The RNR Globe’s exclusive chat with Dori Freeman on her third studio album, Every Single Star
Appalachian sweetness hangs on her tongue. Dori Freeman mingles rich, woodsy sensibilities with a creamy smoothness not unlike that of Linda Ronstadt. Similarly to Freeman’s contemporary Courtney Marie Andrews, there’s an ease with which she wields her vocal cords and delicately cloaks her syllables with a well-matured nuance. She captivates on breathy phrases and homespun songwriting that continues to swell and grow.
In recording her third record, Every Single Star, produced by Teddy Thompson (Shelby Lynne, Allison Moorer), she found herself drawn right back into Ronstadt’s catalog, as well as Emmylou Harris’. Naturally, she was once again struck by the strength, subtleties and glowing poetics of both, calling to her youth and first introductions to such American-made treasures. “My dad introduced me to them when I was a kid. He played all kinds of records for me growing up which helped me become a better singer and songwriter. Linda and Emmylou have such recognizable voices and they were some of the first singers to really stand out to me,” she says. “They’re both masters of phrasing, inflection 一 all the little nuances that really convey a song.”
Songs like “All I Ever Wanted” and “Go On” evoke Ronstadt’s aesthetic the most, while “Another Time” and “Walls of Me and You” appear to nod to Harris. “I just wanted the story and the singing to be the focal points,” stress Freeman of the former, which falls somewhere between Don’t Cry Now and Heart Like a Wheel-era Ronstadt. “The instrumentation manages to drive the song along while still hanging back to compliment the singing. Linda is one of the best singing storytellers, so she was a big touchstone for me when it came to crafting the story.”
With Every Single Star, Freeman clutches the past ever closer ㅡ harking upon such specific Ronstadt performances as “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” “Blue Bayou” and “Married Me” (with Phoebe Snow), as well as the Trio collections with Harris and Dolly Parton ㅡ and bobs between remaining present and yearning for the future. An acrobat on a tightrope, but never relinquishing intense focus, the Virginia native now marks her life with the bliss, yet tremendous load, of motherhood while continuing her craft. “There’s no magic balance, but things usually work themselves out. I like to tour around three to five days at a time, and I end up being home with my daughter as much or more than most working parents,” she says, “so I’m pretty fortunate, even if I have to be gone several days at a time. And I bring her with me whenever I’m able.”
She adds, “I feel like music and motherhood are similar in that you’re always finding new layers. They’re both always growing and evolving. I wouldn’t say my songwriting has changed, but I wrote more about her on this most recent record than any other.”
Another facet of her personal life proved to be less inspiring, creatively: her marriage (don’t fret, she’s happily married). “I definitely had some writer’s block. I had to figure out how to write about different parts of life that I hadn’t yet written about. Motherhood was a big one, obviously,” she says. “I also tried to hone my storytelling with this record ㅡ writing songs that weren’t necessarily about personal experience.”
“Go On” seems to viciously crush the remaining embers faintly glowing in her heart. She sings with quiet heaviness: “Don’t try to fake it like you just meant good / Just like that little heart inside your chest / You always do whatever serves you best.” The song, overall mournful and searing, frames “that person in a lot of people’s lives ㅡ be it a lover, a family member ㅡ who just lets you down despite how many chances you give them,” she offers. Her voice is laced with bitter traces of arsenic but ultimately flutters far and away into the wind.
Thompson slides onto the dance floor for a touching duet on “2 Step,” golden harmonies enveloping them both. “I just really like singing with Teddy,” Freeman beams of the vocal waltz. “We both have a deep love for country music, so it felt right to record a really straight forward country song together. I miss the days of duet records like Dolly and Porter, and Loretta and Conway, so I really wanted this album to include a duet.”
Freeman’s Every Single Star is out now on Blue Hens Music.