Esme Patterson, American singer and songwriter, chats with Kevin Cooper about her thoughts on Donald Trump, crying to Leonard Cohen, her latest album We Were Wild and touring the UK with Frank Turner.
Esme Patterson, American singer songwriter is a founding member of the large, Denver-based indie folk group Paper Bird. Growing up in nearby Boulder, Colorado, Patterson along with her sister and bandmate Genevieve Patterson, grew up listening to old R ‘n’B records, coming to folk and Americana music later on. In collaboration with another sibling combo, Mark and Sarah Anderson, the two Patterson sisters formed Paper Bird in 2006, focusing on a mix of chamber folk and lush baroque pop.
The group went on to release several successful independent albums, tour frequently, and even score music for the Ballet Nouveau Colorado dance company. Although Patterson had occasionally performed as a solo artist, it wasn’t until 2012 that she had accrued a group of songs she felt weren’t fit for Paper Bird, and she set about making her first solo album; collaborating with Nathaniel Rateliff and members of the Czars.
She has recently released her solo album, We Were Wild.
Whilst currently on tour supporting Frank Turner, she took the time to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what she had to say.
Hi Esme, thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.
No worries Kevin, it’s my pleasure.
And just how is life treating you at this moment in time?
I’m taking some much needed ‘me time’ on this day off, lots of baths and spicy chicken. So, I must say, life is pretty good at the moment. Thanks for asking.
You have recently released your latest album, We Were Wild. Are you pleased with it?
I’m really proud of this record, it was such a joy to work with my friend and producer Adam Thompson, and all the amazing musicians and artists that worked on this album. Please read the liner notes and look them up, they’re all really incredible.
I have to say that I have been playing it for the past few weeks and I love it. Would you say that it is your best work to date?
My two favourite songs on the album are Feel Right and Come See Me. What was the rationale behind those two tracks?
Feel Right is about cognitive dissonance; about the space that can occur between feeling and knowing. It was written as a meditation on the idea that when we feel something that feels truly wrong, perhaps it can guide us to thoughts that lead to actions to make it right. Come See Me was written in a dark time; when I was on a pathway to making bad choices, and I believe this song came from a subconscious place deep in my heart, asking my wandering eyes and mind to come back to centre.
I personally feel that Feel Right has a 1980’s B52’s kind of vibe to it. Would you agree?
I have to ask you who played the slide guitar on Wantin’ Ain’t Gettin’, it sounds fantastic.
That was Paul Brainard in Portland, Oregon. He really did a great job.
Outside of the USA you are being distributed by Xtra Mile. How is that working out for you, is it a nice fit?
Xtra Mile put out my second album Woman To Woman in the winter of 2015, and the team are all so kind and seem enthusiastic about my work, which certainly helps (laughter).
Are you always writing?
Yes, though sometimes writing means getting out into the world and experiencing things, filtering through that experience for pieces of resonance and deep feeling, which later become songs.
Which comes first, the lyrics or the melody?
There is no pattern for me, each song arrives differently.
Are you already thinking about your next studio album?
You are about to tour the UK opening for Frank Turner. Are you looking forward to that?
Frank is one of the kindest people I’ve played with. He has really gone out of his way to recognise my work and it means a lot. I am really grateful to him and the whole crew for having us along.
I recently interviewed Frank and he is delighted to have you along for the tour.
That’s very kind of Frank to say that.
Are there any plans for a full-blown Esme Patterson headline tour of the UK?
I guess we’ll see how this month goes (laughter).
Who were you listening to whilst you were growing up?
I’m a musical omnivore. I’ll consume anything that’s good. I have favourites in almost every genre; rap, classical, jazz, country, blues, reggae, and rock and roll.
Was it always going to be a career in music for you?
I’ve always known that. The challenge is actually to make some money. It’s a good thing I’m very stubborn, not afraid of hard work and able to live very cheaply (laughter).
What was the first record that you bought?
Hmm, it was probably a cassette tape, because it was the 90s, and it was probably Usher or the Backstreet Boys.
Who did you first see playing live in concert?
A friend had her birthday party at the Amy Grant concert at a venue in Colorado called Red Rocks. I wasn’t the biggest Amy Grant fan, but seeing any show at that venue is life changing.
What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?
I have been listening to Leonard Cohen and crying a lot recently.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Wow. That’s very hard to say, I’ve been really lucky. It really blew my mind when Elvis Costello shared my song Valentine which is a response to his song Allison.
Who has inspired you musically?
As I said earlier, I love and am inspired by so many artists from so many realms of music. But the most inspiring, I guess, are the really brave originators who wrote their own playbooks, who had the courage to be themselves; like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Prince, Bowie, Monk, Marvin Gaye, Sinead O’Connor, Joni Mitchell, the list goes on and on.
At what point in your career did you feel musically satisfied?
I hope that never happens (laughter).
If you could invite three guests either living or dead to a dinner party who would you invite and why?
Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali and Martin Luther King Jr. That would be a very interesting conversation.
What single moment would you say changed your life forever?
The day I started playing guitar and learned I could write my own songs.
I have to ask, you now have a new President Elect, was Mr Trump the right choice?
No, but please don’t get me started on that.
Do you think that there will ever be a female President of the USA?
I certainly hope so, though I’m not sure the USA as we know it will continue to exist much longer. There are changes a foot.
Are there any ambitions left to achieve?
Of course! Especially with this monster in office in the US, we have our work cut out for us. But I feel like music can be a great healing and connecting force. I feel like my work has just begun.
On that note Esme let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me. It’s been interesting.
Thank you Kevin and I hope to see you when we get to Rock City. Bye for now.