Phoebe Hunt: From Austin to the Big Apple, Exploring the Healing Power of Acoustic Music
“Sidewalks, lovers / Storm cloud covers / Small talk hovers / Take me home…” — Phoebe Hunt
It’s more than a little ironic that the most plaintive single on Phoebe Hunt’s newest album, recorded live at the Cactus Cafe in Austin, Texas, is the original song “Take Me Home”: the young singer/songwriter/violinist (scheduled for Saturday, August 3, at this year’s Beartrap Summer Festival) is changing abodes frequently these days–even above and beyond her usual touring schedule.
Hunt spent the years 2007-2011 as vocalist and fiddler with the popular Austin band The Belleville Outfit, that had initially coalesced at Loyola University in New Orleans and played their first gig at MerleFest (after only three days of practice) in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Hunt had been recruited to The Outfit after a four-year stint with the folk band The Hudsons.
The Belleville Outfit released two albums in two years–”Wanderin’” in 2008 and “Time to Stand” in 2009–and was a nominee for Best New and Emerging Artist by the Americana Music Association. One critic remarked, of Hunt’s vocal style, “I believe this lady could sing a car commercial and make it mesmerizing.”
Last year she split from theBellevilleband for a solo career, and soon found herself on the road toLos Angeleswhere she recorded a self-titled debut EP with producer Matt Rollings. “A music career is always a journey and always a gamble,” Hunt says, “but at the time I was suffering from what you might call ‘road blur’ and decided that I needed to do some different things and to look at the bigger picture.”
That bigger picture has included a month inIndia(her Facebook page lists her profession as “dreamer” and her main interests as travel and Yoga), relocating toNashvilleto collaborate with a number of songwriters, followed by a move toNew York City. But betweenMusicCityand the Big Apple she squeezed in the live recording atAustin’s Cactus Cafe. And though she’s still touring, both as a solo and trio, she says in a recent interview that her official homeplace is nowAustin, again.
“I have a little attic nook here inSouth Austin,” Hunt says. “I’m doing a co-living situation. My boyfriend and I are renting a room inWilliamsburg, but I’m keeping my little attic nook here. I’m just basically going toNew Yorkto experience the magic and creative powers ofNew York.
“I want to go there and get the fuel and the fire lit under my butt. Just thinking about the huge energy there has made me step up my game and focus. Also, there’s a huge movement in the acoustic music scene in the Park Slope andBrooklynarea. The Punch Brothers all live up there. Aoife O’Donovan lives there. There’s a huge community of acoustic music, eitherBluegrasspickers or jazz or folkie singer-songwriters migrating toNew Yorkright now.
“I just want to be a part of that and bridge the cities. I think there’s a sister city-ness aboutAustinandNew York, and I’m basically just going to check it out. So, I want that to be in my life for the next few years and inspire me, but I need to keep the grounding and healing and amazing treasure ofAustinin my life.”
Coincidentally, it was the subject of “grounding and healing” that was the impetus for Hunt’s acclaimed “Take Me Home” song, which she co-wrote with Kelly Mickwee of The Trishas: “She was doing co-write sessions inNashvilleevery month. We just connected. She was staying at a boat house north of town, and I drove about 45 minutes to go visit her and hang out in this cool boat house. She was feeling really homesick that visit and was on the phone with her husband missing him and wondering, “What am I doing, coming here to song-write?”
“I totally relate to that experience. What has brought me to this random nook in the world and why am I here rather than at home with people I know and doing things that are familiar? I’m in this completely random place in the world, and for what? This career? This song? Why do I do all this? Just take me home. Hang out with me. Let me be comforted and know that you love me.”