Ana Egge isn't your average girl. Some years ago, the Brooklyn-based chanteuse built her own house in her hometown of Silver City, New Mexico. Before that, however, she made her own guitar.
"My dad was a farmer and a mechanic, my uncle was an upholsterer and my grandfather was a carpenter," Egge explains. "Spending time with them, I was fascinated by everything they did. Tinkering with tools and building things came very naturally to me."
While a teenager, Egge took up the guitar and was immediately hooked. One of her school teachers, Don Musser, was also an accomplished luthier. Egge saw a chance to combine her passions and asked Musser to let her apprentice with him. Before long, she was building her own acoustic guitar.
"It took me seven months, but they were the best seven months I ever spent," says Egge. "That's the thing about building a guitar that a lot of people don't realize: it takes time. Yes, you have to familiarize yourself with the tools and learn about woods and so many other things. But you have to have patience. You have to take your time - and be prepared for a lot of trial and error."
The guitar, which Egge based on a Gibson B-25, is a beauty, and it's been the heartbeat of her folk-rock Americana approach to music for almost 20 years. However, on her new album, Bad Blood, due out 23 August, Egge has undergone something of a transition, dialing down the folk and cranking up the rock.
Folk-rock for the modern age
"Originally, I envisioned it being more of a bluegrass record with my acoustic guitar driving the sound," says Egge. "But Steve Earle, my producer, heard the demos I did, and the first thing he said was, 'I hear hard-hitting drums behind these songs.' Before you knew it, I had a full band behind me in the studio."
The combination of Egge's lustrous, angelic voice with Earle's gritty, knockabout production sensibilities (lots of fuzzed-out, tremolo-driven guitars!) makes yin-yang poetic sense, and Bad Blood a fascinating, rich and rewarding experience that blurs genre lines in ways that are neither stylized nor unnatural.
A deeply personal and courageous songwriter, Egge tackles thorny issues head-on. Several of Bad Blood's 12 cuts - most notably, Hole In Your Halo, Driving With No Hands and the bracing title track - deal with mental illness, which has affected various members of the singer's family.
"It's a tricky thing to write about," Egge says. "What I found worked for me was, I wrote about the illness as if it were a character or a thing - that way, I could separate it from the people. I'm not directing my anger at anyone in particular; I'm talking to the disease itself."
To promote Bad Blood, Egge is hitting the road - she plays the US through September, and in October she'll tour the UK. Enamored with the full-on band treatments from her work with Earle, she's put together a group to render her new songs live. "I'll probably do a few solo acoustic shows," she says, "but I really do like the band sound. It's going to be fun."