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Triple Threat: Watch out for Walsh

By Kelly Pyzik

From acting as a leader for the Freesound campus music group to opening for Norwegian Arms last week in Bob’s Underground Café, with Leah Meyer ’15 on fiddle, Adriana Walsh ’15 has been very involved in the music community at Grinnell over the past two years. Walsh has been playing guitar and writing original songs since 2007, and started learning banjo a year and a half ago. While completing an internship in New York City this summer, Walsh spent free time busking—playing her guitar on the street and singing, both for personal enjoyment and the occasional tip.

“It was a really cool way to see the city because you got to interact with people in a very anonymous way, while simultaneously putting yourself out there for everyone to see,” Walsh said. “People would come up to talk to me for five minutes between songs and then I would just never see them again. It was a cool way to get a random sampling of people in the city.”

Walsh’s interest in busking stems from the experience of her brother, John, who, after graduating college, busked in Asheville, North Carolina for five months. Besides trailblazing the Walsh family’s busking career, John’s decision to learn guitar also served as an inspiration for Adriana to pick up the instrument.

“He played the same four chords over and over for three weeks. I think he was learning ‘Mister Jones’ by Counting Crows, and I just decided I wanted to learn how to play, too,” she said.

Walsh first started performing at age eight with the community musical theatre program in her town.

“I started singing before I could remember and I always wanted to be the center of attention—I was actually really annoying about that when I was little,” Walsh said. “We have a lot of embarrassing home videos of me just being like, ‘I’m the star!’”

Playing on the sidewalks in New York without a stage or spotlights was a unique experience.

“I’ve performed in a lot of different contexts in my life,” she said. “It’s very different from being up on stage with everyone focused on you. I liked the anonymity of it.”

The casual setting allowed for a lot of interesting interactions that do not happen when performing formally in a theater or concert hall.

“A couple of people tried to evangelize me, which was really weird. This girl asked me if I wanted to go to her church’s bible study group. Other people dropped religious pamphlets in my guitar case. I always talked to them, but it was kind of amusing,” Walsh said. “A few people asked if I wanted to collaborate with them. I ended up playing with one guy who just came up and asked to play my harmonica and we sang together.”

Walsh was in New York for an internship at the ARChive of Contemporary Music, researching people who might be interested in hosting concerts or workshops for the worldwide India Music Week the archive sponsors. This fit with Walsh’s interests as a music major focusing on ethnomusicology and non-western music.

“[Ethnomusicology] is basically a fancy word for the anthropology of music,” Walsh said. “My ultimate dream is to just travel around … and learn music from all parts of the world and what makes music important to those people.”

Walsh really first developed an interest in music in sixth grade, when she began learning trumpet.

“That was when I got into jazz and started really learning what music was—not just, like, Britney Spears,” she said.

Walsh describes her own music as “country folk”—music inspired by everyday things.

“I don’t feel like I have any songs that are super profound … they’re all just snippets of my interactions with people,” Walsh said. “I always write the most when I’m supposed to be doing other things. If I want to procrastinate, songwriting is my favorite way to do it—and that’s when the best songs come out.”

Because her songs are influenced by everyday events, they can be very representative of different stages of her life.

“I was thinking about this the other day: the thing I like is how I can write a song at one point in my life and return to it later, and it’s like a snapshot of this moment in my history, but at the same time it can totally change meaning from when I wrote it,” Walsh said. “Being able to go back to those songs and wonder about them or think about them in a different way is really cool.”

In addition to performing her original songs at venues such as Bob’s open mics, Walsh has also been involved in Grinnell Singers, the Zimbabwean Mbira Ensemble, the Javanese Gamelan Music and Dance Ensemble and has been a leader of Freesound for the past two years.

She especially enjoys collaborating with other musicians and is hoping to do more collaborative songwriting this year. Her current goal is to work with fiddler and vocalist Meyer, drummer Vincent Kelley ’16, and bassist Tom Earnest ’16 this fall.

“I don’t know if they know about this, I think we vaguely discussed it a while ago, but as long as they’re willing, I would love to record an album.”
Walsh will next be performing with Meyer at the Freesound outdoor music festival on the Saturday, Sept. 28.


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  • K

    Kathy BoyleOct 20, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    WOW! Did not know you had all that talent. Way to go girl. Music makes the world a much sweeter place.