California native Angela Correa has been making music since her childhood among the “weed plants and peach crops” of Yuba City. Her guitar has followed her like a faithful lab from Northern California to Denmark to San Diego, finally crash-landing among the cracked sidewalks and churro carts of L.A.’s eastside. She's gotten props from LA Weekly, LA Underground and Americana UK for her "hooky balladry" and "purty voice" but now she's looking to make a change, branching out into the world of synths and pedals.
I sat down with Angela as she was getting ready for a hike with her boyfriend.
PO: Let’s start at the beginning—when did you start playing music?
AC: I always sang growing up. I did a lot of vocal stuff, choral things in afterschool programs. Singing was always a big part of what my family did. I first starting to play music w/ the intention of a band when I was 18, but I didn’t know how to play the guitar. I ended up taking a guitar when I went to study abroad in Denmark, thinking I’d have all this free time. And I did! I didn’t know anyone in the country.
Still, I always thought, ‘Oh, this is a nice hobby, but time to focus on college.’ Wherever I travelled took my guitar with me. It wasn’t until grad school when I realized I spent so much more time playing music, sitting in my room listening to four tracks, thinking about songs…I spent more time on that than on anything else. I never had that model of artist or creative type in my family. I grew up in a small agricultural town (Yuba City, Ca.). We’re known for having weed plants and peach crops and one movie theater. It’s not teeny tiny but I didn’t have a lot of artists around me… so it didn’t occur to me until a really long time later that playing music was a thing you could do for a living.
PO: What’s the first piece of music that actually stuck with you?
AC: Honestly? Songs in musicals. It’s so dorky but I would watch a lot of AMC, TCM. Like, "West Side Story" there’s this song the Jets sing— “When You’re a Jet.” My friends and I would sing that constantly but, y’know, contrasted with the Smiths. (laughs)
PO: This was around the same time?
AC: Oh yeah. My cousin made me a mix tape with the Smiths, the Dead Milkmen, and that. I was really young, super blown away by everything. I was in middle school. Just hearing that type of music…it was very exciting.
PO: Was there a moment when you really realized ‘Oh, wait, I can do this’?
AC: There wasn’t like a moment… I’d always had my guitar with me. I would write songs or play guitar but I never told anybody about it. When I moved away to school, it just wasn’t a part of my identity. It was kind of this secret thing that I did. It’s like people who doodle but never think of themselves as artists, and then you look at their notebooks and they’re full of these incredible drawings.
I remember my friends invited me to SXSW and I remember being in a few shows and having my chest hurt. It was really exciting, really fun to be at these shows hearing music, but there was this painful thing… Later I realized I wished I was doing that. There was a part of me that wanted to be playing music.
PO: How has your music changed since you came to L.A…if it’s changed?
AC: Oh, it’s definitely evolved. When I first picked up the guitar and started playing songs again, it was very folky Americana. I was listening to a lot of folk music at the time and it was where my head was at. Coming from a small agricultural town I could identify with the imagery and stories (still when I sing, I tend to have a drawl if I don’t actually think about it).
What I’m really into now is a lot of textures, sonic textures. Weird blips, electronic-y things. It’s like weaving a tapestry together. There are so many elements you can bring in. When I hear music, when I write a song, I hear all the parts in my head—all the melodies, countermelodies, rhythms, low hums, blips… It’s hard to remember to finish it. It’s like the song is a line drawing and all the color, the layers, the textures is the production. A lot of times, I see all the production but I have to remember to keep looking for that line drawing.
PO: Does that newfound interest play into the differences between "Pleiades" and some of your earlier stuff? I’m thinking especially of [2009’s] "Spark. Burn. Fade."
AC: Oh, "Pleiades" is so much more produced, filled out. It’s the beginning of that exploration, sonically. I love where we went.
"Spark. Burn. Fade." has a lot more organic instruments—guitars, drums, etc. Whereas "Pleiades" I used a lot of echos, pedals, gears, synths. Just all these ways to stretch and tweak the sound. It has a completely different feel to it, but at the core they’re still my songs, still my ideas. That’s the thread [between albums].
PO: Are there threads—ideas or themes or whatever—that you find yourself going back to again and again?
It goes album cycle to album cycle. For "Pleiades", one of the grand things I was thinking of is the idea of acceptance and growing in your own skin, being present in your life. That struggle with self-doubt… how do we feel okay about growing older? How do we reconcile our place in this world?
I’ve been making a living as a musician for five years, and I’m very blessed that I can do that, but it’s a struggle, it’s hard. Financially, it’s just not that sustainable and personally it’s difficult to feel okay with that. I’ll go visit relatives and an uncle will—without meaning to be mean or anything—he’ll say like ‘Oh, still don’t have a job?’ and I’ll be like, ‘I’m a musician, that is my job!’ It’s a job, not just a dalliance with something. Even though I know that, I still struggle with how people see it.
In our society… it’s so funny how we need art. We listen to music 24/7, we watch TV, movies, images, we consume, consume, consume. But we don’t actually place a value on it. I still—I had to get used to saying, like, ‘as an artist’. It sounds pretentious or something. I come from a very working class, middle class family… my dad has 9 brothers and sisters, mom has 3 brothers. I think where you come from has an effect on how you view yourself for the rest of your life.
Correatown's latest album, "Pleiades", is available for download at Amazon and iTunes. Angela Correa will appear at the Crawford Family Forum on Feb. 1 to play music and talk about not-love as a part of 'My Anti-Valentine.'