Rising Americana singer songwriter, Letitia VanSant, dropped in to the studio on her way to a show at the Amherst Folklore Society. I am very glad she did. I have been featuring her recently released CD, Gut It To the Studs, on the show and it was a great opportunity to hear the stories behind the songs. Letitia brought along her bass player Alex Lacquement who is a mainstay in the Baltimore bluegrass scene as a member of Charm City Junction and the Bumper Jacksons.
Letitia introduced the title cut of her disc, Gut It to the Studs, and gave it’s back story. The song was inspired by Letitia’s career choices, deciding to put aside her work in a non-profit to pursue music full time. The home improvement lyrics are taken as a personal growth metaphor. She sings, “gotta get the wires a running right ‘fore the drywall goes back up”. Sometime’s we all have to “gut it to the studs”, this song would be your mantra in that simplifying, reevaluation stage.
Many of Letitia’s songs speak of personal empowerment, taking control of one’s direction but there are many references to loss and loneliness throughout. She is the most recent winner of the prestigious Kerrville New Folk Songwriting competition. Her songwriting is her strength. They are deeply personal songs which hint at political underpinnings. That is probably not too surprising considering she earned a Humanitarian Issues degree from Macalester College and worked for O’Bama’s campaign along with a stint in Americorps. Her work with that organization was developing gardens in public schools. This type of work surely informed her songs such as The Field and Dandelion which both use natural images as metaphors.
Our session included three live songs as well as two from her disc. She sings, Gut It To The Studs as well as The Field and Bluebird. We finished with the song which concludes the disc. It is called Sundown Town and Letitia gave it’s poignant back story of institutional racism and prejudice. A very powerful song from a very intelligent well spoken young woman. It was a pleasure talking to her about her songs. The audio of our conversation is included below: