Katie Pruitt is a Nashville-based singer-songwriter who played Folk Alliance International in Montreal this past weekend.
Below is an account of her experience.
I woke up this morning with music on the brain and a pounding hangover, which is usually an indication of a pretty good night. I had several showcases staggered throughout the night so there was a lot of down time to drink and see other shows in between my set times. As a result, my night consisted of steady drinking, playing music and popping in and out of shows to check out other bands.
I saw several bluegrass bands, but one really impressed me. “Meadow Mountain” was a traditional sounding bluegrass band but their was something very modern about them. Their melodies and lyrics were thoughtful and their arrangements were unpredictable. The songs also varied in time signatures which is refreshing for bluegrass and there was always a catchy melody for the audience to grab onto. If the band Pinegrove went bluegrass, they would sound a lot like Meadow Mountain.
Later that night around 1:30, I went to see Kirby Brown, a thoughtful folk singer from Nashville. I’ve come across Kirby a few times cause we run in similar circles in Nashville, and each time I see him, the songs consistently blow me away. One song in particular “Justine” really stuck with me. “But He, oh He just laughs, and flicks his ash, he says just listen: you see in Heaven it don’t rain, and they don’t feel pain —they don’t know what they’re missing.” Somehow Kirby charmingly pulls off being funny and dark in the same phrase. Challenging the way we humans idealize heaven as a perfect place without pain while simultaneously recognizing that pain is a beautiful and necessary part of life. I could go on for days about Kirby Brown’s lyrics but for the sake of being brief I’ll just highly encourage you to check him out. I got a chance to catch several other acts I loved last night and I wish I could go into detail about why all of them are great but I’ll let you find out for yourself. Mary Bragg, Rising Appalachia, Mipso, Jackie Venson, Birds of Chicago, and Kyshonna Armstrong just to name a few. All that to say, there was definitely not a lack of talent at Folk Alliance this year.
For my last morning in Montreal, I decided to get out of the hotel and get some fresh air. My manager, my agent and I took a cab to “Old Montreal” where most of the buildings have been there since the 1600s. We walked around a big frozen lake and marveled at the giant 400-year-old structures built by French settlers before the British invaded. It’s things like this that remind me how small I am, and I love it.
We wrapped up the morning at a little vegan cafe where I had a kombucha and some sweet potato fries (my fav). It’s very cool to me that I can walk into a cafe in Montreal and hear something as familiar as Rayland Baxter or Anderson East playing on the speakers. It reminds me that music has the ability to cross borders, cultures and language barriers. That’s pretty damn cool if you ask me.
Overall, Folk alliance was a chaotic but truly inspiring experience. With hundreds of bands and artists to see, panels to attend, and countless interesting conversations to have, there is no possible way I could’ve done it all. I’m grateful I got to experience as much as I did over the course of just two full days. Thank you American Songwriter for letting me spill out my thoughts all over your website and thanks Folk Alliance for a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s been real!
What’s up American Songwriter? It’s day 2 of my experience at Folk Alliance. Yesterday I got the lay of the land but today I am getting to really experience the culture of this place. This morning I went downstairs, grabbed a cup of coffee and stumbled in on a guy named Ken Whitely. He played songs about unity, mother earth, and spoke in depth about a near death experience he had. After playing a song called “Let my life be prayer,” he encouraged us all to take a series of deep breaths, and asked us to practice awareness. It reminded me of going to a yoga or meditation class. After focusing on those three deep breaths, I somehow felt more awake, centered and grounded. Something as simple as “breathing” is definitely a privilege we take advantage of. It’s like we’re too busy to notice we’re alive or something? Anyway, it was a very good reminder to start the day with.
After my spontaneous meditation sesh it was only appropriate that I pay a visit to the famous John Lennon & Yoko Ono suite on the 7th floor. I didn’t fully understand the significance of this place before I walked in. This is where John Lennon and Yoko staged a “bed in” in May of 1969, to protest the US government during the Vietnam War and wrote arguably the most significant protest song in history. Maybe you know it? It’s called “Give peace a Chance” (if you don’t know it, YouTube that shit right now!) Anyway, John and Yoko posted up for 7 days in this very hotel singing, protesting, and essentially held a press conference for peace. What a concept. With that in mind, it’s only appropriate that the Folk Alliance is held here.
There are hundreds of (really good) artists and bands showcasing. Kirby Brown, Kyshonna Armstrong, Meadow Mountain, Matt Anderson, and Kevin Whitley were among the few I got a chance to witness.
Everyone from bluegrass bands, to folk singers, to indigenous/traditional musicians, to folk/Americana artists have all traveled here for a common purpose and that purpose is to share their story. They’re singing about what it means to love, or be heart broken, or homesick or feel happy/grateful. It seems no matter what sonic backdrop you give it, we’re all singing about the human experience. It’s the reason people dedicate their lives to a dream that might not come true and spend their free time tediously perfecting a craft that might only be appreciated by a few people. It’s because when you stand behind that mic and make yourself vulnerable, there’s a chance you might be heard, understood by someone, or maybe even help someone or yourself feel less alone and that makes it a noble passion and a dream worth pursuing.
Hey American Songwriter! Katie Pruitt here. I’m gonna be blogging about my experience at the Folk Alliance this weekend in Montreal. FYI I’ve never blogged before so we’ll see how this goes. I landed in Montreal around 2 o’clock after a couple of unforeseen speed bumps. I met my manager to check our bags for Air Canada and they essentially told us they oversold the flight, and it was either me or him that got a seat. So he gave me the seat. They also wanted me to check my guitar … I might’ve raised a little Hell but if there’s one thing I’m protective over, it’s my fender Strat. Once I was on the plane with my guitar in hand, it was smooth sailing. I slept most of the flight and then used the rest of the time to finish Jeff Tweedy’s new book “Let’s go so we can get back” (which I highly recommend even if you’re not a Wilco fan).
When I pulled up to the Queen Elizabeth hotel, the lobby was alive with a booming artistic energy. Friends were hugging and reuniting, strumming guitars and singing. Hipsters, industry folks, and hippies alike were all joining for a common love of music. I ran into a couple friends right away which made me feel even more at home — Jim Lauderdale who is an amazing Americana roots singer/songwriter from Nashville and Kyshonna Armstrong, a soul singer songwriter I know from way back when I lived in Athens, Georgia. It immediately felt familiar and brand new at the same time. I even saw a guy wearing a F*** Trump 2020 button and I gave him a high five in the elevator.
After checking into my room and having a little down time (AKA watching the 5th Harry Potter movie in my hotel room), I went to the 3rd floor of the hotel and it was a straight-up party. The conference rooms were turned to venues and outside of the rooms was a long hallway of people drinking and hanging out. I got my night started there, saw a couple shows and then had some dinner. After some food and a few whiskeys, we walked back to the hotel using Montreal’s underground tunnels (which are mind blowing) that lead us back to the hotel. When we got there the vibe had completely changed. The bands on the 3rd floor had died down and the party had moved to the 4th and 5th floor, where people were popping in and out of hotel rooms listening and observing singer/songwriters, folk artists, bands, and acoustic jam sessions. What I’m trying to get at here is that Folk Alliance is definitely the place to be … also did I mention weed is legal here? Exited to find out what tomorrow has in store. Stay tuned!