What do you get when a Leo from Fairbanks, a Gemini from Seattle, and a Scorpio from Houston get together to play old-time bluegrass music? You get the enchanting trio of The Frauleins: Beth Chrisman (fiddle & banjo), Amanda Chisholm (bass), Jenn Miori Hodges (guitar).
"I lived all over the place growing up - my dad was in the Army until we moved to Fairbanks, Alaska in 1996," says Beth. "My family is still there, so its still home. I came to Austin in 2006 to visit a friend and a few weeks after I got here, I had my folks send me a bunch of my stuff and I stayed. I'd heard about the music scene here, but I didn't really come here with the intention of pursuing a music career, my main goal was to escape -50F and get some sunshine!" Beth met Amanda playing Bluegrass when she was living in Juneau, Alaska in her twenties. When she was ready to move, she came to Austin to visit Beth and Jenn and knew that Austin was her new forever home. Jenn made the trek from Houston to Austin to attend the University of Texas. Besides music, one thing the ladies are in harmony about is where to eat: Maudie's! Their interview is below, and be sure to come to the show Sunday, 4/29 3:30p-5:30p at Kitty Cohen's.
When did you start playing music?
Beth: I started playing violin when I was 9, and studied classical violin in college. When I was 19 I met a few great songwriters, bluegrass, and old-time pickers and started digging into the world of alt-country and bluegrass.
Amanda: I taught myself Bluegrass bass playing along to The Stanely Brothers albums and picking in living rooms during the dead of winter in Alaska about ten years ago.
Jenn: I’ve been singing as long as I can remember but started guitar at 12. I became obsessed with old country music in my early 20s.
What are some bands you have played in over the years, and what are your current music projects/bands?
Beth: My main project while I've been in Austin was the Carper Family. I also played regularly with James Hand, High Plains Jamboree, Brennen Leigh, Devin Jake, Silas Lowe, Mike & the Moonpies, Jenny & the Corn Ponies. In 2016 I was one of the featured songwriters in Project ATX6, and after that experience I decided to start my own country band, Missy Beth & the Morning Afters.
Amanda: The Primetime Ramblers was my first Bluegrass band in Austin, followed by The Jankies, and now along with the Frauleins I play pick up bass with The Bluegrass Outfit at closed Bluegrass jams around town. I also regularly play Wednesdays at the Hard Luck Lounge - I invite different friends I've played with over the years (or people I've always wanted to play with) to do a song swap and I play fiddle with them.
Jenn: The Carper Family, Hem and Haw, the Muttonbusters and Jenny and the Corn Ponies are past projects that still play now and again.
What are some of your heroes in the music industry and/or inspirations?
Beth: Amanda & Jenn covered a bunch of my favorites below... but also: Ginny Hawker & Tracy Schwarz - early country & traditional mountain singing duo. Ginny's singing makes me cry everytime I hear her, she really puts every drop of feeling she has into the songs she performs. Tracy is a legendary fiddler, played with the New Lost City Ramblers and Dewey Balfa, backed up Maybelle Carter. They've long been heroes of mine, and I've gotten to know them really well over the years - last time they were in town I took them out honkytonkin at the White Horse. Also Cindy Cashdollar - steel & dobro player who used to live here in Austin, she taught me a lot about being a side player and a woman in this industry. Lindsey Verrill & Christy Hays are badass local babes that make beautiful art and music and inspire me to keep on plugging along in this music world. Locally on the industry end of things- lots of love to Denis O'Donnell, Marshall McHone, Samantha Phelps, Kevin Curtain, HAAM & SIMS.
Amanda: I truly cherish the really outstanding pickers and musicians in our little scene in Austin that share their knowledge about playing out and have learned so much not only from Jenn and Beth but also from Silas Lowe, Matt Downing, Dom Fisher, Tony Kamel, Jerry Haggins, Ben Hodges, Bradford Folk, and so many others.
Jenn: Anna and Elizabeth, an old-time duo, are super inspiring to me. Their fascination with historic folk music is contagious and they blend old ballads with modern art. Also, Loretta Lynn 4ever! She was my first country inspiration. I’m a huge fan of Connie Smith too. Anna and Elizabeth, Foghorn Stringband, Birdcloud, Pharis and Jason Romero
What is your song-writing process like?
Beth: I haven't been a very prolific songwriter lately, but I tend to write when my life is in turmoil and have lots of alone time. Things have been pretty good lately - so no new songs. I also have been cooped up in the city with too much technology around. Most of my songs were written pulled off on the side of some remote highway or in a cabin in the woods in Alaska. I get an idea for a line (usually with a melody attached) then noodle on the guitar and pull out my notebook and start writing a story. I take a few hours to tighten things up, and usually end up altering a few lines or words.
What lyrics, or songs would you like to be remembered as playing/writing? Or what have been some of your most popular songs over the years?
Beth: I think my favorite one is "Cold, Dark & Lonely" - that came out of the miserable winter right before I moved to Texas. I was so broken-hearted and down then, but now it makes me feel kind of at peace since things are better. also - that song has really gone over well in Norway - the Carper Family toured in Norway a bunch, and last time I played there were a few times where at least half the crowd was singing along with it, and now my Norwegian friends cover it in their band.
I'd love to be remembered for keeping the traditional music rolling along and playing the songs of women who blazed the trail for all of us playing now.
Amanda: Beth and Jenn are so good at finding those rare old tunes that might have been forgotten about, or just fallen off everyone's radar. I also think the songs of strong and amazing women like Hazel Dickens, Alice Gerrard, and Ola Belle Reed should be heard by more people. I feel really proud to be able to play these powerful songs in front of an audience.
Jenn: One of my favorite songs to sing that I’ve recorded is an old tune called the Late Evening Blues. I learned it from a 1940s radio transcription of the Carter sisters. I love to give new life to old forgotten songs.
Do you have advice for other musicians who are just starting out?
Beth: Seek out mentors especially ones who will give you constructive criticism AND encouragement. Find people that are into music you love and are a good hang and start a band with them. I learned this from the Wilders (band from Kansas City) gigs should be at least 2 outta 3 of the following: good for your career, good for your pocketbook, good for your soul. Otherwise something isn't going right. If you're playing with people who are fun to hang out with, you're already on the right track.
Amanda: Practice, listen more then speak, take care of one another, always play the route note if you forget where you are in a song.
Jenn: Play a weekly residency somewhere (anywhere) for a year or two. The pay may suck but you get to work on your sound and it kind of forces you to keep learning new material. You’ll also meet a lot of people that way and develop a little fan club who’ll love you forever.
Where do you see yourself musically in 5 years?
Beth: to quote Willie - "the life I love is making music with my friends, and I can't wait to get on the road again."
Amanda: Gigging and laughing with the Frauleins, hopefully touring in Alaska or Norway
Jenn: I hope to be playing around Texas with the Frauleins and dream of going to some European summer Festivals!