It’s not yet 10 in the morning in Adrienne Young’s adopted home of Nashville, and already she’s discussed the teachings of Carl Jung with a friend.
“We were talking about archetypes and all this stuff,” Young said in a recent phone interview, “and how all of these energies are present, including the ultimate song, which is what people are drawn to when they go to hear music.
“They want to hear a tangible piece of this great melody, this great eternal song. And being in tune — not only your instrument in tune, but your person — you create this pathway that will not distort the great melody, you know. You have to tune yourself all the time.”
It is, Young says, “a constant process.
“Whether you’re playing music or doing yoga or gardening or playing with your child or talking to your lover, it’s always trying to keep everyone in tune.”
I’ve got an hour time jump on this effusive young banjo player (she’s three years out of Nashville’s Belmont University), and I’m three cigarettes and two Mountain Dews into the day. And yet I’m still only hanging on by a thread.
“Well, you know, I gave up coffee a couple of weeks ago,” reveals the seventh-generation Florida native. “I was sort of running on nothing but caffeine for a while there. It’s been the hardest thing in my life. I’m not lying. I am a coffee lover. It’s requisite for our society, for the pace that we have. But trying to get the energy alone, from myself, won’t happen. It’s got to come from a higher power.
“I look at every moment as a quest in which we can either connect with the great universal consciousness or not,” she goes on.
Young, raised in the Church of Christ, includes on her debut album, Plow to the End of the Row, such traditionals as “Satan Yer Kingdom Must Come Down.” Buoyant old-time gems like “Groundhog” and “Cluck Old Hen” also found their way onto Plow — but it’s “Satan” that rubs metaphysical elbows with Young’s own “I Cannot Justify,” a whimsically melodic, pro-reincarnation ode. (“Coulda been a pilgrim, hungry for to pray/ Or a roamin’ buffalo, soon to fade away,” the singer muses in the latter tune.)
But wait a minute. I don’t discuss “higher powers” or “universal consciousness” (especially before noon) — and the last time I wrote the name Carl Jung was during an Introduction to Philosophy exam. And yet talking to Adrienne Young is, well, entertaining. The singer/songwriter is happy, lively and earnestly optimistic — in short, pretty damn charming. And certainly living in the moment.
“There’s a huge correlation between old-time music and punk rock,” she suggests, “because it is definitely more about the energy than the intonation. It’s more about the sheer act of doing it than a definition of what’s being done.
“Everyone in my band, they’re very accomplished musicians,” Young acknowledges. “I would say I’m the element that’s more, you know, the desire to just create and run pell-mell up the mountain just to get up there.”
Her band, Little Sadie, consists of Tyler Grant on guitar, Clayton Campbell on fiddle, Amanda Kowalski on stand-up bass and Stephen Sandifer on percussion. There’s hope that a newly recorded video for Young’s song “Home Remedy,” a duet sung and co-written with Nashville pop veteran Will Kimbrough, will receive CMT airplay.
Don’t bet against it. Right now, Young is on a hot streak rarely seen outside of Vegas. Her story is unlikely, improbable and, best of all, true.
In 2003, she took first place in the annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest, a competition previously won by current Americana darlings Gillian Welch and Tift Merritt. Two days before that victory, the finally finished Plow was delivered to her doorstep.
“I was working as a temp,” Young explains. “I worked in every damn record label on Music Row and I worked in every publishing company and nobody gave a hoot. I was a temp, you know, and that was what I did and nobody cared that I played music. But finally I was able to get up the money to start. Not enough to finish, but just to begin recording.
“We just did it by the day and got as much as we could get done,” Young says. “It was going to be a demo, but not in the sense like, ‘Here’s a three-song sampler.’ It was just going to be my first record. And I didn’t really know what would happen. I mean, I believe that you have to visualize your goals; the thing is, I can’t for the life of me remember what I was visualizing, because I never thought any of this would happen.
“All I knew is that in Nashville, if you don’t have a record, nobody’s going to pay attention to you.”
Young released Plow on her own AddieBelle label. The album has since received a Grammy nomination in the Best Recording Package category (each disc comes with a packet of wildflower seeds). More importantly, it’s reached the top 10 on the Americana Music Association’s airplay chart.
This pair of accomplishments borders on the miraculous when you consider that AddieBelle is still without national distribution.
“I want to be able to give this gift to other people, other young acts,” says Young. “I was able to have the chance to make a record. I want to be able to do that for other people. That’s my dream — to get AddieBelle to be like [Ani DiFranco’s] Righteous Babe Records, only in a more Americana genre.
“If you give,” she continues, “it will come back to you. And if your point in creating something isn’t the bottom dollar but to honor the listener and show them that they are cherished and loved and respected, then that is going to reverberate.”
[Rob Trucks is a freelance writer living in New York City.]
Adrienne Young & Little Sadie open for The Avett Brothers at Stella Blue (31 Patton Ave.; 236-2424) on Friday, March 5. Showtime is 9:30 p.m.; cover is $7.