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Mar 12, 2018 3:52 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Inda Eaton Prepares 'Acoustic Highways' At Bay Street Theater And New Album

Inda Eaton
Mar 12, 2018 3:52 PM

Singer-songwriter Inda Eaton is hard at work on a new music project—one that can best be summed up by a stark image she came across while driving cross country.

It was late 2016, right after the presidential election, and Ms. Eaton, who lives in Springs, had noticed the endless parade of political signs stuck in lawns across the heartland, giving her a sense of just how great the great divide had become in America.

Then, in northern Arizona, near Route 66, at the edge of the Mojave Desert, she caught sight of a lonely hotel that seemed to epitomize much of what was going on in her head.

“You’re leaving warm country, then you hit Flagstaff in a blizzard,” Ms. Eaton said. “It’s a perfect place for an outlaw, and if I had named this hotel, it would be called the ‘Oasis.’ You could literally see that it was the last place with palm trees—and beyond it, nothing.

“Between the road and home is ‘Shelter in Place’ … I thought, that’s the name of the new record.”

Shelter in place. It’s a simple phrase that conveys far more than one might think at first glance, referencing, as it does, the possibility of incoming missiles, or perhaps the current troubled and divisive times that make many of us want to duck and cover.

It’s also a phrase that Ms. Eaton has emblazoned on trucker caps. Rendered in black and white, and complemented with an image of a steer skull—very western, indeed—Ms. Eaton’s hats may echo those other famous red caps worn by certain supporters of a certain president. But, as she explains, “Shelter in Place” is about something much deeper and far more personal than politics.

“Road trips inspire the music. It’s easy to say my writing is influenced by the landscape, but I don’t think you know that when you’re in it,” she explained during a recent interview in Sag Harbor. “Adventure, yearning and home—I think ‘Shelter in Place’ is the tension between adventure on the road and the idea of home.

“I don’t feel it’s a political statement, but it certainly couldn’t be ignored, looking at the tribes with their yard signs and identity,” she added. “It’s my cheeky concept. It came to me while driving across the country. When I think of sheltering in place, I think of hunkering down. Since you seemingly have no control of some of this chaos, at least you can be comfortable and look inward.”

Which is why making music is the thing to do—and Ms. Eaton has been doing plenty of that recently. She has transformed her Springs home into a temporary recording studio, where she’s been laying down tracks for the new album with guitarists B. Rehm-Gerdes and Jeff Marshall, drummer Mike Gugliemo, and percussionist Jeffrey Smith. Pianist Eve Nelson will soon be flying in from the West Coast to add her contributions to “Shelter in Place.”

The new album will debut at a release party at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett on June 28. In the meantime, Ms. Eaton is looking forward to playing live at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor with Mr. Smith, her lifelong friend, on Friday, March 16.

The show is titled “Authentic Adventures: Acoustic Highway,” and it’s being billed as a musical performance in three acts. Ms. Eaton, backed by Mr. Smith, will offer an intimate evening highlighting her original Americana roots rock, peppered with storytelling, as well as tales of what she calls “unrequited yearning, road trips and other tangential life topics.”

The evening is also billed as a barn raising to kick off production of “Shelter in Place,” and a crowdfunding campaign will soon follow.

Ms. Eaton explained that while the music for the new album has been under development since the release of her last CD, “Go West,” it was not set in any time frame. Instead, the songs found their way onto set lists during live shows. But that 2016 road trip brought the body of work into focus.

“It was during Christmas, through the inauguration. I don’t think it was such a political framing, but I couldn’t help but note the mood of the country after the election,” said Ms. Eaton, who grew up in Arizona, Wyoming and California. “I’m sure any creative will tell you the current state of affairs affects them in some way.”

When asked if, musically, this new project feels somehow different from previous albums, Ms. Eaton readily agrees that it does.

“This feels different because we’ve matured into more thoughtful arrangements and orchestrations,” she said. “I think that happens as you play longer together. The melodies and rhythms are constantly being passed back and forth in these arrangements. When you’re starting out, you’re not thinking as deeply about the composition or arrangement. But the longer you play, you pass it off seamlessly.

“In this group of musicians, there’s very little ego and a lot of space—there’s a lot more space in this project than ever before,” she added. “Personally, I’m not as self-aware. You don’t see that right away. It’s like the 30,000-foot view. My work is starting to mirror where I am. It’s open space, less notes, less words, to convey the same thing I’ve been chasing, which is these moments of truth … Like cooking—fewer ingredients, but more quality.”

And, like cooking, Ms. Eaton finds that diversity is often the spice of life. While events of the outside world can’t help but find their way into her psyche as she works through the music, she points to the diverse opinions and belief systems of members of her own band as an example of how those with conflicting views can come together for a common cause.

“You would think in a rock-and-roll band that everyone would be the same way—all of one tribe—but what I’ve come to learn is music is the great leveler,” Ms. Eaton said. “If the entire group is around this table, all decent people who would give you the shirt off their back, we wouldn’t come up with the same policies. But we all agree to the tenets of listening and respect and different ways of how others see the world.

“A music project is a great leveler,” she added. “What comes out is love and decency. It’s been great to work in that environment … A soul plugged in gets to a truth—whatever your medium.”

“Authentic Adventures: Acoustic Highway” with Inda Eaton will take place on Friday, March 16, at 8 p.m. at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. Admission is $30 in advance or $40 on the day of the concert. For tickets, visit baystreet.org or call 631-725-9500.

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