Ellen Cherry saddles up at the Rear Window Listening Room

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

March 19, 2014 at 4:04 p.m.
Updated March 18, 2014 at 10:19 p.m.

Ellen Cherry will perform Saturday at the Rear Window Listening Room in Ganado.

Ellen Cherry will perform Saturday at the Rear Window Listening Room in Ganado.

Emmy-nominated singer-songwriter Ellen Cherry doesn't want you to sell her piano - or yours, for that matter.

She's back in the Crossroads for a do-over after a wreck with a drunken driver last year in Denton forced her to cut her tour short.

Cherry caught up with Get Out to talk about her writing style, her new projects and what makes her sentimental.

This is going to cause consternation among the newspaper's editors, so I have to ask, why did you choose to lowercase your name?

It's a stage name I adopted in the late '90s; it's been with me for so long. For the past two years, I've lowercased the spelling.

I feel that we put a lot of emphasis on fame in the arts, especially in the genre of music I write, pop and folk - where the end goal is to be famous.

I want to remind myself that the purpose I intend for my career and my work is to serve the greater purpose of art.

I don't want it to sound snobby or elitist, but I'm serving a higher purpose called art. I wanted to be egoless.

I'm just a small part of a big system, attempting to divine beautiful thoughts through instruments.

Some people can't part with books or CDs or other items. Have you ever parted ways with an instrument?

I've sold electronic gear, but I've had two guitars stolen, so I wouldn't say I parted ways with them because I wanted to.

My cello broke. The neck separated from the body. It was a bad student cello, so it wasn't a huge loss. It decided to give up the ghost.

For most of my instruments, I've managed to be able to hold on to them and take care of all of them.

"Please Don't Sell the Piano" was born from a real story. I'm curious how you connect with your instrument?

A lot of people feel pretty emotionally and spiritually connected to their instruments.

The instrument is your tool to express melody and to accompany your voice and your words.

We become very invested in them; when it gets stolen or damaged, you feel a great emotional loss.

My parents had bought this piano for me when I was a child in Plano; when I moved away, it only got played when I came home.

I had spent my childhood divulging secrets to that piano. I had invested emotions in it.

You were booked to play at the Rear Window Listening Room last year, but a drunken driving accident cut your tour short. How has your recovery been from the wreck?

Feb. 17, 2013, I was driving home from a gig in Denton, Texas. It was not an accident. This was an intoxicated driver. It was horribly nasty.

It's so lucky that I had a friend of mine from high school in the car. I'm amazed that we survived. The worst of my physical injuries was that I broke my left collarbone and couldn't play guitar for four months.

The recovery process has been really educational. I had to go through physical therapy for about four months to repair my left arm so I could play music again. I also have increased empathy for people who have post-traumatic stress disorder.

It's been a yearlong process, but when I look back on the experience, I have so many reasons to be thankful and feel incredibly lucky. We had so much stuff working for us that saved our lives.

Has that experience inspired any new songs?

Nothing has come directly from that yet, but it will probably in the next forming years.

This whole year has been about repairing my body and my mind from the wreck.

If you saw a picture of the car, you wouldn't believe I walked away.

It's increased the size of my empathy muscle. I have a feeling that it will probably reverberate through the rest of my life.How is going on tour with your mother?

I've been to Texas twice since the wreck last year.

When we were rebooking this tour, the Rear Window requested that we repeat the date.

My mom said if I was driving down, she wanted to drive with me. I still haven't replaced my car, so I flew to Dallas, where my parents live, and we drove together on the road.

My mom has never been on tour with me.

I've been touring for 18 years, but I don't tour the way I did 18 years ago, sleeping on people's couches. That has been fine, and I'm grateful for those opportunities, but it's worth it to invest in a good night's sleep.

It sounds like it must be a special trip having your mom able to hear you play every night.

It's a unique joy to share your artwork with your parents.

Up until about six years, in their minds, me pursuing a career in songwriting and singing was really nice, but they had a different agenda.

They want children to be financially successful and secure and have insurance. Raises and promotions don't happen in the arts.

It's difficult for parents to redefine the meaning of success.

My parents came up to Baltimore for a show and saw the influence of my art on the crowd. Now, my parents are incredibly supportive, and it's so wonderful to share my craft with them.

It is difficult because sometimes I talk about sex, love and difficult topics, and it can be difficult to share your vulnerabilities with your parents, but they view me as an adult, so it's nice. I think they're proud.

In your album, "(New) Years," are you recounting the experiences or thoughts of women in the past?

It's called "(New) Years" because the first album I wrote was based on American women's history.

These are historical fictional narratives of real people I didn't want to stamp with a certain name.

In 2005, I recorded that album and called it "Years."

In 2010, I had a new trio, and we were arranging the songs differently.

I thought it would be great to have a full album, so we called it "(New) Years."

Melissa Crowe will listen to anything once, twice if she likes it. Got a song you'd like to share? Chat with her on twitter @MelCrowe or message her at mcrowe@vicad.com.



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