INTERVIEW: Violet Bell

Hi fellows, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

We’ve been well! We took an ambulance ride last week (everyone is ok!), so right now we feel pretty great about being alive. It was a great occasion to remember how much love we’re swimming in. On the road, our job is basically to bring a good vibe wherever we go, and connect our listeners to the best mojo we can get straight from the SOURCE. Call it the force. Call it what you want. We’ve been touring hard for a year and a half now, up and down the east coast and as far west as Nashville. All that love has been reflected back at us big-time in this last week!

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Dream The Wheel”?

Yes! What is the wheel? It’s us. We are born, we grow, we turn into our elders, and we pass on our medicine to the next generation. Throughout life we take turns in different roles.  Each of us is a reflection; a culmination of our ancestors’ choices.

Now that we are here, full grown and at the helm of our generation, what will we do with our power? What of our ancestors’ teachings do we want to give to our children, and what are we ready to lay down and release?

The song Dream the Wheel speaks to our power to create. Even if we can’t see them, we are always dancing with our ancestors and our children yet to come. Like it or not, we are part of a  story that never ends.

Dream the Wheel calls on medicine from the north, south, east, and west. Different gifts, different perspectives. It’s all necessary. The medicine of the wheel is different from the polarity that’s currently so prevalent in our culture. It says that we are all here because our medicine is needed now.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

I’ve (Lizzy) have been sitting in a weekly circle for the past two years. They’re women of all ages, and I have treasured the opportunity to connect with my elders. It’s amazing to see how our experiences at 29 and 59 and 79 are the same… and not the same.

On top of that, some of our grandparents have recently passed away, and our son is now five. Watching the cast of characters change with the passing of time, and watching our roles switch as we circle the sun is inspiring.

The day this song came together, Omar had a riff he was playing around the house.  I had some words and a melody that fit so well with what Omar was playing. We came up with them independently, which is part of the magic of songwriting in a pair.

How was the film experience?

We love working with Andrea and Matt! This is our second video with them. We had a blast filming on Ocracoke Island, a place that’s dear to our hearts. As a kid, my mom came to Ocracoke with her grandparents. Back then much of the island was abandoned, and my mom would wander through graveyards and empty cottages. We had a blast following in her footsteps, traipsing through the same graveyard, running down the beach.  Bathtub time was much warmer than the ocean time.

Why naming the album after this track in particular?

For us, the wheel is everywhere. The front cover of the album is a medicine wheel made of local NC flora that Omar and I collected ourselves. We made the medicine wheel as a sort of prayer for music to reach and serve those it was meant for.

We keep coming back to this truth – who are we but the culmination of our ancestors’ choices? Who are we but where we came from?

We want to do service to those who came before and those who come after us. We want to use our music to help awaken the power in us and our friends and listeners. The album title is a reminder. We have the power to impact the world our children, and their children, will grow up in.

How was the recording and writing process?

Omar and I wrote and recorded every part on the album over three days at Overdub Lane Studio in Chapel Hill. Omar played cello, viola, violin, guitar, keys, vocals, and I sang and played guitar.  We loved working with Steven and Johnny. We kept the core of the album live performances, because there’s special sauce to the live music. It feels more alive than multi-tracked, too-perfect studio performances.

After getting the heart of the tracks recorded, we added in orchestral parts that Omar wrote. He’s composed pieces for the Durham Symphony Orchestra and we loved getting to put his orchestral experience to work here. I LOVE singing harmonies and backup vocals, and I got to live that dream on this album!

The writing process is such a lush mystery. We never know what’s going to come out next, only that we have to give it a channel to come out. Writing as a duo is twice as fun; each of us provides the other with a twist of strange to spice things up a bit. We’re always in the writing process, already have tracks picked for our next record, and can’t wait to get back into the studio.

What role does North Carolina play in your writing?

Neither Omar nor I were born in NC. We both came here as adults, and the charm of NC has held us here.

Both Omar and I found an unprecedented artistic community here. In fact, we both found unprecedented community, period. Our experience in NC has been that people are diverse, interesting, and creatively engaged.

We also connect big-time to the nature in NC. On the album Dream the Wheel, there are a few tracks that include recordings of the sounds of our home – birds, sun rising, the creek, crickets – these are the sounds that are akin to the sonic wallpaper of our everyday lives in NC. We wanted to share that medicine with our listeners. It feels GOOD out here in the sticks.

We believe none of us are separate from our environs. What role doesn’t North Carolina play in our writing? ;P

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Everywhere! Inspiration is everywhere! We practice getting outside, moving our bodies, meditation, playing our instruments, writing, etc. Inspiration comes from the strangest places. We’re learning that all we have to do is keep our eyes open and let it flow.

Any plans to hit the road?

Omar and I play full-time for a living (is that redundant?) so we’re always on the road. We’ve played over 100 shows in 2017 already, and we only started playing together in March 2016! That said, lots of bands tour harder.

We’ve got a few fun dates left in 2017 – King’s in Raleigh with Kaira Ba on Nov 24, a fundraiser for Congo Education Partners on Nov 11 at Mystery Brewing in Hillsborough, all up at –  but we’re taking it pretty easy for the rest of the year.

In 2018 we’re headed to Folk Alliance International in Kansas City, then south through TX, NOLA, FL, and back up to NC. We’ll be returning to the northeast (we love the Adirondacks!! and Vermont!!), and intend to go as far north as Canada. We really want to get out to CO and CA. We’re about to upgrade our touring vehicle, and expecting to spend even more time on the road next year.

What else is happening next in Violet Bell’s world?

We’re already working on our next album. 😀

We’re excited to collaborate with our dear friend and photography badass Jeremy Ryan on our next music video project.

Omar’s been working with Kidznotes, an El-Sistema-based nonprofit, for 7 years. We want to put that experience to use working with youth orchestras while we’re on tour!

We have a strong desire to keep connecting people across the generations. Music has an uncanny power to bring people from different walks of life together. We want to keep connecting with music lovers all across the globe, write truer, play more.

We are so grateful to all our friends, helpers, and listeners. We couldn’t do this without you! Love, thanks, and peace. Let’s make some more music.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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