Country music duo Midtown Violets with Karen Waldrup and Ashlee K Thomas have been described as having a sound that meets the Dixie Chicks and Alanis Morrisette and starting today you can hear that sound with the release of their new album 'Don't Give Up' on iTunes. According to Waldrup and Thomas, the title of the record is literal in its meaning as they say the music on the album is meant to uplift and spread joy to their listeners. Known for their tight blend of harmonies and an interactive live show, Midtown Violets has shared the stage with many Country music sensations including: Sara Evans, Gloriana, Rodney Atkins and Alana Davis.
In a new interview, Waldrup, who was featured as a songwriter on 2011 Bravao TV's “Platinum Hit” with Jewel and Kara Diaguadi, and Thomas told me about what makes “Don't Give Up” special for them, how the two of them came together as a duo, and who in Country music they would love to collaborate with!
Tell me about 'Don't Give Up'-how is it special in comparison with your previous music?
Karen- It is different from my solo projects because it has rich 2 part harmonies throughout the entire record and a violin/guitar enchantment that has formed from playing over 512 live shows with Ashlee K Thomas. I feel like this album has the best songs I've ever been a part of. When I moved to Nashville 5 years ago, they said it was a 5 year town. They were right. It's because spending 5 years in a songwriter community helps your writing get where it needs to be.
Ashlee- "Don't give up" is different than my other albums as it is Country, it is a duo project and it is easier more straight-forward songs. I have always been quite obscure and artistic in my solo works. I am a classicly trained musician so this kind of music is innate to me. I also had a lot of sadness in my last albums. I lost my mother and my brother as a pretty young girl and I had to get the sad songs out of me. While I love those songs-after the darkness comes the light- and I'm so excited to be a part of something totally different.
Besides, there is enough sadness in this world- we wanted our recorded effort to be similar to our touring effort..joyful! Karen and I both love to play live shows in front of people that love hand crafted songs.
Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Karen- The song on the album that I keep listening to over and over is 'Like 10,000 Angels". I'm really happy with the way the recording came out and the co-writer (Jordan Lawhead) had a great idea to add steel guitar which gave it a classic country feel that stands out from the rest of the songs. The song is happy and about an easy love that feels like 10,000 Angels carried your heart away. I remember when I was a little girl my mom always said that I would know when the right love comes along. 'Like 10,000 Angels' is a description of how it feels- like all of a sudden out of no where a swarm of angels come out of no where and carry your heart away.
Ashlee- We wrote the song outside on a beautiful sunny day with only crickets in the background. I really feel the angels helped us write it. My favorite song is out of the dark ages. It's fun upbeat and unique. We really are like Thelma and Louise we go driving. It's always good to come out of the dark ages and on to better things.
How did you and Ashlee decide to come together for Midtown Violets?
Karen- Both of us had been two friends living in Nashville for three years and developing our own artist careers when Ashlee booked a show in Hot Springs, AR and Karen got a show in Madisonville, LA. We knew we could connect the shows with shows along the way and we each needed an opening act. We each decided the other would be the opening act and we would just book shows along the way to connect the dates.
You have toured and played hundreds of live shows, what is one experience or moment on stage that stands out most to you as an artist?
Karen- I really love playing songs I've written more than anything else. I love the way it feels for someone to be moved by a lyric I wrote or sing along to a catchy part. Ironically, the most moving moment I've ever had on stage was one night singing at a casino in Tunica, MS with a cover band. We were singing 'Landslide' by Fleetwood Mac and there were hundreds of people in the crowd. I looked through the crowd and to my left and saw a dark skinned, thin woman walk out of working in the kitchen for a moment to stop and listen to the words of this song. I could feel the pain through her eyes and knew when I sang the lyric 'I've been afraid of changing cause I've built my life around you' that somewhere in her life she had regret she couldn't change. It brought tears to my eyes in the middle of the song connecting with her in an indescribable way that night. It was overwhelming the sadness coming from her, but the connection she had to the music will never be lost. Music is a language that needs only a feeling for people to be able to understand. When I am on stage I can feel what every person in the room is feeling. It's the strangest thing.
Ashlee- There are so many. I love seeing kids connect to music. You can see babies just light up and stare at the instruments. I Love when you see a person at the bar and they planned on only having a drink but they stay all night because the music drew them in.
Who in Country music would you love to sing or co-write a song with?
Karen- I would love to sing with Sheryl Crow because she inspired me so much as a young artist learning to sing and play guitar. I would LOVE to sit down and co-write a song with Taylor Swift because I'm just such a fun of her work and the craftsmanship of her songs. Every time I hear a new song by Swift I am always inspired to write better.
Ashlee- I would love to write with Grace Potter and Kasey Musgraves. I love their craftsmanship when it comes to songwriting as well as their unique style that is all their own. I also love Miranda Lambert. She is one lady who is keeping old country music alive.
What makes singing/performing live so rewarding for you?
Karen- Something about knowing that I am responsible for an entire group of people's good time is addictive. When the first song begins, the entire night of live music is it's own night that will NEVER happen again. I like the journey of the live show- you never know what to expect- who will dance, who will tap their toes and who will come up afterwards and have to take the music home with them because they loved it so much. It's so fun.
Ashlee- I love the ride when it comes to the road and playing live shows. Almost nothing is better than a great show where you know you connected with the audience and the "fire" was blazing all night. On the other hand, it can be a pretty big bummer when you drive all day to play a show and the sound is bad, or there aren't a lot of people, etc. In the music business the ups and downs are extreme. Trying to balance yourself can be a challenge but one that I love and aspire to be.