Elizabeth LaPrelle sat in front of us tuning her bango and sipping water while we waited to hear what her voice would sound like, if she would sound like Joan Baez or Joanna Newsom. Elizabeth introduced herself as a traditional folk singer of the Appalachians, local to Virginia, before bursting into song that was larger than her body, larger than the room. Consistently blown away by the immensity of her voice, her breadth of songs to sing, and her willingness to teach us about Virginia folklore and folk songs I asked if she would also be willing to share a few words with So to Speak. And she was.
We talked about her background in singing folk songs and ballads and her desire to mimic the voices of those who came before her. Saying that she, “didn’t meet a real live ballad-singer until I was about 15, and had to travel away to a place devoted to passing this stuff on in order to do it,” Elizabeth believes that singing is a way of sharing stories and remembering our diverse histories and family perspectives. She relies on core groups of fellow lovers of ballad singing to help her grow and learn as a musician. She is currently working on collaborative projects and “crankies”, one of her performances called “Snow is on the Ground,” that she and artist/musician Anna Roberts-Gevalts began working on almost 9 months ago. I get the sense that, although she doesn’t write her own songs, this is her way of planting history and contributing to her local communities. We ended our conversation with some thoughts on the state of contemporary folksingers, the music industry and her impressions of being a woman in this field. She also spoke of some upcoming show across the country. Click on the music link to listen to Elizabeth’s songs “Awake, Awake” and “East Virginia”
To learn more about Elizabeth and explore our interview, visit SoToSpeakJournal.org