Salt Lake City singer-songwriter (and for you ’90s scenesters, ex-My Sister Jane guitarist) Trace Wiren released her debut solo CD, Damn These Plates, in late 2002. Her brand-new follow-up is titled Johnny’s Café (TraceWiren.com). Sensing something of a trend, City Weekly invited Wiren to breakfast at Lamb’s Grill Café one morning last week to discuss her eclectic roots-blues-folk-kitchen-sink music and chow down.
City Weekly [coffee, black]: So, is there an actual Johnny’s Café?
Trace Wiren [coffee, cream]: Johnny’s Café is in Lava Hot Springs. For me, the album reflects some of the sentiments of that café: Quirkiness, tradition, a diverse crowd … and good home cookin’ [laughs]. I wrote a song called “Johnny’s Café,” but I didn’t use it. I don’t want to put on a title track, because I don’t want everybody to think, “That must be the best song on the album.”
CW: The first track on Johnny’s Café, “Trouble at Home,” is a Stones-y rocker; seems like a natural song to kick off an album with. But in the third cut, “Bio,” which is kind of a beat-poetry-blues shuffle, you just come right out and say, “Hi, I’m Trace Wiren, and I’m from the Dazed & Confused era.” Why not begin the CD with your own introduction?
TW: The order has a better energy to it. I wasn’t ready for my album to start out with, “Hi, I’m Trace Wiren.” I like to avoid the obvious. “Bio” addresses ageism in music. I’m saying, as a woman who isn’t a spring chicken at this point … I totally respect youth culture, youth music, I dig it … but I have things to be dug, too. And I know how to play the guitar—so there [laughs]. The baby beatsters, the restless and the loud I refer to in the song, they’re the ones I respect, and that I’m not. I’m paying homage to them, and maybe asking for a little in return.
CW [order arrives, waffle with eggs and bacon]: You get the article’s gimmick of talking about Johnny’s Café while eating in a café, right?
TW [Greek omelet with hash browns and toast]: Yeah—this concept is great, because I’m hungry. I ordered an omelet, but asked for not very many eggs. That leaves feta, I suppose. [Sips coffee] Too bad you can’t spell the sound of a coffee cup rattling against the saucer—that’s the real café feel.
CW: What have you been doing since Damn These Plates came out?
TW: Some performances, and working in the studio for about a year and a half now. But I’m not in the studio every day—actually, I’ve been out saving the planet. Traveling around the West, doing river restorations. I’m the field technician for a restoration biologist, that’s the official title; I take down data and supervise crews, in Spanish and English.
In between trips, I’d pop into Herc’s [Ottenheimer] Living Room studio; he and I work really well together. It takes time with me. We laid down the rhythm tracks, and after that it was all me coming in with the dobro, slide, banjo, electric guitar, 12-string guitar, cello, bass, piano, synth piano, flute—not all at once, though [laughs]. I also did all the back-up vocals. Johnny’s Café took time. I’d go out and run my gardening company, save the planet, save up my money and then blow it all in the studio.
CW: Could you elaborate on the instrumental “All These Sharks”?
TW: It was an instrumental, a stomp—but then we had to go and say “All these sharks.” That’s a true story. I was working in Florida; it was 3 in the afternoon on a beautiful day. The waves were huge, pelicans everywhere, fish flopping around, and all these sharks fighting over the fish with these pelicans. Sometimes, a natural wonder will occur, and you’ll think, “All right, shakin’ it up a little bit.” I like that.
CW: Getting back to breakfast, how’s the omelet?
TW: The omelet is delightful—I’m mashing it around with the hash browns. It was presented beautifully, but the temptation to mix it all up was too great. I do so enjoy greasy, crispy hash browns. They work for me.
CW: Do you have a career game plan as far as music goes? What are you going to do after the release party for Johnny’s Café?
TW: Give it all up [laughs]. I’m going to take a step back, look at my life and make sure I’m spiritually aligned for, quote-unquote, the next step. Small, regional tours are in the wings, and that excites me. So I need to be aligned so I don’t perpetuate all my self-sabotage—it runs rampant through my life, which pretty much everybody in town knows by now, I’m sure.
CW: Any parting knowledge, a grand Trace Wiren philosophy you’d like to drop in closing on the readers of City Weekly?
TW: I want it to be noted that I just sat here and laughed when you asked that. That’s my message: I sat here and laughed.
TRACE WIREN CD Release. Mo Diggity’s, 3424 S. State, Friday May 13, 9 p.m. 832-9000