This week on American Routes Shortcuts, we hear from Nashville-native, Laura Cantrell, about finding success as a country singer after moving to New York City. Laura worked as an investment banker, a day job she happily gave up a couple of years ago when her musical career took wing. With a strong sense of the country song tradition, Laura is also the host of her own show, Radio Thrift Shop, on the freeform station WFMU in Jersey City. Laura recalls her Nashville pedigree.
Laura Cantrell: So I grew up there, of course a great country music town, exposed to a lot of country music, kind of got a good sort of home-based education. I went to school in New York City, Columbia University, and kind of brought to New York with me an interest in country music and also sort of the Southern culture that my family was really part of. So it’s kind of interesting maintaining the interest but from the vantage point of not being in the midst of it all the time.
Nick Spitzer: You haven’t shied away from honky-tonk material, though it’s not maybe all Nashville-ized up, you’ve got a song that you sing, written by Amy Allison called “The Whiskey Makes You Sweeter.”
LC: I love that song too, it’s a wonderful song. It’s a beautiful story that she wrote of you know, king of losing your head a bit when you’ve had a little too much to drink, and while I think some people like to hear it as a metaphor, I hear it as a real, you know, telling of what can happen when you’ve had a couple shots of Macallan, or I should say Jack Daniels for where I’m from.
NS: Is that product placement?
NS: You spent a fair amount of time after college as a banker.
LC: I did, I ended up working on Wall Street. I did what a lot of my fellow DJs and other people who were interested in community radio were doing which was to get a day job. You know, it was a useful thing for many years, but the whole time almost I was also volunteering at WFMU and eventually doing my own program.
NS: The community radio station here in Jersey City.
(Radio Clip) Alrighty folks, welcome to Radio Thrift Shop, here on WFMU East Orange, Laura Cantrell here, happy to be behind the desk as always.
NS: How did you feel up onstage at the Grand Ole Opry in your hometown, suddenly at the pinnacle of old-style country radio and music?
LC: Well it was very amazing, it was real- I of course visited the Opry many times when I was younger, and you would go and Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff and Bill Monroe would all be there, and I felt like I was so glad that I got to go to the Opry back then, and I also was figuring out what I felt about being onstage myself. It seemed a little bit unreal.
(Grand Ole Opry Clip) Alright now I’d like to introduce a little lady, her hometown, oddly enough for a country entertainer is from Brooklyn, New York. How about that? Alright, Miss Laura Cantrell, make her welcome please.
LC: Jimmy C. Newman introduced me on the Grand Ole Opry, he said, “She’s all the way from Brooklyn, New York!” And of course my parents were standing there going, “She’s from Nashville! She’s a hometown girl.”
To hear the full program, tune in Saturdays at 7 and Sundays at 6 on WWNO, or listen at americanroutes.org.