Middletown singer-songwriter Rani Arbo speaks about the music business, taking time to make hay and the individual personality of a duo.
CP: What are your thoughts about returning to Nature Center in Canton?
RA: The last time I was here was 18 years ago with my previous, bluegrass band, (Salamander Crossing). I remember the snakes and it being a sweet room. Since then, my husband helped paint a few of the murals at the Nature Center. I haven’t seen them yet!
CP: After playing with your own band for years, why a duo?
RA: I’ve had my own band, (Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem), for 10 years. That’s a long time. My band knows each other cold; we can predict where we’re going. I’m a bit of a chameleon in that I can match other people’s styles and melodies in my band. As lead singer, I’m relational. There’s a synchronicity.
With Mark, (Erelli), it’s completely fresh. Both Mark and I are really good singers. There’s a vocal chemistry, an alchemy between us. There’s an energy, a newness that we really enjoy.
It can be rejuvenating to connect with another musician. It’s a different way to dress up songs, stories and singing. You’re not relying on a particular groove and instrumental texture. Listeners enjoy the individual personality of a duo; the interaction.
I’ve known Mark for 15 years and we’ve admired a lot of each other’s work, over the years. I’ve been on the same record labels and stages with him. I love his voice, his song writing, harmonies and albums. There’s a lot more space in a duo, so you have to be careful with what you play. You better be good!
CP: What instruments do you play?
RA: The fiddle, cello, guitar, mandolin. I work at these versus singing, which is completely natural; like a primary instinct.
CP: What are your thoughts on the current music scene?
RA: I’ve been playing in coffee shops, small theaters and university performing arts centers. You have to go to conferences to be seen and to get on the performing arts center schedules.
There are a lot of festivals that promote to a very specific audience of music lovers. Festivals are moving towards picking only hot tickets, in part due to economics. It used to be that you could get a decent slot, as the surprise act, at a festival. There is less wiggle room now; much fewer slots. There is a gap in the economics of music; the economics of taking a risk and the ability to get out there.
CP: How about the internet?
RA: I use the internet for booking, promotions, fan communication, publicity. It’s kind of hit or miss. You need to spend a lot of time to make the best use of it as a tool. Dar Williams worked the internet, in the folk world, and it made a big difference for her.
CP: What’s your favorite type of audience?
RA: Audiences all have a different energy and volume. A lot has to do with the room; the time of day; the type of people who come; and what happened to them that day. But, any audience is a good audience. I recognize that spending a night of your life out on the town is a commitment; especially if you’re with your family. So, I appreciate that commitment.
CP: How are you different as a Haymaker?
RA: Haymaking is about having little moments to make hay, outside of family life and our own ongoing music careers. We don’t want it to be anything, unless it’s fun. There is no plan. We’ve only played a handful of shows, so we’re going by the seats of our pants!
Mark is committed to every note that he plays and sings. He doesn’t hold back. So, I verge in that direction; out of my usual context, I step away from my normal self. Both Mark and I have a bit of abandon.
We have covered all styles of country, as well as our own repertoire. We’re still evolving.
CP: In what way are you evolving?
RA: When I first started out, it was about going on tour and being famous. Now, I want to be happy, find joy and be able to afford to play music; to have the exchange, excitement and traveling that comes with performing.
Mark and I are running into the same issues. We’ve been around, so we have a lot to talk about; how to make it work at this stage of our lives, with families, careers.
It’s rich for me. There are not that many people in the position we are in; the way we connect with people and the deep understanding of the joys and sorrows of the business. It’s lovely being in the same boat.
Here’s the Deal
Roaring Brook Nature Center, 70 Gracey Rd, Canton; 860-693-0263: www.roaringbrook.org.
The Haymakers will appear at RBNC on Saturday, March 12, 2010 at 7:30 p.m.