Julie Christensen’s new band Stone Cupid, a kindred spirit to her post-punk powerhouse Divine Horsemen, was invited to be one of the final acts at East Nashville landmark The Family Wash before its relocation in February. The honor was eagerly accepted; it was at the Wash that the band first played together less than a year before, and felt something truly special.
“This lineup fell together almost fatefully, and the songs seemed to play themselves,” says Christensen. “It was so natural, so simpatico, like some concurrent extra-spiritual thing.” Stone Cupid will be heading to the studio with producer Jeff Turmes in mid-March to capture that vibe in an album to be released in the fall.
Christensen, who’s authored five independent albums and sung with everyone from Leonard Cohen to Lou Reed, has surrounded herself with a team of team players. In guitarists Sergio Webb and Chris Tench, the “absence of ego” Christensen lauds, is on full display. As Tench creates the ideal sonic landscape, Webb populates it with one stunning surprise after another. Propelling the enterprise are drummer Steve Latanation and bassist Bones Hillman, who combine taste and telepathy into something so unified they seem a single entity.
The crew’s résumés feature stage or studio credits for a wide swath of top-shelf acts, including Midnight Oil, Sheryl Crow, Agent Orange, David Olney, Amelia White, Matthew Ryan, Gail Davies and Pinto Bennett.
Christensen’s own musical odyssey is as varied as the kinds of songs she can deliver. Born and raised in Iowa, she headed to Austin in the late 70s, then L.A. in 1981. There she met and married Chris Desjardins and together they formed Divine Horsemen, a band whose sound she likens to “Beggars Banquet-era Stones.” Three whirlwind years later, they had amassed two full albums, two EPs, three cross-country tours, three songs on the Border Radio soundtrack, and one blown-apart band, marriage included.
From 1988-1993 Christensen toured with Leonard Cohen as a featured backup singer. In 1991 she signed with Polygram, but the Todd Rundgren-produced album fell victim to label politics and went unreleased. 2005 saw her paying tribute to Cohen in the Came So Far for Beauty concert series, and spotlighted in the feature documentary I’m Your Man.
An East Nashville resident since 2013, Christensen is beguiled by its concentration of musicians and their camaraderie. The move from California, meant to nurture opportunities in the acoustic/roots community, now finds her heading for the studio with a rock band, envisioning big-stage concert and festival gigs, and she couldn’t be happier. “I really come alive with a band,” she says, “I’m very theatrical, and people respond to it.”
Producer Turmes, who’s played with such luminaries as Mavis Staples, Tom Waits and Richard Thompson, will again be at the helm, as he was for Christensen’s previous album, 2013’s “Weeds Like Us,” a project that garnered some Top Ten attention in end-of-year honors.
The new album will include a soul cover of Cohen’s “Anthem,” plus artful tunes from Dan Navarro, Kevin Gordon, Chuck Prophet and others, and a healthy helping of Christensen originals. “I’m so fired up with what we’re doing,” she says, noting similarities to her 80s roots with the Horsemen. “There was all this grand stuff then -- the Reagan Era, Dynasty, Miami Vice -- and bubbling under was all this heartbreak and dysfunction and despair. It bred a lot of wonderful art.”
She’s also optimistic that albums are not the dinosaurs some predict. “An album is an arc. It unfolds, piece by piece. I see young people buying albums. They’re listening, they’re getting it. I love that.”
And a new Stone Cupid album will be well worth the listen. “We’ve all done the big stages,” says Christensen. “This won’t be our first rodeo.”
A beautiful day in Nashville. Been dealing with things behind the cyber-curtain, like google analytics and verifications. Ugh. Going to meditate now, and come back to it. Have a wonderful day.
Radoslav and I held down three sets tonight at the funky, homey Elbo Room cocktail lounge in Chicago. My new home has a flashing neon sign. Love this place-- sister bar to Culver City's Cinema Bar...Matt and Aaron were groovy and helpful, and so was Kayla for helping put it together. It was a good warm-up for Saturday's concert in Milwaukee! A rainy night; we had a small but mighty audience, including Ben Ramsey of The Pines, the Fabulous Freddy from Music Road Records, and Kate and Mike from Bellevue, Iowa. Onward to be a jetsetter and meet up with Jeff TURMES and crew at Mavis' gig in Downer's Grove Wednesday night!
Making this entry on my phone, just outside Chicago after sleeping most of the night on the train they call the"City of New Orleans". Played 4 showcase sets solo, and that's a big deal, keeping in mind that I came to Folk Alliance in 2008 with only one accompanied showcase and then playing my one chop on autoharp,a Dylan song called John Brown at an open Dylan tribute. We're almost to Chicago where I will see my brother John and play a gig with Radoslav at the Elbo Room Tuesday night. He played with me on my official showcase and so did my Memphis host Robert Maché. I met the Burns Sisters, talked to Jim Lauderdale about how excited we are that I've recorded his song on my record, and ran into all sorts of friends including director of "Troubadour Blues" Tom Weber, Dan Navarro, Greg Johnson and the amazing John Fullbright, FA president Renee Bodie whose fine Saturday night lineup I'm proud to have been part of.
I also met lots of new pals, including at great Ebet Roberts and Jan, Lahna Deering and the Rev. Neil Down, all sorts of fine Canadians including Danielle French, and Amelia White!
I wish I'd slept more on this train, but oh well!
Here's a pic Annie Burns took of Rad and me listening to the hard country being played in the Wine and but Room late Saturday night:
...to pack, practice, promote, and prepare. But I'm getting real excited to hit the road Tuesday morning. Had a talk with our dog today. He's a good boy, even though you've got to hide your lunch if you work in the neighborhood. And his favorite sitter will be with him! Onward!
I'm packing early, so I can pack light! I'll be going to Folk Alliance next week for my official showcase and other showcases. Then on up to Chi-town, where my brother is to play the Elbo Room with old friend and amazing musician Radoslav Lorkovic. He and I also have a gig March 3rd in Mequon, WI, just north of Milwaukee, for the esteemed Wisconsin Singer Songwriter Showcase. Then I will go do some recording with my brother, Dr. Dave Christensen. After that, I'll be flying to New York to work on my son's film he's making for his Freshman Project at SUNY Purchase Film Conservatory.
Please subscribe to this feed to get my tour diary. It's going to be fun: cold, but fun!
He's had a camera in his hand since forever, and is very creative. He's at SUNY Purchase in the prestigious Film Conservatory, but it's a public institution and doesn't subsidize the filmmakers, so he's raising money to make his Freshman Film. Click on the widget to watch a video and find out more. Thanks.
So much to be grateful for, in spite of the economic and political landscape (don't get me started!) Let me count the positive stuff:
My new album, Weeds Like Us, is nearly finished and we're looking at a February 21 release date thanks to the generosity of my friends and fans, and kickstarter.com This is a good one
Our son is home from college. He's a film student, and passionate about it. It's great to have his energy around.
My husband is working a bit more now; it's been a raw, ragged few years, but we've carried on.
Our humble home is in a beautiful spot, and I'm grateful to have a roof over my head.
I was selected as an Official Showcase Artist at the International Folk and Dance Alliance Conference in Memphis February 22-26, 2012.
And I'm grateful that you are reading this, and that you care and listen to my music. It means the world to me.
Have a happy, healthy, and proactive New Year.
In mid-August through September, I'll be going into the studio again to record this album of songs of mine, and some by friends who are great songwriters. We've talked to the engineer and are preparing to book time at the studios. We've done pre-production, arriving at the group of songs we'll record, and a good idea of the instrumentation for each one, casting the great musicians we know between my producer and me to come play on it. We'll come out with at least a limited CD run on Household Ink Records, wide download distribution, and possibly even vinyl if we exceed our goal.
I shared the unfunded embryo of this project at Kickstarter last year. We were halfway there, and I see now that my deadline date was ill-timed due to simultaneous travel to Europe for another project, and I wasn't able to keep you updated and put enough energy into the campaign.
Later last summer, my producer and friend Kenny Edwards passed away-- and I miss him an awful lot. A lot of people do.
I've found another producer to help me tackle the project again: my friend Jeff Turmes, singer-songwriter and also bassist for Mavis Staples. The songs have changed, and we're very excited about this group of songs. Can't wait to share them with you.
You can read more about me on my bio page and website (I have 4 other albums out on iTunes, I toured singing with Leonard Cohen, among other exploits, and I'm lucky to know lots of great musicians who can help turn this project world-class.) I plan to tour California this winter, and the midwest next spring. I really appreciate your help on this. I'll do right by ya.
I still have socked away the money donated for the project directly to my site, so that's why I'm able to keep this fundraiser lower than it really does cost to record the album, make it available widely for download, and manufacture some CDs. If we raise more than the initial $7500, we can actually make a vinyl pressing of the album, and have more money for promotion to radio, satellite and web outlets. AND I'll put up some more rewards for those of you who make that happen. Stay tuned.
My husband, character actor John Diehl's imdb resume for those interested in that premium.
The pitch video was shot and edited by our son, Magnus Jackson Diehl.
We planted these years ago, and it's the first year I've noticed that it blooms just in time for Valentine's Day. Because of our rocky soil, the blooms lay sort of sad and bend down as if broken-hearted. Happily, I've put them in a vase to brighten up the place. Have a drama-free Valentine's Day!
And a new look to our site. Enjoy, and please come visit often.
It's a beautiful day here in Southern California, and I'm grateful for the many great hearts and talents and small treasures in my life.
Thank you for listening to my music. I'm busy making more!