JV: There’s a lot about passing of time and impermanence of things in our lives and mortality on this record — it shows up in “Dogs Run On,” about our animal companions; in “Margaret,” looking back over one’s life. “Watches Out of Diamonds” uses the image of a clock, and “Not A Trick Of the Eye” is very much about mortality, about murder, but also seems to allude to police brutality as well. Is this focus on Violet Light a by-product of the time you wrote it, and everything that was going on around you — and all of us — or was it more of an intentional theme?
MDV: It wasn’t intentional, it was definitely something I noticed as the songs came together. I think I felt a lot of grief in the world around me at the time. I think I also for a while did not realize how much I was grieving various things that were going on in my life. And even the grief in the aftermath of The Stray Birds. Grieving certain things about that and a sense of time, the shock of standing in a new space after doing one thing for seven years. Feeling like wow, I’m 30 now. Where did that go? Just grieving change, but trying to accept change, and that’s the impermanence part of it — trying to come to acceptance in some way.
But I think it is a theme. Even the color violet, the moodiness of that. If there was a stage and there was a lighting, it feels like we could have violet light on the stage for the record, for the songs to be played. There is grief on this. And celebration. But the acknowledgement of the grief is definitely there.
JV: Returning to your family — your brother Lyle is also a cellist, and played with you in Asheville earlier this year, your sisters Monica and Nina are also singer-songwriters. Can you talk about growing up in a household where music is such a common language among your siblings?
MDV: It was really valued in my family. My parents would sometimes take us to music festivals growing up. Like, that was a family vacation, going to Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, or go to Clifftop, this old time string band festival in West Virginia. It was very normal for us, it seems like what you would do on a family vacation — you’d go camp out and learn fiddle tunes. I didn’t play very much or collaborate much with my siblings too seriously in high school. We each have different tastes and different directions in our music. It’s been really cool to see how, even though we came from the same house and the same parents, the same childhood, we have different things.
Like my youngest sister Nina is really really inspired by piano-driven songwriting. My brother Lyle loves Nick Drake, and is obsessed with fingerpicking guitar styles and open tunings or different tunings on guitar. I can remember any time we would find a guitar and it was in a different tuning, my parents would be like “Lyle!! You have to put the guitar back in standard tuning or no one else can play it!” [laughs] So, I don’t know, that just spoke to him. But it’s been cool, we’re each on a different path, and it feels so abundant to be able to appreciate that about my siblings and know that, and enjoy the uniqueness of what we’re each doing musically. And it felt really fun to bring them into my world and ask them to sing on that song, cause they’re all really great singers.
JV: Tell us about your bandmates on this tour — who’s performing with you at World Cafe Live and Zoetropolis?
MDV: Dominic Billett is the drummer on this tour. Dom has been in my live band for almost every show that I’ve played in Nashville for the past couple years, and he also used to play drums occasionally with The Stray Birds. He’s also from Pennsylvania, he grew up in the Lehigh Valley so he’s just a really great friend and collaborator, and we go way back. He happens to not be on Violet Light but he is in the touring band right now.
And then Shelby Means is the bass player, and Joel Timmons is the guitar player, and they’re both singing harmonies as well. And I had never toured with either of them before but they are the harmony singers on “How Bad I Wanna Live” on Violet Light and they actually have come to a lot of shows that I’ve played in Nashville, local shows that Dom and I were playing with other band members. They’ve been in the audience and enjoying the shows, and they’ve been fans and friends. We’ve also been adventure friends — getting together and going on a hike — or I would sit in with their band, getting to know each other musically. I played with them at Americiana Fest in Nashville last year, and it was rally elevating to play with Shelby and Joel and sing with them.
That’s the crew, and today in Brooklyn we’re meeting up with Charlie Muench, who was the bass player in The Stray Birds. He and I have stayed super close and really good friends, he’s super supportive of everything I’m doing now. And he’s going to be a special guest on these next three shows, in Brooklyn and Philly and Lancaster . He’s going to be singing on some things, we’ll feature him on some things, he’ll play some banjo and some bass. In the spirit of collaboration, he’s here and I’m excited to play with him in this context for the first time.
Maya de Vitry performs in Philadelphia at The Lounge at World Cafe Live on Wednesday, May 25th, and in Lancaster at Zoetropolis on Thursday, May 26th; tickets and more information on both shows can be found at the WXPN Concert Calendar. Violet Light is out now, and can be ordered on Bandcamp.