Rani Arbo Finds Her Rhythm in “Walk Around the Wheel”

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Rani Arbo and her band, daisy mayhem, deserve a dozen red roses for their 15th anniversary celebration this year. But instead they’re offering Violets Are Blue, a new album arriving March 31 on Signature Sounds. The collections might strike some listeners as a little more studio-polished than their others, yet it retains the bright, immediate feeling you’d expect from a veteran band.

Listen to one of the new songs, “Walk Around the Wheel,” then read a Q&A with Arbo, the band’s fiddle player who also wrote the song, below the player.

CMT Edge: I like the sense of place in this song, whether you’re in the garden or on the subway. What was on your mind when this idea came to you?

Arbo: Thanks. I wanted to get inside the storyteller’s mind in this song, shuttling between the tactile moments of daily life — garden dirt, a cup of coffee, a hot subway — and the silent conversations that we have with ourselves and our loved ones all day long. I imagined this as a sea shanty, or a work song, for partnership (thus the lyrics, “way-o” and “walk around the wheel”). To make it, we have to keep taking our bearings every day, both literally and figuratively. Where are we? Why are we here?

I read that you wrote some of the songs while walking. Why do you think that helps the process?

I like being in between. There’s something pure about traveling, even if it’s only a 2-mile loop around the neighborhood. Walking gives me a gap in the day, a way to empty my mind and let it wander around. Also, I retain lyrics better while walking, and I have more patience to try out ideas and let them fail. At home with a notebook, I’m not always so kind. And of course, the rhythm comes easy on a walk. I should start running and see if I can write some faster songs….

Do you remember when you first played this one for the band, and what the reaction was?

It was a fun rehearsal when we tried this out. This is one of the first tunes I’d written with the band in my head. Usually my songs start out very folky — me and my guitar, usually a shuffle with three or five chords — and then we juice them up gently. On this one I heard a lot more — a snare-driven groove, long guitar lines, a certain feel — that I couldn’t begin to execute on my own. So it was a blast to bring it in and turn it loose.

I know that you took a different approach to studio time on this album. What do you remember most about the day you recorded it? What goes through your mind when you hear this song now?

In our live shows, Scott plays a recycled percussion rig — a jug-band collection of cardboard and wooden boxes, metal cans and a vinyl suitcase. On the CD, we used a regular drum set for a bunch of the songs. What I remember most about this one was how that full set in my phones — especially that funky, snapping snare — pulled me way in. This was a live vocal take, no patching or overdubs. When I hear it now, I love how big it is — the layers, the space, the wild fiddle, the answering harmonies. It’s just as I imagined it, only better.

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