ACL Music Fest Sunday Interviews

American beauty and The Pirate's Gospel

ACL Music Fest Sunday Interviews

Alela Diane

11:45am, Dell stage

It takes guts to admit your dad is in a Grateful Dead cover band, but if you're Alela Diane Menig, it's pretty much woven into your DNA. Not only is her dad a Deadhead, he also plays guitar in her touring band.

"He always had a guitar in his hands, playing some noodly riff," the 26-year-old says from Portland, Ore., where she now resides. "Both my parents were in a bluegrass band, and then later, when I was around 12, my dad started the Dead cover band, and they rehearsed at our house. I was definitely exposed to ... that."

Her impending teenage years warded off any jam band indulgences, but Menig inevitably started playing guitar at 19, traveling abroad and exploring her voice. After shuffling around Europe, she released 2006's The Pirate's Gospel, a spare folk meditation that showed off her old-soul voice.

To Be Still, her 2009 major-label debut on Rough Trade, is an ode to Nevada City, Calif., where she grew up with music all around her and solitude an easy companion. As Joan Didion wrote about the golden age of California and Joni Mitchell sung about its hissing summer lawns, Menig combines naturalistic poetry and familial history of her home state, reflected on album standout "White as Diamonds": "Burdened bands gain strong hands, gaping holes where diamonds should be. Must have been morning that stole them, a glint of white in the pocket of winter."

"It's me singing about what I grew up around," she relates. "The most effective music comes out of honesty, the place you're from, I think. Everything I write comes from experience, or tidbits passed along, folklore about my own family.

"That, and I write about dreams I have a lot."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Alela Diane
ACL Live Shots
Alela Diane

Audra Schroeder, Oct. 9, 2009

SXSW Records
Alela Diane
To Be Still (Record Review)

Audra Schroeder, March 20, 2009

More by Audra Schroeder
SXSW Interactive Conference Quick Cuts
The Signal & the Noise
Statistician Nate Silver on more data, more problems

March 15, 2013

SXSW Film
SXSW Film Reviews: 'Kiss of the Damned'
Daily Reviews and Interviews

March 15, 2013

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Alela Diane

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle