Chatting with Angaleena Presley
As a fan of Angaleena’s music from Pistol Annie’s and her fantastic album American Middle Class, I was really excited to chat to her and I wanted to find out more about where she came from, her early influences and thoughts on her upcoming tour in the UK
If somebody had never heard of you before how would you introduce yourself to them with regards to your music?
Well I would say that I am from a really small town in Eastern Kentucky and I’m a coalminer’s daughter. I love music, always have and have always been drawn to music and always knew that I would make music and if I had to use one word to describe the music that I make I would probably say honest or real and then I would probably say – I don’t really know what genre I could put myself in. I mean it’s obviously country and blue grass influences but there’s a little rhythm and blues and a little rock and roll so it’s really hard to label it
I don’t think in the UK we worry as much about genre as the US.
I would totally agree I love your music and I think honest is the perfect way to describe it, When I listen to your music, you make me feel that you’ve lived it. Whether you have – or maybe you are just a good story teller! But it really makes you think, you can imagine yourself in the songs which I think is the art of a fantastic songwriter.
Thank you very much for saying that.
Can you set the scene of where you grew up because I’m sure that had a lot of influence in your music How would you describe your home town?
Well it’s really tiny, the US is divide up into states and then counties and the county is pretty big and then there’s towns in the county. Well in my country which there’s probably eleven or twelve little towns, there are two traffic lights. So two stop lights and I think one of them is gone now, so one traffic light through the whole county, not just the town. The town that I’m from there’s no traffic lights so I always say that to try and give people the idea of just how small and remote it is. I mean we don’t have any major shopping centres, we don’t have a mall, and we don’t have much at al. It’s so tiny and remote and cut off from – and it’s in the mountains so there’s a lot of just kind of barely getting by and survival instinct and my mom and her sisters and me were like very intuitive and we kind of have this – I call it ‘mountain intuition’ so, hillbilly’s.
When did you first decide – you say you always wanted to play music, when did you first really realise you had a talent for writing and for singing?
You know I always sang. My mom would sing to me when I was little, she would actually sing Scottish/Irish folk songs, I later realised it after I was able to do research about that, that had been passed down from generation to generation from women in my family.
So I grew up kind of with that and my dad was a big music fan, he loved Merle Haggard and Credence Clearwater Revival and he played the guitar a little bit, he knew two or three songs and I just always loved music. I remember when I was little and we would go to the department store which was a rare treat, I would go to the music section and I would want to by 45 records, forget toys I want a guitar!
I always just loved music and then I always could come up with melodies, it was just something – my little boy does it now and it’s so – it’s like breathing to me. My husband he is not that musically gifted and he just can’t believe that he just comes up with these random melodies all the time but I do too, I mean I just have melodies in my head and I would hum them and sing them.
And then I guess when I got to about 16 I pulled my dad’s guitar out of the closet and made him teach me a few chords and he did I just wanted to be able to play and I couldn’t learn fast enough to play an actual song so I was like “Well I know these two chords I’ll just make up a song so that I can play a song,” and that’s how my writing started.
You’re known for writing songs for other people as well, song writing sounds like it’s very natural to you, what normally comes first the melody or the words or is it all just a feeling makes the song for you?
You know it’s so random for me. Sometimes it’ll be a melody and then sometimes I’ll get an idea and there’ll be like a first line or a hook, I’ll hear something on TV or I’ll read something in a book and be like – or hear somebody say something in a conversation and think “Oh my gosh that would be a good song idea.” I guess predominantly probably the idea comes first. I’ll get either subject matter or a line or even a word sometimes, sometimes a word “Wow that would be a great song title” and that seed will be planted and then I’ll hear a melody out of the middle of nowhere and then I will go back and look at my ideas and think “oh this one would fit with this…” it’s like piecing a puzzle together, kind of just catch ideas in my phone and then put days on my calendar to just sit down and go through the ideas and the melodies and kind of just put the puzzle together. Sometime I’ll write with someone and they’ll have the melody that goes with the idea.
What kind of music do you like listening to? If you were getting ready for either a girls night out or even just a night with your son? what do you really enjoy?
It can be anywhere from Hank Williams to Sturgill Simpson, I’ve been in love with his records for a while. Etta James to Hank Williams, whatever mood I’m in. I don’t have any – like I don’t discriminate, I’m like you if it’s good I’ll listen to it. It just depends on the mood I’m in. Usually it’s if I want to listen to something new I’ll make it a point to sit and listen. Music is usually sort of background and if I’m getting ready to go somewhere or something I’ll usually put something on that l really love and that I’m really familiar with and it really can be just all over the map.
I obviously have to mention you’re famous over here for the Pistol Annie’s so you got to sing with a couple of great girls there, is there anybody else that would be on your wish list that you would really love to perform with?
Loretta Lynn would be at the top of course, she is my hero. All of us grew up loving her, as a coalminer’s daughter and I grew up really close to where she grew up so she’d be the number one. And Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, any of my female country music heroes.
And what about any guys, are there any male singers around that you think “Yep I’d really like to do a collaboration with them.”?
Yes you know this is really odd, but I would love to do a collaboration with Eminem, I feel like he sort of does the same thing as I do but to extreme, just balls to the wall kind of way.
I would love to do that because I feel like he’s taken knocks, kind of hard knocks where he grew up and he’s just made amazing honest music that moved you one way or another. Whether you hated it or you loved it you can’t listen to Eminem record and not somehow be moved by it.
So the big news for the UK is that you’re coming over, did you realise how many fans you actually already had over I the UK?
No, I didn’t and it was amazing when the offers for the shows started coming. Bob Harris is just the greatest guy ever, he played my record and he has been so kind to me and I’m just gonna kiss him on the mouth when I get over there. Not really but I’m going to try and really give him a big hug!!
He was instrumental I think in helping me get some fans over there but I’m so excited. I have never been to Europe before and I’ve wanted to go since I was a little girl, I’ve had dreams about it my whole life. So to get to go over there and share my music and be a part of a show like Cambridge Folk Festival it’s like “Wow” I feel so blessed. It’s amazing. I’m taking my little boy with me so he’ll get to go
How old is your son?
I’m beside myself! He’s eight.
I am sure he will have a great time, Are you going to have some time to actually see the sights as well?
Yes I think we’re going to go over a little bit early so I think we’ll be over there about two weeks so I think we’re going to try and take a train to somewhere and do the touristy stuff and then focus on the shows the second week.
What kind of feel are you going for with your shows?
Well it will be different in different situations. I’m going to be playing with a band in a few of the shows and in a few of the shows it will just kind of be me playing guitar and telling stories and doing a kind of songwriter style. So hopefully you’ll get to see me rock and you’ll get to see me just kind of not rock!
You seem very busy, you’ve got the album out, you’ve got a tour over here, are you touring or doing much in the States at the moment?
Actually I have some time off right now to sort of write and recuperate from the whirlwind year that I’ve had. Actually it’s good news and bad news at the same time, I found out that I have to get my tonsils taken out in May so I’ve had to sort of take the whole month of May to sort of recuperate from that and be ready to come over to the UK so I’m going to have some down time which I haven’t had in a long time so I’m sort of excited about that. I’ll probably work in the garden and I don’t know, just enjoy being home for a minute.
What does your son think about you being famous? Does he kind of get the whole “Oh mums a famous songwriter and performer” does he get that?
Sometimes he does but you know we live in a really kind of hipster neighbourhood, East Nashville and the school that he goes to it’s like in his class there are videographers, photographers, artists and poets and he goes to a very sort of liberal minded artsy fartsy school so there’s a lot of talented parents so it’s kind of a perfect fit for us, for our family. Sometimes one of his friends will say “I saw you on TV the other day,” because he was in a video that we did for Pistol Annie’s and sometimes one of his friends will have found it online or their parents have shown it and he’s just really proud and he thinks that he’s famous too.
That could be your next collaboration, mother and son.
Man I just asked him yesterday because I’ve had this writers block thing going on, I think it’s just because I’ve had this sore throat and not feeling good and yesterday I was like “Have you got any song ideas?” and he started just rattling off – I mean he probably named ten – like you could write about nature, you could write about god, you could write about when you and daddy broke up…
And I was like “Hmmm well I think I covered that topic already!” but he just could write about a science experiment, you can write a song about a house that burned down so he’s got loads of ideas
Thank you so much for taking time out of the day to speak to me. I will definitely come along to one of your shows
Thank you so much it was great to talk to you and I can’t wait to meet you.
You can catch Angaleena on tour in July
25th July – Broadcast, Glasgow – Tickets
27th July – Night and Day, Manchester – Tickets
28th July – The Tunnels, Bristol – Tickets
29th July – The Bullington, Oxford – Tickets
30th July – The Borderline, London – Tickets
31st July – Cambridge Folk Festival – Tickets