Alison Krauss

Everybody told me that Alison Krauss was a recluse living in Nashville. That she didn’t like giving interviews. That she was very closed or super shy. I could only believe this must be true as I’d been trying to interview her for over a decade. I’d always loved her voice, so sweet, so pure, so warm when I first discovered it on Now That I Found You (1995).
That was long before Raising Sand, the album that reinvented Robert Plant and was much applauded all over the world, and that was before she became the woman who has won the most Grammys in the history of the awards (26), only Quincy Jones has won more (31). And after this album Paper Airplane is released I’ve no doubt she’ll break her own record.
The adjective most used to describe her is ethereal, which scared me even more. It made her seem even more untouchable, unreachable. Yet her voice seems filled with the pain of the human heart and she sings about love found and lost, the full emotional spectrum. When she sings about pain and joy you feel included. Hers is the most traditional form of American music, bluegrass. Pain is in its DNA.
We meet in Nashville in her manager’s office. I first glimpse her peering round the door. Long blondish bed head hair, smoky eyes, jeans, blue paisley top. She looks extremely pretty and vaguely surprised. I later learn to know the look. Alison is permanently surprised. Surprised as if everything she is discovering for the first time, as if everything she’s feeling is fresh and never been felt by anyone else before.
The new album with her band Union Station took a little longer than expected. I thought perhaps it was a little hard to follow something like Raising Sand. But it wasn’t anything to do with that. It was more to do with Krauss really not feeling very good and the main songwriter having a terrible writer’s block. Krauss’s role as an interpreter, a seer and a feeler, is crucial and she couldn’t feel anything.
“I’m used to editing things and making them work for us and giving suggestions, but my personal life had just kind of gone… and I was getting headaches all the time, migraines, so I couldn’t judge so well. I didn’t feel like I could. Nothing felt good to me but I couldn’t tell what it felt like. I didn’t know what to think. I just thought you know we don’t have it yet. Let me go and dig around some more. Eventually I got rid of the headache, but it took months. It was a dull headache that just hung on. One time before I got this kind of headache it lasted for a year and a half. You wait, you scrabble around looking for something. The biggest difference this time was I found an acupuncturist. After all the doctors and all the pills she made the biggest difference.”
I tell her that my cure for headache is espresso. She said, ‘Oh, I get pretty jacked if I drink coffee.’ It seems like Alison is hypersensitive. Everything affects her intensely. She must be feeling pretty relaxed because today she will try some coffee with triple cream and triple sugar.
“I hate to sound like I’m complaining,” she says. I don’t think she ever likes to complain. She likes to take things on, work things out. And she certainly never likes to boast, for instance about singing for the Obamas in the White House. In fact the headache that lasted such a long time sounds completely terrible.
“You learn a lot about yourself when you have something like that. You realize how much it affects every part of your life. Trying to be in the studio and making really emotional decisions when you’re all flat. We didn’t scrap everything from those first sessions. It was not like it was terrible. We had some good songs. It was just that nothing was going to sound good.”
There’s a line in Paper Airplane, ‘Every silver lining has its cloud’. Is that the new glass is half empty? Was that your state of mind? “The guy that wrote that is Robert Lee Castleman. He’s a fascinating guy. You would go crazy over him.” She says that because there’s a sense that she already knows me and we’ve only just started talking.
“He’s a former truck driver, but he’s done everything – woodworking, collecting old stoves. You spend time with him you feel you’ve expanded your mind. Anyway, he was having writer’s block. He said I’ve got a beautiful wife, a beautiful daughter, a beautiful son. I used to go to these places to be broken hearted and I just can’t feel it any more.’ He’s always been the centre of our records. So I called him. I was stuck in my mind as well and I said ‘We need you. Just come over.’ So we just talked. Talked about a story. Talked about things. It was just a seed. I don’t want to act like I had anything to do with it. But he’d say, ‘OK. Tell me what’s going on with you.’ And I’d come over and he’d say ‘I’ve got a melody.’ And we’d sit and talk for about an hour and a half. I’m all jacked up. I just spilled my guts. And I said ‘Well what are we going to do now?’ And he said, ‘I’m just going to wait. It’ll be here by midnight.’ And then he called me and said ‘I’ve got it. It’s called Paper Airplane.’
It’s like he downloaded it from a mystical source. He channeled Krauss’s pain, his past pain, and it became a heartbreaking song. “He’s a remarkable person. A lot of these guys, when they get married and they don’t have that heartbreak, you find there’s always this common thread between songwriters. They’re striving for the next thing. Like always on a search. And you know men and women are on the eternal chase of each other. So that’s a handy thing when you’re a creative songwriter. But when that chase has gone… I’ve seen that a number of times. So that’s when I say ‘Why don’t we talk about these true stories. It might not have happened to you but if it happened to me I’ll share them. Maybe you can connect. He goes ‘No, it doesn’t work that way.’ But the first we did it, it worked and it was beautiful and he said ‘Maybe I can do that.'”
Do you think artists have to be in pain to write songs or are the songs better when they’re tortured? “I think it just has to be true.” She talks about one guy called Sydney Cox who she’s been friendly with since she was 16. “He always wrote these beautiful songs. I’ve recorded I don’t know how many over the years. He’s married and has three daughters and they were all sitting around while he was down here writing. And he said, ‘I just can’t write these love songs any more. I feel like I am betraying her by writing these songs because it just isn’t true any more this heartbreak stuff.’ I said to him ‘You just have to tell your truth in another way.’ He’s very into his family’s history, so he’s working on stuff like that now about a woman who used to write to all the soldiers when they were in town.”
I tell her she is the super muse. “No, pah. I’m not the muse. I’m the encourager. A lot of people have told me that people are satisfied playing in their living rooms and I say if you are a musician that’s not true, you want to be heard. It’s your story even if you are playing someone else’s tune. You might be playing it in your living room, but as long as there are people who can’t wait to hear what you’ve got that’s an encouragement.”
Krauss does this weird thing that she peels layers away from people, gets to the core of who they are. It’s as if she can see inside you and her voice is a mixture of everything she sees and everything she’s ever felt. Just talking to her you get goose bumps. But the weird thing is she has goose bumps too. She stretches her arm across the table and I stretch mine – matching goose bumps. What does she think of all these people calling her ethereal?
“Well as long as they’re not calling you ugly or a loser it’s OK. When someone paints it’s an expression of themselves. It doesn’t come out any other way. It’s about being seen or understood.” It turns out that she actually does paint in her living room, but more of that later.
She doesn’t have a television. Or at least she doesn’t watch television at home. Sometimes it gets hooked up when there’s a game or occasionally the weather. She contributed to the multi-mion selling soundtrack of the Coen Brothers’ O Brother Where Art Thou and has never even seen the movie. But she likes to look up clips on YouTube. “That’s my one connection to the world. I’ve been watching old interviews of Levon Helm. I like to hear what people have to say. He has the kindest, sweetest eyes you’ve ever seen. You think you know him and maybe you do.”
Has success affected her at all? “I never thought I’d be doing this. I wanted to become a choir director when I was a kid because I was in a children’s choir and the teacher was great. They would direct so that everyone was singing the same kind of vowel and she’d do all that kind of working to get people to sing together and I loved it. I didn’t think I’d be doing this. It’s all been a big surprise. One of the guys in the band says this about me. ‘You walk around surprised, not about work, or anything in particular, but just in general. A state of surprise.'”
She learnt to play the fiddle at a very young age and had a record deal by the time she was 14. She is still with the same record company 25 years later.
She was brought up in Champaign, Illinois, a rural area three hours south of Chicago, but seems to have lived in Nashville all her working life. She was married to country musician Pat Bergeson, but they divorced in 2001 and she has a son, Sam, 11. She shows me his picture on her phone. He’s a handsome boy with huge wise eyes.
Was it any kind of pressure that her last album with Robert Plant was so successful? “No, I don’t think of it like that. I don’t think about what’s coming next. I treat each one like it’s the only one you’ve ever made and the only one you’re ever going to make.”
Is she good at living in the moment? “Once I get to the moment I’m good but it takes me a long time to get to that moment. I’m a very sentimental person, probably to a fault. And that can bring you down. Workwise I don’t think about the future. I think about little people growing up. Worry is really a choice isn’t it and I try not to,” she says falteringly. “A wasted emotion someone told me. I’d rather do macramé. I like needlepointing.
“We did get some paint and we started painting, my son and I, together. I say you pick the music. He likes Lecon Helm (from The Band). We listen to it and we paint. I have photographs that are in black and white and we paint them in colour. The first one we did was absolutely terrible. The second one was awful. And I’m hoping the third one will just suck.” We are chatting happily. Our allotted hour has been and gone several hours ago.
“In the studio where do you draw the line where something is finished? I used to be very much over doing things. And as I’ve got older I think I don’t want to steal from what this is really offering. The real meaning behind the music is emotional. Because it’s like you’re sharing something and the goal is to be understood. I think if you’re focusing too much on the details you miss the experience.
“With painting I’m not listening any more, just experiencing. That’s why it’s emotional. You know how when you stop paying attention you just kind of receive it. My mother is a painter and she’s so amazing. It was like I’m never getting these paints out. she comes over and says ‘Where are the paints?’ and I’m like ‘Absolutely not. When you get your fiddle record done I’ll show you my painting.’ The paintings are awful anyway so I hide them.” Is her son a painter or a fiddler? “He’s very musical. He’s pretty good but he doesn’t want compliments.” Does she take compliments well? “Some you can accept and some you can’t. if some are too nice you can’t accept it because you can’t believe it. There’s nothing like believing it though,” she smiles, “if someone wants to say it and they mean it.”
We talk about how we love a song that makes us cry. Sometimes it’s the tears not cried that makes it easier to cry at a song, a release. Some people are unable to cry even when a loved one dies. “Everyone mourns in their own way and that’s why I think it’s the movie or the music that helps that come out later when it’s not too big.”
In a love relationship is she the one who likes to love more or be loved more? “When you’re the one giving it’s safer. You know you can’t receive back what you give. It’s free. When it’s costly it’s harder to receive that. If you’re receiving you’re not gambling. You don’t have expectations so you can’t love as much, but it’s harder to receive. It’s very human and very female.
“When you look back in your relationships it’s when were you most happy. Were you happy when you loved more. You had more to gamble. When you loved the other person more you were at your happiest even though it wasn’t necessarily safer.”
We discuss if loving more or being loved makes you feel more in touch with who you are. I’m not really sure of what we conclude. It’s just a big talk on the nature of love.
Does she have the same relationship over and over again but with a different person? “It’s hard to say. I’m still working on the things I need to know. I don’t think it’s the same person.”
She seems very wise, evolved. “I don’t think so. People will be like you’ve seen so much and I’m no, mine was a very sheltered life. We’ve played bluegrass festivals which is not a huge crazy audience. When you look at what the songs are about it’s pretty wholesome ideas. Except every now and then when someone’s killing someone.”
It might be a narrow background but it’s a background from which all extremes of emotion are felt. “Yes, in a way. But we started travelling and I missed out on a lot of normal kind of life in this pretty secluded bunch. I mean I had a great time but I was focused on music at a very young age. It wasn’t like we have to get a record deal but it was always on my mind. I think it’s a pretty common story but I didn’t see a lot. I think I was so naïve that I missed out on a lot of things that were going on right in front of me.”
I read that her mother said if you can sing you can play an instrument and she believed that. “Yes, I believed that. My dad loved music but he’s not as musical as my mum. He was a psychologist, then moved on to real estate. I have a brother, Viktor, he wrote Lie Awake. He plays for Lyle Lovett. I called him when I heard a tune on the radio and he’s written things for us before. I heard this song and I thought I wished we had a song like that for this record. So I asked him, do you think you can write this kind of tune for us?”
Her parents and brother have all moved near to Nashville. They are very close and Viktor is a year and a half older. “Isn’t it the four year split that makes rivals. My mother said she never wanted to have that.”
We start looking at the photographs of her on the album – she’s in a Dustbowl waif cotton lawn dress. “It’s a real period dress and you can see through it. The photographer, who’s a lady said ‘No slip. Absolutely not.’ You know it was hot and nasty in the Dustbowl. I would think a lot of them would be thinking I’m not wearing a slip. But this is a sexed up Dustbowl. Some of these pictures I thought oh that’s a little bit too crazy. I think lady photographers always want to push it. They love being out there.”
Interesting contradiction. Krauss is sweet, nurtury, naïve. It’s almost an experiment on herself for her to do this sexed up look but she embraces it fully. The dress is cream with tiny flowers, red and white. “I’ve always been into those kind of clothes. I don’t have vintage. I have modern versions. I have phases of shopping. Sometimes you see lots of stuff you like, other times you don’t. I think it depends on how you feel about yourself. When you’re on top of your game it’s ‘I love it.'”
I tell her that I can imagine her in her waif’s dresses wafting around in her house. She finishes the sentence “feeling lonely”and then laughs loudly.
Why doesn’t she watch TV? “I used to watch it all the time. I put it by this wall and every time I would sit on the couch I thought why do I feel so terrible right now. Even if the TV wasn’t on it just depresses you. I used to have bad dreams after watching crime shows late at night so I felt better without it.”
I have to have the TV on to fall asleep. “That’s very interesting. It’s because you don’t like to hear your own thoughts. I can fall asleep quicker if I’m listening to someone else. I used to fall asleep during a drive to the grocery store if my mother was driving. I do better hearing someone else, then I don’t have to hear myself.”
I read that Robert Plant’s sister said finally someone had got Robert to sing properly. “Ha. Yes, we keep in touch. We talk on the phone. He’s a lovely person. Really funny.” Will there be more songs together? “We talk about it. It comes up almost every time we chat but I don’t know when it will be. When he first called my son was an infant and we talked for five minutes and then a few years later he called again and said why don’t you come for this tribute for Leadbelly. So we played there and a couple of years after that he was ‘Let’s go to the studio and see what we can do.’ So we said we’d try three or four days and see how it goes and it went really well.”
I admire her necklace. It looks like a fairy’s necklace. “I don’t have a lot of jewellery that I have a connection to, that has meaning. Like if I wear this the crust won’t burn on the pie.
She’s not exactly shy, but she’s introspective and the opposite of showy, yet she’s in a profession that demands a lot of attention. “I always felt I had the wrong personality for my job. I do much better one on one. When we first started doing this I was really guarding myself and I think that looked a lot weirder than I was already. And I thought ‘No, I’m not going to do that any more. I’m going to be myself as much as I can. And then everything changed for me when I made that decision not to be so protected because then you’re portraying a false version of yourself. You get so worried that people are going to have an idea of what you’re like just because you’re trying to keep to yourself, and then it becomes very strange. They’re like ‘What’s up with her?’ I don’t have the kind of attention – I have a private normal life – there isn’t that kind of attention on us here or on me.” Maybe because that’s how it is in Nashville. Everyone’s a songwriter. “A few times things have got crazy. What I do is not really in a commercial environment.”
You get the impression that commercial success has never tainted her. She doesn’t have extravagant taste in anything. “You know why I think people like shoes. I think when you step into them and you’re standing you can feel like a different person. It’s all about how you feel. Some you stand and you’re ready to go to work.” I feel sure she doesn’t have as many pairs of shoes as I do, which is over 300. “No,” she says. “But I do like them too.”
Is there anything she would like to change about herself? “Oh, that’s interesting.” (More surprised face). I don’t think anyone’s ever asked me that. I do wish this process of accepting, you know when you’re always striving for something, the greatest change comes when you realise that this is who you are and who you are meant to be and you just kind of stop that wanting to change things. That comes in increments for me and I wish it came more. Sometimes you go through and you have a revelation about things. I welcome that with more ease than I have in the past. I don’t think you can ever force it.
“I used to remember how I felt when I was seven or eight, and then suddenly you don’t feel a connection to how you used to feel because you’ve changed so much.”
I tell her that I remember exactly how I felt. That I was a strange child and didn’t really connect to anything. “And now look at you,” she laughs. “Somebody’s differences are either celebrated or they’re not. There’s a reason they stick out. they’re charismatic if they don’t fit in because they’re leaders.”
And was she like that? “You know it’s funny because there were a couple of things after I had a baby I forgot. I disconnected with those things because it’s life changing. I lost those tangible memories of what I didn’t feel like and what I did feel like and how I became very introverted. By the time I was in seventh grade I wasn’t in a clique. I was friendly with everybody but not tight. And you probably feel very alone as I do, even though you make connections. The people you are tight with are few and far between. Having a baby made me forget. I don’t have the tangible memory of it. I knew who I was at seven which I remember that lasted up until the time I had him and I think I’ve been the same since then. Your whole life switches.”
Do she think she’ll have another baby? “I’m too old now. If I could have had five I would have. But I’ve got no complaints. It’s such a drag when you realize the opportunity is over.”
She’s only 39, but she seems to think that’s way past it. Her eyes are blue, flecked with yellow and grey. Intense eyes. Yet her company is not intense. She’s really easy to be with. But the way she connects is extremely charismatic. Perhaps it’s because a lonely person needs to connect to people – maybe that’s what makes a great artist.
She started chatting about the barn dance she would be holding the next week at the Loveless Café, a place that serves gigantic fried chicken, green tomatoes and fried okra. When I said it’s a shame that I won’t be here she remembered that there’d be country dancing that night. It was going to be in a large Presbyterian church nearby and that it would be in fact fun for all of us to go. If we got there an hour early we could have a dance class on how to dosey doe and take our partners by the hand. It’s called contra dancing.
Every other building in Nashville is a church. But this particular church was particularly huge. The dance hall was fiercely bright – already nowhere to hide. We were all given badges with our names on it. All night Krauss wore hers, seemingly having no idea that everyone knew who she was. A couple of people came up to her throughout the evening and gave her reverential compliments which of course she didn’t know how to take. A couple came up to me and said,”You’re so lucky to be friends with Alison. She’s so lovely.”
Everyone at the dance seemed to know each other, but were not at all cliquey. They were all very friendly. There were women from 16 to 70 in flowy peasant dresses and men often with very long beards. They took the dancing very seriously. The dancing all happens in lines and a couple of times I went in the opposite direction and made the people in front fall over. And one very serious dancing man shot me a look that could kill.
There’s lots of intense spinning with this kind of dancing. I was red-faced and dizzy and Krauss said the spinning made her feel a little sick, so we sat down to watch. Somehow she knew that nobody would believe I’d even attempted this kind of dancing so she filmed it on her phone. I just really like the idea of how in a short time she really knew me and something in her made me think I should try to dance. The film however concludes I was wrong about the dancing. I was really bad. But I like to watch it just to remind me of the day I spent with Alison Krauss. We talk about how we love a song that makes us cry. Sometimes it’s the tears not cried that makes it easier to cry at a song, a release. Some people are unable to cry even when a loved one dies. “Everyone mourns in their own way and that’s why I think it’s the movie or the music that helps that come out later when it’s not too big.”
In a love relationship is she the one who likes to love more or be loved more? “When you’re the one giving it’s safer. You know you can’t receive back what you give. It’s free. When it’s costly it’s harder to receive that. If you’re receiving you’re not gambling. You don’t have expectations so you can’t love as much, but it’s harder to receive. It’s very human and very female.
“When you look back in your relationships it’s when were you most happy. Were you happy when you loved more. You had more to gamble. When you loved the other person more you were at your happiest even though it wasn’t necessarily safer.”
We discuss if loving more or being loved makes you feel more in touch with who you are. I’m not really sure of what we conclude. It’s just a big talk on the nature of love.
Does she have the same relationship over and over again but with a different person? “It’s hard to say. I’m still working on the things I need to know. I don’t think it’s the same person.”
She seems very wise, evolved. “I don’t think so. People will be like you’ve seen so much and I’m no, mine was a very sheltered life. We’ve played bluegrass festivals which is not a huge crazy audience. When you look at what the songs are about it’s pretty wholesome ideas. Except every now and then when someone’s killing someone.”
It might be a narrow background but it’s a background from which all extremes of emotion are felt. “Yes, in a way. But we started travelling and I missed out on a lot of normal kind of life in this pretty secluded bunch. I mean I had a great time but I was focused on music at a very young age. It wasn’t like we have to get a record deal but it was always on my mind. I think it’s a pretty common story but I didn’t see a lot. I think I was so naïve that I missed out on a lot of things that were going on right in front of me.”
I read that her mother said if you can sing you can play an instrument and she believed that. “Yes, I believed that. My dad loved music but he’s not as musical as my mum. He was a psychologist, then moved on to real estate. I have a brother, Viktor, he wrote Lie Awake. He plays for Lyle Lovett. I called him when I heard a tune on the radio and he’s written things for us before. I heard this song and I thought I wished we had a song like that for this record. So I asked him, do you think you can write this kind of tune for us?”
Her parents and brother have all moved near to Nashville. They are very close and Viktor is a year and a half older. “Isn’t it the four year split that makes rivals. My mother said she never wanted to have that.”
We start looking at the photographs of her on the album – she’s in a Dustbowl waif cotton lawn dress. “It’s a real period dress and you can see through it. The photographer, who’s a lady said ‘No slip. Absolutely not.’ You know it was hot and nasty in the Dustbowl. I would think a lot of them would be thinking I’m not wearing a slip. But this is a sexed up Dustbowl. Some of these pictures I thought oh that’s a little bit too crazy. I think lady photographers always want to push it. They love being out there.”
Interesting contradiction. Krauss is sweet, nurtury, naïve. It’s almost an experiment on herself for her to do this sexed up look but she embraces it fully. The dress is cream with tiny flowers, red and white. “I’ve always been into those kind of clothes. I don’t have vintage. I have modern versions. I have phases of shopping. Sometimes you see lots of stuff you like, other times you don’t. I think it depends on how you feel about yourself. When you’re on top of your game it’s ‘I love it.'”
I tell her that I can imagine her in her waif’s dresses wafting around in her house. She finishes the sentence “feeling lonely”
and then laughs loudly.
Why doesn’t she watch TV? “I used to watch it all the time. I put it by this wall and every time I would sit on the couch I thought why do I feel so terrible right now. Even if the TV wasn’t on it just depresses you. I used to have bad dreams after watching crime shows late at night so I felt better without it.”
I have to have the TV on to fall asleep. “That’s very interesting. It’s because you don’t like to hear your own thoughts. I can fall asleep quicker if I’m listening to someone else. I used to fall asleep during a drive to the grocery store if my mother was driving. I do better hearing someone else, then I don’t have to hear myself.”
I read that Robert Plant’s sister said finally someone had got Robert to sing properly. “Ha. Yes, we keep in touch. We talk on the phone. He’s a lovely person. Really funny.” Will there be more songs together? “We talk about it. It comes up almost every time we chat but I don’t know when it will be. When he first called my son was an infant and we talked for five minutes and then a few years later he called again and said why don’t you come for this tribute for Leadbelly. So we played there and a couple of years after that he was ‘Let’s go to the studio and see what we can do.’ So we said we’d try three or four days and see how it goes and it went really well.”
I admire her necklace. It looks like a fairy’s necklace. “I don’t have a lot of jewellery that I have a connection to, that has meaning. Like if I wear this the crust won’t burn on the pie.
She’s not exactly shy, but she’s introspective and the opposite of showy, yet she’s in a profession that demands a lot of attention. “I always felt I had the wrong personality for my job. I do much better one on one. When we first started doing this I was really guarding myself and I think that looked a lot weirder than I was already. And I thought ‘No, I’m not going to do that any more. I’m going to be myself as much as I can. And then everything changed for me when I made that decision not to be so protected because then you’re portraying a false version of yourself. You get so worried that people are going to have an idea of what you’re like just because you’re trying to keep to yourself, and then it becomes very strange. They’re like ‘What’s up with her?’ I don’t have the kind of attention – I have a private normal life – there isn’t that kind of attention on us here or on me.” Maybe because that’s how it is in Nashville. Everyone’s a songwriter. “A few times things have got crazy. What I do is not really in a commercial environment.”
You get the impression that commercial success has never tainted her. She doesn’t have extravagant taste in anything. “You know why I think people like shoes. I think when you step into them and you’re standing you can feel like a different person. It’s all about how you feel. Some you stand and you’re ready to go to work.” I feel sure she doesn’t have as many pairs of shoes as I do, which is over 300. “No,” she says. “But I do like them too.”
Is there anything she would like to change about herself? “Oh, that’s interesting.” (More surprised face). I don’t think anyone’s ever asked me that. I do wish this process of accepting, you know when you’re always striving for something, the greatest change comes when you realise that this is who you are and who you are meant to be and you just kind of stop that wanting to change things. That comes in increments for me and I wish it came more. Sometimes you go through and you have a revelation about things. I welcome that with more ease than I have in the past. I don’t think you can ever force it.
“I used to remember how I felt when I was seven or eight, and then suddenly you don’t feel a connection to how you used to feel because you’ve changed so much.”
I tell her that I remember exactly how I felt. That I was a strange child and didn’t really connect to anything. “And now look at you,” she laughs. “Somebody’s differences are either celebrated or they’re not. There’s a reason they stick out. they’re charismatic if they don’t fit in because they’re leaders.”
And was she like that? “You know it’s funny because there were a couple of things after I had a baby I forgot. I disconnected with those things because it’s life changing. I lost those tangible memories of what I didn’t feel like and what I did feel like and how I became very introverted. By the time I was in seventh grade I wasn’t in a clique. I was friendly with everybody but not tight. And you probably feel very alone as I do, even though you make connections. The people you are tight with are few and far between. Having a baby made me forget. I don’t have the tangible memory of it. I knew who I was at seven which I remember that lasted up until the time I had him and I think I’ve been the same since then. Your whole life switches.”
Do she think she’ll have another baby? “I’m too old now. If I could have had five I would have. But I’ve got no complaints. It’s such a drag when you realize the opportunity is over.”
She’s only 39, but she seems to think that’s way past it. Her eyes are blue, flecked with yellow and grey. Intense eyes. Yet her company is not intense. She’s really easy to be with. But the way she connects is extremely charismatic. Perhaps it’s because a lonely person needs to connect to people – maybe that’s what makes a great artist.
She started chatting about the barn dance she would be holding the next week at the Loveless Café, a place that serves gigantic fried chicken, green tomatoes and fried okra. When I said it’s a shame that I won’t be here she remembered that there’d be country dancing that night. It was going to be in a large Presbyterian church nearby and that it would be in fact fun for all of us to go. If we got there an hour early we could have a dance class on how to dosey doe and take our partners by the hand. It’s called contra dancing.
Every other building in Nashville is a church. But this particular church was particularly huge. The dance hall was fiercely bright – already nowhere to hide. We were all given badges with our names on it. All night Krauss wore hers, seemingly having no idea that everyone knew who she was. A couple of people came up to her throughout the evening and gave her reverential compliments which of course she didn’t know how to take. A couple came up to me and said,”You’re so lucky to be friends with Alison. She’s so lovely.”
Everyone at the dance seemed to know each other, but were not at all cliquey. They were all very friendly. There were women from 16 to 70 in flowy peasant dresses and men often with very long beards. They took the dancing very seriously. The dancing all happens in lines and a couple of times I went in the opposite direction and made the people in front fall over. And one very serious dancing man shot me a look that could kill.
There’s lots of intense spinning with this kind of dancing. I was red-faced and dizzy and Krauss said the spinning made her feel a little sick, so we sat down to watch. Somehow she knew that nobody would believe I’d even attempted this kind of dancing so she filmed it on her phone. I just really like the idea of how in a short time she really knew me and something in her made me think I should try to dance. The film however concludes I was wrong about the dancing. I was really bad. But I like to watch it just to remind me of the day I spent with Alison Krauss.



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Posted January 17, 2016 by ChrissyIley in category "articles