Neko Case and Nora O’Connor @ Denver Botanic Gardens
June 20 @ 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Swallow Hill Music is proud to produce the Denver Botanic Gardens Music in the Gardens series, including the Summer Concert Series presented by UMB Bank with 10 concerts from nationally-renowned artists in the amphitheater and Evenings al Fresco featuring local musicians. See the full series lineup here.
Get Tickets Here | $88 members / $93 non-members (both prices include all total taxes and fees)
Tickets go on sale starting March 15 for members Swallow Hill Music & Denver Botanic Gardens, March 21 for the general public.
Five years have passed since Case’s last solo project, The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You. In the interim, she sang on Whiteout Conditions, the 2017 release from longtime bandmates the New Pornographers. The year before that, she released a vinyl box set of her solo work and joined k.d. Lang and Laura Veirs on the case/lang/veirs project.
Recording that record was a revelation, from Veirs’ innovative guitar tunings to Lang’s skills in studio. “I learned so much experiencing the work ethic of those two,” Case says. She considers Lang “probably the most natural producer I’ve ever seen. Watching her work was awe-inspiring.”
She felt lucky to have worked with the people she had encountered across her career—Darryl Neudorf, Tucker Martine, Craig Schumacher, and Chris Schultz among them—who encouraged her to expand her own skills in the studio. But she had also gotten fed up with a world in which women’s accomplishments seemed to vanish from public memory. “The George Martins and Quincy Joneses of the recording pantheon deserve every drop of praise and every project they have received,” Case says. “But we can’t keep telling the same stories over and over. We need more stories, more inspiration, more flavors.”
She set to work on her next record looking for not just new stories but also new sounds. This time, she wanted to put herself in a setting far away from everything she knew. She recalled Björn Yttling’s skill with Lykke Li, Camera Obscura, and his own band, Peter Bjorn and John. “I’ve worked with the same people so long, I never had to step outside my comfort zone,” Case says. “In this instance, I chose to.”
Nora O’Connor has been an in-demand backup singer/multi-instrumentalist for decades, performing around the world with Iron and Wine, Andrew Bird, Robbie Fulks, Mavis Staples, etc. The constraints wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic limited her to touring the backyards of her hometown alone and reminded her that she can hold her own guitar and sing the hell out of anything—-and she can write a song, too. With time to spare at home, she began recording a series of new home demos that slowly became her third solo album.
My Heart is Nora O’Connor’s long overdue return to center stage after touring and recording with The Decemberists and Neko Case—-among many others. She was joined in the studio by three of her bandmates from Chicago vocal supergroup, the Flat Five: Casey McDonough supplying vocals, bass and acoustic guitar; Scott Ligon on organ, drums, percussion, piano, Wurlizter and guitars (Casey and Scott are also current members of NRBQ); Alex Hall providing drums, percussion, piano, Wurlitzer, mellotron, vibes, and vocals. Steve Dawson also pitched in on guitars, Wurlitzers, harmonium, along with Robbie Gjersoe on dobro, electric guitar and Jon Rouhouse who contributed pedal steel.
O’Connor isn’t new to working solo. She released Cerulean Blue in 1996 and Til the Dawn in 2004 before she carved out a livelihood making other people’s songs sound better. She has no intention of stopping—-in fact, 2021 found her back out on the road with Neko Case and The New Pornographers. But her recent solo shows increased her confidence and stretched her ambition, moving her to experiment with her voice, to play with new sounds and textures, and to envision a next chapter in her long and dazzling career; one where she takes her rightful seat at the table of the luminaries that she has supported for all these years.