Indiana to India with Songwriter Carrie Newcomer
By Kerry Dexter
Music: Everything is Everywhere by Carrie Newcomer.
Songwriter Carrie Newcomer was working on what would become her twelfth album, a gathering of songs on differing aspects of change called Before & After, when change came calling at her door. Newcomer has traveled widely with her music and was booking tour dates in support of the new album, but — India? That wasn’t in her plan.
A family friend who worked at a school in New Delhi got in touch, though, wanting to know if Carrie Newcomer might come for a few days to be an artist in residence during a week of peace and justice studies at the school. Not long after, the American Center of the US Embassy in India came calling too, wanting to know if Newcomer would participate in their cultural outreach program.
“I have to say my first thought was: do you know what I do? This is the State Department, right? and I’m this activist folk singer type. Are you sure you have the right person?”
She asked about that. “The answer came back, and it was beautiful,” she says.
“They said, ‘We’re looking for music that builds bridges. Yours does that.’”
“Every now and then life comes knocking at your door and says, come on keep up!” Carrie Newcomer says, so she set out for what turned out to be a month’s travel across India.
Keep up she did. There were evening concerts, daytime workshops, presentations in schools, sharing time with the musicians of India, and when she could fit it in a bit of exploring on her own .
“I was in Kolkata, I was in Delhi, I was in Bengal, I was in the central part, I was in the very south, I was in Chennai, I was in Mumbai, they sent me all over the place,” she says.
Carrie Newcomer grew up in northern Indiana, and now lives near Bloomington. Images and references to these landscapes often turn up in her songs, as do her perspectives on faith, peace, and justice. (See more about Newcomer’s midwestern roots in this article.)
“My spiritual path is part of my life, and so it comes out in my music,” she says.
How would all this play out in India? In this ancient land, with all its varied landscapes and faiths, Newcomer found, “When I sang about about grief, about family, about love, connection pulled through. I have a song called Geodes, about Indiana rocks. It’s also about finding the shining heart of things, and that connected.”
Carrie Newcomer knew her time in India would find ways in to her music, as well. Her album Everything is Everywhere is a collection of songs informed by her reflection and listening and taking in her time in India, and twining those threads that pull through. On the the title track, for instance, the story winds from lentils and rice by the Arabian Sea to corn and beans at a farmers’ market in Indiana and the idea that, as Newcomer sings…
There is still so much work to do
Armloads of sorrow yes, this is true
But I take heart when I despair
Miracles are everywhere
On this song, and through the album, Newcomer is backed by Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan Ali Khan, and Ayaan Ali Khan, father and sons who are masters of the traditional Indian instrument called the sarod, as well as her regular band mates Jim Brock on percussion and Gary Walters on piano, and her own guitar, framing her voice in both India and Indiana. Images and phrases and fleeting glimpses of India intertwine with thoughts inspired by American poets and Irish writers, and Newcomer’s own distinct viewpoint. They carry titles including Dreaming, I Believe, Air and Smoke, and May We Be Released.
Music that includes exploration and journey both physical and spiritual along with ideas on change and insight on connection, Everything Is Everywhere is well worth your listening to time and again.
Carrie Newcomer has decided to give the proceeds for Everything is Everywhere to the Interfaith Hunger Project, an organization which works to address hunger in Indiana and internationally.
Note: A Traveler’s library reveals affiliate links. Everything is Everywhere album cover image and album title here are links to Amazon, where you can listen to partial music tracks and shop for albums and books. If you click on the link and make a purchase at Amazon, it will benefit Music Road, for which we thank you.
Original article: Indiana to India with Songwriter Carrie Newcomer
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