Kris Delmhorst grew up in Brooklyn, New York, studying classical cello, and playing with folk singers and jazz bands. She made her way to the folk music hub of Boston in 1996 and has quickly taken her place among the most-promising of the new generation of songwriters with her newest CD Five Stories.
"Broken White Line" is one of 11 original songs on Five Stories, Kris Delmhorst's second CD. The music community was quick to make room for the newcomer when she first stepped on stage in 1995. Today, she is selling out the northeast's largest venues and playing over 150 shows a year in clubs, coffee houses, festivals and theaters across the USA.
Her songs have earned her three nominations for Boston Music Awards and first prize in the 2001 Telluride Troubadour Competition, a major songwriting and performing honor. Not bad for someone who didn't even pick up the guitar until after she'd graduated college.
In fact, while Kris Delmhorst had studied cello and classical violin in her younger years and had considered a professional career, she gave up music entirely upon entering college.
A desire to explore led her to a job on a farm in rural Maine after graduation, where she lived in a little log cabin having neither electricity nor plumbing. She said her goal was to get as far away from her growing up experiences as she could think of.
Kris Delmhorst: "Nothing that helped me survive in Brooklyn helped me survive at all on the farm."
Katherine Cole: "It's like being a pioneer."
Kris Delmhorst: "Yes, sort of! And it's exciting. And it was while I was there that I picked music back up. Because people there were involved in music, but in a much more community oriented, casual, spontaneous way. You know, there are long nights and you have to no electricity so you sit around and play songs so you don't go nuts. And that's in the grand tradition of music. That's why people have always played music until very recently, when it's become a commodity and a business. But before that, it was just to help people get through the night."
The opening track on Five Stories is an updated version of "Cluck Old Hen," one of the traditional songs Kris learned in Maine. The song is widely-performed by many old-time and bluegrass fiddlers, but not like this.
Kris left Maine to teach school on Cape Cod. That's where she began writing songs.
Kris Delmhorst: "It just happened of it's own accord, and I instantly had the feeling that I wanted to play it for people. I went right to an "open mike" [amateur show]. Lord knows, it was not the greatest song in the world. And it was the most terrifying experience of my life … that first time getting up on stage in front of people and singing something I had written. I thought I was just going to pass out."
Katherine Cole: "So, what did your family say when you called up and said 'Oh, guess what? We're sort of making a U-turn here?'"
Kris Delmhorst: "Well, they're thrilled with the music thing. They're musical. My parents are both great singers and instrumentalists, and music is big part of their life, too. So, they're really supportive of that part. I think they farming thing, they were a little bit puzzled. All my New York family, my parents both grew up in Brooklyn too, they've been there their whole life, so that was a stretch for them."
Katherine Cole: "You get food from a supermarket, not from the ground."
Kris Delmhorst: "Yeah, getting up at dawn and milking the cow, I don't think they ever quite got it. But music they're definitely down with. They're very, very supportive, and I'm very lucky in that."
In just six years, Kris Delmhorst has gone from being unknown to included on record reviewers Top 10 lists. She's made Performing Songwriter magazine's list of top independent releases of the year, won a prestigious songwriting and performing contest, and shared the stage with many artists from the ranks of elite American musicians. That's not bad for an artist still in the early stages of her career.