By Kate Ferguson
Troxel’s first full-length record, The Way That It Feels, was recorded after she returned to her home town of Nashville following a few years in Pennsylvania. The folk melodies and three-part harmonies on the album are occasionally mixed with the sound of crickets and rain, a nice perk of recording in spring.
The group performed at SXSW 2018 as an official showcase artist, opened for Ben Sollee and Haley Heynderickx, and toured throughout the Northeast. I caught up with Troxel in anticipation of the group’s upcoming tour.
When did you start making music?
I started making music in the tenth grade. I had learned violin for years, but I saw a local Nashville band play a show, and it was the first time when I realized I could write songs. I never knew it was accessible. Nashville made music seem like a distant and impossible talent to attain when I was a child. It was not until I lived in PA and had access to their DIY music scene that I realized I could at least try and make an album and form a band. So the band came to be almost immediately after I moved back to Nashville.
How did the band come together?
At first, it was formed by people who recorded the album with me, John Cochran and Rita Pfeiffer, Austin Ondrusek, and Matthew Singler. But we have had some ebb and flow with band members as time and life has passed. Those three still play with me when we play hometown shows, but I met the band that you will be seeing in LA through touring and mutual friends.
Hannah Dorfman toured with us last April after practicing all the songs by herself in DC. We met her the day she joined tour with us, and I’m so glad she’s still playing with us! Austin Gray, who plays guitar/bass, came to one of our shows a year ago and plays in several Nashville bands. It made sense for him to join when one of our members moved away. I feel so grateful for these talented people.
Do you write?
I thus far have written all of the songs, but we arrange the songs as a band. I play acoustic guitar and sing.
How would you describe your sound and style?
The songs are heavily influenced by Laura Marling, Laura Veirs, and low-fi indie recordings like Mount Eerie. I think the songs ended up sounding like watery, blue music, which is my favorite kind of music. The guitar, the pedal steel, and the layered vocals make the songs ebb and flow in ways that are ethereal and nostalgic. I’m very influenced by old folk music but also by the unconventional song structures of Joanna Newsom and Joni Mitchell. I love a song that moves in surprising ways.
What’s your song creation process like?
I will usually find chord progressions that I love and write stream of consciousness until I have a melody or lyric that sounds interesting to me. Then I will try and write the rest of the song. Sometimes I will sit and focus on a memory or emotion that’s especially poignant for me, and then I will write the song out of that moment. I don’t know if I have a rhyme or reason for knowing when a song is done. I usually just can sense when it is done. My favorite songs I have written I wrote very quickly over the course of a half-hour.
Tell me about the upcoming tour!
I am so excited for this tour! It’s our first time touring out west and I’m excited to play in every city. I’m very excited for L.A. because I have so many friends living there. I’m also very excited for the Lost Church in San Francisco with Kelly McFarling. She’s a musician I’ve loved for a long time. On this tour we are playing with a lot of bands that I’ve admired and loved for a while, so that feels special.
Any fun stories from past tours or performances?
I already hinted at this earlier, but our cellist, Hannah, reached out to me a year ago over FB about playing with us on tour. We had never met and she knew me through one mutual friend. I sent her the songs over email and she learned them and then we just picked her up the first day of tour, met her, and rehearsed for that night. She ended up being a perfect fit!
But we had no clue what would happen. She could have been insane, a liar, a kleptomaniac. I probably won’t push my luck on stuff like that, but it worked out so perfectly. I hid all of our valuables for the first few days of tour until I realized she’s a spectacular human being. She moved to Nashville a few months ago, so we get to still play with her.
What’s next for you?
I am working on songs for the next record. That is the main focus right now. I’m asking all of the questions about what I want the next album to sound and be like! It’s exciting and terrifying.
Find Bea Troxel: BeaTroxel.com