It’s unusual for an artist in their mid twenties to be considered a veteran, but Californian born Molly Tuttle has already packed so much into her life that the description seems pretty accurate to me!
Growing up in a musical family in the San Fransisco Bay area she started learning guitar from her father aged eight ( having decided she preferred it to the violin she’d been studying!) and started playing onstage with him a few years later before joining the family bluegrass band aged fifteen. Having been awarded a scholarship to study at Berklee College of Music Molly moved to Boston in 2015 where she continued performing and just two years later released her crowdfunded EP “Rise” having written all of the seven tracks herself. She signed to Compass Records in 2017 and earlier this year released her debut album “When You’re Ready”.
She has won multiple awards ( including being the first female recipient of the International Bluegrass Association’s ” guitar player of the year” ) and made her Opry debut in June 2018. She is probably best known for her phenomenal flat-picking and is eager to pass on her skills to others, being particularly keen to encourage young women to play an instrument, posting online video guitar tutorials. She is now living in Nashville having relocated there in 2015 and has ben welcomed into the folk, bluegrass, Americana and trad country communities.
I caught her latest solo UK tour earlier this year and was eager to find out more about Molly who kindly agreed to an e-mail interview which includes questions not only about her music but about growing up with alopecia, and I’m particularly grateful for her frank comments on this subject.
She is back in the UK to play some full band shows later this year, something I’m really excited about!
1. LH Thanks you so much for finding time to answer my questions! To set the scene, where are you right now?
MT I’m home in Nashville at the moment! Taking some days to rest before I go to Winnipeg Folk Fest and out on tour.
2.LH I managed to catch your solo acoustic show at Milton Keynes during your last UK tour this Spring, your fourth visit here you told us…..what is it that you enjoy about playing here and gets you returning to these shores? Hopefully it’s more than our tea which I gather you’re a big fan of!
MT I love the audiences and experiencing another country and landscape. Small activities like sitting down for tea and scones, visiting old castles, shopping in London, trying new kinds of beer at the pubs are all things that I love about touring the UK. The people are so nice and welcoming!
3.LH This time round you’d literally just released your debut solo album, ” When You’re Ready”. Was it a conscious decision to tour it here before back home, or was it just a case of how timings worked out?
MT It kind of just worked out that way since the tour was booked before the release date was set in place but it was fun playing the new songs solo for the first time before totally new audiences.
4.LH Your many musical influences come through on the album. Naturally there’s the bluegrass and folk you grew up listening to and playing, but there’s elements of so many other genres and artists who’ve seeped into your writing and who you’ve cited as inspiring you. How would you describe your sound to someone who isn’t familiar with your music?
MT I’m not great at describing what genre my own music fits into. I can describe my musical background, growing up on bluegrass music but also listening to many other styles like indie rock, singer-songwriter, Americana, and folk. I’ll let the listeners make their own conclusion when hearing my music.
5. LH Your award playing flat picking actually takes more of a backseat than I’d expected on this release…..are you wanting the listener to focus more attention on your songwriting these days?
MT I wanted to build the arrangements around the songwriting but always keep the acoustic guitar as the centerpiece of the songs. I think some people had different expectations for what my record would sound like based on hearing me flatpick, but to me this is still a guitar-centric record, just a different style than I’ve done before.
6. LH You’ve been co-writing a lot more since your move to Nashville I understand. Is this something you are enjoying and what are you learning from the collaborative writing process?
MT I like getting to see how other people’s brains work when they write songs. I often come away from writing sessions feeling inspired to write more. Lately I’ve been re-focusing on solo writing.
7. LH You described yourself as a perfectionist when I saw you ( which even inspired the song ” Good Enough” on your 2017 EP ) How hard was it for you to finally say ” yes, the album’s finished “?
MT It was a very involved process making the album. I think Ryan Hewitt and I both had very high standards for how we wanted it to sound and we pushed each other to work really hard. It wasn’t hard to finally say we were done after months of recording and mixing because we both poured so much into making the record somethings g that we were extremely proud of. Now I just feel excited for what I get to make next.
8.LH Do you have a favourite song from the album to play live for any reason?
MT I love playing Light Came In (Power Went Out) because even people who have never heard it will sing along and it gets people dancing!
9. LH And how are you finding playing solo, something that is a relatively new experience for you isn’t it? Was that a transition that came easily to you ?
MT I don’t play solo often and while I do enjoy the freedom it allows, I prefer playing with others because I love feeding off someone’s energy and playing off each other’s’ ideas.
10. LH Recently you’ve been speaking about growing up with alopecia, having been diagnosed aged three. Has it been particularly tough for you, working in an industry where there seems to be extra pressure and expectation on young women to conform to a certain look rather than encouraging them to embrace their individuality?
MT It’s not tough for me in that way partially because I came up in the industry wearing a wig. Wearing a wig is a personal choice that feels good to me at this point in my life and doesn’t have anything to do with being a performer, but I think that it has had a dramatic impact on how others treat and view me as opposed to if I went bald 100% of the time. In addition to the music industry, our society as a whole is very harsh on women who look different than the “norm”. Being a bald woman can be an asset at times because it’s a beautiful, striking look that draws attention, however we have a long way to go as a society before people with Alopecia are no longer bullied, harassed, and treated poorly just for looking different. The best thing about my job is that I can use my art and my platform to make people aware of this.
11. LH You’ve got a pretty busy schedule ahead of you this year, is there anything you’re especially looking forward to? And will you find time to do any more writing?
MT There’s so much that I’m looking forward to this year! I’m returning to the UK in October which will be really special. I’m also going to Australia for the first time. I love my band and I’m mostly just excited to explore the new songs with them this year.
Molly’s next UK tour kicks off in Glasgow on October 27th, all dates and more information about this hugely talented artist can be found at mollytuttlemusic.com
Interview conducted by Lesley Hastings (twitter.com/lesleyhastings)