Interview: Arleigh Kincheloe of Sister Sparrow Discusses New Album and New York Tour Dates

In the middle of her move out of Brooklyn, Arleigh Kincheloe of Sister Sparrow carved out some time to speak with us about her upcoming album and the end of her tour as she hits a few more spots in NY. Kincheloe and the Brooklyn-based Dirty Birds got their start in this borough in 2008 and have made quite the name for themselves, performing in almost all of the 50 states and over 10 separate festivals. Their latest work has evolved into something unique compared to their three studio albums. Kincheloe speaks about the reason for the change, the source of her inspiration, as well as a few words of reassurance about the albums development and sonic success.

Sparrow and the Birds will fly through The Egg on November 10 and Irving Plaza on December 1 – two venues that Kincheloe has deep connections to.

Dave Ostroff: There’s something different about this album. What would you say is setting this one apart from your previous work?

Arleigh Kincheloe: This one is a different for me because this is more of a solo project. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time and I never really had the time to do it. I had a baby and all of a sudden we had to stop touring for a while and I focused on this record and started writing some of the songs while I was pregnant … then when my son was two months old I started going into the studio and working on it. One of the reasons I wanted to do this was we made a lot of records as a band and most of those records were created in a live style – we’d go in and together and try to capture our live side. What I really wanted to do for the first time was let the production side (take control) and kind of explore things I’ve always wanted to try in the studio that I never had because we were trying to go for that live band sound. It was really fun for me. I was trying to be creative in a new way and I was writing with a lot of different people and was really just stretching my legs a little bit. And also I was trying to figure out how to be a new mom. It was a crazy time in my life and I think this record was made all out of love (along with) a lot of exciting stuff happening in my life.

DO: There’s definitely tons of experimentation in there and it’s very successful experimentation. What kind of musical inspiration have you channeled into this album?

AK: I always wanted to try too marry modern sounds, hip hops elements, soul and funk stuff that I love. I sometimes still listen to the track and say, ‘I can’t believe it came out like this!’ I have a whole Spotify playlist that was my soundscape for this. The Staples, Aretha Franklin, The Pointer Sisters, Bill Withers, Paul Simon, Joe Cocker – a very ’70s vibe. But I tried to add the modern techniques and drum sounds. The person I worked with in the studio, his name is Carter, we really got each other. I met him because of a song songwriting session where we created “Gold”. After working with him that one day, he got a exactly what I‘m going for. I verbalized exactly what I was picturing and I said, ‘ build me this world!’ and five minutes later he completely created that world. I wanted to make the rest of the album with him because I thought he just nailed it. So that’s where it’s all coming from. It was such a fun experience and it was just the two of us a lot of the time.

DO: I’ve done some digging and found some initial reactions to the single “Ghost” and your fans loved it. But some are saying they think it’s too poppy and they don’t like the change in style. What would you like to say to some of those people to reassure them this album has a lot more to offer than this one track?

AK: I want express as an artist that we have to evolve. If we stay the same, then we’re going backwards. We have to try new things and not everyone will like it all the time, but that’s why it’s art and music is subjective and that’s why we’re all entitled to our own opinions. I would definitely like to say wait and listen to the whole album to get a bigger picture because “Ghost” is definitely one of the more poppy songs on the album. I hope people stick around and check the rest of it out. It definitely has a little bit of everything on there. Some of the tracks lean closer to the Dirty Birds sounds and some lean farther away.

DO: When is the release date?

AK: It’s October 12th. It’s going to be everywhere that day. You preorder it on iTunes, you get two of the songs now. We’ll be pressing vinyl which is very exciting. The vinyl will have a couple different versions of the songs that we have – Ghost will be different on that vinyl.

DO: Moving on to the tour and the shows – you’ve found a full time keys player, Nat Osborn. What’s his story? What does he bring to the table?

AK: We brought him on to be the keyboard player when we did a cover show of Aretha Franklin’s Live at the at Fillmore West album. We did that at the Brooklyn Bowl and we obviously needed a piano player because that album has her playing the organ. We all got along so well – he’s actually an old friend of a couple of the guys in the band and I personally got along really well with him. It’s been adding a lot of freedom in other ways. Whereas my brother on harp, a lot of time he was holding down the organ sounds through his pedalboard and his harmonica, so he now has the freedom to mess around with a different things. My brother is also playing lap steel (guitar) now so we’re bringing a lot of dynamic sounds to the mix which is a lot of fun for us. That is helping bring in the new album songs to life. It’s been really fun and I’m really excited for the rest of the fall.

DO: You have three NY shows coming up, out of those, do you have a favorite?

AK: New York is a hometown. I was born in Albany and raised in the Catskill Mountains so Albany is a hometown show in that my dad will be there, my friends from high school will probably come up and see that one. Aand then here in Brooklyn, this is where the band started and where I’ve been for the past decade so those two are both going to be really special.

DO: I wanted to close out with this – to those who haven’t seen a Sister Sparrow show, what would you say to that are on the fence about seeing you guys live?

AK: If you’ve never seen us before, we’re all just having a good time. For me, the whole point of this is to have a good time, to spread that feeling of joy and dancing – that’s a very important part of it for me and I hope people also feel the same way. It’s just a good time. We’re a little bit loud, a little bit rock, a little bit emotional as hell. We’re trying to bring everything together, spread a little love, spread a little joy – I know it sounds so cheesy but it’s true! That’s my mission and if I could have a good time up there, hopefully it’s contagious. When the crowd is having a good time then we’re having a good time and visa versa.