Interview with singer-songwriter Cyndi Harvell

Singer-songwriter Cyndi Harvell talks about her new album “From the Echo,” musical influences, and what she’s up to next.

Cyndi Harvell, currently on tour with guitarist John Howland, visited Austin, Texas, on Oct. 27 and will make her next stops in Denver. Harvell’s latest album, “From the Echo,” was released Oct. 12, 2010, and is available on cyndiharvell.com, iTunes, and amazon.com.

The songs on “From the Echo” have a relaxed feel to them, and the intro toFrom the Echo “Break For It” really draws me in. It’s slow, mysterious, and a bit melancholic…it transports me to a lonely, dark night in the expansive countryside. Harvell’s voice brings the song to life and, fittingly, echoes during transitions to nice instrumentals. Listen to “Break For It” and other songs on myspace.

Harvell took the time, while on tour, to answer some questions about the new album and much more.

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Tell us about your latest album. What was the inspiration behind it?

From the Echo is about moving forward, letting go, freedom, release…. I get my inspiration from life and what I’m experiencing and what people around me are experiencing. The last year of my life definitely has had these themes. I’ve let go of some things that weren’t doing me any good and started to move forward. The album has its dark moments, but overall its got a pretty positive vibe.

What’s your favorite song on the album? What is it about?

It’s really hard to pick a favorite. I really like the way that “Northbound” turned out. I love the somewhat “reggae” beat put together with banjo and eerie pedal steel and slide guitar. Its the first song I wrote on banjo when I was out in Yosemite for a long weekend of songwriting. I was sitting in the woods by a stream, looking at a mountain and this song just sort of gushed out of me. It’s more of an abstract song, more about the mood than about an actual story and maybe sort of a musical representation of nature. But if I were to try and explain, it’s sort of a conversation between a person and some otherworldly being about the meaning behind life.

Describe your sound in three words.

Lyrical. Pure. Honest.

How long have you been interested in music? Was there a moment in your life that impacted your decision to be a singer/songwriter?

I was interested in music before I even knew what that meant. When I was five, playing with Barbie dolls, I’d make up musicals with them, and even sometimes record it to tape. I didn’t grow up in a super-musical household, but something drew me in that direction. When I was 17, I picked up guitar and taught myself. I wrote a lot of poems before that, and I really had the urge to write songs and put words to music. I just knew I absolutely had to do it.

Who has been your greatest musical influence, and why?

I would say my first influence on writing and playing was Jewel circa 1995. Her first album came out when I was a teenager and struggling with crazy hormones and emotions and the music was very real and honest, and I was really inspired by that. As I taught myself to play guitar, I learned a lot of her songs. She was a strong female, folking out the guitar and belting tunes in a way that really spoke to me.

What genre of music do you like to listen to?

I listen to a lot of different stuff. I’m big into indie rock now, and americana/alt-country a la Neko Case and Wilco. I’m also into what I guess you could call alt-folk (Iron & Wine, Bon Iver). I love classic rock like Zeppelin (who doesn’t?) and, of course, the folk heroes like Dylan and Neil Young. I’m constantly browsing iTunes for new music.

Name a song you like that others wouldn’t expect you to listen to.

I don’t really have an answer for this. I think maybe people who don’t know me well would expect me to just listen to girl singer/songwriters, since I am one, and the fact that I listen to such a broad range of other stuff would be a surprise. But people who know me well know I have eclectic music tastes so probably nothing would surprise them. Ooh I know, maybe its a surprise that I love the soundtracks to the Disney movies from when I was a kid — Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Lion King. =) Guilty pleasure. I am a nerd.

What do you think of Texas compared to your home state Georgia?

It’s a lot bigger! Which became even more clear when we drove across it from Tucson. Texans also seem to be quite proud of their state. I really enjoy visiting Austin – it has a lot of personality and a style of its own. Great scene there. Georgia seems a little more modest and quiet and subtle.

I saw that your song is featured on the popular iPhone app Tap Tap Revenge 3. How do you feel about having people play a game to your song, “Photographs”?

I think it’s pretty awesome. I got an email once from someone who discovered my music through that game, and I thought that was kind of cool.

What has been the greatest experience you’ve had since the beginning of your career?

Recording the first album with this band and Jim Greer at Old School Studio in Caspar, CA was a truly magical experience. We went back there for this album as well, but the first time we didn’t know what to expect and we just walked into a dream. When we got back home we were all in a daze for weeks. The studio is an old building on the coast, overlooking dramatic cliffs and ocean and its very “vintage” feeling. And warm and comfortable.  Like curling up the couch in front of a fire with a good book.

And finally…what are you currently working on, and what do you hope to achieve in the future?

I’m on a cross-country tour right now with my guitarist John Howland. We’re on a four-week run playing shows nearly every night. Early next year we’ll be doing a west-coast tour and we’ll start planning for the next east-coast venture when that’s done. I hope to continue to tour and reach as many people as possible to share the music with. I love what I do, and I doubt I’ll ever run out of songs to write.

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Photo courtesy of Big Picture Media

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