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    This is a big, busy week for local singer/songwriter Alanna Fugate with three huge shows.  First, Friday afternoon she will be doing an acoustic set for the whole hour during WFPK’s “Live Lunch” at noon.  And then later that night she will bring out the full band and headline Zanzabar, with her friend Tim Delonjay opening the show.  And if that wasn’t enough, Saturday night she will be reprising her performance as “Joni Mitchell” on-stage at Mercury Ballroom during the performance of “Such a Night:  Recreating The Band’s The Last Waltz.”

    Fugate has lived in Louisville for almost a decade, hailing from the tiny town of Ewing, Virginia (population 439, according to 2010 census), by way of a brief marriage and extended stop in Richmond, Kentucky.  She recently released her latest album, “Ewing,” as a tribute to family and the dirt her roots were planted.  We met up over a beer on the patio of The Cure Lounge in Germantown to talk about music, her career, and her upcoming tour-de-force weekend.

    Louisville.com:  Do you remember the first song you heard that made you wanna do this?
    Alanna Fugate:  Well, the first guitar my dad bought me was an electric, and I was playing a lot of Nirvana, Hole, Smashing Pumpkins, stuff that was popular then, but it wasn’t really my cup of tea.  Then a friend of mine, who I was in the grade as, his older sister was really big into Liz Phair and Ani Difranco.  I remember spending a summer with my dad in Blacksburg, Virginia when he was working out there, I was at a record and I came across a copy of an Ani Difranco record…it was “Little Plastic Castle.”  The first time I heard the song “Gravel” I thought, I need to be playing acoustic guitar.  So yeah, I’m that girl.  But it was really inspiring to me at fourteen or fifteen years old, because I had never heard anyone play a guitar like that before.

    Louisville.com:  Do you remember your first show?
    Alanna Fugate:  My very first show that I did, was actually The Fall Festival in Middlesboro, Kentucky.  That was my first paid show, I remember making a photo copy of the $50 check…I really wish I knew where that was.  Aside from that, I would often times in the summer, tell my dad I was going to Middlesboro to spend the night with my friend Jenny; and then I would in turn, drive the opposite direction to Johnson City, Tennessee, which was about an hour-and-a-half from Ewing.  I would go play the “Open Hoots” at the Down Home (a local bar).  I feel like I’m the last that could play in a bar when they were under age, and that was my first exposure to that sort of thing.

    Louisville.com:  How do you feel like being raised such in a small town influenced what you do?
    Alanna Fugate:  I love where I came from.  There’s a lot of musicians and artists that don’t love where they came from, but I really respect what I got to experience, taking in as I grew up.  I grew up on a farm, it was a tobacco farm, I grew up around horses, chickens, and I got to run free on the gravel road… there’s a lot of folks that don’t get to experience that now.  I feel like an old soul, anyway – so that country stuff tends to come out in my writing now.

    Louisville.com:  Is that why you named the album “Ewing?”
    Alanna Fugate:  The songs on this album come from a lot of places I’ve been, whether it’s emotionally or physically, these songs are lessons that I’ve learned and experiences that I’ve had, and they make me who I am now…but Ewing is who I was originally.

    I wrote the song “Ewing” when I was on my way home because Uncle Harry, my dad’s brother, had passed away and it was his funeral.  I drove completely in silence all the way home, and was just thinking about stuff the whole entire way.  Just before I went into Virginia from Kentucky, I pulled over at a gas station, and on the back of that receipt I wrote the entire song front-to-back right there in my car.

    Louisville.com:  It seems like Louisville has been blowing up in the past few years, culturally, musically, culinary, everywhere.  Why do you think that is?
    Alanna Fugate:  I think a lot of people have a thirst and a drive to have something that is nice, that is culturally welcoming with race and gender, and all of that stuff.  And I think  that draws a lot of artists when that happens, so it’s like any of the bigger cities whether it’s Austin, Portland, or New York – people just wanna come together and make something in an environment that they want.  I think there’s just a lot of likeminded here, that are making moves to make this city a mecca for art and entertainment.

    Louisville.com:  With two shows on Friday, do you plan to change up the two shows?
    Alanna Fugate:  Yeah, I spent a lot of time thinking about that; when you do a “Live Lunch” you are going to do a lot of the same songs that night, so you wanna offer something different.  This time around I decided that (bassist) Owen Reynolds and I have a really good chemistry on-stage together just as a duo, so that’s going to be “Live Lunch” just the two of us.  And then that night (drummer) John Clay and (fiddle player) Amos Hopkins are sitting in with Owen and me for almost all of the show.  That in itself is special because I don’t normally have a band with me when I play, so each show is going to have a very different sound – even though some of the songs might be the same, they’re going to be changed up a little.  I also plan on pulling some old stuff that I don’t usually play out, so that will be fun.

    Louisville.com:  So the other show you have this weekend “Such a Night:  Recreating The Band’s The Last Waltz,” how did you get the role of Joni Mitchell?
    Alanna Fugate:  They did the same show last year, and a friend of mine was working closely with them finding local musicians and stuff – and he contacted me and said you would be a perfect Joni.  I was really out of my comfort zone; that was the most nervous state I have ever been in on-stage; it was the first time I had ever sung on-stage without a guitar in front of me.  After the rehearsal that afternoon, I was a crazy nervous wreck, I was literally shaking…but you get by with a little help from your friends, I made it through; and I felt like I did a solid job.  So this year I’m doing it again this year, definitely more confident than the last time.

    Louisville.com:  I’m assuming Joni Mitchell was a big influence on you.
    Alanna Fugate:  Joni Mitchell is an insane influence on me.  I adore Joni Mitchell, I would sell every one of my guitars to have her just play me one song.  I love her, she’s amazing.  Right now, for me to be playing Joni in this tribute is kind of a powerful thing because she’s ill now, she’s in her final days, so it’s like wow.  Her writing, her guitar playing, her rhythm, the way she puts lyrics and words together, and what she does underneath with her guitar – it’s so cool.  It’s like, what she says anyway, she’s not a musician, she’s a painter.”

     

     

    (Promo shots courtesy of Alanna Fugate)

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    About Brent Owen

    Born and raised in Louisville, I have lived here most of my life (except during a short furlough, when I, lovelorn and naive, followed a girl to Baton Rouge). My roots are here, my family, my friends, and my life are all here. I work primarily as a free-lance writer for a few local and regional publications. I have also written two books (one a memoir, the other a novel) that barring some divine intervention, will probably never see the light of day. I find myself deeply ingrained in the local bar scene, or perhaps better said, I often indulge in the local drinking culture. I love music, movies, comedy, and really just about any other live performance art.

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