Motherhood and music often present a conflicting set of challenges. Not surprisingly then, domestic duties can get in the way of creative pursuits.
Fortunately, Angela Easterling hasn’t let that prospects deter her. A four-time finalist at the Kerrville Folk Festival, a successful competitor at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival competition and two-time Wildflower Performing Songwriter finalist, Easterling not only tends to her music and her two young sons — ages 3 and 6 — but she also tackles both the business and creative tasks essential to her career. Those responsibilities often include booking her own concerts and pursuing press opportunities along with writing and recording new material.
These days she’s found a way to do it all, including a performance tonight in Knoxville and Friday in Townsend.
“I have to keep myself on track because I do have a creative brain and I can easily be distracted,” Easterling said. “And if I do get distracted, it won’t get done. I have to be my own boss and do what needs to be done. I also have to carve out time for being creative, because if all you do is sending out emails and not writing songs, then you’re not going to get anywhere and it’s not going to be fulfilling. Sometimes I have to shut the door and go in whatever room I can, even if it’s in the bathroom on the bathroom floor.
I’m going to get out my guitar and everyone knows to leave mommy alone because she has to work.”
Even after five albums and a dozen years of doing it all, the balance sometimes becomes an unwieldy scenario, as Easterling is finding out now.
“I’m working on an album now, but it’s taking a little longer, just because of the combination of the two kids and trying to find that creative time to write and get into the studio to record,” she said. “I used to record my albums in Nashville, but now we’re setting up a home studio here so it will be like a hybrid. We can record the basic tracks here
and then take it somewhere else just to polish it off.”
The place Easterling and her partner and collaborator Brandon Turner record and reside in is an 18th century farmhouse that’s belonged to her family since the late 1700s.
After studying at Emerson College in Boston, she spent time in Los Angeles trying to get her professional footing before returning to South Carolina, the state where she was raised.
“L.A. was where I really discovered alt-country, Americana type music, California country,” Easterling said. “That was really my inspiration for the kind of music I wanted to play. I loved it out there. The main reason I left was that I was just having such a hard time making ends meet out there. I didn’t have time to make music.”
Once she moved home, Easterling’s success began. Her 2007 debut album, prophetically titled “Earning Her Wings,” was named “Americana Pick of the Year.” Her follow-up, 2009’s “BlackTop Road,” spent seven weeks on the Americana Top 40 chart and garnered critical kudos from several prestigious publications. Her most recent offering, “Common Law Wife,” based on her real-life scenario at the time, reaped her best notices yet.
“You’d think I’d learned my lesson ‘bout those birds and those bees,” she blithely sings on the title track. “Well, imagine my surprise then, when the stork came to my door.”
While some might mistake those lines as offering an excuse for some careless carousing, they actually delve into a deeper meaning, that is, to champion women who often lack the legal safety net that real marriage provides. Easterling casts herself in the real-life role of a faithful mate determined to doggedly deal with the circumstances she was handed.
Of course, maintaining both a personal and professional relationship simultaneously can be a challenge, as Easterling readily admits.
“You’re exactly right,” she said. “That can be a challenge. We’re parenting together, we’re living together, we are working together,and when we’re on the road, we’re traveling together. The main thing is that he is my best friend and the root of everything is our friendship, and that supersedes any disagreements.
”We have gotten good at compartmentalizing things and making a space for a domestic discussion, and then making a space for a professional discussion. We try not to let things carry over and create tension in our relationship. We’ve been fortunate that that hasn’t happened. He’s a really easy person to get along with. I don’t know know that I am, but he makes it easy for me.”
Easterling’s no stranger to East Tennessee. In fact, she makes it a point to play this area at least once a year. Nevertheless, Easterling said that parental duties demand that most of their touring is confined to shorter sojourns.
Happily then, Easterling said she enjoys being based in a place that bears such relevance to her roots.
“It’s the farm, the land, the history,” Easterling said. “So much of that really inspires my songwriting. It helped me find a grounded place to come from as an artist.”
Not surprisingly then, Easterling said she feels fortunate to have achieved the attention and the accolades that have come her way.
“That’s always good because I’m a completely indie artist,” she said. “I do everything myself and sometimes you can kind of get in the weeds with that. You don’t know if you’re doing the right thing or what’s really going on. When you do get somebody responding to your music, that’s the little bit you need to keep going and remind yourself that you’re doing the right thing, that all this hard work is worth it. I’m really lucky because I’m doing what I love.”