Awna Teixeira has been surrounded by music for her whole life. As a child, she listened to her dad’s rock n’ roll records and at the age of 18, she had a partner for whom music was an all-consuming passion. She says, “His entire bedroom was filled with instruments. There was a drum kit in the middle of the room, he had a wall filled with all kinds of string instruments and there was a piano in there too. There wasn’t even room for a bed. I had no idea of the scope of the world of musical instruments and he introduced me to them. We started a band and that was what got me hooked. I started on bass guitar and electric guitar. After that, I played almost anything that I could get my hands on.”
Folky Roots (Profiles in Folk Music): Awna Teixeira
I talk to Awna Teixeira about her creative process, the challenges of being an independent musician and where she finds inspiration as a musician.
Awna listened to everyone from Bob Marley to Cat Stevens and the Rolling Stones. Growing up in a Portuguese family, she also felt a strong influence from the passionate folk music of Portugal called fado. She continues, “I am heavily influenced by my peers today as well. Most of the music that I listen to now comes from people who have crossed paths with me or who I’ve made music with. It has a huge impact on my writing and my exposure to different types of music.”
One of the ways in which she writes songs begins with recording snippets of melody or lyrics on her iPhone. Awna explains, “I have a huge database of snippets of melodies and lyrics on my computer. I have file folders for different kinds of lyrics depending on their emotions or topics. I have songs written on accordion, banjo, guitar, ukulele and piano. If something I’m working on isn’t happening, I’ll sit down and go through my files.”
She adds, “Sometimes you’ll have written half a song four years ago and you’ll realize that it’s the same song as this other one you were writing last week, so you can piece them together and have a whole song that’s been brewing by itself.”
Sometimes if she’s blocked, Awna takes another tack. She explains, “As a writing exercise, I’ll go online, find a topic I don’t know anything about, research it and try to write a song about it. If I’m a little dry creatively, it helps to think outside of the box.”
The life of an independent musician can be challenging and staying true to one’s career is crucial. Awna says, “For me, it has to be the love of music and the inspiration from it. It has to feed me whether or not I’m making really good money at the gig that night. It has to be coming from an honest place.”
Another challenge that Awna mentions is the need to make a business out of music. She points out, “You do have to be business minded and you do have to take the steps to make it successful, but sometimes working musicians can lose sight of what started us off in the first place.”
Touring and putting out albums is only one part of the expense of making music. Setting aside enough money for promotion and publicity is a crucial part of the business too. Awna says, “It’s the biggest financial struggle of musicians because it’s how you get yourself out there. There’s so many incredibly talented musicians that no one’s ever heard because the money isn’t there.”
One positive development that Awna sees is the rise of crowd funding. She feels that it has given people a chance to be more involved with the arts and act as patrons to the arts in their own way.
Over the 16 years that she’s been involved with folk and roots music, she has seen it grow and gain strength. Awna points out, “It’s really beautiful to see the folk music scene becoming more inclusive around the world. The folk festivals are incredible and you have music from all over the place that isn’t just Americana. I feel that in the last ten years, folk music has become more popular again with younger people.”
Awna has been helping her friend Jenn Rawlings create a new album. She says, “I’m co-producing it and playing different instruments on the album. I’ve really enjoyed taking on more of a production role. I do that with my own stuff but it was really neat getting to do that on someone else’s album. I have plans to do that more in the future.”
She is also working on a new, all-accordion album. Awna explains, “I’ve been playing accordion for almost ten years now. I have one or two compositions on each album that I’ve recorded, but at every show two or three people ask me if I have an all accordion album. Having that happen has been a motivation for me. It’s also one of the most challenging instruments to write on and I like to be pushed.”
One of Awna’s biggest inspirations right now is collaborating with other artists. She says, “I’ve released three different solo albums and that was an amazing challenge for me. I needed to force myself out of my comfort zone to try something new and scary. My music benefitted from it but I’ve come back to a place where collaborating musically with people feeds me the most.”
For more information on Awna, please visit her online here.
This musician profile of Awna Teixeira is based on a telephone interview conducted and recorded on June 27, 2017.