We got the chance to chat with Folk Uke’s Amy Nelson and Cathy Guthrie recently, ahead of their Austin show at the iconic Saxon Pub. The duo is releasing new single “American Girl” on July 4th, a beautiful stripped down version of Tom Petty’s classic.
Austin 101: My friends and I like to collect ‘pissed off women’ songs. We love “Small One”. Can you tell us about writing that one?
Folk Uke (Amy): I thought about the hook “you must have a small one to act like such a big one” years before we wrote the song. I attempted to write it for years, but it just came out sounding too mean. I told it to my dad and he said that I should just take a really, really, really, really, really long time to write it. I took it as a hint that I shouldn’t write it at all. And then in 2016, the mean orange President and his heartless cohorts inspired the song to write itself.
Austin 101: Your songs have a light tongue and cheek quality, but they also shed light on the reality of misogyny and gender inequality. Can you talk about that? Do you view your music as more entertaining or thought provoking?
Folk Uke (Amy): Folk music has historically been a vehicle for social justice and education. So much in fact, that it became cloudy with a somber reality and people stopped paying attention to the lyrics without realizing it. So we were there as a palette cleanser and to keep them on their feet. But, even we have to step aside and let folk music do what it does best, so we’re totally political now. Watch out.
Austin 101: As offspring of music legends, does that fuel your bold approach or cause you to pause?
Folk Uke (Cathy): Initially, it made us hesitant to get into the music industry as actual musicians. But I think we found a style and musical personality that works for us. The pendulum swinging toward less equality has been hard to swallow. I don’t know how that’s going to play out in our future music, but I hope it does somehow, and that we will be able to bring some light in through the cracks.
Austin 101: I think one of the most alluring aspects of your music is that such bold lyrics are served up wrapped in a cozy gingham bundle of old school country. Is this intentional? What kind of fan base does that attract?
Folk Uke (Amy): I’ve tried to write other styles and it usually still comes out sounding like country. Our style of music seems to bring out people who are weird like us, and kind, and often hilarious. So we are all very compatible and get along well at the shows.
Austin 101: Are there any upcoming collaborations planned or people you would like to work with but haven’t?
Folk Uke (Amy): We have recording plans with some brilliant musicians this fall, but we probably shouldn’t announce who they are yet because they haven’t all agreed to it yet.
Austin 101: What’s touring been like since the pandemic?
Folk Uke (Cathy): Amy and I haven’t done much touring in the last few years, but I’ve been out on a few short runs with my sister, Sarah Lee (as Guthrie Girls). It’s felt sort of medicinal to me. I’ve noticed that people have really missed live music and experiencing it together. I know I have. Online shows were amazingly inventive and really helped musicians pay their bills. It was such a great way to socialize without leaving your house, but there’s no substitute for a live, in-person concert, both as a fan and as a musician. Things seem to be getting back to normal, but with a deeper appreciation for human connection.
Check out our photos from the show at Austin 101 Magazine.