Syd Straw makes it to Somerville

On June 6, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times
Singer-Songwriter Syd Straw has worked with the best, and brings her personal best to Johnny D’s this coming Sunday.

Singer-Songwriter Syd Straw has worked with the best, and brings her personal best to Johnny D’s this coming Sunday.

By Blake Maddux

In the words of singer-songwriter Syd Straw, “I get around, but I’m certainly not a household commodity.”

Perhaps not, but the list of musicians with whom she has collaborated include some of the best representatives of almost every category of popular music.

Among them are British folk-rock legend Richard Thompson, Los Angeles punk progenitor John Doe (of the band X), pop composer and producer extraordinaire Van Dyke Parks, and R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe.

“When I look at the list of people that I love and work with,” Straw laments, “this is my only thought: I wish I saw them more often.”

Perhaps so, but when most other musicians look at the same list, their only thought is probably, “I wish that I could work with them once.”

Straw will grace the stage at Johnny D’s on Sunday, June 9.

“I don’t think that I’ve ever been to Johnny D’s,” Straw says. “I’ve heard that [Somerville band] The Grownup Noise are really good, and I’m playing on the bill with them. I’m really, really excited about June 9 in Somerville.”

Straw is currently on the first of two brief back-to-back tours. The first one includes shows with singer-songwriter Freedy Johnston and Fountains of Wayne vocalist Chris Collingwood.

Johnston and Collingwood will not be coming to Johnny D’s. Rather, Straw says, “I am going to bring some people from my New York band Plankton, among them Don Edgar Piper. He is my real comrade-in-arms.”

Despite the consistently high quality of her output, Straw is not particularly prolific as a solo artist. Between 1989 and 2008, she released only three albums. Seven years separated her debut and its follow-up, and the second and third records were released 12 years apart.

However, her forth and fifth recordings may appear within weeks or months – rather than years – of each other: “I’m making a new record this summer. I think I might even make two new records.”

The new songs that she has written are one of the reasons that she decided to hit the road. The other reason is somewhat more profound.

According to Straw, “I have been really restless and missing my songs. I feel lonesome for my own songs. So I rented a car and we’re coming to your area to improve your day. I really think it’s going to be good.”

Straw’s excitement and optimism are tempered only by the failing health of her 13-year-old dog Henry. He and another dog, Carol Burnett – whom Straw describes as “a funny little redhead [who] does a lot of physical comedy and pratfalls and stuff” – are travelling on tour with her.

“They’re doing everything except carry my guitar, and they would probably do that if they could figure out how,” Straw notes sadly.

Although she was raised in Los Angeles, Straw has made her home in Weston, Vermont, since 1998. It was a deep “familial history” that drew her to settle there.

“I’ve been in and out of Weston, Vermont, since I was six months old,” Straw explains. “My father [Jack Straw] was an actor and had an inn in Vermont. That’s what drew us to Vermont when I was tiny. It’s a very important place for me to have. It’s my little spot on earth. I know those dirt roads so well. I know them better than the back of my hand.”

So since she is not that far from Boston, why has it been so long since she has performed here?

“I’m embarrassed to say this, but I get anxious driving in all of those loops in Boston. Traffic there just makes me nervous, so I don’t come there. If anyone would drive me there, I would come.” [Laughs]

Thankfully, Straw’s “great burning passion to entertain” has at least temporarily overcome her fear of Boston traffic:

“I’m so darn happy to be out and about. I marvel at the modern audience. Last night we had an audience that was just the nicest people on earth. I think maybe that’s who’s coming out to support people coming to play in their town. I think that they’re going to show up at Johnny D’s.”

Syd Straw and The Grownup Noise play Johnny D’s in Davis Square on Sunday, June 9, at 8:30 PM. Tickets are $12.00 and are available via



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