Interview: Paisley Fields on ‘Electric Park Ballroom’

At first blush, Don Giovanni Records—the New Jersey-based indie label known for discovering a slew of punk bands—doesn’t seem like a natural fit for Paisley Fields, a Midwestern-bred, country musician. But oddly enough, the marriage works. 

“I was booking a tour with Lavender Country last year and Patrick (Haggerty, of Lavender Country fame) put me in touch with Joe (Steinhardt, Don Giovanni co-founder) to schedule a date at Stoop Fest,” says Fields. “Joe was involved with organizing and booking the bands. We met at the festival and hit it off right away. I gave him a copy of Glitter & Sawdust and told him that we were working on a new record. He liked Glitter & Sawdust and asked to hear the new record when it was ready. Don Giovanni has so many great artists on their label and releases groundbreaking music. They were at the top of my list of labels I wanted to work with, so I’m really thrilled it all worked out.”

Electric Park Ballroom, the follow up to Glitter & Dust, came out June 5 on Don Giovanni. Fields spoke with New Noise Magazine recently about the new record, touring with Lavender Country and what he’s been doing since the pandemic lockdown.

Let’s start off by talking about the new record. It’s your second full length—did you feel any pressure following up Glitter & Sawdust?
I titled our second album Electric Park Ballroom because that’s the first place where I felt a true and deep connection to country music. The Electric Park Ballroom is where my family and I would go every week as a kid for their line dancing lessons. As far as feeling pressure, I don’t put too much pressure on myself when I go into the studio. I go in prepared, but I also enjoy some spontaneity when we’re recording. I trust the process. Writing, rehearsing, and recording is all fun and exciting. The scary part for me is when we actually release it. 

Any songs in particular you are proud of from Electric Park Ballroom
I’m proud of them all. Each song has a different meaning and holds a different memory for me. A lot of these songs were written while I was on the road. “Ramblin’ Ranger” is a really personal song. I played it at an NSAI workshop, and the person leading the workshop said the song didn’t make any sense. I explained to her that it was about a friend’s drug overdose, and then it clicked for her. I don’t try to be obtuse when I’m writing; I just felt those lyrics I wrote were the most effective way to convey the emotions I was feeling.

Can we talk about your musical influences—what you listened to growing up and what you’re listening to now? Any influences that would surprise people?
This is always a hard question for me to answer because I’m inspired by so many different things. I’m influenced by more than just music too: art, film, books, and nature all inspire me. Travel is another passion of mine that inspires creativity. The other day, I was looking at these two tiles I picked up in Lisbon, and that sparked a memory of a night out there that turned into inspiration for a song. Lately, I’ve been listening to Fado music. I am drawn to music that’s more outside the mainstream. I’ve always loved music, and growing up, I wanted to hear anything new I could get my hands on. I could have Nina Simone, Bright Eyes, The Dixie Chicks, or Prince playing at any given time.

You’ve toured with Lavender Country. Did you learn anything about music or touring from Patrick?  
Patrick is a master storyteller. I learned a lot about our queer history on that tour. I met so many incredible people on that tour and made some wonderful friendships. Patrick is a brilliant artist, and I’m happy to call him one of my closest friends.  

Nashville is having another musical resurgence at the moment. Have you been tempted to relocate there full time from New York?
It’s something I’ve considered, but I feel at home in Brooklyn. I’m lucky to have a lot of great friends in Nashville, and I love spending time down there. It’s never out of the question. I’d have to convince my husband to move, and that would take some work. 

Did the COVID shut down affect the album release or any tour plans?
It’s been tough figuring out how to effectively promote this album during the COVID shut down. We were scheduled to play SXSW in March and were planning to tour throughout the summer. Normally, I would be on the road playing as much as I can. It feels strange to be sitting at home when we are about to put out this album we started working on over a year ago. I’m lucky to have support from a great team. It’s a weird time, and everybody is hurting, but I hope when we all come out of this, we can somehow be better for it. 

What have you been doing since the lockdown?
I wasn’t feeling creative at all the first couple weeks. I was doing a lot of the Hanon exercises on piano and vocal warmups. I started doing some charcoal drawings, which is totally new to me. I planted my balcony garden, and I’m doing live streamconcerts when I can. I did a virtual tour of some of my favorite music venues, taking over their Instagram pages. I’m trying to stay active with some YouTube workouts. My husband and I have been doing some puzzles, and I’ve started writing new music again. Also, plenty of wine and Netflix. 

What’s next for you?
I’ve been slowly working on music for another album. I’ve also been writing a musical that’s been on the back-burner for a while. Right now, I’m looking forward to June 5, our release date for Electric Park Ballroom. We had planned a big release party at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. It seems really unlikely that shows will be happening by then, so we may end up taking that party online. 

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