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Adrienne Young finds room to grow

By Dawn Pomento, August 2007

Adrienne Young is down to earth. On a phone interview from her home in Nashville, it sounds as if Young is doing the dishes and tidying up the kitchen before she pushes back a chair on a wood floor and sits down to talk.

Young is about go to a special producer's only farmers market, only locally grown produce and goods, but she takes time out to talk about her third CD, "Room to Grow," running her own label (AddieBelle Music), sustainable farming and how it all fits together.

After working on "Room to Grow" for so long, Young says, "I can't wait for it to get out on the radio and to start to get back on the stage and playing music." Young has an extensive tour schedule, including some big summer festivals.

And she has plans in the works for a fall tour to support a movement that's close to her heart. "We're going to be donating a portion of each record to the Save a Seed Fund, which is something AddieBelle Music started with the American Community Garden Association. A portion of the sale of each CD will go to a non-genetically modified seed fund to community gardens across America."

So, how does sustainable farming fit with making music? Young thinks for a moment, then says slowly, "It's just a genuine, honest attempt at creating an authentic exchange with our listeners and knowing that within my music I try to instill ideas and thoughts that will offer comfort and potential for being a perhaps a jumping off point for new philosophies."

That may sound serious, but the music is buoyant. The opening track of the CD sets an optimistic, thoughtful tone and is a good introduction to some common themes that come up for Young. The chorus asks, "Why can't I let go? I'll always wonder, all that surrounds me. I am a river, forever changing."

It sounds like a very personal song, and Young explains what it means to her. "As the old saying goes, you can't step into the same river twice. I think when we understand that life is about change, and that's really the primary basis of our existence."

"Then things can go a lot easier, but I think that we, or at least I, can get caught in not being in the moment, but living in my head. Then you end up missing the only thing that exists, which is in the moment."

The seventh-generation Floridian who moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University and study music business. After graduating magna cum laude, Young stayed to make music.

Her first CD "Plow to the End of the Earth" (2003) gained critical acclaim and attention in the Americana world. Her second, "The Art of Virtue," (2005) was inspired by her interest in the writings of Benjamin Franklin. It also met with acclaim and upped the expectations for what the young musician could do.

And when it came time to record her third release, Young knew just want she wanted to do. She produced that CD, which was recorded at Levon Helm's studio in Woodstock, N.Y.

When Young talks about why she wanted to record there, Young says, "I was trying to find a place that was away from familiar scenes because I wanted us to be able to focus on the record, and Woodstock, N.Y. is a beautiful area and very conscious."

"And Levon Helm's studio is run by a wonderful man, Justin Guip. It's a beautiful old barn, and it's been restored, and the sound is great. It's really conducive to live tracking versus overdubs, which is what I wanted to do for this record."

The recording was just the beginning. "Then we went to Richmond, Va. to Sound of Music Studios and worked with Bryan Hoffa and put the Virginia stamp on it. We ended up working with the Virginia Department of Game and Fishery."

Young explains that the department created a wildlife action plan to preserve and support wildlife habitat. She was part of an effort to gain funding for the plan that had been required by Congress. "This spring those were all finished, and we were able to go and sing ‘America the Beautiful' on the steps of the Capitol."

After that side trip, Young returned to Nashville to do the final overdubs that finally pulled Will Kimbrough back to the project to record backing vocals. Kimbrough writes songs with Young and co-produced the previous CDs. Kimbrough, who has released his own CDs, is a busy musician. He co-wrote several songs with Young, including the opening track.

The 14-song CD is a showcase for Young's strong vocals and musicianship - she plays banjo and guitar on several tracks. Young also wrote or co-wrote all the songs except a cover of Joni Mitchell's "Free Man in Paris" and Dusty Owens' "Once More." One of the standout collaborations is midway through the CD, the somber and reflective "River and a Dirt Road" written with Mark D. Sanders and Michael White.

"That's the one people like," Young says. "We play that at shows, and that's the one the people always come up and ask us about."

Young can't say enough good things about Sanders, whom she has collaborated with on all three albums. "He's an absolute genius. He's written for Lee Ann Womack and Garth Brooks and Martina McBride. He's the real deal. Michael White, I actually didn't know. It's one of the only writing sessions I've even done like that where you just meet someone and sit down. We were out in Colorado. Mark has a place out there, and he had people out to write, and I was fortunate to be invited for a couple days."

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