Yesterday, we had the great Angela Perley tell us about her song “Athens.” Today, we have the complete Q&A to share with everybody. Remember, friends: She’ll be performing at The Opera House in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, on Saturday night. In the following interview, we touch on her small-town roots, how she came up with her backing band’s name, and, of course, what we can expect from her performance this weekend. Tickets are still available. You don’t want to spend Saturday night alone now, do you?
Take us back to the beginning. At what point did you decide you wanted to make music a career and what led you to do that?
I started writing songs and playing in bands in high school. Then, I attended college at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and really started diving into songwriting. Music slowly took over my life. I didn’t get much sleep at night because I was either writing and recording songs in my bedroom or out playing shows and music with my friends. The real turning point was when Fred Blitzer of Vital Companies in Columbus reached out to me with interest to record my music after hearing some homemade recordings and when I signed onto his independent label, Vital Music USA.
Fred introduced me to Chris Connor (lead guitar player) and Billy Zehnal (bass player). It’s all history after that I guess. The band formed and I fell in love with playing with them. Looking back on it, I was super fresh and was pretty rough at singing and playing guitar. I didn’t know what I was doing at all, but things happened naturally. I had a lot of support from my family and friends and the music community in Columbus.
You have a ton of tour dates lined up for the summer. What brings you to Shepherdstown? Have you been here before? If so, what do you think? If not, what are you looking forward to the most?
We have heard great things about Shepherdstown and are always looking for new places to play, come back to, and new people to meet. I love learning the local history of the places we play and am always trying to seek out some good local stories/people, etc. So we hope to pick up a few new facts, friends, and folklore of the area. This will be our first time in Shepherdstown, so we’re really looking forward to the show.
How did your band come up with the name, The Howlin’ Moons?
Good question! I’m not really sure, but I have always been obsessed with the moon and I felt like playing with the band gave the songs a lot more of a rock-and-roll-bluesy-feel. Wolf-like, in some ways, so “Howlin’ Moons” somehow came out of that — haha.
I read that you grew up in small-town Ohio. How does coming from an environment like that shape your songwriting? And which small town did you come from?
I’m not exactly sure how growing up in a small town shaped me, but I think it just became woven into my personality and perception of the world, which ended up bleeding into songs. I grew up in Hilliard, Ohio, which was considered a small cow-town/farm-town when I was growing up, but it’s actually a pretty big suburb now. I was also very lucky to have some amazing teachers and music and art programs in Hilliard that made a huge impact on my life. I was very active in theater and music from elementary to high school and my teachers were always supporting my artistic side and encouraging me to reach outside the community as well.
What are some of your career’s biggest highlights so far and why?
I think just being able to keep the band going this long and to keep evolving and improving as musicians has been very rewarding. Releasing our first full length CD, “Hey Kid,” was a huge step for us as well. I am really proud of that and what I learned from the process.
Can you give us one or two instances in which your commitment to music has maybe been questioned? Maybe being out on the road got to you or you encountered a few of the tons of frustrations a career in music can bring?
I won’t deny that there are some super difficult parts about playing music for a living. Music can easily ruin any relationship you have with someone who doesn’t love music or get what you are doing. There are a lot of “behind the scenes” work that is tedious and I’m always on the edge of paying bills on time. I haven’t been on a vacation in years and I’ve met some super dark people that have tried to take my joy away from music, hurt me, and have wished me to fail. I feel like all these things have made me stronger and have given me more of an outlet and voice in my songwriting so it’s all worth it for the feeling I get when I get to play and share my music with others.
Who are some of your major influences and why?
I have always adored Bob Dylan. He will probably always be on the top of my list. I also love Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Lucinda Williams, Wanda Jackson, Loretta Lynn, and Billie Holiday. Pretty much any blues/country/rock/jazz music from the 1920s-1970s, I love, too.
Where are some of your favorite places to play (cities/venues) and why?
New Orleans is my current favorite city to play in because of the history and the feeling I get when I’m there. It is hauntingly beautiful and romantic and something in the air always gets to me — a mystic city, really. Also,I know it sounds biased, but Columbus is up there as well. We have an amazing music and art community in Columbus that seems to be getting stronger each year. It’s really a hidden gem. The cost of living is super affordable and it is easy to travel out of.
Could you give us some names of some great lesser-known original artists we might not already know? Who are you a fan of and who should we keep an eye on?
Super tough one — so many great artists out there right now that are hitting the pavement hard. Keep an eye on Nikki Lane. She’s a badass and just starting to to blow up. Go check her out if you can as well as Columbus’s Lydia Loveless (another badass!). I also love The Heartless Bastards, Valerie June, and Wolf Alice.
And finally what can we expect from your show? Do you have any surprises in store?
You can expect a high energy show from us with a lot of songs off “Hey Kid” as well as some more roots-y tunes that are on our EPs. We also have a bunch of live tunes that aren’t recorded and we’ll be playing some off the new record we are working on now, which will hopefully be out this fall. Something that always surprises people is that I play musical saw, so I will definitely bring that out on a couple of tunes.