The Harvest After Years of Fallow Field; An interview with Leland Ettinger of Leland and the Silver Wells

On her latest album Leland and the Silver Wells, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Leland Ettinger creates songs that are expansive yet intimate, offering artfully layered arrangements that transport the listener while driving home the vividly personal lyrics of intoxicating tunes. The album’s lovingly textured arrangements incorporate strings, brass and woodwinds along with conventional rock instrumentation to create a stirring musical statement that abounds with warmth and humanity.

Leland and the Silver Wells is the artist’s third album, and her first in over a decade. For Leland and the Silver Wells, the Los Angeles-based artist—who plays piano, six- and twelve-string guitar and banjo on the album—assembled a large group of some of that city’s finest musicians, with the help of producers Marc Dote (who also plays bass on most of the tracks) and Steve Gregoropoulos (who arranged the album’s strings, woodwinds, brass and marimba).

Ghettoblaster caught up with Ettinger to discuss the record, which saw release via Rubia Records in September.

When did you first begin writing the material for Leland And The Silver Wells?

This album was a long time in the making with some songs undergoing revisions over a period of years. The first fragments are from as far back as 2012.

Tell us a little about yourselves. Are the Silver Wells a full-fledged band? Or is it just the name you’ve chosen for this project?

The Silver Wells are a full fledged band with the same core members who I recorded my first two albums with: Marc Doten, Marcus Watkins, and Joe Berardi in addition to two new members: Cristof Certik and Kaitlin Wolfberg.

It’s been ten years since your last release. What have you been up to in that time?

I gave birth to my daughter as a single parent in 2009 and it definitely took a while to get my momentum going again both as an artist and a songwriter. There was a long period of time when I believed I wouldn’t be able to finish a song again. I kept coming up with fragments. I had an I phone full of unfinished thoughts haunting me. At a certain point miraculously these fragments which I thought were pathways to nowhere started forming and informing other fragments that started to compose both musical and lyrical narratives. It was a relief as an artist to experience the harvest after years of the fallow field. I told myself when I had a minimum of four songs I would call my producer Marc Doten and get back in the studio. I had no idea it would take so long but I believe the record exhibits the unseen growth I experienced as an artist even during those apparently fallow years.

Considering that your music is so visual, and that you’re also an accomplished photographer, do you have plans to make any videos for this LP?

We just made a video directed by Mackenzie McCullough which will be premiering late August and there are plans for another video after that. I am enjoying the process of marrying my visual identity to my sonic identity with music videos and learning more about the poetry of cinematography deepening the thematic, musical, and sonic components of a song.

What current artists are you listening to these days? Any new LA artists we should be aware of?

I am one who definitely mostly looks backward for inspiration. I have been rediscovering the soulful singing of Bobby Gentry and the heavenly guitar work of Rosinha de Valença. As far as current artists I am loving Angel Olsen and Kali Uchi. On the LA scene both the hazy dream pop of Tashaki Miyake and the haunting songwriting and guitar work of Shannon Lay have been inspiring me.

What’s next in the world of Leland And The Silver Wells? Is a tour possible?

In the near future we are working on a new music video and plan to do a west coast tour in 2019.

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