Antje Duvekot…”from a darker, younger self to a better, older place.”
We’ve all been on journeys, and sometimes they’ll take you to your destination and other times to unexpected places. On my own personal musical pathway I seek out and listen to all sorts of music, but it’s the singer-songwriters, the men and women who walk and work in the folk tradition, who bravely put themselves into a song and hide only behind some wood and strings…it’s those people I tend to respect a little more and listen to a little harder. Generally without the trappings of fame and fortune, and usually moving alone from performance to performance, the songs that come from deeply personal spaces are shared readily, and over time if you follow the artist’s career you are rewarded by developing a unique and distinct relationship with them. The fans of German-born, Delaware-raised and Boston-based Antje Duvekot are a dedicated and devoted bunch and they have been rewarded with a body of exceptional work that gets even better with the release of New Siberia.
If you’ve never heard of Antje or her music, let me share with you a song that I’ve connected with this past year that appears only on her live album, Live From All Over The Place. The first time I heard it I was sure I’d heard it a thousand times before, and I had to run home and research who it was written by and who had the “hit” with it. I was sure this was one of those songs that has always been in the background of my life, yet it’s all Antje and fairly new. Quite a trick…
If you punch her name into your search bar, you’ll get a zillion hits and there’s a very common theme (if not the same story retold over and over) that you’ll read among the press and websites and reviews. They all share that she had a difficult childhood being uprooted from Germany at thirteen, she came here to America without knowing the language and fell in love with the music of folkies like John Gorka, Richard Shindell and Ani DiFranco. And that her name is pronounced “Aunt-ya Doo-va-Kott”. (Of course it doesn’t specify if Aunt is pronounced Ant or the more formal Auuunt. The mystery of it all.) She’s lived and played in Philly, Vermont and New York before settling in Boston a few years ago, and she’s won all sorts of songwriting awards. She tours, writes music and makes records. And for New Siberia she did the Kickstarter thing, asking for $20,000 and getting $30,000. That says a lot about building a fan base.
To share just a little about Antje (she’s been on vacation in Germany and hasn’t been responding to email), I found David Shankbone’s interview from 2007….yeah I know, it’s a little old but still interesting….and pulled out these quotes:
On music: “I think it’s fair to say that over all I turn to music in times of trouble and need as a therapeutic tool to get me through sadness. That’s why I tend to turn to music. So my songs tend to be a little darker, because that’s where I tend to go for solace. So themes like personal struggle with relationships and existential issues.”
Why Boston?: “It’s always historically been a folk hub. There’s a lot of awesome folk stations like WUMB and WERS. Legendary folk clubs, like Club Passim. Those have stayed in tact since the sixties. Once you have a buzz, the buzz creates more buzz. Some people hear there’s a folk scene in Boston, and then other people move there, so the scene feeds itself and becomes a successful scene. It’s on-going.”
Goals and Career: “ I was just thinking about the whole dream of becoming a musician. I want to maybe do a research project about people’s dreams and how they feel about them after they come true. It’s really interesting. They change a lot. When I was 17 I saw Ani Difranco on stage and I wanted to do that, and now I’m doing it. Now I think about Ani very differently. I wonder how long it took her to drive here, she must be tired; I’m thinking of all the pragmatic things that go on behind the scenes. The backside of a dream you never consider when you’re dreaming it. To some extent, having my dream fulfilled hasn’t been a let-down, but it’s changed. It’s more realistic.”
Here’s a nice duet with John Gorka done this past Mother’s Day:
New Siberia. Let me tell you a little about it. First, you can buy it today. But it’s not really out yet. Sort of. Well…there’s a new release party this week in Boston (June 26). And there is another release date listed for September 18th too. Confused? Antje wrote to me and cleared it up…sort of. “There’s a reason for it (having) to do with publicity, but I forget exactly. But basically the official release date for all intents and purposes is September 18th.” Alright…so….just click this and you can get it now.
Here’s the scoop: Her last studio release was The Near Demise of the Highwire Dancer and was produced by Richard Shindell and features Richard along with John Gorka, Lucy Kaplansky and Mark Erelli. It was voted the #1 album of the year 2009 by WUMB-FM and its one of my favorites. New Siberia also is produced by Richard, who says “What a blessing to have worked with someone as talented as Antje. With a voice like hers and songs as good as these, a producer just tries to get out of the way, do no harm, and let the artist speak for herself.”
Shindell played acoustic guitar and gathered a top-notch band to record at NRS Studios near Woodstock. Band members include drummer Ben Wittman, electric guitarist Marc Shulman and bassist Lincoln Schleifer. John Gorka contributed backup vocals and guest cameos came from mandolinist Mark Erelli and world-class cellist Jane Scarpantoni. Wait a second….drums?…electric guitar? Oh yes, you poor old tired traditionalist…this is the world of modern folk music where the artist and producer get to stretch out a bit and use… gasp… electricity and technology. Hardly an overwhelming amount I might add, but there some of you that might be mortified. And if you really want to be shaken up, take a look at this video of the title song…director Asia Kepka took Antje to a beach in Rockport Mass and created a fantasy sequence. I can hear the screams from you grey haired hippies and beats….but as my ninety year old mom would say, “get over it”.
Antje says of the new songs that “They have an age to them that should resonate with anyone who’s struggled through a difficult period and come out better. There’s something really sweet in being able to look back on a journey like that, from a darker, younger self to a better, older place.” In other words, if I might say so myself, this is an adult album with adult songs from an adult female perspective. It’s on the par with the work of women like Shawn Colvin, Dar Williams, Eliza Gilkyson, Anais Mitchell and her partners in the band Winterbloom: Anne Heaton, Meg Hutchinson and Natalia Zukerman.
If the sound of her voice, her guitar work, the videos and the songs I’ve shared with you have piqued your interest, any album by her would make an excellent entry point. Her touring schedule this summer is light, but she’ll begin to travel again down the roads and highways when Indian Summer comes to Boston and there is a chill in the air. She is all over You Tube if you want to hear lots more music and can’t wait. But when she comes to your town or village…support independent music and musicians and get out and see her.