The Beat ‘n’ Track with Lindley Ruth and her Tipsy String Band
This month the Vision sat down with Lindley Wolfgram from Lindley Ruth and Her Tipsy String Band to talk about how she went from singing about a 6th-grade crush to soaking in the vibes at RCA Studio B here in Nashville with bandmates Ben Jones, Nick Floyd and Casey Driscoll. Wolfgram is mostly into Americana, folk and some rock thanks to her parents’ record collections. Also, by her own admission, she will never escape John Denver.
So how did Lindley Ruth meet up with a Tipsy String Band?
Most of them, except for our bass player and manager, were in Pembroke all the time. I was an installation in the Pembroke lobby, so that’s how I knew them. [Manager Matt Kraatz] found the fiddle player, Casey. I don’t even know where he found them. The guitar player I met in Thrailkill sophomore year. We’ve all just been friends for a long time except Casey, but he’s soon becoming a very good friend as well.
Tell me about the first song you wrote.
The first song I wrote was in 6th grade, and I was still really into S Club 7 and the Spice Girls. It’s so embarrassing, but I had this crush on this boy, so I wrote a song called “Does He Like Me?” It was the most disgusting thing you’ve ever heard. So embarrassing. We sang it at our school choir concert and a state fair talent contest in Minnesota. I really hope that there’s no recordings of it. It is my dream for everyone to forget about it, but they haven’t yet.
So, that was the impetus for you getting into songwriting?
Yeah, that was the very first thing I did. Then I got into music other than S Club 7 and the Spice Girls, and it progressed from there. But yeah, that was a bad time— 6th grade.
I read that you got into country and folk from your mom’s record collection.
My mom listened to all the country. I grew up solely on John Denver. Then I started riding more in the car with my dad, I guess, and he was listening to the classic rock station. Then I figured I could either buy CDs or I could just listen to his that he has and I’ve never heard before. I started to do that and from there worked my way into more folk-y stuff from the same era. I grew up on Americana and classic rock.
Are there any records in particular that stick out to you?
Lucinda Williams’, “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” was a big one, and Steve Earle’s “I Feel Alright” is another big one. My dad just played them all the time, in
the car, on the way to ice skating practice. Any John Denver. I will never escape my childhood of John Denver. After than I started finding my own stuff. The Who’s “Who’s Next?” was huge and I got all into that. You don’t really hear it so much in my writing, but I guess my thought processes grew from that kind of stuff too. The Beatles’ “1” — I found that in my dad’s car and that changed a lot of things.
What are some subjects you like to write about?
I really like to write about historical events. I even have a song about Adelicia [Acklen]. It’s a ghost story. It’s not so much historically factual … it seemed like she had this personality. What would it be like if she came and haunted me one night? I have a song about my great-grandfather’s immigration here and one about Adam and Eve. I just like to take perspectives on stories people might already know or don’t know. Perspectives are what I like.
You got to record a live EP at RCA studio B. What was that like?
I actually lost my guitar capo in the piano that supposedly Elvis played, so that’s kind of cool. It really sucks that I lost it, but it’s cool that that’s where I lost it, versus on the street or in the grass somewhere. It was fun. I like to sit in there and just take in the vibes of what may or may not have happened in there according to my imagination and reality. It was really low key with just myself and the bass player. We added some fiddle stuff later, but we just had fun and took it seriously enough to get something recorded, but it’s cool to go in and there’s the pictures of them using it in the ‘50s, and you sit there and go “Wow, we get to use this for free.”
What are the band dynamics like? Do you guys write together?
I’m very much focused on the lyrics and they come in and save my butt as far as musical stuff that I just can’t even wrap my head around, which is why I’m not a music major anymore. It started out with just the bass player and he kind of laid down the foundations for some of the songs. They’re all such talented musicians. I don’t have to tell them to do anything, which is really nice. It just kind of happened. We just sat down and everything worked, which was really nice.
Can you tell me about your song “When You Were Drinking Whiskey?”
It’s actually because I was in songwriting class. Thom Schuyler gave us an assignment to write a ’50s song. I sat there and just whacked my head against the wall. I’m thinking Elvis and ’50s rock. I can’t even wrap my head around how to write something like that. Then I realized, “Wait, Hank Williams was ’50s,” and he didn’t specify ’50s rock. Then I took it and wrote it as a rebuttal to everything Hank Williams stood for, like going out and drinking and being lonely. It was like, “What about the person you left home when you were whining about going out and being drunk and being lonely?” That’s where that came from. Not a personal experience, but yeah.
I also read that you’re working on a full-length record. Can you tell me about that?
We have about six songs finished. We might want to get four or five more. I’m still tweaking some songs and having to start others. I want to be satisfied with everything on it. If anyone has ever come to a show, they will have heard most of the songs that will be on it. It’s a collection of all the stuff I’m the most proud of since being here at Belmont. It’s very Americana, earthy, acoustic, string stuff. I’m excited because there are things that I did at the very beginning of school that I could sell someone, but I’m not very proud of it at this point because we’ve come further.