Newcomer focuses on 'being present' with record

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Carrie Newcomer plays the Columbus Performing Arts Center in a Six String Concerts presentation Friday, March 14. Krista Detor opens. Tickets are $5-$25. Visit sixstring.org.
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Carrie Newcomer isn't a "give something up for Lent" kind of person. But a song on her forthcoming CD, A Permeable Life, titled Thank You Goodnight, was inspired by a spiritual practice she took on at the recommendation of a friend.

"She started saying, out loud, before bed, three things that she was grateful for," Newcomer explained.

"When I started doing it, I learned that ending the day with gratitude made all the difference."

The practice may be new, but the combination of the intentional seeking out and sharing of hopefulness is not, as Newcomer's work spanning 15 studio albums evinces. A Permeable Life continues Newcomer's music-making blueprint while at the same time giving it a new treatment.

"The songs on my album are from a lot of things I'm thinking about at the time," she said in explaining that all of her albums have the same theme.

Some of those things remain from one album to the next, things such as "finding the extraordinary in an ordinary day" or having "a spiritual current but not wanting to put the idea of 'sacred' into too small of a container."

New motifs running through this new record, Newcomer said, include the idea of thresholds and the importance of "being present."

"I did a lot of reflection on the idea of thresholds, finding yourself at a place where what's done is done but you've not quite arrived yet at whatever comes next. That space where something old that passed away is gone can look suspiciously like a hole, but it might really just be a space waiting for whatever is going to capture your attention. It can be exciting and scary.

"At this point, there aren't a whole lot of answers, but there are a lot of good questions. I'm not trying to answer them, but let's sit at a table together and ask them."

The idea of being present in the moment, specifically with another person, is a game-changer, Newcomer said.

"It's one of the finest gifts we can give each other, to just be, right here and right now. And when we keep practicing it -- it is a practice, meaning we're not experts and will have good and bad days -- something shifts in the way we see the world and we start to see these human threads that bind us together. We find we're more alike than different when we just sit down together at a table."

It's not by accident that Newcomer uses the imagery of sitting at a table when talking about both of these concepts. The entirety of A Permeable Life was created with just such a setting in mind.

"These songs are some of the most intimate I've ever released, and I wanted to present them in such a way that it felt like I was sitting at the kitchen table with the listener.

"I was fortunate enough to have musicians who helped capture a sort of elegant simplicity and I thought very carefully about presenting them in such a way as to capture that clarity and elegance. There's no guardrail between me and the listener."

If the stage at Newcomer's Friday, March 14, concert features a kitchen table, you can thank The Beat. Even if not, Newcomer won't be alone, as pianist Gary Walters will join her for this show. Additionally, Newcomer has, for the first time, released some of her non-songwriting writing, in a companion book also titled A Permeable Life. The essays and poems in the book relate to themes found on the album.

The book will be available at the concert. At press time, Newcomer hoped but could not promise she would have CDs (officially due out April 1) for sale as well. What she could promise was that she would play songs from the new album.

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