Becky White is half of the electro-folk duo Firekeeper; here is a link to the website:
Q: What inspired you to start Firekeeper?
A: Firekeeper started out of playful conversations with Nathan Pundt (drummer, designer & collaborator) while on tour with The Secret Mission. We had this on-going joke about starting an electro-pop duo until we realized, that sounds really fun! Part of our idea was to expand our musical potential with various electronics and focus on an intentional integration of multimedia and visual art. Then we realized, this duo idea gives us some really cool creative freedom that feels inspiring. Let’s go with it and see what we can dream up for real. Then the name Firekeeper came to me while on an a beautiful hike on a cliff above the ocean. Now we’re pretty amazed how far we’ve come with it all.
Q: Who are some of your musical influences? (why)
A: I’ve always been influenced by a full range of musical genres. As a kid my mom played me Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Band, Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Jimmy Cliff, Rolling Stones, CSN&Y and all those good 60‘s & 70’s hits on vinyl. I love that stuff. I also got really into the 90’s bands out of the UK at an early age along with punk/indie & alternative rock.
Recently I really love the creativity and authenticity of Bjork, Catpower, Radiohead, Gillian Welch, Woody Guthrie, Sade, Santigold, MIA – oh yeah, and some newer folks like Oh Daughter, Grimes, and Lord Huron, Sean Hayes and the Be Good Tanyas.
I also grew up around the electronic music scene on the west coast and went on a tour with Bassnectar when he was just starting out and had the good fortune to cross paths with cool underground artists like Random Rab, Papa Chango and Cheb i Sabbah among others.
I’m a student of Indian Classical music as well, and love Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, Nikhil Banerjee and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, to name a few!
I guess good music draws me it! If I feel the spirit of the music, that’s the most important thing. I’m also a fan of good hip hop and dance music, I’m always looking for the next cool thing.
Q: What are you hoping to accomplish at Sundance?
A: I’m excited to play at Sundance because it seems like a great nexus of creative people. I love being in the community of artists of all types. I also love film and feel like there is so much crossover between sound and image. Really, Firekeeper strives to cross artistic boundaries and I feel like Sundance Film Festival is the perfect place to share our music and creative visions. I’m also excited to see various friends and colleagues – and if I’m lucky, maybe get a run in on some powder
Q: What is The Great Unknown about?
A: The Great Unknown is about living life to the fullest and not being afraid to surrender to the unknowningness of life. So much of living and surviving as a musician is being able to continue making music without really knowing what will happen in the future and trying not to be attached to a specific outcome, like how the logistics of day to day reality will turn out. It’s not like having a 9 to 5 job. It’s a path full of adventure, risk and passion.
Q: What trends in music annoy you?
A: As a woman, I am over this idea that female musicians need to fit into a certain mold, model or act; and that as a woman your music is dependent on our marketability. I don’t go for packaged, pre-calculated, over-marketed music. I do love beautiful things, but I’m not down with a plasticky sheen.
I love the way music brings people together. I’m really most interested in authentic creative vision, poetry and unique sounds, not the pitfalls of the corporate capitalistic music industry.
Q: What is your most unusual backstage story?
A: Although I’ve played music my whole life, my studies in college had a focus on marine conservation and I’ve spent a lot of time above (and below) the ocean observing and studying cetaceans, i.e. marine mammals such as orcas, bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins, fin whales, grey whales and humpback whales.
My experiences studying these amazing creatures in the natural world have greatly influenced my music. The magical qualities of the Earth around us and our place within the natural world as humans is a topic that I continue to explore through music and visual art.
Q: Define “folk music”.
A: I think of folk music as the music of the people, of the folks, regardless of class or caste, a place where everyone is welcome. Folk music is passed between people by the oral tradition of singing the songs. Folk music can also reference world music and the traditional music of regions and tribes.
Folk music is music that can be adapted and transformed. It has room for people to claim the songs as their own, as folk songs tend to be honest accounts of everyday people facing the realities of life that everyone can relate to.
Q: How did you two meet?
A: I met Nathan Pundt the same day we moved into a house together with four other mutual friends during my last semester at Prescott College in Arizona. This big beautiful house was outside of town near the national forest and had an impressive wraparound deck. We had some great parties there and played a lot of music. Nathan and I have had many amazing adventures together since.
Q: What has been your greatest professional accomplishment?
A: Writing, recording & producing the Firekeeper album To Wake the Living and making it this far as an independent musician!
Q: What sort of day jobs have you had and how have they influenced your work?
A: I grew up around the restaurant industry, but was never drawn to work with food professionally. Instead, for a long time I was a naturalist and wilderness guide, taking adults and kids into the backcountry by foot and kayak. It was rewarding to teach people about the natural world and the earth around them, and I have learned some amazing skills which constantly inform my life and work. There is a special resilience and passion that comes out of knowing how to survive in the wilderness, and loving it!
I have also worked as a part of various non-profits, working on issues such as climate change and the realities of global economic systems. These topics have influenced my music and I consider myself one strand in growing movement for social and ecological sanity.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)