One day I was poking around MySpace looking for good music (so 2005) and I found Fort Wife on Avi Buffalo's friend's list. I fell in love instantly: Fort Wife's songs were sweet and gentle (like pillows!), but not simperingly sweet, and they're especially good for daydreaming.
Fort Wife is really 18-year-old singer-songwriter Elise Ewoldt, but her backing band used to consist of good friends Avi Zahner-Isenberg and Sheridan Riley (whom she calls "the parenthetical members of Avi Buffalo"). Because of Avi Buffalo's touring schedule, she's enlisted other members to help her. Before Fort Wife, she was in Time of Wolves with Dylan Wood, 60-Watt Kid's drummer. "When that band ended, I had been writing songs. I didn't know any better friends or musicians than Avi and Sheri so I asked them to play in Fort Wife," Ewoldt said.
Ewoldt, who was raised listening to Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby Stills & Nash, David Bowie and Joni Mitchell, didn't really grow up in a musical family. The catalyst was her grandfather's guitar. "It was a really nice, 1963 Gibson ES-330 electric guitar; I thought it was stupid to have an instrument in the house that nobody could play."
After learning to play, she began writing songs. It's a straightforward process: "Usually it's me just in my room playing guitar, and I find a chord change that sounds nice. So I stick with that, and sing a melody with some nonsense words until I get all of the components of the guitar part down. Then I go back in and add some lyrics that mean something to me. Other times, I have some lyrics and those will go in initially instead of the nonsense."
Her bandmates are the final touch: "When i bring in a new song to practice it always turns out way better than the song sounded in my head, or in my room alone."
On Elise's playlist: "A lot of stuff I listened to when I was little: Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, The Band. I've been listening to other stuff too, like Ariel Pink and Tiny Vipers. Panda Bear. I'm really into Prince, you have to know that."
On her favorite venues to play in: "Usually house shows ... there used to be a punk house called "The Hickey Underworld." I played my first show there, just with Avi and a couple of acoustic guitars and a little toy keyboard. The guys that lived there got evicted, because of all the shows they hosted, and there was a lot of damage that got done by the time summer ended.
The Detroit Bar was scary -- the people there weren't mean or anything, but just playing for people who are out on a Wednesday night drinking cocktails... I didn't really know if they wanted to even hear us. Just weird insecurities I guess. My mic was also feedbacking a lot while I was singing, that freaked me out. It was one of our early gigs at a hip place and it was pretty scary. The vibes have to be in the right place."
Listen to Fort Wife: "Pregnant All The Time"
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