Interview with Naomi Lewis

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Naomi Lewis’ two albums are regarded to be among the best privately pressed folk/singer-songwriter albums of the 1970s with a production quality and creativity that goes beyond many in the genre. Although the albums are now seen as classics that fetch high prices Naomi’s background and the circumstances regarding the making of the albums still remains a mystery. Initially, the idea of recording an album was a way to share her songs with friends and as she said it herself “I no longer needed to record each person a tape, I could offer them an album”. This resulted in her debut album “Cottage Songs”, which was released in 1975 followed by “Seagulls and Sunflowers” the year after. Both were pressed in a 1000 copies and released on her own label “Cottage Records”, named after the cottage in Utah where she lived and wrote many of the songs for the albums. The style of the albums is similar and Naomi is both a skilled songwriter and has a willingness to experiment with different arrangements and instrumentations making her music diverse and intriguing. This also explains the range of different styles heard on the albums, from the funky soul-rock in “Get On Down” to moody introspective folk, like in “Dusty Painting” and “Seasons”. Many of the songs also have a dreamy quality to them, e.g. “More Beautiful” and “I Have a Blue Sky”, which evokes a slight psychedelic feel. Although to describe her music as psychedelic folk, which you sometimes see, is rather misleading. Instead her music springs from a more mainstream singer-songwriter and folk tradition with Joni Mitchell as an important inspiration for her early songwriting. Both albums received good reviews in the local press but after the release of “Seagulls and Sunflowers” she started to grow tired of the record industry and she didn’t felt like pursuing a professional music career. She continued however to write music and is still active today writing for the Nashville country scene.

Naomi surfaced a few years ago when she realized that people were looking for her records but so far there is very little information available and this is the first time she has been interviewed since the ‘70s. 

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As I understood it you don’t originate from Provo, Utah. Where did you grow up? And what is your musical background?

From ‘Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore’ in 1961 to the last chord of the Beatles ‘Let It Be’ album in 1970, I was in my youth, riveted by music.  I used to try to stay awake listening to KOMA, a radio station beamed out of Oklahoma City, on my little transistor radio, hoping to hear ‘Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore’ by the Highwaymen or Bobby’s Vinton’s, ‘Blue Velvet’ before I fell asleep and mother came in to turn off my radio.  I can absolutely trace my life into my 20’s through Beatles songs.  I can remember where I first heard the music and what was happening in my life at the time, where I lived and the physical surrounding of my life when a song was popular.  I preferred the British invasion groups to the American surfer groups.  I grew up with the gossamer harmonies of Chad and Jeremy and Peter and Gordon and all the rest of the beautiful British music that invaded our shores.  I have kept many of the original Beatles 45’s.

Many of my songs have an element of nature in them because growing up on a ranch an hour north of Las Vegas, Nevada gave me access to acres of visual stimuli.  I could see a Matterhorn-like mountain in the distance out my bedroom window as well as my beloved red mesas.  I was aware of my surroundings from clouds to dandelions.  I still thrill to all kinds of clouds.  The high cirrus, called mare’s tail, that herald fall, always make me smile, because autumn is my favorite season.  I love a moody, cloudsy, rainy day, especially since they are so rare in southern Nevada where I live again today.  Just as wonderful to me is a bright azure sky full of cumulous, or a colorful sunrise or sunset.  If one looks for them, they will find a few references in my music about the moods of the sky and nature, for example, “pigeon wing sky” and “gardens of peace and pastels.”  Growing up in the country, all kinds of sounds tickled my ears, from the lowing of cattle to bird song and wind in the trees.  My mother loved classical music and great singers.  Her favorite was Mario Lanza.  My dad listened to country music – ‘Mocking Bird Hill,’ sticks in my memory.  Music was all around me all the time as a child, in my home and in nature.   I grew up cocooned in the love of my family and I was blessed with friends, naturally, my music expresses love of family, friends and God.  

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Naomi practicing on her first guitar together with her friend Rauli Uitto in 1967.

Naomi practicing on her first guitar together with her friend Rauli Uitto in 1967.

I had an experience akin to the lead character of the lovely film fantasy, “August Rush.”  I was always tapping my fingers and hearing melodies in my head.  Before our piano arrived when I was eight, I went around playing every surface I could get my little fingers on, knowing I would be able to sit down and play.  It was a complete shock when it arrived, I sat down and I couldn’t play it.  I took piano lessons for five years and played clarinet for eight years in the school band, but as far as guitar goes, I never had much training - a few lessons over the years.  It was an experimental instrument for me and I liked to work with different tunings.  My friend Rauli Uitto from Helsinki taught me the opening chords of ‘For Your Love,’ by the Yardbirds and I immediately started using them to write my first songs on a guitar I borrowed from a girl across the hall in my dorm as a college Freshman in 1967.  I began by writing religious songs, folk songs and protest songs.  A month later, a guitar I bought from Sears, arrived by train and Rauli and I picked it up at the station and spent the day by a lake playing the songs I‘d written in that month.  My earliest efforts were repetitive melodies, along the lines of, ‘If I Had a Hammer.’  Later I wrote a song for my boyfriend, ‘The Wind the Rain and the Roses’ and later still, a song for my husband the day after we were married, ‘I Picked a Flower.’  Learning to play was intuitive and experimental, but I played every day for years.

In the late 60’s, a friend introduced me to Joni Mitchell’s music and I was elated with the way she put words together and aspired to out Joni Mitchell.  I never succeeded, of course.  She was a real word smith.  I still write songs for a current country market and still aspire to put words together the way she did.  I loved Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, James Taylor, John Denver, Gordon Lightfoot, Tim Moore, Simon and Garfunkel and many others.

When did you start to write your own songs?

During the year and a half I lived in Bamberg, Germany, I had the chance to write every day, experimenting with different styles, and progressing my skills into songs with a verse and chorus about such subjects as minstrel boys, butterflies, homesickness, experiences traveling to Paris, Nuremberg and Salzburg, ‘Aujourdhui’ being one of them.  Then there were the symphonic type songs with titles like, ‘Pavilion on the Hill,’ which I still wish I had recorded.

I’m fond of the airy ditty, ‘Whistling on a Windy Day,’ referencing leprechaun shoes and throwing pennies in a well.  I tried English style folk songs with titles like ‘Windows on Devon,’ and ‘The Vale of Glamorgan,’ with the line, “A peasants kerchief lies in the brambles, a road tramp rambles, the night is a thief.”  I don’t know what it means.  I liked the sound of it.  I even tried jazz with a tune called, ‘Black Eyes Stare.’  There were the poetic songs, including ‘Wanderlust’ starting with “Crumbling wall and crimson in the rain,” whatever that means.

While living in Germany, I fell in love with popular songs that never crossed the pond, Severine’s “Mach Die Augen Zu” I think translates into “Close Your Eyes.”  I loved, Road to Freedom’s, “Mamy Blue,” and The Cats’, “One Way Wind.”  Other artists whose records I can’t part with are Pascal Legrand and Rainer Marschall.  While I was in Germany, I also discovered Rod Stewart’s, “Maggie May.”  During those formative years, I met Rosa Stolz who at the time was in the middle of her PhD in music.  She was a great support while I bumbled through those early efforts. 

Naomi looking out from her basement apartment, "The Cellar", in Provo.

Naomi looking out from her basement apartment, "The Cellar", in Provo.

When I returned to Las Vegas the summer of 1972, I started dabbling in tunes with a country flavor, among them, ‘In Corners Low.’ I also wrote a ton of one word experimental ditties like ‘Treehouse,’ ‘Oliander,’ and ‘Igloo.’

Some of these early songs with a verse and chorus, I recognize as emerging forms of more organized or better conceived tunes like ‘You Keep Me Warm,’ featured on the “Cottage Songs” album which is a tribute to the summer of ‘72, and ‘Love Song’ written in an apartment above a photo studio, during the autumn of 1972, is featured on the “Seagulls and Sunflowers” album.

It’s an unknown fact, until now, that ‘Seagulls and Sunflowers’ the song, is a tune from a suite of songs, with words, I wrote about Wales, one of my ancestors homelands, in 1971 when I was living and writing in Germany.

The cottage in the mountains of Utah, featured on the “Cottage Songs” album cover, where I lived in 1973-74, was a little piece of heaven and a battery of sorts.  People came, usually one or two at a time, to get “charged up” and go back out into the world.  That is how my songwriting and singing career began.  Friends would come to the cottage down-hearted and I’d sing them a song or write them a song and sing it later.  We’d talk and they went away hopeful again.  I hope the music I created at the cottage continues to serve a positive purpose for my friends around the world.  Sadly, the cottage has made way for progress.  Now, a two-story apartment building stands on the property, but once a dreamy girl wrote in the twilight, ten of the twelve songs from “Cottage Songs” and three of the tunes from “Seagulls and Sunflowers,” with a deep love for what melody and words can express, including: How Do, Dear Friend, I Have A Blue Sky, Get On Down, I’m The Lucky One, Mellowside, Wood Hue Day, Children Of The Light, Gonna Find Me A Rainbow, Seasons, More Beautiful, Song Coming On and Dusty Painting.

Most of the songs for “Seagulls and Sunflowers” were written while I lived in a basement apartment on University Avenue in Provo, Utah.  Half-immersed in mother earth, “The Cellar,” as I called it, was a good space for creating sun-lit melodies and rhythms, including: A Song Is Born, Tupa, Tupa, Tupa, There Will Be Music, My Song For You, Rock Me, Osprey Fly, and Images of You. 

 Did you record anything prior to “Cottage Songs”? Did you play in any bands?

The cover sleeve for "Cottage Songs" - painting by Stefanie Clark. Initially the record was intended to be released with a full-color painting of the cottage on the sleeve but because it was so costly to print Naomi went with this black and white version instead, which she said she always liked because it looks like a wood-cut print.  

The cover sleeve for "Cottage Songs" - painting by Stefanie Clark. Initially the record was intended to be released with a full-color painting of the cottage on the sleeve but because it was so costly to print Naomi went with this black and white version instead, which she said she always liked because it looks like a wood-cut print.  

During the summer of 1972, after I returned from Germany, I also had the chance to write and record a couple of guitar/vocals, ‘See Purple Plum’ and ‘Danny‘s Song,’ for a film soundtrack.  The film was a flop, but people liked the music. (The two songs are excellent fragile folk songs with just Naomi on vocals and guitar that reminds me of something by Vashti Bunyan, ed. note) A frightening thing happened the day we recorded these two songs.  After they were recorded, the engineer was rewinding the tape and it flew all over the floor.  The director ran into the sound proof booth with sweat on his brow and terror in his eyes.  I said, “I can do them again,” and I did.  I notice now the guitar is slightly out of tune.

Christmas of 1975, this was after “Cottage Songs” was released the summer before, I received a call from KBYU about presenting some of my tunes for their Christmas program.  I sang five tunes for their rep and they wanted all of them.  Other local artists involved in that program with their original music were Bill Cushenberry, Mark Evans, Marvin Payne, Guy Randle and maybe Jac Redford.  They added the arrangements to my basic guitar/vocals.  They were generous with their talents.  I never had the sense that we were in competition for an audience or sales of our music.  We recorded my songs in ten hours.  It was then I began to think about producing a second album.  I figured if I could record five songs in ten hours, I could record twelve songs in thirty hours.  If I remember correctly, we completed “Seagulls and Sunflowers,” in thirty-two hours at Sam Foster’s, Sambo Sound in Provo, Utah, the beautiful mountainous home of BYU.

 Was there a local music scene in Provo that you considered being a part of?

Provo in the 1970’s was a magical place and time.  Marvin Payne was probably the best known singer/songwriter of that era.  Dave Eyre’s band, Prodigy was also working in the area.  I appeared toward the end of that artistic movement already in progress in the Provo area which I found to be a very giving and supportive environment that fostered collaboration. 

My songs were given life by great players in the studio who loved making music as much as I did and without whose help the albums would not exist.  My accolades go to Bill Cushenberry who played wonderfully unique bass and pedal steel, Mark Evans, a gifted percussionist, Jeanette Willis on French horn, my musical guru, Rosa Stolz, a paragon of musical knowledge and long-time friend, and many others listed in the credits of the albums.  The longevity of these musical efforts are testament to the enduring magic of their inspired work.  I just gave them a blue print, together we built what you hear.

Later, in 1977, an artist named Shannon recorded several of my tunes.  I believe Marvin Payne and Guy Randle produced her first album.  My music went underground after that, though I quietly continued to write and demo songs from then until now.  Along the way I became more a songwriter than singer.  I have written more than 2,000 tunes from the perspective of, “What if I tried...this?”  In 1992, I went into the studio again with a gifted bass singer, Don Nowell, from Wayne Newton’s band and husband of my dear friend, Linda.  We recorded the country-style song, “Priceless,” with studio musicians with multiple vocal tracks by Don and I.  The tune went to number 7 on the independent country charts for a Texas-based record label.

Did you perform live during this period? In that case, do you have any fond memories of performing that you would like to share?

Newspaper ad for a performance with Naomi and signing of the "Cottage Songs" album in a local record store.

Newspaper ad for a performance with Naomi and signing of the "Cottage Songs" album in a local record store.

I always carried a small notebook and pencil to jot down ideas and images.  I noticed one of my co-workers writing in a similar notebook from time to time and one day asked her what she was writing.  When she shared one of her poems, I invited her to hear a couple of my songs at the cottage.  She was so complimentary, I began to grasp I would someday play my songs for others.  ‘Wood-Hue Day’ was one of the tunes I played and I would say, that song was the beginning of the concept of Naomi singer/songwriter.

As I was inventing myself as an artist, I played very often for living room groups.  What was wonderful about that was that I could look into people’s eyes as I shared my songs.  Most often as I looked out over my audience, I saw tears in their eyes, which is a great motivator to give your best to people who are receiving some kind of sustenance from your music.

After arranging about thirty songs for guitar and vocal, I went out and found a gig at an ice cream shop where I sang on weekends, increasing a musical following and the number of ice-cream lovers frequenting the shop - win/win.  An image that comes back from that time is the way people sat on the front of their chairs, leaning toward me and I remember worrying they might fall off.

Along the way, I met Daniel Crosby who was a loyal fan of my music.  I had always recorded my songs for friends on a small cassette recorder.  Each performance was personal and very time consuming, but I worked with the tools at hand at the time.  I believe it was Daniel who first suggested I should record my songs in a studio and I did within the following year with his financial support.

 Your music draws inspiration from many different genres. What kind of music did you listen to during that period? 

I have an insatiable curiosity and I’ve listened to all kinds of music and collected all kinds of music, starting with the influences when I was a child to my own preferences as a teenager and onwards.  I don’t know that my music sounds like any of those influences though. You tell me.

 How come you changed recording studios for the two albums (“Cottage Songs” was recorded in Syndicated Recording Studios while “Seagulls and Sunflowers” was recorded in Sambo Sound)?

Naomi in Sambo Sound during  the "Seagulls and Sunflowers" sessions. 

Naomi in Sambo Sound during  the "Seagulls and Sunflowers" sessions. 

“Cottage Songs” had its challenges.  After the record was mastered, we discovered there was high-end noise on all the up-tempo tunes and reluctantly, I went back into a studio to save the album.  I don’t recall how this happened.  Daniel had met Dave somehow.  This is when I met Dave Eyre and his group, Prodigy.  They re-recorded six songs at a Salt Lake City studio.  I had used a French horn as a second voice before that, but they added the brass section which I had never used before, giving the songs a different vibe than I had ever envisioned, but that added a lot of energy to the up-tempo tunes.  Dave did the arrangements quickly and recorded them in a couple days, after which Jeanette Willis, my French horn player, and I went back in and laid our tracks.  Ron Deutchendorf, brother of John Denver, was in town for that session as well as an impromptu concert of guitar/vocal and French horn in my living room.  If you recall, John Denver used guitar based arrangements for his songs, but his next recording was ‘Annie’s Song,’ which introduced an orchestra.  I’ve always wondered about the influence of that session in my living room, but never had the chance to ask.

There were some highlights and beautiful experiences for me while I was recording “Cottage Songs” and good things came out of it.  I met Mark Evans for the first time.  He is the wonderful percussionist who played in all my sessions for both albums.  He was a remarkable musician and an extremely nice guy - very supportive of my music.  I had the sense that he genuinely enjoyed working with it.  Jeanette Willis’ French horn is still a highlight for me to listen to and the beautiful classical guitar playing of Erasmo Fuentes who added the finishing touches to ‘Wood-Hue Day’ and ‘I’m the Lucky One.’  They are still two of my songs I most enjoy listening to this many years later. 

Marvin Payne knocked on my door one evening and sat with me talking about my music.  He was the one who suggested I use a different bass style in the future and introduced me to his bass player, Bill Cushenberry whose playing I adore on the second album.

Did you experience any differences in the recording of the two albums?

The illustrative sleeve for "Seagulls and Sunflowers"  - artwork by Judy Gresko

The illustrative sleeve for "Seagulls and Sunflowers"  - artwork by Judy Gresko

The process of recording “Cottage Songs” was a very stressful experience for me. It was really the first time I had spent many hours in a studio and there were problems I didn‘t have any control over.  There were too many people giving advice.  I think the fact that we had to re-record half the album speaks volumes about that, but as difficult as it was at the time, as I look back it‘s all good. 

“Seagulls and Sunflowers” was my baby top to bottom, beginning to end.  I had complete control of everything from booking the studio to accepting the recordings to the printing of the cover to pressing and picking up the album in Cincinnati, Ohio.  It was the best of what a collaborative experience can be while keeping control of things.

All the songs were the children of my mind and I loved them all the same.  But some births were harder than others.  “Cottage Songs” features, for the most part, songs I wrote in the cottage in Provo, Utah between 1973 and 1974, centering on my love of friends, music and my religion.  However, ‘You Keep Me Warm’ was written the summer of ’72 in Las Vegas, NV after I returned with my husband from Germany.  I included it as a tribute to the early songs I played in an acoustic duo with Hal Jaussi with him on 12-string guitar.  This track is the only surviving recording of his work with me.   The kazoos were fun and silly and intermixed with laughter.  The laughter at the end of the track is from real enjoyment.

‘Life is Song’ reflects the importance of music in my life in early 1973.  During that time, I lived in a beautiful home on the bench above Provo, with the city spread at our feet and Utah Lake and the western mountains in the distance.  The tune is probably the most mature song of this early experimental writing period when I started an acoustic band with Hal and a couple others and began minor arrangements of my music.  I believe Hal played 12-string on the original recording of this song too, but of course, we lost the track when we re-recorded the up-tempo tunes.  I wrote some very sweet music during this time, but one can’t record everything, unfortunately.

A review of "Seagulls and Sunflowers" in a local newspaper.

A review of "Seagulls and Sunflowers" in a local newspaper.

One of the first tunes I wrote when I moved into the cottage in the fall of 1973 was ‘Wood-Hue Day.’  The images of the sea were evocative to me then as they are now – the sea, the mystery of fog and a brave seafaring Captain and his men in contrast with the woman watching her Captain’s ship sail from a safe distance in a warm room, knowing they both have their challenges.  His could be life-threatening and hers, the soul-wrenching occupation of waiting.  Discussions about this song always included the debate about whether wood-hue was the dark, rich brown of a wood-paneled lodge or the gray of wood smoke and fog.

‘Wood-Hue Day’ was a pivotal song as I‘ve mentioned earlier.  Soon after, I wrote ‘How Do?’  The melody evolved from the time I first plunked it out on Todd Compton’s piano and when I began to play it for others, but it maintained its lilting rhythm, celebrating friendship.

‘Dear Friend,’ ‘I Have A Blue Sky,’ ‘I’m the Lucky One’ and ‘Seasons’ were all written at the cottage as gifts for friends.  The country-influenced, ‘Gonna Find Me a Rainbow,’ came to me when I received flowers from a friend.  This was my dad’s favorite song on this album, because he was a country music fan.  He said,“This song is sacred.”

One day as I was praying, I kept hearing a tune in my head.  I later wrote, ‘Get on Down.’  ‘Children of the Light’ and ‘I Have a Blue Sky’ also celebrate my love for God.  ‘Mellowside’ was a fun up-tempo tune I wrote after I had lived at the cottage for a while and I was waiting for a friend to pick me up. 

Songs from “Seagulls and Sunflowers,” include: ‘Love Song’ written in an apartment above a photo studio in Provo, while I was experimenting with Donovan-like phrasing.  I really do know the proper pronunciation of anemone.  All these years later, I realize a verse is missing on the lyric sheet.  Sorry about that.

‘More Beautiful’ was a cottage song.  I can’t really say where it came from.  It was a gift that came through me and is some people’s favorite of my early songs and is the one, even today that receives the most attention.  ‘Dusty Painting’ was a cottage song written as a gift for a friend and was my mother’s favorite.  ‘Song Coming On’ was also a cottage song I wrote for a friend.  It has a country flavor and was, of course my father’s favorite from this album.

‘A Song is Born,’ came out of a beautiful spring morning, along with a couple other lilting melodies that were never recorded.  ‘Tupa, Tupa, Tupa,’ has no meaning.  This song was an experiment with rhythm.  I wanted to use the deep bass sound of a bassoon and was fortunate, Jim Hough, from the Utah Symphony, was available and willing to record it.

Naomi and Rosa during the recording of "Seagulls and Sunflowers".

Naomi and Rosa during the recording of "Seagulls and Sunflowers".

‘There Will Be Music,’ came out of something my great grandfather, Ed Yates said to me, “If you love there will be music everywhere you go.” ‘My Song for You’ and ‘Rock Me,’ were written for a young man I thought a lot of, but we didn’t stay in touch.  I used them on the album for their different rhythms and moods.  In ‘Osprey Fly,’ I went back to nature, and experimented with three-part harmony with the French horn.  Some of those notes were very high, but Jeanette had the chops for them.  ‘Images of You’ was written when I found out Rosa was coming to Utah to conduct the string parts she had written for ‘Dusty Painting.’

I met Rosa in Germany while she was working on her PhD in music.  She was a great supporter of my early efforts at writing songs.  Before I left Germany, she told me I was going to be the next Joni Mitchell, and asked me to dedicate my first album to her.  I’m sure she said it mostly in jest, but three years later, I dedicated my “Cottage Songs” album to my friend.  I felt honored she was willing and able to come to help with the second album and thought it would be fun to do a tune together again.  She played the lead guitar part off the top of her head in one pass.  Amazing.  We had some silly times with my very early songs, like ‘Lucy Lucy’ on an old out-of-tune piano at soldier entertainment in Bamberg, Germany.

There were a lot of people involved in the making of the albums considering it being a private press. How did you organize and finance the recordings?

It’s a humbling experience to rethink this time of my life.  I had some very loyal friends who loved doing what I loved.  Some of them added their talents for the love of the music and some copies of the album.  It was a chance for them to spend time in the studio and build some credits and a chance for me to have my songs produced.  My mother’s parents, Osborne and Gladys Gentry were very generous in helping finance this project.  Unlike “Cottage Songs,” which was completely produced in a plant in LA, I had the vinyl for “Seagulls and Sunflowers” pressed in Ohio.  The covers were printed by a letter press machine in Provo and the back liners were also printed separately.  I put all the elements together myself.  I did what I could to save money which meant more work for me, but I loved the whole process.

Did you have any intensions of getting the albums commercially released?

No.  I was actually offered an eight-year management contract in LA, but I was nervous about what direction I would be required to take - I didn’t want to end up being like the Pointer Sisters - that wasn’t who I was, so I turned it down to map my own course and do it my way.

 Many of the songs on “Cottage Songs” have a religious theme, which is not heard on “Seagulls and Sunflowers”, was this change in topics intentional?

It was intentional.  My songwriting was evolving and I was hoping to capture a broader audience and I wanted to experiment with new subjects and kinds of music.  Bear in mind, this was still very early on and it’s sad to say, my best music from this period was never recorded.  And music I wrote from 1977 forward was even better.  I thought I would record more albums.  But I found that I didn’t enjoy the business end of it.  I totally loved the creative end, but I hated selling and distributing and couldn’t justify any more albums because of that.  I wish now, as I look back, I had bit the bullet and done it, but at the time, I moved on. 

The albums are similar in many ways but to me “Seagulls and Sunflowers” has more of a moody feel to the arrangements and songs. Is this something you can agree with?

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I don’t think I can answer this question.  You’re a better judge.  But I think the album was appropriately called “Seagulls and Sunflowers,” because of all the tunes I’ve recorded, it has the most history.  As I mentioned before, the tune was originally written with words as a part of a suite of songs about Wales.  As I worked on the concepts for each tune for the album, I decided to do it as an instrumental with an English horn carrying the melody.  We laid the tracks and waited in the studio for the horn player.  After a phone call, I discovered the musician wasn’t able to come to the session.  That same day we also recorded the strings for “Dusty Painting,” and one of the violinists suggested Elizabeth Farnsworth to play recorder.  Miraculously, Elizabeth was home to take the call, back before we all had cell phones, and agreed to come and play with no preparation while Jeanette and Rosa quickly transposed the music from English horn to a key a recorder could play.  I believe she played beautifully and the track is still some listener’s favorite.

What happened after the release of your two albums? Did you continue to perform and make music?

Yes.  I never personally thought my voice was good enough, but there was a demand for it, so I continued writing and singing in my living room or other people’s living rooms and doing parties, etc until about 1980 and never did anyone‘s music but my own.  I would guess my best folk music was written between 1976 and 1980, before I moved to Albuquerque to become a hot air balloonist, and started satisfying my curiosity about the visual arts - weaving, sculpture and printmaking.  There is a wonderful mixture of cultures in New Mexico that really demands visual arts.

Both of the albums are seen as classics among fans of underground folk and singer-songwriter music. How do you see your albums today? Can you still identify yourself with the music you wrote and recorded 40 years ago?

It’s hard to grasp onto that young woman.  We go through so many seasons in life and experience so many different creative urges.  I can almost imagine the conversation of a group of friends from different periods of my life talking together and not being able to agree about who I am.  They might say, “She’s a singer/songwriter,” “No, she’s a Shakespearean actor.”  “I knew her when she was a photographer.”  “She was a writer/director/producer of documentaries for cable television, wasn’t she?”  “No, she wrote a dozen screenplays and several novels.”  “She loved doing family history research.” (Here's a link to her family research blog, ed. note)  And they would all be right.  I have had a long career in Public Relations and Fund Development, but numerous hobbies, including my love of travel and my love of cats.  Baby and Feather are my two current furry friends.  I suppose I attribute the diversity of my life experience to an irrepressible curiosity or simply, I could never decide what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wanted to try it all, consequently, never mastered anything, haha.

Naomi in 1975 and 1976 was deeply driven and curious about how music could sound. I heard people ask, “That’s classical folk, right?“  They were paying respect to the possibility it was a new genre.  I could hear the music in my head so I was experimenting with instruments nobody else was using and something lasting came out of it, well, that’s just a miracle to me now. 

It couldn’t surprise me more than to think that work I did so long ago may be what I am remembered for, if I am remembered.  I would have thought it would have been something more current, more mature that would impact others, but I have to be grateful that I had the chance to contribute something that has lasted as long as it has.  Quite possibly the world belongs to the young and I was blessed to do what I loved and have a taste of success when I was young.  I’m perplexed about how it survived, how it got someone’s attention to begin an interest for collectors, but I’m content.  We’re really very blessed that the world is so small now and that technology has made it possible for people all over the world to hear at the click of a button and be aware of such a small private-pressing of a couple albums from an obscure singer/songwriter in the 70’s.  It doesn’t seem possible, yet…

I am hoping one day to find a record company interested in reissuing my albums on vinyl, perhaps as a double album with the couple extra tunes from 1972 as a bonus with some liner notes.  I would like to think that my albums could continue to be discovered into the future.

Naomi still have a handful of copies left of “Seagulls and Sunflowers” and if you’re interested in purchasing a copy you can send her an email: filmegg@cox.net

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Thank you Naomi for taking so much time answering the questions and sharing your story with us. Thanks also to Jens Unosson (beautifullies.se) for helping us get in contact with Naomi. 

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