Gillian Welch Talks Her Return with 'The Harrow & The Harvest'

Gillian Welch Talks Her Return with 'The Harrow & The Harvest'
The drought has just ended for fans of Americana star Gillian Welch. She recently released her first album in eight years, The Harrow & The Harvest, and is now out on an extensive North American tour.

The album marks Welch's first since 2003's Soul Journey, but as she explained in an Exclaim! interview, the long delay wasn't simply due to a bad case of writer's block.

"It's not as though I stopped working. [Creative partner/producer] Dave [Rawlings] and I were writing through all those years; it just wasn't material we really liked enough to put out. I can't think of how else to put it; it wasn't writer's block," she explains. "There are songs and songs, probably three records worth of songs, but it wasn't what we wanted to be singing. We tried; we actually went into the studio a couple of times and tried to start recording them, then we'd invariably lose interest and lose heart in it and stop."

Still, eventually, the seeds for The Harrow & The Harvest were sown.

"Finally, there was this group of songs that really got written from October 2010 to January 2011, that's where 80 percent of these songs come from," Welch says. "And I'm really happy it worked out that way. I'm such a fan of an honest-to-god album, one that is cohesive and of a moment. I was actually worried that, with the amount of time that has gone by, this record might span too large a chunk of time to really be a focused work. At the end, that is not what happened and I'm really happy about that."

The new album was recorded at Woodland Sound Studios in Nashville and was produced by Rawlings. It has a sparse and spontaneous sound, one Welch attributes to the fact that "it is David and myself playing live. There are no overdubs. That is something we were pretty committed to from the very beginning. It had been long enough since we'd made what I call a 'duet record' with the two of us. Soul Journey wasn't even that."

And even though Welch has been largely absent from the music world in recent years, the purity of her country folk sound has had an undeniably strong impact on a younger generation of rootsy singer-songwriters. "Truthfully, it is almost hard to remember, but when Dave and I were starting out and working on [1996's] Revival, I really couldn't look around and see other people who were doing what I wanted to do," she says. "And the ones that were [doing it] were largely from another generation; it was more traditional folk people and not contemporary singer-songwriters working in the traditional roots world.

"I had such a strong sense while making that first record of being an outsider, of feeling really alienated from the music world. That's one of the reasons I smile when you say people cite me as an inspiration. I'm really happy to be able to stand up and say to younger acoustic artists and folk-based artists, 'Look, you really can do this.' And, in fact, you can make a life of it."

The Harrow & the Harvest is out now on Acony Records. In support of the release, Welch has embarked on an extensive North American tour, which includes Canadian stops at the Vancouver Folk Festival on July 15 and Toronto on July 25. You can see all the dates below.

 Tour dates:

7/7 San Francisco, CA - Warfield Theatre

7/9 Grants Pass, OR - Rogue Theatre

7/10 Eugene, OR - McDonald Theatre

7/12 Portland, OR - Roseland Theater

7/13 Seattle, WA - Moore Theatre

7/15 Vancouver, BC - Vancouver Folk Festival

7/16 Olympia, WA - Capitol Theatre

7/17 Missoula, MT - Wilma Theater

7/20 St. Paul, MN - Fitzgerald Theater

7/21 Madison, WI - Capitol Theatre

7/22 Chicago, IL - VIC Theatre

7/23 Royal Oak, MI - Royal Oak Music Theatre

7/25 Toronto, ON - Phoenix Concert Hall

7/30 Newport, RI - Newport Folk Festival
8/2 Bethesda, MD - Music Center at Strathmore

8/3 Raleigh, NC - North Carolina Museum of Art

8/4 Winston-Salem, NC - Ziggy's

8/5 Asheville, NC - The Orange Peel

8/6 Atlanta, GA - Variety Playhouse

8/11 New Orleans, LA - Tipitinas Uptown

8/12 Birmingham, AL - Workplay Soundstage

8/13 Huntsville, AL - Von Braun Center Concert Hall

8/14 Athens, GA - Georgia Theatre

8/17 Roanoke, VA - Jefferson Cent/Shaftman Performance Hall

8/18 Charlottesville, VA - Paramount Theatre

8/19 Richmond, VA - Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

8/20 Charlotte, NC - Knight Theater at Levine Cent. for the Arts

8/21 Greenville, SC - Peace Center Concert Hall

8/23 Bristol, VA - Paramount Center for the Arts

8/24 Knoxville, TE - Tennessee Theater

8/27 Wilmington, NC - Winoca Festival Battleship Park

8/28 Charleston, SC - Charleston Music Hall
9/17 Austin, TX - ACL Festival