Songwriter Maggie Longmire eyes a collection of new tunes
By Steve Wildsmith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Now that her “Granddaughters” are all grown up, singer-songwriter Maggie Longmire is going through something of an empty nest syndrome these days.
The project to which she’s devoted much of the past decade — “Granddaughters: An Americana Opera” — is still near and dear to her heart. She’s still looking for ways to flesh it out and present it as a full-on audio-visual experience. But she’s also ready to go into the studio and make a new record, and right now she’s sort of in uncharted territory.
“The last two solo albums that I’ve done have had sort of a context that the songs were written around — a theme, something holding it all together and everything sort of had to fit into that,” Longmire told The Daily Times this week. “The songs I’ve been writing now are without those constraints. Whether it’s swing or blues or country-ish or whatever, I’ve just been writing, and I’ve got a good batch of songs at this point.
“The songs I’ve been writing over the past couple of years that will be on the next CD are probably going to be simpler, stylistically. I’m in the stages of deciding what this record is going to sound like, and they’re probably going to be arrangements that allow me to stretch a little bit vocally. That’s probably the touchstone I’m going to hang onto the most – making it a vocalist’s record.”
Known as “The Lily of LaFollette,” Longmire has been making a name for herself since the late 1970s, when her long-time band, the Lonesome Coyotes, took the East Tennessee music scene by storm. As one of the Western swing/country-rock outfit’s singers and guitarists, she helped craft songs and played music that defined a generation of Knoxvillians’ entry to adulthood. With the Coyotes, she rocked the Budweiser pavilion all summer long during the 1982 World’s Fair and performed with the band on national television, during a guest slot on the soap opera “One Life to Live.”
After a 17-year hiatus from playing music after the Coyotes disbanded shortly after the World’s Fair, Longmire found herself returning to music. A chance meeting with one of her old bandmates prompted the Coyotes to reunite in 2002, and Longmire pursued other projects on the side. Her 2003 album, “Teachers and Travelers,” earned her the Best Writer award in the Knoxville alternative newspaper’s 2003 readers’ poll; around the same time, she began collaborating with her brother John on “Granddaughters,” an album of appreciation for her family and the land on which they toiled.
“The show has elements to it that are not on the CD, and we’ve looked at maybe doing a DVD of it,” she said. “We’re trying to see if it has some potential to live outside of Knoxville or outside of me doing it as a piece that is representative of East Tennessee in a larger way.”
In the meantime, however, other songs are beckoning. Local bass player Daniel Kimbro, a veteran of such bands as Mountain Soul and Brendon James Wright and the Wrongs among others, has agreed to produce Longmire’s new record, and now the challenge becomes finding time to record it and choosing the songs that fit – no easy task for an album with no unifying theme, she added.
“I’m trying to pick songs that have something to say but that I love to sing, and because it’s not thematic, it’s kind of the most mainstream Maggie solo record,” she said. “I’m kind of excited about it and a little bit nervous about it. I’ve got enough songs for three or four records, and right now in the early stages, we’re just trying to decide what it is and what’s there.”