate that into music?
CARRIE: For most writers there are ideas and questions they continue to ponder and revisit. I am often drawn to write about finding something extraordinary in an ordinary day. I’ve come to believe that there aren’t many easy answers in this life, but there are some very good questions; questions that we continue to ask again and again such as; what do I love beyond words or measure, when I pull back all the layers of distraction in my life what is at the very center, what sustains me, what centers me, what are my gifts and how do I best use them to make this world just a little kinder place?
I tell a human story, an honest story and in that I touch on the topics.
LIBBY: Since I was a small child, I have been wildly in love with the world and its peoples. Growing up in Alaska, where the vastness and vitality of the lands and waters and creatures put the human communities into proper perspectve (i.e., we depend on THEM, not the other way around!), the awareness of how our fates were intertwined was always with me. As goes the planet, so goes the people. In addition, my parents joined the Peace Corps when I was 9 years old, so my family spent some time in India. As a result of these and other experiences (and perhaps my personality type?), I have always had deep, heartfelt responses of compassion and connection with the rest of life. Those responses easily translate into songs, since songwriting and singing are, essentially, profound expressions of the human heart “in the language of emotion.” The surprising discovery, for me, was that when I began translating my deepest, innermost responses to what is happening in our world into lyrics and music, many, many other people resonated with them as well. I think if we are true to ourselves and express ourselves as authentically as possible, we discover that we are all connected at the heart level.
Your music seems to span multiple genres. How would you describe your musical style?
LIBBY: Tough to describe my musical style. Technically, I believe it would be referred to as Americana or contemporary folk (that’s how radio folks and record stores would categorize it, I mean). It does span several genres (this is largely due to the good fortune of being on my own record label, where no one can tell me I have to fit a particular slot! Pandora might say it is acoustically based, meaningful lyrics, highly melodic, female vocals?
CARRIE: My songwriting does cross genres. I’ve been called Americana Acoustic, Contemporary Folk, Contemporary Singer Songwriter and other titles.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
CARRIE: I believe right now there is such a need and longing for a new kind of political conversation. We live in such vitriolic and divisive times and so many of us long to reclaim civil discourse and a common narrative. I believe that real and positive change happens from the ground up. Unity is seldom created from the lofty realm of idea and theory alone. It happens when we create safe spaces to have the most important conversations. It’s about going to the ground water of what really matters most, and it’s there we start to talk about common good, compassion and responsibility. Its not about “us and them“. It’s all connected – it’s all “us“.
LIBBY: I think the concert should be great fun ~ Carrie and I plan to hold a conversation about songwriting and social change in addition to exchanging songs throughout the evening. There will be booths representing local groups doing great works, and several other Oregon singer/songwriters will be in attendance and join us for a final song. We hope it will be an evening of inspiration, unity, empowerment and restoration for everyone who comes.