‘Basic Folk’ Talks Fiddles and Female Empowerment with Isa Burke

Host Cindy Howes sat down with Isa Burke of the Americana/folk trio Lula Wiles to discuss everything from summer camp to folk traditions to body image issues. See below for Howes’ perspective on the conversation.

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“Isa Burke… is an opinionated lady and I literally cannot get enough of her. The Maine native rebelled at a young age (under 10!) against her parents’ folky disposition and devoured as much rock and roll as she could find. Eventually, her parents convinced her to attend Maine Fiddle Camp, where they attended as performers and teachers to campers of all ages (babies to grandparents).

And what do you know? Isa loves the hell out of fiddle camp and met some important friends while she was there: Eleanor Buckland and Mali Obomsawin, who, years later, came to form the trio Lula Wiles. Camp was also the first place that Isa saw young people taking on the folk tradition in a modern way. This excited her to no end thus began a life-long affair with traditional music.

Isa talks about the lessons she learned at Maine Fiddle Camp and how they are reflected in her musicality and in her band. It also rooted in her a love of playing music for the sake of feeling good (versus playing to sell a lot of records).

We also get into her lead guitar playing: what made her start, how she approaches her role and what it means to be a female lead guitarist in this patriarchal society.

My favorite part of this interview (and maybe any interview, really) are Isa’s candid comments about body image issues. She introduced me to the idea of ‘body neutrality’ and talks about working to cultivate that and the struggle that comes along with trying to figure out how to feel about your body. As I said, I can’t get enough of her. Love her, would recommend talking to her for an hour.”

Cindy Howes is passionately motivated to connect communities through meaningful music. Cindy has been a fierce folk music advocate for over two decades. She launched the podcast Basic Folk in 2018.  

Photo by Louise Bichan | Photographer/Musician

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