This is the best and worst time of year for baseball fans. The playoffs bring the highest highs or their cosmic opposite. Along the way, October produces moments of exquisite and almost unbearable tension, the game at its concentrated best. Regular season baseball is far more relaxed, with a tempo and ambience that’s perfect for catching up with a friend. That’s the idea behind this radio feature with singer and songwriter Nora Jane Struthers.
We got together at First Tennessee Park, home of the Nashville Sounds, for a late season game. Her husband Joe and his parents came along as well. This is not a new-album story. (Nora Jane does have some big news to break, but you’ll have to get to the ninth inning to learn what it is.) Our visit did however synch up with two key anniversaries. Her album Champion came out a year ago, and as she tells us, it was ten years ago almost to the day that she packed up her life as a school teacher in Brooklyn and moved to Nashville to pursue music full time.
With her band The Bootleggers, Struthers took first prize at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival band contest in 2010. Her solo debut came out that July, and since then, she’s been following a trajectory from down-home acoustic folk and bluegrass to her more robust roots rock sound of today. Her intimate and perceptive songwriting and her seasoned band (now together four consecutive years) landed 2017’s Champion album a major and glowing review on NPR’s Fresh Air, where Ken Tucker credits her “strong, clear voice that cuts across the grain of a melody with a bracing sharpness.”
In the question-per-inning postcard here, we talk about her folk music tutelage with her dad, managing career ambition, working with her newest producer and champion Neilson Hubbard and that special news from Inning Nine.
This feature is part of Episode 71 of The String, which airs Sundays at 8 am and Mondays at 9 pm on WMOT.