It seems safe to assume that few people who attended a one-night-only concert at Town Hall celebrating the music of the film "Inside Llewyn Davis," were there primarily to see Rhiannon Giddens. After all, the 2013 show was headlined by huge names like Jack White, Elvis Costello, Joan Baez and the Avett Brothers. Yet when the show ended, it was Giddens' performance of the Odetta song "Water Boy," that was seen as one of the highlights of the evening.
Since then, Giddens, who has won a Grammy as a member of the string band Carolina Chocolate Drops, joined Costello, Marcus Mumford and Jim James in supergroup The New Basement Tapes and performed at a White House celebration of gospel music. Earlier this year, she released her first solo album, "Tomorrow Is My Turn," featuring her interpretations of songs made famous by powerful women ranging from Dolly Parton to Nina Simone. amNewYork spoke with Giddens.
How did the concept for "Tomorrow Is My Turn" come about?
I wanted to pay homage to all these women in Americana and roots music that I have admired over the years, and who paved the way and opened doors.
What made you decide to end an album of covers with your own song, "Angel City"?
I don't consider the album to be "covers," which indicates a copy of the original arrangement as well. I consider these to be interpretations. Otherwise every folk singer does covers, which sounds ridiculous! I wrote "Angel City" during the last night of The New Basement Tapes sessions as a thank you to the people I had been working with for two weeks. It is a nod to the fact that none of us stands alone, we come to where we are because of the people who came before, and who help us.
What's the process you go through when creating your own version of someone else's song?
Immerse myself with the original at some point and then as soon as I have decided to record it I stop listening to the original and start singing it myself. When I go into the studio it's me and the song, not me and Dolly and the song, or me and Nina and the song.
What was it like to perform at the White House?
I don't know whether I was more nervous meeting Barack Obama or Aretha Franklin ... wait, definitely more nervous meeting Aretha. What an incredible night.
Rhiannon Giddens is at Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park Bandshell on July 18 at 7:30 p.m., Enter at Prospect Park West & Ninth Street, FREE