Saturday, April 1, 2017

SongFest Interview with Erin McGraine and Jeff Freling of Victor and Penny

Jeff Freling and Erin McGraine of Victor and Penny sat with me for a quick interview before heading to the stage this afternoon.
Me: How did you become part of our SongFest Family this year?

Erin: Our friends know Todd and Kiaralinda and we had talked about coming. They thought we’d get what Todd and Kiaralinda are doing. It finally worked out this past November for the SHAMc Grand Opening and we were asked to come back for SongFest. It’s what I call converging circles. I think at some point people find each other. We are thrilled to be here.

Me: So what do you think? Are you enjoying yourselves?

Erin: If only the weather were better. (She laughs) We just arrived from winter—Kansas City, Missouri.

There’s a lot going on. The last year has been momentous. We released Electricity last year and signed with Middle Class Records. We signed on with a booking agent through Heart Roots Music. She’s been booking us feverishly from this year and into the next. We are writing new tunes. This past record is the first with mostly original material.

Me: What are you excited about as far as the new album is concerned?

Erin:  We are exploring different sounds and song styles and we’re really enjoying that. We’re pushing that.

Jeff: Our album Electricity – for a first Nashville album is doing well. We are excited to see how that experience will play into that next record.

Erin: We are hoping to take some of the things we learned in Nashville. We want to bring that back to Kansas City.

Me: Erin, I remember when we met at the SHAMc Grand Opening. You had shared some of your poetry.

Erin: I had my first book of poetry published last year. It is a time of real exploration and growth right now.

(Her poetry book is titled Overtone)

It’s retrospective—it’s a nice overlap into what we have been doing, which is mostly me on the lyrics and Jeff on the music.  

Jeff: We have this live energy. We aren’t a studio band. We want these songs to have energy to them. That comes from playing live. It is like building a Frankenstein monster.

Erin: The songs have to leave your house at some point. It feels risky. We hope they survive. You have to raise them up and let the lightning strike.

Jeff: You learn a lot about the song by playing it to an audience.

Erin: We get our responses from our audience. It is exciting to be in the generative part of the process. Right now with Electricity we are in the promotion part of it. We are introducing people to that music and we’re also at step one for the next album. We are continuously in the cycle. Not every song makes it. It might have to go back in the hopper. We have a tune that wasn’t played for two years but it wasn’t ready. We finally knew how to finish it and it was done in time for Electricity.

Me: So what else is going on? Sounds like things have been pretty exciting.

Jeff: Well, we’re getting married in six weeks.

Me: Wow! That’s great. Just curious. How long have you known each other?

Erin: Our rock band played together in the early ‘90s but we didn’t date at that time. We weren’t even close friends. He went to Chicago for 17 years and I stayed in Kansas City and became an actor. We finally reconnected in Chicago and started this project in 2010.  

Me: What’s happening after SongFest?

Erin: We’re heading right to another festival in Reno—a ukulele festival. We’re headlining on Saturday night and after that, we’ll teach for a couple days.  
Me: It sounds like things are great. I love seeing people doing what they love.

Erin: There is some unexplainable magic in the creative process.

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