Meet Nora Jane Struthers.
This ex-English teacher began her career playing with her father Al in a band called Dirt Road Sweetheart. It did not take long for her to strike out on her on with a solo debut in 2010. She quickly gathered her audience with an Americana sound accented by her saccharine voice and a vintage look that completes the live experience.
Three years later, she is giving the public her latest effort “Carnival.” This collection of sonic vignettes allowed Struthers to exercise both her literary and musical skills. “Carnival” has earned high praise with the critics comparing her to Alison Krauss. It is going to be an old fashioned evening in the OGD, and Struthers would not have it any other way.
SC: NPR recently called you the next Allison Krauss. What do you think about a compliment like that?
NJS: It’s certainly a very high compliment. She has definitely been a role model for all kinds of people in this industry, because she really stuck to her guns and stayed true to her own art. She was able to make her own art without compromising, and I think that’s a very inspiring thing.
SC: One thing about musicians in the modern Americana scene is that they seem to be more experimental with it. You keep it pretty pure and pretty classic. What is it about that classic Americana sound that originally drew you in?
NJS: I grew up playing and singing music with my dad. He plays the banjo and guitar, so my roots are in folk music and bluegrass music. That’s really where I’m coming from, and I’m adding contemporary influences to that. I think that’s why that comes through.
SC: Not only do you keep the music in the classic vein, but you also keep your look quite classic too. Tell me a little bit about your vintage fashion blog.
NJS: I started collecting vintage dresses years ago, when I was performing with my dad in New York City and New Jersey. I have recently transitioned out of wearing vintage dresses, and I wear pants, which is a big deal (laughing). I still keep a vintage vibe. Really, the reason I started doing it was that I felt like I wanted the visual aesthetic to match the music.
SC: Let’s talk about the new album. It took you three years to put out “Carnival.” What made you want to take your time with this one?
NJS: Well, it was really about generating enough songs. I was actually in a band in between the release of the first record and “Carnival.” I put out a record with that band, and they’re called Dearfoot. The record that we released was on Compass Records, and it was called “American Story.” I had several of my original songs on that record. I generated all the songs for “Carnival” within seven months. Once I had the songs together, I realized that I really needed to record them. So, it happened naturally.
SC: After listening to this album and reading its background, I realize that you put some work into these vignettes, and you definitely had to employ your literary side. With the amount of songs and the amount of stories, it had to be challenging. What was it like coming up with all these snippets of fictional life?
NJS: It was an interesting process. I just started writing and didn’t think about how things fit together, until I had about seven songs started. I wrote down titles on a piece of paper and realized that they were all story songs from the female perspective. Once I wrapped my head around that, I started looking at those perspectives to see what they were missing. I had a lot of songs from the perspective of young girls and teenagers. I had a couple of songs from the perspective of old women, but I had left out any stories from the perspective of an adult woman. So, I began to hone in on that trend and make it a better story.
SC: Who would you say is your favorite character on your album is?
NJS: That’s a vey tough question! I guess the character that I feel like is the most me is in the song “Party Line.” One of my missions as an artist is to bring people together in real life. I think that technological advancements in communication have allowed us to communicate with a whole bunch of people, but it has also really isolated individuals and made people more likely to stay home and not go out and do things. They want to play on the computer and watch TV. As an artist, I’m trying to get people to connect with their friends and create communities around common interests. Getting people to come out and see our shows is a part of that. I want them to have an experience together. That’s what the song “Party Line” means to me.
SC: You’ve got some talented people backing you in this band. Did you have a criteria, or were they people that you’ve worked with before?
NJS: It was mostly just trying to pick people that I really wanted to be around. So much that we do is driving around in a van. Certainly, having instrumental prowess was important, but more than that, it was finding people that I loved being with.
SC: How will you be spending the holidays this year?
NJS: I’m going to spend Thanksgiving in Tennessee, and I’m going to split my Christmas between my parents’ house in New Jersey and my boyfriend’s house in Tennessee.
Band: Nora Jane Struthers & the Party Line
Date: Wed., Dec 4 at 7 p.m.
Venue: Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, 916 Charleston St., www.callaghansirishsocialclub.com
Tickets: $12 avail. at Callaghan’s