by Kimberly Shires | Photos by Joseph Llanes
Nora Jane Struthers is gearing up to release her 8th record, Bright Lights, Long Drives, First Words. She is planning her album release for February 21 at Jammin Java in Vienna, VA. Doors open at 6:30 PM and the show is at 8:00 PM. Struthers will be joined by Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles, who she describes as a “total badass”. Struthers is an Americana artist based in Nashville, however the DC area likes to claim her a little as our own since she was born in Northern VA.
Alchemical Records had to opportunity to chat with Struthers while she logged her 10,000 steps for the day, a personal commitment she has made to balance her health and tour life. Struthers regularly tours, particularly around the Mid-Atlantic, and makes a point to frequently stop in the DC area for a show. Jammin Java is one of her favorite venues and a great hub to connect with her growing DC fan base for her eighth album release.
Struther’s band, The Party Line, is made up of Joe Overton, who is also her husband. Overton plays the fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar. Struthers swoons that he also “sings like a dream.” Struthers and Overton are joined by Josh Vana of Richmond, VA, Drew Lawhorn and Brian Duncan Miller. Bright Lights, Long Drives, First Words is the third album this group has created together. Struthers hopes fans hear a really cohesive deepening of the group’s sound from their previous records, Wake and Champion.
Bright Lights, Long Drives, First Words will be Struthers first album after the birth of her daughter, Annabell. The majority of the tracks were written while she was pregnant and is a contrast to her previous album, Champion, which captures her difficulty in starting a family. Struthers’ daughter was born in December of 2018, which she says has been her biggest achievement in life. The journey was an all-encompassing challenge since Struthers was diagnosed with ‘Premature Ovarian Failure’ when she was 18 years old, making conceiving near impossible. Struthers tells us, “I already have the things I want in life.” Now she is at peace and “feels free” and she acknowledges the stakes for happiness in life are just the icing on the cake now. She concludes, “The baseline of things are met.” Struthers laughs, “I don’t know what I used to spend energy on.” Now, she just takes care of her sweet Annabell, and gets on stage to sing her heart out, which is all she could ever want out of this life.
Bright Lights will include the track “A Good Thing”, which Struthers says might be the best song she has ever written. Struthers describes the tune to be about “that weird space we get to occupy where everything is right, and we know it can’t last.” She continues, “We try to capture as many memories as possible.” She wrote the track a week after attending Galax Fiddlers Convention in Galax, VA with her husband. This event has long held a rooted importance to Struthers as she had attended it for years with her father.
Struthers’ father raised her on bluegrass. He taught young Nora Jane her first songs, a gospel called “They’re Holding Up the Ladder” and a traditional song called “Dream of a Minor’s Child.” Nora Jane was just three or four years old as she sang along while her father played the banjo. As Struthers entered her teenage years, she picked up the guitar and later the electric bass. Struthers also dabbles in the fiddle and banjo and has a deep love for stringed instruments. She has a mind to pick up the cello one day. The talk of instruments makes Struthers chuckle about her daughter’s rhythmic proclivity. Struthers laughs, “She has crazy good rhythm,” which she cleverly demonstrated by shaking her little maraca perfectly in time with the turn signal from her car seat. Struthers says, “She’ll probably play the drums.”
Touring is a family affair. With both mom and dad in the band, they are able to bring baby Annabell on the road. This makes it even more important for Struthers to maintain a healthy balance, which she does by consciously limiting alcohol. We can also find Struthers getting her daily steps in, walking laps around truck stops while the bus is fueling up. Struthers finds that as a bonus, these little life tweaks also make her a better singer and performer.
Struthers just completed performing at the 30A Songwriters’ Festival in Florida. Struthers tells us that playing this festival proved to be a new adventure for her. Normally, Struthers performs back by her band, but at the festival she got to perform solo as a singer/songwriter. During the festival, she enjoyed a number of impromptu collaborations with fellow artists such as Dan Navarro, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Vanessa Peters, Heather Maloney and Liz Longley.
Struthers has music in her bones. It is part of her very being. Struthers loves songwriting for its individual experience that allows her to connect with herself. This is a contrast to performing, which she describes as a community experience. Struthers tells us she is a “slave to the energy exchange between the audience and the performer.” She has worked really hard to cultivate that energy. This intrinsic and extrinsic energy keeps Struthers going to bring us fantastic new music.
Be sure to check out Struthers and Jammin Java and her latest work, Bright Lights, Long Drives, First Words.
Kimberly Shires is a native of the DC Metropolitan area. Kimberly is a freelance writer, music degree holder, road bike warrior, songwriter, corporate ladder climber, and a Subaru driving nature enthusiast.