We had the good fortune of connecting with Evie Ladin and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Evie, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Working freelance I both love the ways in which one has more leeway to create balance on an every day basis, and struggle with the fact that it’s very hard to “leave work” at any given time. I consider the things I need to do for my physical and mental health to be an active part of the work, and the work to be an active part of my life. Touring and performing takes a real physical toll, and I need to be in good shape to do it. I had two near death experiences early on, and I think that gave me the sense that this one life we get should be appreciated and lived in balance, while not shying away from the hard work.

I started working young, and have always been practical about earning a living even while choosing this unconventional field. I make sure there’s enough on the horizon, and I admit it’s not useful that I often prioritize the business side over practice and creativity. I am forever chastising myself to allow myself the time for relaxed creation, which results in the actual “product,” but my practical side wants to make sure the business is done first.

I’m fortunate that my partner and I work both together and individually, but in the same manner. We bounce things off each other, share the freelance dynamic and a strong work ethic. Definitely there are times when one or the other needs to draw a line of business talk, but we’re often game for any part of the conversation at any time. The line between work and life is very blurred.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My official website bio, etc tells all about my story and art forms, but I’ll speak more personally here. I seem to be competent and avid at a range of related performing arts, but unwilling to focus myself in any one direction – I prefer to combine them in unusual ways, adapting to different creative ventures, venues, collaborations. I’m turned on by all the options.

Shaped by very early experiences and skills – Appalachian clogging, clawhammer banjo, harmony singing, songwriting, square dancing – as I pursued a performing arts career, I realized that in modern society, most people live less and less connected to a participatory culture, and more an observational or consumerist culture. Participating in non-verbal communal art making is what makes people feel fulfilled and connected – sharing pulse, sharing stories, building things together. Like traditional cultures have done forever.

I love to perform, to put my songs across, to entertain and have people feel things, move people to laugh and to cry. Performing allows a shared emotional experience with the audience, and I’m really good at creating that space. But I’m proudest and most fulfilled by facilitating active participation in music and dance, and making deeper, long lasting impact beyond consumption. There’s this modern idea, fueled by the internet, that you have to be the best at something to have success, and many are afraid to even try. I think success is about being able to live a good life in the service of yourself, your family, and the greater society – which includes the non-monetized connections that come from making and participating in art with other people. I know I’ve changed peoples’ lives for the better, in ways that surprise and give meaning, and that gives me more satisfaction than more fame might.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
It still blows my mind that I live in the middle of a vibrant city (Oakland, CA) but in 15 minutes I can be in the middle of the redwoods with no one around. In the other direction, expanses of beach, with the caveat that it very well might be very cold, but it’s still beautiful. First advice, bring warmer clothes than you’d think to Northern California, in every season!

A walk around Lake Merritt, or rather, a bike ride down around the lake, on a weekend when the city is out in technicolor, farmers markets are overflowing, and there’s music everywhere. Most likely we’d have people over to play music and there’d be a jazz session, an old-time fiddle session, and rolling up the rug to dance.

If it was a first or third Friday we’d go to the rowdy square dance at the Marxist library – maybe I’d be calling and trying out some new dances. If it was a second Friday, we’d hit the Starry Plough Bacchanal for Balkan circle dances and wild brass bands. Any Friday we could go down to the Oakland Museum of Art, get excellent food truck dinners and likely dance for hours to free live music on the plaza, perhaps exploring new exhibits. At the end of any night we can land at Kansai, the local sushi joint open till 2am and part of the reason we wanted to live in this neighborhood.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My partner Keith Terry invited me to join his group Crosspulse as a way of getting me to California after we fell in love. It was a good fit, a multicultural performance ensemble where everyone’s arts are connected to the African Diaspora. Collaborating cross culturally, presenting Appalachian music and dance in this way, brought me full circle from early studies in Africa, and the ways in which I wanted to shift the stereotype of this rich tradition, America’s first syncretic cultural arts that belong to white, black *and* brown people. Because of the racist history of the South, these arts became very associated with anglo and hillbilly culture, but there is such depth there. I wanted to shift the public perception of the music and dance, while also exploring new ideas with those traditions as my base. In that Keith had created an infrastructure through Crosspulse for exploring not only many kinds of cross cultural work, but also diverse outlets for the work, my creativity was able to thrive in remarkable circumstances. Keith and Crosspulse was a solid foundation that has been a part of my art work for twenty years, especially exploring creatively with Body Music and percussive dance. Funny, a lot of people in the Folk scene are not aware of that other side of my artistic life.

Website: http://evieladin.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/evieladin/

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/evieladin

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EvieLadin

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/evieladin

Other: info@evieladin.com

Image Credits
Mike Melnyk Snap Jackson Gudmundor Vigfusson Cliff Wagner

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