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ANGELA FAYE MARTIN: Cowee, North Carolina


I grew up with a lot of freedom to roam; an antidote to a difficult home environment.  This freedom allowed me to explore what ever I wanted, which was to play in the pine forest by my home in Georgia.  Now, I live deep in the Appalachians and I make an album when I’ve got a cohesive batch of songs.
In what ways does your environment influence your work ?  My surroundings can be alternately distracting or profoundly inspiring.  I have come to truly inhabit the meaning of the word, ‘spellbound’.  Even when I lived in a city, I was deeply moved to create by any brief exposures to wilderness.
Photo by Brent Martin
What is the best part about being a singer/songwriter/musician? I have, at times, experienced a sublime relief that can only come from having written a song I can live with or contentment from a performance that’s gone well.  Every muscle in my body becomes eased.  At the same time it’s so exhilarating, it’s hard to come down.  You have to stay up most of the night after a good gig.

What is the worst ?  It’s hard to narrow down the worst!  But one of the worst things is packing up, after a poorly attended show.  Or asking a bandmate who is already underpaid to be on-time, next time!

What motivates you to write? Songwriting is a chance to express the otherwise inexpressible.  It feels like a privilege to me and I approach it with respect.

 Early in your career, before you had any real success, what fed your determination to keep trying?  Well, I don’t think I really had a sense of how abjectly underprivileged I was as a teen.  I just had drive and angst.  I didn’t have a choice — music and journalling was what saved me.

What would you tell the younger you, just starting to write and perform?  I would say, find mentors, peers and friends who only bring out the best in you and your creative endeavors, else cloister yourself.  It’s severe but I believe in protecting the muse.  Life is too short to be spent around people who make you feel drained.  Easier said than done, but we must always look around and ask what relationships are toxic and nurture those that aren’t.

 Are there some rituals you follow in your creative process?Stare out the window (which I commonly do anyway) but with pen, paper and guitar.


Photo by LIz Nance

How closely do you follow your original idea in the process of writing a new song?It starts with a loaded phrase, for me, melodic or word phrases — it’s like a seed.  And I follow where this takes me.  If a rhythm takes hold it will help me finish the song.

 Do you typically work on one piece at a time or have several going at once?I rarely, if ever, work on more than one song at a time.  Because it becomes a mantra until it’s finished, I don’t let anything else in.

Angela’s photograph of a frozen holloway, to the summit of Tusquittee Bald (the rhododendron leaves are curled tight against the cold)..   Tusquitee Bald Mountain Treasure is one of the largest, unprotected primitive areas in the Nantahala National Forest , North Carolina
How does the internet affect your work?  It’s supposed to help us but for me, it mostly obfuscates the imagination.  Mainly due to the amount of information at ones fingertips. I used to compulsively pour over a Webster’s Dictionary for hours and rabbit hole, here and there, study the S’s for an entire night, so I can’t really be trusted to take the internet casually.  That said, I’d be even more obscure, living rurally, if it weren’t for the way the internet’s provided a way for me to get my music out.  But also I think the access to free-music has made the days of the old success paradigms mostly unachievable.  It is not enough, with this glut of wallpaper music, to merely create good music.  You must gimmick or promote your face off if you didn’t already get your foot in the stirrup before this thing got too insane.  I thought that, with the internet, I could help construct a new paradigm — ‘the stay-at-home-gardener-song-writer’ you know, George Harrison’s dream.  Only possible for a Beatle!  But I’m starting to doubt the viability of this mode after making and promoting two albums and achieving little traction with the media or gaining distribution beyond my own cottage industry.  The wilds are what feeds my writing but my lack of proximity to a city music scene, while great for my asthma, is a big detriment to getting my work heard.  Despite it all, I have no conviction to leave the birds and these mountains.
Photo by Kelly Timco

Can you talk a bit about balancing being a writer with romantic relationships/family/  This is always in front of my mind.  It is crucial for me to cordon myself off even from loved ones, so the inner voice is audible. I’m very distractible and can’t write songs with anyone else around.  But supporting my partner’s creative endeavors is a way of life because we have a culture of reciprocity.  When imbalances inevitably arise, we address them head-on and eventually arrive at a mutual benefit.  I couldn’t live with someone who didn’t share my love of language, writing, or art.  That said, I think there is a tremendous amount of spiritual work one must be willing to do in order to live with any other human in a way that is mutually beneficial, that’s my opinion.

angela west0001

How do you get through writer’s blocks?  Even though I there are long periods without song writing, I’m not sure I believe in ‘blocks’ anymore.  I tend to distrust proliferation for the sake of proliferation, ala factory production, where song writing is concerned.  I think proliferation is a deep hang-over from the industrial revolution or the ’50’s.  I’m unhip and un-Warholian that way.  I’d have never passed his muster!  When one is unhappy about not writing, it could be depression, in one of it’s many guises.  I’m learning to trust that the writing returns as long as I let it.

How do you deal with the disappointment/despair when your work isn’t getting the attention you desire?  How do find the strength to continue?  I look to other artists for commiseration — a songwriter that’s been swallowed by technology, a painter that’s been marginalized by the crafts industry or graphic design, or a writers suffering the extinction of the printed word are everywhere.  Remembering to reach out to one another is key to surviving an artist’s lifestyle.

What are your vices?  Coffee and drink are my vices.  But I try to be careful not to get dehydrated because I run, I hike — it’s all about balance.  I have asthma, so I can’t drink before a night of performing, only after!  I have never even tried a cigarette, I’m highly allergic.

What kind of pets do you have? I have one dog, Isabella Queen of France (or Izzy) and three ancient laying hens.  We just lost a dog, a kind of Rat terrier, who was my heart.  We are mourning this loss now.

What is the last wild animal you saw?   Crows.  They are beautiful and under-utilized compost machines.  There eat all sorts of buttery things I can’t compost and so I put these things on a walnut tree branch and the crows carry it home like a paid service!  I also put small roadkill on the branches sometimes.  My neighbor has started doing this too — it beats having a smelly trash bin.

 Pick one or two of your songs and describe the inspiration/inclination to write it and some of the process   Some songs can really put you on a roll, come out of nowhere and write themselves, others take a tremendous amount of tenacity.  Swifts and Swallows was written in memory of Mark Linkous, who produced my first album.  It was the first thing I could write after a tremendous grief-caused block.  Ravens at Night was laborious because I was having to tell a truth ‘slant’ as Emily Dickinson instructed.  But out of the tedium came insight.

DSC_1068Photo of Mark Linkous and Angela Faye by Brent Martin

 All said, I prefer songs that come to me in the middle of the night, and all you have to do is get up in the cold house, try and be quiet and get it down like dictation.  The Woods Get to Know me was like that and so was Landslide.

Songs are much like having children. It’s conceived, you take care of yourself, best you can to give it a fighting chance, you finalize the thing, you give birth, you record it.  You get clothes for it, put it on vinyl, internet, whatever and send it to college, try and garner some reviews for it, and hope the world doesn’t kill it.  Since I don’t have children — this is as close as I know to it.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of peace, quiet and meditation to my songwriting process.  Time in cities, seeing friends or visiting museums is crucial but it is in the most natural environments that songs can come to me.  There’s much to admire about hard work, professionalism, etc., but I posit that the first priority of an artist of any stripe is to keep their soul intact.  It sounds a simple thing or maybe even a bit precious but it requires great conviction to be true to one’s soul in this ‘self-marketing through technology’ era we are in.   After all, the soul is the vessel through which all the insights arrive.


Listen to some of Angela’s songs:

Swifts and Swallows from the album Anniversary:




(I was honored to be asked by Angela Faye to use my painting My Little Tranqulizers on the cover of Anniversary)

Pictures from Home from the album of the same name:


Pictures from Home

Grace from the album Anniversary:



Black/white photo of Angela Faye at top of page is by Kelly Timco

October 2014 NEWS:  check out Angela Faye’s essay in ORION:http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/place_where_you_live/view/cowee_north_carolina_8390/

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  1. Ellen

    Angela, Thank you!
    There are particular landscapes in your songs…a sense of place, time of day, and emotional reality- wonderful to inhabit them with you.
    Like the references to trees in your music- the calligraphy of their branches and “ink” of their leaves .
    Beautiful photos , too!

  2. Lance

    I am very moved by your heartfelt lyrics, your truly creative musical scores and how your voice captures a sense of earnest and honest vulnerability.Your songs move from sweet to tough to forlorn all in the same song. I really like Swifts and swallows’ … we kicked the camp fire , we walked the mountain down , you brought your guns to town. …the branches spell your name across the sky”… beautiful lyrics. Thank you for your great work.


  3. tricia powell

    Angelface, i have always loved your music. Your interview deepens my appreciation for your openhearted honesty that shines through in your songs. You are one of the most genuine, unpretentious, down to earth souls i have ever had the honor of befriending. Irene, Your painting, My Little Tranquilizers is beyond words beautiful! The details and appreciation for nature are mesmerizing. Angela’s songs and your painting truly compliment one another. i love how you put together this interview and i would love to subscribe ti Light Seeking Eyes. Thank you ~tricia

  4. Catherine Hardwicke

    beautiful thoughts and photographs… beautiful lyrics….

One Trackback

  1. By BRENT MARTIN: Cowee, North Carolina | Light Seeking Eyes April 19, 2014 at 6:59 am

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