Since her days as front woman for Charlotte’s the Rank Outsiders in the early ’90s, singer-songwriter Gigi Dover has been the city’s reigning queen of Americana. As a solo artist she’s steered between country, adult pop and Memphis soul. On her new album, she and her husband/producer Eric Lovell stretch stylistic boundaries and explore world music.
Q. How did you approach this record differently?
Dover: Usually we have these songs written and the band plays them out. We didn’t have any of that. We knew we wanted more sitar tunes and one of the objectives was to let every instrument speak as a voice using lots of percussion and different instruments – sitar, melodica, glockenspiel, ukulele.
Q. Did you have an overall concept?
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Lovell: We were kind of trying to stretch the boundaries of the Americana thing and make world music through the eyes of Southerners. We were listening to a lot of African music.
Dover: That was definitely the intent, to push our own boundaries.
Q. Were there certain triggers for the lyrics?
Lovell: With “Moonlight” Gigi went for a walk and a young man was playing out in the street and came running up and hugged her.
Dover: He didn’t have any front teeth. He was smiling all big and he just grabbed me. That’s the little bridge in “Moonlight.” His mom, from a distance was like “You don’t hug strangers.” He said, “She’s an angel.” Eric had said, “We need one more brand new song.” Sure enough right when I started out for the walk the streetlight came on. The incident with the little boy happened and by the time I got back to the house I said, “I think I got us a song.”
Q. Is that part of your process, exercise?
Dover: Sometimes walking will bring on the creative process. Movement sets that stuff in gear. That’s always been my process. Get in the car, go for a walk, get on my bicycle. When I’m out there that’s when I’ll find a lyric.
Q. Gigi also did the artwork for the album based on the song “Night Song.” What was your inspiration?
Lovell: It’s an audio interpretation of the Indian owl trade.
Dover: There’s a period of time between September and November where black magic and voodoo bubble up to the surface. They take these owls as babies and take their talons and eyeballs and beaks and sell them on the streets. I was so moved by it that it inspired the paintings.