The San Jose–born singer relocated to Marfa in 2004 and Austin in 2005, after growing restless pursuing a music career in Los Angeles. Her latest, SUMMER SKIN (Roothouse/Thirty Tigers), out August 28, was produced by Craig Street and features bass playing by Meshell Ndegeocello and guest appearances from Patty Griffin, Ben Kweller, and Robert Plant.
Did your parents give you the music bug?
They encouraged it. They weren’t musicians, but my dad loved music. He had a stereo fetish—he had these giant speakers, and he liked to impress his friends by showing how they could blow out a candle. They were huge. But he liked folk music, so he’d blow out the candle with “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” My mom had a guitar up in the attic. I never really saw her ever play it, but I dragged it down when I was little and learned to play.
You moved to L.A. at age eighteen.
I went to Pepperdine, and I would go over to North Hollywood and do open mikes and stuff. I had started writing songs in high school. They weren’t good songs. One of the songs I wrote when I was eighteen or nineteen got put in a bunch of TV shows. I’m embarrassed when I hear it.
Your music was getting placed on television shows. You had a regular gig. Then you pulled up and moved to Texas. What happened?
I think when you’re in an industry town you can get lost trying to make your career work instead of trying to do something good and beautiful. In Los Angeles I always felt a little bit like I didn’t know who to be or how to be. It was hard to get together with other musicians and play. I just didn’t feel fulfilled.
What was it about Texas that drew you in?
I had some friends in Austin, and I went to visit, and I really liked the warmth, both literally and figuratively. I just wanted to go somewhere where I could dig into