(InEDC) BY CINDY HOWES & LIZZIE NO 07/18/23 11:27 PM ET
Over the course of her lifelong career in bluegrass, Americana and roots music, we’ve had the pleasure of interviewing and connecting with Grammy Award winner Molly Tuttle on quite a few occasions. When we selected Tuttle and her band, Golden Highway, as our Artist of the Month, we wanted to open a space to discuss her career and music in a fresh light – and we could think of no better context for such a conversation than Basic Folk.
We asked Basic Folk podcast hosts Cindy Howes and Lizzie No – who featured Tuttle on the show once prior, in 2022 – to sit back down with the International Folk Award and Americana Award winner to discuss her brand new album, City of Gold, and to dig deeper into the creative output of this buzzworthy guitar player, songwriter, and business woman.
Watch for the full podcast episode to drop later this month, but for now enjoy these excerpts from Cindy and Lizzie’s conversation with Molly Tuttle.
Cindy Howes: Molly Tuttle, welcome to Basic Folk again. It’s so great to have you back on the podcast.
Molly Tuttle: Thank you so much for having me back. It’s great to be here with you guys.
CH: Before we start our interview, I want to set the tone for our conversation. Molly Tuttle is being highlighted as Bluegrass Situations’ Artist of the Month, which is so awesome. The tone of our interview today is LYLAS. Do you know what LYLAS is?
Lizzie No: It’s spelled L-Y-L-A-S.
MT: LYLAS. Okay. I don’t know that.
LN: What it means is: “Love you like a sister.”
CH: Oh yeah. So we are total LYLAS. This is like a fun trip to the mall. This is like a really fun cruise around the harbor with your gal pals.
MT: Oh my gosh, that’s so fun. Well, it’s perfect because I’m actually in a hotel outside of Missoula. And there’s a strip mall nearby. So shopping has been on my mind today. Great.
CH: We’ll all get mani pedis together.
LN: Yes. French tip.
CH: So, when approaching the writing on City of Gold, you asked yourself, “How do I tell my story through bluegrass?” Which I can relate to, as somebody who’s sort of tried to distance themselves from folk music for a really long time. And now I am fully leaning into it. So, I take [it as] you asking that question of yourself, like “How can I fit my Molly Tuttle-ness into a world that can be rigid, patriarchal, and maybe different from what you stand for.” So how true is that? And how have these songs helped you take control of the bluegrass narrative and tradition?
MT: I think that’s something I’ve always kind of struggled with. I remember when I first started writing songs, I just thought, “I don’t know how to write a bluegrass song.” I can write a song, but they never ended up sounding like bluegrass to me and I just didn’t feel like my story fit into the bluegrass narrative of the songs that I grew up singing.
I always loved songwriters like Hazel Dickens, who wrote bluegrass songs from a woman’s perspective, wrote songs about the struggles that she had as a woman in the music industry and as a working woman, and songs about workers’ rights and things she believed in. I grew up with two really strong role models, Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick, out in the Bay Area. I remember early on I would go out to [Kathy Kallick’s] house and she would make me tea and listen to my songs. She always told me that when she was first getting started writing bluegrass songs, she kind of felt the same way as me. Like, maybe her story didn’t belong in the genre. But she met Bill Monroe, and he encouraged her, “Don’t try to write a song that sounds like a song I would have written, write a song from your own perspective.”
So she wrote a song called “Broken Tie” about her parents getting a divorce. She said every time she was at a festival with Bill Monroe, he specifically requested that song. That was an inspiring story to me. But when I started writing songs for Crooked Tree, it was suddenly like a floodgate opened. I think I just found my people to write with, found my groove, and ended up with a collection of songs that kind of told my story, [told] about things I believed in, and [told] my family history and personal experiences. And then other songs that were just, you know, from a woman’s perspective, or from a perspective that I resonate with.
For [City of Gold], it was fun to kind of continue that and also expand it to be songs that I felt like were inspired by my band members, or inspired by experiences we’d had on the road. This felt more like a collective vision in a way.