A Lifelong Love of Music
Delivered up close and personal
STORY BY: LISA P. STITES
This fall, the Listen Up Brunswick County concert series brings a couple of singer/songwriters to the stage at Odell Williamson Auditorium. Abbie Gardner and Jim Henry will share headlining duties for a concert October 29. Southport Magazine caught up with Gardner as she traveled home from a gig last month. Gardner explained that she and Henry will play the whole show together, taking turns showcasing their songs.
“I’ll play two songs and he’ll back me up,” she said. “And then he’ll play two songs and I’ll back him up. It makes for a unique show. We do a lot of interaction, do a lot of harmony signing, and there’s a lot of spontaneity that comes out of it.”
Gardner plays a Dobro, a resonator guitar. Henry also plays a Dobro, along with a vari- ety of acoustic guitars and mandolin. Gardner said she started playing Dobro when playing other neck instruments gave her tendonitis.
“I remember watching Jerry Douglas who I’d seen growing up at bluegrass festivals and thinking I need to play like that,” she said.
Gardner said she has always loved the slide guitar sound in general. But the Dobro has almost a vocal, singing quality to it.
“I love the sound of it. If you play one note and get it right, it’s just great,” she said.
Music has been a part of her life from the beginning, and her jazz musician father continues to have a big influence on her. Gardner said she thought travel- ing for shows was how all families lived. “Doesn’t everybody’s dad go to New York City and play jazz festivals?” she remembers thinking. Her father Herb even made an appearance on piano for her most recent album, called “Hope.” She continues to be impressed by his love for the art.
“He still does more than I ever do and he is in his 70s. It’s pretty inspiring. Once in a while we do gigs together,” she said.
Gardner spent 11 years touring with the band Red Molly before striking out on her own. Her songs cover a wide range of experiences, some from her own life and some completely made up.
“Some of it comes from my own direct experiences. Sometimes I like a word or a phrase and I just make up a story, like my song ‘Jezebel,’ where I just really liked that word so I just thought what would that person would be like. So I wrote a whole song based on that,” she said.
And what’s it like when she’s on stage sharing her music with an appreciative audience?
“There’s nothing like it, honestly,” she said. “It’s such a real time thing. There’s a song I made up on my couch one night, and I wasn’t even sure it was a song until I played it for people.”
Gardner said her favorite song is called “The Mind of a Soldier.” She said she has played it for veterans and loved their reaction to it.
“It’s about veterans and also about their families, and the hardship of being home, about a wife and her husband is overseas and what happens when he comes back. How do they love again? It’s one of the only songs that I play that I can’t talk afterwards sometimes.”
Another favorite of hers to perform is “Only Right When It’s Wrong.” She said it’s “sort of dark” with a lot of minors and blues elements. “That comes from my dad as well. Jazz and Blues infiltrate my songwriting sometimes.”
Tickets for the show are $25 and are available online at listenupbrunswickcounty.com/ticket-sales.html.
Listen Up Brunswick County is a non-prof- it group formed to provide noteworthy live musical experiences. The group offers new or established singer/songwriters performing original music in a variety of genres including folk, R & B, Bluegrass, Country and Blues, according to the website, http://www.listenupbrunswick- county.com/home.html. The idea is to offer an intimate, up close and personal evening with the entertainers.
Gardner’s excitement for the upcoming show fits in perfectly with organizers’ goals.
“I hope people just come and take a chance and seeing something new,” Gardner said. “Lately I’ve been thinking about how these kind of concerts can bring communities together. People can come listen to the music, start conversations and meet some of their friends and neighbors. I hope that people will take advantage of that.”
For more information on Jim Henry, visit http://www.jimhenry.net/ and for more information on Abbie Gardner visit www.abbiegardner.com.