On Angela Easterling and No Depression Friendships

AEThis was originally published at No Depression dot com, as an Easy Ed’s Broadside column. Although many fans of the roots music/Americana/alt-country or whatever other genre you want to call it remember the magazine of the same name, it ceased publication back in 2008 and was replaced by an online entity. Shortly after it started up I began to submit articles, reviews, observations and ramblins’. Back then, everything on the website was community content…meaning it was submitted by and for like-minded (sometimes) music fans. In time things changed; the original publisher sold it to FreshGrass and it’s gone through significant transition of design elements, paid content (like my Broadside column) and that old-timey community feel where people of common interests met and exchanged ideas. Angela is one of those people. 

This week many of us will open our mailboxes and receiving the first print edition of No Depression in seven years. And while it may not necessarily replicate the same experience that longtime readers of the magazine’s previous print run had back in the day, I anticipate that it’s likely to be the best reasonable facsimile that one could ever hope for. And when the accolades to all of the people who worked hard to put words back onto paper fades out, and the complaints of “it ain’t the same thing as the old thing” go blowing into the wind, it might be best to stand back for a moment and marvel at the house that Peter, Grant, and Kyla built. For it’s neither simply the ink on paper nor words on a computer screen that have been sown from the seeds of ND’s two decades of existence, but a new generation of musicians, fans, pundits, critics, archivists, writers, readers, videographers, composers, lyricists, creators, aggregators, and networkers that have created a cultural community that seems to endure and thrive.

I met Angela Easterling on this website shortly after it launched in early 2009. Back then there seemed to be just a few hundred of us post-print, zombie-like survivors who bothered to log on, read whatever there was to read, watch videos, post content, and hope that something would come out of it. Peter and Grant were both submitting articles in the beginning, Kyla was focused on building advertising revenue from the embers of a scorched music retail landscape, and Kim Ruehl (who’s now the editor of ND) was scouting for articles and reviews by encouraging both professional writers and amateur hacks such as myself to contribute. Unlike the “letters to the editor” that the old school magazines printed in each edition, these new online articles had a comments section that allowed for immediate feedback, which included expansion of original thoughts, corrections and arguments, raging controversies and, ultimately, friendships. Instant karma.

Angela had recently moved back to South Carolina after spending time in the Los Angeles area attending school, and I think she had already put out her first album in 2007. We had conversations in the comment sections, and when I began to post articles, we connected on Facebook and got to know each other beyond just our musical interests. She was one of the first people to send me a CD (BlackTop Road) and ask if I might like to write about it it, but Michael Bialas beat me to the punch and posted his review in August of 2009.

For the next few years, I watched Angela personify the DIY spirit by traveling on the road from gig to gig, recording and releasing her albums without benefit of a record label or distribution team, competing at festivals, knocking down radio station doors, and using social media to not only gain fans but make friends. When I posted a story in April 2011 about independent musicians and the difficult times they faced while they tried to make a living, she set me straight:

I get a bit tired of people who want to commiserate with me and try to tell me how terrible my life is because I’m an indie musician. ‘Oh it’s sooo hard, you work so long and for so little money etc., etc.’, they say. Yes, it is a lot of work, there are parts of it that aren’t always fun and I’m not always thrilled with the progress I’m making and/or my finances. Rest assured, you are not informing me of something I don’t already know. But nobody tied me down and made me do this. I absolutely love what I do and I feel so lucky and blessed to be living this life.

As the years have rolled on, I’ve watched as Angela fought to keep her family’s farm — where she lives today. I’ve put up with her Boston Red Sox and Mad Men fan-girl rants, read her intimate thoughts posted on Facebook about life, love and family, celebrated birthdays and career highlights, engaged in political and environmental discussions, listened to and loved her music, and got to share in her happiness when she and her guitarist Brandon Turner began a committed relationship. They now have a little boy they each adore, and last week they announced that she was expecting again. With her new album Common Law Wife getting strong airplay on Americana format radio and moving rapidly up the charts, as great reviews are coming in almost every day, I’m guessing that Angela must feel as if she’s won a double header against the Yankees.

I heard “Hammer” back in January and told Angela that I thought it was one of the best songs she’s ever written. By March, I had the complete album, and it immediately got lost in our apartment until the end of the month. By April I was playing it every day in the car and couldn’t wait to share it. But, considering its August release date, I held off. Over time, I moved on. Until this week. I’ve been thinking about her, the growing family, the music she’s been making and how she has moved through the years with dignity and grace. Like I mentioned, the reviews have been exceptional and with a couple of months of touring in front of her, it feels like it’s her time to break through to a wider audience.

When people think of No Depression, they often reminisce about the magazine and talk about the great articles, reviews, and graphics. They talk about the story of how a musically like-minded community came together for a period of time in the mid-’90s and held on tight for 13 years until the original magazine came to an end and morphed into … whatever this is. And while I am sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation of the new print edition, its really been the people I’ve met along the way that makes this whole thing so special and unique for me. And my friend Angela Easterling is one of those people.