Appalachian Fusion Music – A Conversation With Donna Beasley
But it was also around that time that everyone in my family, with the exception of my dad, starting going to the fundamental Baptist church. And my brothers wanted me to go to the Christian school inside the church. So I was out of public school 8th grade on. My brother drove a church bus. I sang at our church as well as others. We were immersed in it. I was there for school, church services, visitation, what have you, basically 7 days a week. And this was a “women don’t wear pants, it’s a sin to go to movies or listen to rock and roll music” sect of Baptist. So, once I did start singing and people believed that I had a gift or talent or whatever, the ambition I had of singing secular music was looked upon as a sin. My mother told me that God would never let me be successful unless I sang His music. I remember singing a rock song around the house and one of my brothers getting so MAD at me!
I was torn between being a messenger of God through this talent He had given me and between wanting to sing the kind of music that I liked listening to. And it devastated me that people thought the desire I carried to do that – to make music – was sinful. It took me years to get over it. I still don’t talk about the fact that I sing in bars with my family. Putting on a pair of jeans and taking the stage of a club is a monumental rebellion for me.
Even though I had plenty of angst to write about when I was younger (I grew up in the typical southern home with a full mix of religion, alcoholism, violence – something for everyone), it still took some growing up, getting my heart broken a few times, having dreams dashed, all those adult things, before I was able to write songs. I was divorced, killing myself in graduate school plus working, living on my own 500 miles away, going through a particularly hard romantic break-up, and listening to a lot of Cranberries. I guess it all melded and meshed in the right way because that’s when started writing songs. Most of them were still bad. But I had a sense of “hey, I can do this and get better at it.”
By the time I had moved back to East TN, I had decided to learn how to play guitar and to start singing in public (but not church – my family had loosened up a lot by then and they were ok with it). I thought my voice was kinda weird and I didn’t sound good singing just anything. So, I figured I’d better write my own songs so I’d have something to sing. Considering what an undertaking both songwriting and guitar playing ARE, I am amused by my naïveté. But thank goodness for periods of blind optimism. We get fewer of those the older we get.