Reverb Alum Sara Brickner once tagged Seattle country singer Zoe Muth as "our very own Emmylou." The moniker is spot-on: Seattle has no shortage of chanteuses in every genre from indie rock to hip-hop, yet few female voices on the country scene have rung as tried-and-true as that of Zoe Muth, who sings with such an effortless, unwavering warmth the comparison to country's queen of the ballad is rightly accurate.
Two spectacular steel guitar and country twang-infused albums behind them, Muth and her band the Lost High Rollers are trucking right along, currently smack-dab in the middle of a multi-country tour. The crew will stop by the Tractor this Saturday, so we caught the singer for a few minutes to get her views on the songwriting process, her influences, and bonding with a bunch of dudes on the road.
Seattle Weekly: You've shared a bill with some of Seattle's finest bands and songwriters--what are your goals for the band moving forward and what are some of your best experiences playing around town?
Zoe Muth: We've been lucky enough to get to play on some great bills at the Tractor, the Maldives CD release with the Moondoggies, and also opening for Sera Cahoone. We've also opened for some of my songwriting heroes: Fred Eaglesmith, James McMurtry, Steve Forbert, and Dave Alvin.SW: Did you grow up in a musical household? How were you attracted to country music as a genre?
ZM: I grew up in a house with a lot of music around, we always had a jukebox in the basement, and my dad had a huge record collection. We didn't play music, but I've written songs and poetry ever since I was a little kid. My parents bought me a guitar in high school and I figured out how to play enough chords to learn some Bob Dylan and John Prine songs. I was really into the old folk music like the Carter Family, Leadbelly, and Woody Guthrie back then, and started to get into the more classic country later. I think I'm attracted to this genre because of all the great storytellers that have come out of it. A lot of the music is simple and it's the story that matters.
SW: Your voice has been compared to Emmylou Harris, Iris Dement, and Kitty Wells. Are they all influences of yours?
ZM: Yes, they are all influences, but I've probably been more influenced by the more untrained-sounding voices of people like Bob Dylan, John Prine, and Woody Guthrie.
SW: Are your songs mostly autobiographical? What's the songwriting process like for you?
ZM: My songs are all autobiographical to a certain extent. They are not true stories about any one single event but combinations of people and places and experiences that somehow work together to tell a bigger story, one that's much more interesting than anything that ever happens to me in real life. I'm always trying to write down anything that comes into my mind, then, at some point I sit down and try to piece those thoughts together and add some music. It's a little more difficult while we're touring, I need a lot of time alone and peace and quiet. That's hard to find in a van with five people.
SW: How did you get connected with your band?
ZM: I had been writing songs and playing open mikes around Seattle and also trying to meet musicians at Bluegrass jam circles. That's how I met Ethan [mandolin], and I met Dave [guitar] when a friend introduced us at the Little Red Hen. Somehow I talked them into playing our first shows for about $5 and some beer. I met Greg [drums] after playing a couple shows at the Tractor where he was running the sound. Greg and Mike [bass] had played in bands in the past, and Mike joined after we went through a series of players.
SW: What are your thoughts on the country scene in Seattle?
ZM: I can't really say--we haven't played much around Seattle in the past year, and when I'm at home, I don't get out much.
SW: Who and what are some of your favorite Seattle bands and venues?
ZM: The Blue Moon was where I first started playing open mikes, and they gave me my first real show with a band, so I'll always love that place for that reason. I was honored to get to play the first ever No Depression Fest in 2010 as part of the local roots-music revue. We've played some great shows at the Tractor, and the Columbia City Theater took a chance on us for our CD release in April, letting us do two shows which turned out to be a big success, so I'm thankful to them for that. Bumbershoot last year was a lot of fun, too.
SW: Your band's been touring quite a bit these days. How do you like life on the road?
ZM: While I have to say it beats the day job, it's got its hard parts too. Some days we do eight hours of driving before a show, then get up the next day and do it again. But we have discovered some great venues that really take good care of artists and have made a lot of new fans and friends. It's been really interesting to meet new people who are so eager to show you around and tell you about their town or city. We've learned a lot of history and seen some amazing things while we've been out. I think being on the road also toughens you up. You have to learn how to deal with so many different personalities and stick up for yourself. I think being on the road has definitely made us a better band.
SW: Anything else Reverb readers should know about Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers?
ZM: We're playing the Tractor Tavern this Saturday, October 22nd with Big Sur and would love everyone to come out.