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Aimsel Ponti

Aimsel Ponti is a Content Producer at MaineToday.com and a music writer for MaineToday.com and the Portland Press Herald. She has been obsessed with - and inspired by - music since she listened to Monkees records borrowed from the town library when she was six years old. She bought her first Rolling Stones record at a flea market when she was in 7th grade and discovered David Bowie a year later. She's a HUGE fan of the local music scene and covers it along with national musical happenings in her "Face the Music" column and with artist interviews that appear in print in the Portland Press Herald and online at Mainetoday.com. You'll also find her out and about absorbing live music like a sponge and roaming around local record shops and flea markets. Aimsel is also the host of Music from 207 on 98.9 WCLZ and appears monthly on the News Center Maine TV show “207” to talk about...music of course.

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Posted: June 10, 2014

Q&A: Singer-songwriter Patty Griffin on her favorite albums & Maine’s memorable smell

Written by: Aimsel Ponti
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Singer-songwriter Patty Griffin left Maine some 30 years ago, but she says the state will always hold a special place in her heart, and in her nose.

The Old Town native says one of her favorite things about coming back to Maine is the smell, the combination of ocean and pine that she can’t detect in her adopted home of Austin, Texas.

The Grammy Award-winning artist will play Portland on Sunday, her first performance there in several years. She did perform in Waterville last summer. Recording wise, 2013 brought fourth two records. In May the critically acclaimed “American Kid” was released and then in October “Silver Bell,” which was originally recorded back in 2000 and finally saw the light of day. Griffin, 50, and her “Silver Bell” album was caught in the cross hairs of major label upheaval resulting in the shelving of “Silver Bell.” She’s glad to have it finally out and will likely play at least a song or two from it during Sunday night’s just about sold-out show at The State Theatre.

Griffin spoke with me in-between stops on her current tour.

When did you leave Maine?

I left Maine officially in 1983 or 84. I went back there for a couple of years in the 90s.

Any family still here?

My mother is still in Maine and I have family in Portland.

You wrote in the “Silver Bell” liner notes that engineer Glyn Johns managed to rescue large portion of it from the trends of its day and that he breathed new life into it. What do you mean by that?

It was mixed on the recommendation of the A&R (artist & repertoire) person at the time whose taste I was not a fan of. I think it was mixed to try to suit what was happening in the taste of the DJs on the radio. So the vocals were kind of squashed and guitars were really loud. Glyn Johns has a pretty classic sensibility.

 

How does it feel to have “Silver Bell” out in the world after such a long wait?

I didn’t really think about it that much honestly. I didn’t listen to it for all those years. It was interesting to go through those mixes with Glyn Johns who I really admire. He was fairly encouraging about it. He thought it wasn’t bad and I thought it was a lot worse than it is. It’s good to go back and listen to something you did and realize it’s not so bad.

 

What can we expect from the live show? Do you play stuff from all of your records?

I’m mixing it up a lot. I’ve got a really good band. They toured with me last year and I got them to come back out again this year and they’re some of the best musicians out there.

 

Are there any albums from your teens or 20s that you still have now and still love?

There was a used record store in Bangor when I was a teenager and they had used instruments and used records and a pile of old vinyl and I found an original “Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” vinyl. That made it’s mark on me. To hear something bare-bones, stripped down to the actual nut of the song which is what that record is, it’s just him on his guitar. I think that really showed me how powerful a song is and a performance of a song. I can always go back to that record and be blown away by it every time.

 

Of all of the musicians who are no longer with us, who do you think would be pretty damn cool to hang out with?

That’s a good question. I think there are so many. Just based on his reputation for kindness combined with his killer guitar playing and his beautiful voice I would say Pops Staples would be somebody I wished I had met. I’ve met a few of his daughters and they’re lovely and I think that voice is pretty special.

 

What has changed the most in the music business for you since “Living with Ghosts” came out that is most frustrating to you?

I think there’s a lot of noise. Even when there wasn’t as much machinery for hype I really recognized that sometimes when you focus on that and you don’t focus on the work, the work does suffer. I feel there’s an endless supply of machinery that I have to learn now and I just decided you know, I’m 50, I’m not gonna learn it. If I fall behind, I fall behind.

 

What’s next?

I’m just gonna keep doing what I do. That’s it.

 

Patty Griffin with Parker Millsap. 8 p.m. Sunday. The State Theatre. 609 Congress St., Portland. $25 to $35; reserved seating; statetheatreportland.com

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