I read an interview where you mentioned that the quality of the P.A.’s when you were playing in Detroit affected the way your music has developed – adding a loose quality to it. Can you explain that a bit more to me, and also, now that you're playing in bigger venues and with bigger bands, and presumably better equipment, does that have a further influence on your sound?
When we started off, we played in little clubs in Detroit that had crappy P.A.’s that were fine for rock bands with guitars, bass and drums. For Blanche, though, it was hard for Tracee's soft voice to cut through, and for something like the pedal steel or autoharp to be heard, or more importantly, for us to hear each other. The temptation was there to kind of ‘rock things up’ so that it would be easier for people to latch onto our music.
Instead, we pushed ourselves to work harder on arrangements that worked, and much of that came from starting to record our album. Also, when we did our first tour last year (with the Handsome Family in the UK), it was inspiring to see the courage they had to sing slow, quiet beautiful songs, and to have confidence that the audience would be patient. Although for me as a singer, it was kind of humiliating listening to Brett sing every night! But it pushed us to work harder. Playing places with better equipment really helps, because we can really interact and play off of each other.
Tracee is an artist in her own right, with her paintings displayed online – is there a connection between the art and the music? Are you influenced by the visual, when writing?
(Tracee) I think that they provoke each other. Music has played a huge role in inspiring my paintings, so it seems very natural that a writer would be moved by an image.
Can you tell me a little about your role in this upcoming Johnny Cash biopic, Walk the line? How did it come about, and what was it like playing Luther Perkins?
T-Bone Burnett suggested me, I think, because the director wanted actual musicians who could act, and I fit the bill of being a simple guitar player who was tall, lanky and gaunt. They had auditions in LA, didn't find anyone, so they called me on tour, and when I got back home to Detroit, I sent a tape of me singing and playing Long Black Veil. They then had me audition a couple of the dramatic scenes for the director and producer in LA, and then I found out it was for the part of Luther Perkins, who had always been an idol of mine. It was really an honor, and great fun. We shot the film over a few months this summer down in Memphis, and then I flew immediately to Europe to start our festival tour for Blanche. It was quite a change going from being Luther, who was always so stoic and quiet onstage, to going back to playing more aggressively and singing and being a front man and all that. I have a good feeling about the film. Everyone who worked on it was very dedicated and excited to be a part of it, even the wardrobe people, props and art department, all were big Johnny Cash fans. I don't think it will have that cheesy, made for TV, feel that a lot of bio pics seem to have. This one felt pretty dark in a good way!