Tomorrow night – what’s up? Katie Powderly, and all of her Unconditional Lovers, are going to open for The Black Lillies over in Shepherdstown as part of The Opera House’s 106th anniversary party. We recently caught up with her for a quick Q&A, talking about the show this weekend, how 2015 went, and, of course, how her 2016 is shaping up. For more information on the show, click here.
1. What can you tell us about The Black Lillies?
The Black Lillies are old friends of mine from Knoxville, Tennessee, the city I lived in prior to moving to Frederick. Their songs evoke a sense of homesickness for Tennessee, no matter where I am. Cruz is an adept songwriter, and creates vivid imagery and powerful narratives in his songs. To me, their music epitomizes the sound of Appalachia: Sometimes fun and upbeat, sometimes poignant.
Some of those guys and I go way back since before they were in a band together. On their first tour as The Black Lillies, which has been commemorated in the song “40 Days,” they played in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. After the show, the band crashed at my house and we stayed up all night playing guitars and singing songs until the wee hours. Somewhere around 3 or 4 a.m., Cruz awoke to the sound of someone banging on my front door. It was the police. Turns out he had left their trailer door wide open while grabbing their instruments. The police officer just wanted to prevent a potential theft. Nothing was taken – talk about a close call! We still laugh about that, and marvel that the rest of us slept right through the commotion.
What are your thoughts on both The Opera House and Shepherdstown in general?
I adore The Opera House & Shepherdstown. I performed there once before on a tour when I played the upright (bass) with Woody Pines. That was in December of 2012. We were charmed by the venue and the warmth exuded by the crowd. I have always secretly hoped to return with my own band, and am pleased to do so while supporting The Black Lillies. I definitely plan to eat tacos at Maria’s Taqueria and play pinball at Town Run Brewery. Maybe we can even have a Black Lillies vs. Unconditional Lovers pinball smackdown before or after the show.
What can we expect from your set at The Opera House?
The Unconditional Lovers and I will be playing mostly new songs, with a few from my last album. Incidentally, my last album features former Black Lillies pedal steel player, Tom Pryor.
What has 2015 been like for you guys?
2015 has been a year of galvanizing ourselves into a cohesive unit. Previously, the band felt slightly disjointed as we sought to figure out who our long-term members would be. But we have come up with a lineup that works for us. There is a chemistry between us, though we all come from vastly different musical backgrounds. None of my guys have every played country or Americana before, but we have created a hybrid genre that works well for us.
We had some significant shows this year: Frederick Folk Fest and Baltimore Folk Fest were definitely highlights. We played the Maryland Craft Beer Fest main stage on Carol Creek, headlined the first Lettuce Jam festival and played the Baker Park Bandshell with Sister Sledge. All of our Frederick shows sold out. That felt good. We have received overwhelming encouragement this year. We feel really grateful to our community for the support.
Speaking of community support, we did our first bit of recording as a band this year, courtesy of Flying Dog Brewery and Frederick Playlist. The brewery released a not-quite-but-almost-live compilation album of songs by 15 different Frederick bands, in an effort to showcase the vast array of talent Frederick has to offer. We were honored to be included.
And conversely, what do you think 2016 holds for Katie Powderly & The Unconditional Lovers?
The Unconditional Lovers and I are currently recording an album of new songs in the midst of these Blue Ridge Mountains. We have been working on that throughout the year, building it gradually. We expect to complete and release the LP next year. I would also like to do some touring in support of our new lil baby record.
I hope to write more music in the coming year, as well. I fear I am just a little too happy here in Frederick to trigger that impulse in me. I am not elated in love which typically elicits the yearning to prompt love songs, nor am I subtly disgruntled about anything. So in that sense, I am in a kind of liminal space. Contentment is a songwriter’s hell in some ways. Maybe with some luck in the upcoming year I’ll fall in love or get my heart broken. A girl can only hope.