Texas based Glenna Bell is an established country-blues-folk artist who has been honoured by the State of Texas in a House Resolution recognising her musical contribution to the state. Her recently released album Lone Star: Songs and Stories Straight from the Heart of Texas is her fifth self-released album.
1. What is your fondest musical memory?
I noticed right away that these questions really make one have to think, which is constructive, but there are so many memories, highlights, it seems impossible to choose just one – sort of like asking someone which child is your favourite?
What comes to mind off the top of my head is two musical memories from my early years when we lived in East Texas in Lumberton, near the Big Thicket, and we would sing a cappella as a congregation in the little church in the woods and when we would visit my mother’s side of the family in Orange, Texas in the Golden Triangle near Port Arthur, the birthplace of Janis Joplin, where we would sing at family gatherings with generations of relatives playing popular and occasionally original songs on the piano, representing the pop culture of their respective eras, dating all the way back to the twenties.
2. What has been the highlight of your career?
Thankfully, there have been many highlights, but one that comes to mind is receiving the House Resolution honouring my musical contribution to the State of Texas at the Texas state capital in Austin.
A more recent highlight would be the day that I spent in the studio with John Pickering who sang the backing vocals on several Buddy Holly hits and our lunch with Sonny West (who wrote “Oh Boy” and “Rave On”) at the little Mexican restaurant on legendary Telephone Road here in Houston. There’s also the time I played Threadgill’s in Austin to a crowd who compared me to Janis Joplin as they remembered her performances there in the early-to-mid ‘60s and the Johnny Cash Bash at the Continental Club in Austin with Johnny Cash’s long-time piano player Earl Poole Ball accompanying me in an impromptu version of “Get Rhythm” in front of a packed house with standing room only and hundreds of Johnny Cash fans dressed in black, lined up around the corner outside the front door on Congress. There are the memories of playing here and there and everywhere, New York and Nashville, with people I knew and didn’t know at all. The on going shows with Greg Henkel on his incredible vio-fiddle. The record store, Bill’s, in Dallas. Cosmos Café in Houston. Y’all come! There is no place like home.
3. Your latest album ‘Lone Star: Songs and Stories Straight from the Heart of Texas’ has recently been released. Which song from the album means the most to you and why?
I’d say “Pig in Lipstick Blues” means the most to me at the moment because I have caught a bad case of the blues, and that song showed me that, yes, I can “bring it” both as a writer and singer.
4. Do you ever get nervous before you go on stage?
No, I just “wing it.” Live in the moment. Be yourself. Forget about yourself. You’re there for the audience. Not yourself. Lift them up.
5. What piece of advice can you give to aspiring country music artists?
Read. Read real books, not online. Listen to “old music,” preferably on a record player. Get unhooked. Be in Nature as much as possible with no distractions. Write. Listen to the music of the birds and the breeze in the trees. Lie down alone in a field of grass and star gaze or watch the clouds go by in the sky. Dream. Find your voice. Give yourself time. Get in touch with something beyond this material world. Be willing to stretch and try new things within the limits of your sense of ethics and morality. Always listen to your deep inner voice. Don’t let anyone pressure you into doing anything that would go against your personal or artistic convictions. Learn to know yourself and don’t compromise yourself or your art. Stay humble and authentic. Don’t try to take short cuts to success—you will undermine everything. Build your house on a rock. Think long term and do what it takes to set things up for longevity so that you can continue to do what you love for a lifetime. Accept criticism gracefully but learn who and who not to listen to. Some people are well meaning and very convincing because of their credentials and years in the business, but they don’t know. Stop and help a stray dog. Help a young person. Help an old person. Help a homeless person. Make yourself a helping person and you will then know the joy of giving, which is the key to performance. Be open-minded. Don’t stereotype people. It is a huge mistake. Don’t be an artist unless you just cannot not be. Don’t do it for the money. Most likely, you will be very disappointed in the end. Endure.
And just for fun…
6. If you could sing a duet with any country artist in the world (past or present) who would it be?
7. Pick a song title for the story of your life…
8. You have the chance to time travel to any gig or concert that has ever taken place – which one would it be?
Newport Folk Festival, 1965
9. What was the first record you ever bought?
My very earliest recollection of “buying” records was when I was so young that I can’t even recall the first one. I even called my mother but she can’t remember either. I know that it was at the mall in Beaumont, Texas and that it could have been “The Entertainer” or “Candy Man” by Sammy Davis, Jr. Maybe John Denver’s “Country Boy.” Through my dad’s record collection I discovered The Gunfighter Ballads and through my Auntie’s collection I learned to love and laugh, dance and sing with my little sister to songs like “Sugar Time,” “Charlie Brown,” and “Short People.” I also loved the story songs like “Please Pass the Biscuits” and Andy Griffith’s comedic monologue, “What It Was Was Football.” When I l was older I was profoundly affected by George Jones’s “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and Buddy Holly’s “Raining in My Heart.”
10. Tell us something that will surprise us?
I recently found out that I have had about 700,000 streams on Spotify for the last two consecutive seasons for my holiday song, “Be My Valentine (On Christmas).” As an independent artist, this news came as a surprise to me.
Glenna’s album Lone Star: Songs and Stories Straight from the Heart of Texas is available to buy on iTunes.
You can find out more about Glenna on her website www.glennabell.com