MUSIC: Gabrielle Louise returns to Takoma Park

MUSIC • BY DARLENE REYES

With gypsy musicians as parents, she has the wandering spirit that is key to folk music.

The Institute of Musical Traditions, Takoma Park’s folk music sanctuary, will host Colorado-based singer-songwriter Gabriella Louise, on June 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Takoma Park Community Center.

Louise began her musical career at a very early age, mainly because her parents were musicians and it was something she was exposed to since she was young. They brought her up on stage with them when she was 12 and have encouraged her since.

Life with vagabond parents has kept her from leading a humdrum existence, and that has been useful to her career. Louise attended 12 different schools before graduating, which she believes helped her develop a skill for making new friends. She also spent a few summers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and began to incorporate tango songs and dances into some of her shows.

“My parents identities as vagabond musicians shaped my taste and musical career by giving me an appreciation for travel and culture… And eventually, my love for changing scenery and variety led me to choose a career in which ‘rinse, wash, repeat’ is a very distant and foreign phrase,” Louise explained.

Not being tied down, Louise draws inspiration for her lyrics from anywhere and everything.

“Each song comes from such a unique place. I remember in college being inspired by my Psych 101 class! So, that to say: who knows what may show up as a muse,” Louise explained, when questioned about her inspiration for her songs.

Even the artists that inspire her music are not contained to one form of creative expression. Aside from her parents and other musicians, writers like Walt Whitman, Rumi, Edgar Lee Masters, Dylan Thomas and social activist and author Annie Leonard have also inspired Louise.

“Oddly enough, black and white photographer Sebastião Salgado has somehow worked his way into my musical being,” Louise mused.

Louise’s connection to IMT stems from a show she did in Alexandria, Virginia, for the Sunspots Concerts—which presents concerts of traditional Scottish, Irish and American old time and bluegrass music. There she met David Eisner, founder of IMT and Kent Murray, the current director.

“[Murray and Eisner] create a wonderful service for their community be presenting shows that nurture both traditional and new forms of folk music,” said Louise.

While Louise is not opposed to attention grabbing shows—having recently collaborated with physicist Joe Werne to score a song for 12 dancing pendulums—most of her performances are simple. It is not uncommon to see her on stage solo, or with a few backup musicians, and barefoot with only guitar in hand.

“I have found that for some audiences, this has been intriguing, since format show business encourages an exaggeration of a few, simplified character traits and discourages the exposure of the artist as a human being,” Louise admits.

Louise plans to release a couple of music videos, accompanying her upcoming studio record release. This will be her fifth studio product, not including a live album she put out, and will be titled “For the Brokenhearted.”

“It turned out to be very moody, very sullen, and despite the incorporation of backing musicians, quite intimate as well,” said Louise of the new album.

The album will feature Rob Jost on upright bass (whose credits include performances with Bjork, the Saturday Night Live band and the Sesame Street Band) and Michael Bellar on accordion and keys, (whose credits include performances with Amos Lee, Art Garfunkel and Howie Day). Jost and Beller will also be joining Louise on her concert at IMT.

The concert is sure to be a delight to fans of progressive folk music.

Below, Gabrielle Louise sings Silvio Rodriguez’s hit “Te Amare” at an IMT concert in August 2011.