Flyer Profile: Nora Jane Struthers

In less than two weeks, 13 emerging acoustic, roots, Americana, and folk music acts from all over the country will roll into town for the first ever Fayetteville Roots Festival, scheduled for Aug. 29. at Greenhouse Grille.

We’ve been trying to get to know a few of them over the last few weeks to get ready for what we hope is the beginning of something big for Fayetteville.

We started our series of Q&A’s with Doug and Telisha Williams, a Virginia duo who’ll be making their way to town for the festival.

More recently, we tracked down Nashville’s Nora Jane Struthers.

The 26-year-old former high school English teacher recently released a self-titled solo record, produced by Brent Truitt (Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, Dixie Chicks) at his East Nashville studio. She and her band The Bootleggers are also fresh from winning the 2010 Telluride Band Competition earlier this year, and she finished fifth in the Troubadour Competition in 2010 as well.

Struthers calls her music “classic Americana,” influenced by a host of traditional styles.

“It’s not really bluegrass, it’s not really old time, it’s not folk – it’s all of these things,” Struthers said.

She was able to draw from her background in literature, combined with her love of traditional music, to help develop her “literate” songwriting style.

“In my last year of teaching,” said Struthers, “we were reading Jane Austen, Shakespeare, classic English literature. The themes in those works and in the music I was listening to – Doc Watson, the Louvin Brothers, Tim O’Brien – came together for me. The universal themes that have been pervasive in storytelling started to develop in my writing. I turned to story-songs.”

We got in touch with Nora Jane recently, and she was nice enough to answer some questions for us.

FF: What have you been listening to lately?
Nora Jane Struthers: Well, on the way down to The Appalachian String band gathering, I was listening to some of my dad’s box sets: The Stanley Brothers and Reno and Smile. I’ve been turning the radio on more than I used to and I’ve found some great shows that play cowboy music-always a joy. Other than that, I just got my hands on Tim O’Brien’s latest studio record “Chicken and Egg” and it is just fantastic.

FF: Have you ever been to Fayetteville? What’s your impression of the place?
NJS: The roots festival will be my first time in Fayetteville, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about the town and the music scene so I’m really looking forward to it.

FF: What was it like working with Brent Truitt in the studio?
NJS: Brent is a master of what he does. He has an amazing ear and captures acoustic music about as well as I think is possible. Behind the board, he is so relaxed yet he knows just how to get the best performance out of the musicians, not that anything those guys played in the studio was in any way shabby.

FF: You were an English teacher before decided to concentrate on your music. Was it a difficult decision to make that leap?
NJS: There came a point when I knew that if I didn’t give it a shot, I would have a very serious regret later in life, so that sort of made the decision for me.

FF: How much influence does your background in literature have on your songwriting?
NJS: I didn’t realize it until the record was complete, but I draw a lot of inspiration from literature and stories. I like to think that my love of words, which was planted by my parents and nourished by great works of literature, song and poetry, is evident in my lyrics as well.

FF: What are some of your favorite writers?
NJS: To name a few: Larry McMurtry, Jane Austin, Kurt Vonegut, Alexandre Dumas, J.K. Rowling.

FF: What’s next?
NJS: I hope to begin playing more on the festival circuit and I’m starting to think about the next record. Making music and living the dream!