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Flying Solo

event AoifeAoife O’Donovan breaks away with debut solo release

Aoife O’Donovan is best known for her work with the bluegrass band Crooked Still and the folk trio Sometymes Why. She’s also performed with the Boston Pops Orchestra and appeared on Yo-Yo Ma’s 2011 record The Goat Rodeo Sessions. But this past summer, she went in a new direction and released her first solo record, Fossils. For O’Donovan, the move was all about timing.

“It was a long time in the making,” she says. “I’d been thinking about [making a solo record] for quite some time and it made all the sense in the world. The songs were ready. I was ready.”

But despite feeling prepared, O’Donovan faced a whole new set of challenges while making her solo effort.

“I’ve made albums as part of a band before,” she says, “but it was a totally different thing to get in there and be in charge and have my name on it.”

Fossils is a diverse musical offering. “Lay My Burden Down,” for example, starts as a simple folk track before expanding into more of an Americana number. “Briar Rose” has a traditional bluegrass feel to it, and “Thursday’s Child” and “Red & White & Blue & Gold” are more in the vein of country pop-rock. That variety wasn’t exactly planned.

“It ended up sounding a lot more country than I had expected going into it,” O’Donovan admits. “But I think that was because we had the amazing Charlie Rose guest on pedal steel. Initially I was like, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll get him to play on a song or two,’ but then he ended up being on almost everything!”

While performing with bands, O’Donovan learned the importance of going with the flow. But when it comes to songwriting, she’s found success by being methodical.

“Some friends of mine in Brooklyn were doing these kamikaze kinds of songwriting workshops where they’d try to write 10 songs in like three hours,” she says with a laugh. “It’s funny because sometimes they’ll actually come up with some really cool songs, but for me, writing songs has to happen a bit more on my own terms.”

Writing and recording Fossils ended up being an intensely personal experience for O’Donovan, who was both excited and terrified by the process.

“The music on this album is something that is very close to me,” she says. “It’s the first album I’ve ever made that has been entirely original music. It’s a scary thing to do because to put out these 10 little snapshots in the world, whether they’re autobiographical or not, it is a snapshot of who I am as an artist, as a creator, as a writer, so it’s definitely different than anything I’ve worked on before.”

O’Donovan says she has a special set in store for fans on Dec. 11 at Kuumbwa Jazz.

“That’s going to be a pretty different experience for people who have heard the album,” she says. “It’s going to be the unplugged acoustic versions of these songs and more. I haven’t done much solo work since the album came out, so I’m looking forward to this. [Playing solo] changes the dynamic of the songs and makes for a more intimate experience.” 


Aoife O’Donovan will perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11 at Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $20/adv, $23/door. For more information, call 427-2227.

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