Delta Mama and a Nickajack Man… the short version of a long story

Cary Ann here… We have been thinking about the history of the songs on O’Be JOyful. We have been revisiting our writing process and thinking about where these songs came from, and what they mean to us. Since the record has been finished for a while, it has been good to reflect on them with a little distance. We decided we would share a few of these stories with you in anticipation of the release of the record. Since the track Birmingham is available on Itunes and seems to be getting some radio play from coast to coast (dang!) we thought we would start with that one…. So…. when I was an 8 year old kid, my mother and I moved to Nashville, TN from Jackson, MS. I had never seen a mountain. My mother and all her people are from the Mississippi Delta… Holly Bluff, Yazoo City, and Vicksburg, Mississippi. Flat places, full of cotton, fields of soybeans, levees. As we drove through south west Tennessee, where hills start to appear, i remember shouting out MOUNTAINS!!! MOUNTAINS MAMA!! It was a year later that my mother and my soon-to-be step father, Douglas, took me on a road trip to Chattanooga, TN. As we approached the great blue body of water nestled between Chattanooga and Monteagle, Douglas told me it was Nickajack Lake. He said there were caves under the lake that he explored as a boyscout. He explained that the Tennessee Valley Authority had built two dams, one called Nickajack and one called Chicamauga , to bring electricity to all the mountain people. As a result, caves were now underwater. Douglas is a fine musician who had survived both sailing the south pacific and also playing the notorious Springwater Tavern in the late seventies. He married my mother, Cindy, and raised me and my two sisters on songwriting, live music and harmony singing. In 1997, they sent me off in 66 Dodge Dart to go to college in Charleston, SC. After i had finished school, I was starting to get out on the road a little, Michael and I met on tour with Jump LIttle Children in Athens, Georgia at the historic Georgia Theater. He was in a sexy nasty little rock and roll band from Denver, CO. I had been hanging out singing in bars in Charleston, half drunk most the time, not really up to much. I felt at times like I was rusting in place, waiting for some great adventure to come along. When the Films moved to Charleston, with their ameri-trash glam rock-a-mount cowboy swagger, I was as good as done for. Michael became one of my favorite songwriters. I was giging in Charleston, while the Films spent the next five years running around the US and Europe. The day they came back from Germany, I went up to NYC, where Michael was living at the time, with a suit case full of various intentions. I left with plans to record the album Shovels and Rope with Michael on Folly Beach later that summer. A couple of years later, Michael and I were touring as Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, trying to figure out what to do with our freshly produced solo releases. We played a played a show in Birmingham with two of our favorite bands, Deertick and J. Roddy Walston and the Business. That night, it occurred to us that we two should just be a band. Using whatever was laying around- junky old drums, a coupla guitars, and our voices and the stories we could tell. It didn’t happen all in one night, but we left Birmingham with 100 bucks and the van the Films used to tour in, thinking to ourselves, we can go for it if we wanted to. We have to take our egos out of it and make the show about the band. It occurred to us that we were more powerful together and we didn’t want to be apart. We had been up and down and sideways, but now we are on a very specific trajectory and we are doing fine. We are on much better terms, since Birmingham.

Posted on June 19th, 2012

14 Responses

farm girl at seaJune 20th, 2012 at 2:46 am

Ooo, love the back story on this song and touching on the rest of the album. Thanks for the lil sip while we’re waiting ever so patiently for the full pitcher to arrive ;)

BreeshnaJune 20th, 2012 at 6:31 am

I’ve never been the type to fall completely in love with a modern day band – listening to all their albums and all of their songs, and waiting for them to come to a nearby city to play…your music hits me, love you guys.

Nita BeauchampJune 26th, 2012 at 1:32 am

Remember well when you showed up in Nashville. Have watched you all the way. Your music is memorable to us from our dauather’s wedding. Then through college and on down the road while making great music. You’re the best around!

RoAugust 15th, 2012 at 11:48 pm

I’ve been playing your album for a few days now….totally captivated. All the way from Wattle Flat Australia.

Any plans to play down here anytime soon?

SnacksAugust 28th, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I’ve been listening to this song a lot lately. I love the story of Shovels and Rope, and I love this song.

Raym BarrettAugust 31st, 2012 at 6:17 am

Love the new album and love these stories! Just bought the album on Amazon and have been listening to it on Rdio before. Great stuff! Hope you guys come through Northern California soon. I’m originally from NC and would love to have a little South out this way!

J.P.October 9th, 2012 at 3:32 pm

can’t wait to see y’all at Samford.. may even try to get over to Waverly, AL as well two days later if I can swing it. Got similar roots in the Southeast… grew up going to Chicamauga Lake, hearing stories of the Nickajack caves from my dad’s exploits as a youth. Spent a good bit of time around Monteagle around Sewanee and live in Birmingham. Love the flavor of your music. Great work.

MarshallOctober 12th, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Great story. I laughed at the ’66 Dodge Dart part of the story b/c I was sent off to college in 1999 in a ’70 Dodge Dart. That car was cursed though- 3 wrecks including one the day before it was supposed to go in the shop. Twice when the damn thing was parked. Anyway, great album. I have been walking around saying “Oh be joyful, is that what you’re brewing…” for a week now.

CarterNovember 15th, 2012 at 2:44 pm

I love autobiographical songwriting! Makes sense that I got turned onto you via Hayes Carll. I’m kicking myself for buying the digital version because I want clues to the other songs, especially “This Means War.”

So happy to have recently found you, have been listening to your music constantly for weeks and shaking my hips in my car seat. Fortunately and unfortunately family and friends and work are keeping me from making any of your Atl-area shows.

Beth HollimanDecember 31st, 2012 at 3:37 am

Just discovering your music! Love your sound and the stories you tell. Just bought tickets to see you at Workplay in Birmingham! So glad you’re coming to Bama!!!

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