If you are attempting to learn to play guitar, who better to get tips from than a Grammy-nominated musician?
“You should be learning songs that you really love,” Celia Woodsmith said Monday morning. She’s the lead singer and guitarist of the Grammy-nominated band Della Mae, who have been around for a decade now.
“You’re not going to get anywhere if you’re learning songs that you think you should learn because it will give you (a) skill,” Woodsmith said. “Just learn songs that you can’t wait to sing because then you’ll come back to it again and again.”
The all-woman string band was started with a mission to improve opportunities for women and girls through advocacy, mentorship, programming and performance, so it’s no surprise she’s so ready to offer insights.
Tips two and three? A good guitar. “You want to invest in a good instrument because a bad instrument is not going to sound good, and you’re not going to want to play it.”
And third, play a little bit every day to build up the calluses that develop on your fingertips. “That tends to be one of the biggest blocks for people, it hurts quite a bit when you first start.”
Della Mae is headlining an outdoor end-of-summer celebration at Okemo’s Jackson Gore Inn courtyard in Ludlow with a beer garden from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18, for a new event called Okemo Mountain Taps & Tastes.
A lineup of food options, select wines, and an outdoor marketplace featuring local craft and specialty vendors will be offered in addition to more than 50 craft beers from 20 breweries and live music from Della Mae.
Woodsmith talked about the band’s new album “Family Reunion” from her home in Maine on Monday morning. Originally from Norwich, she was looking forward to returning to her home state to perform.
“We wouldn’t have been able to survive the pandemic creatively without the support of patrons of the arts who kept us going,” she said. “That’s why we made this album. It’s dedicated to that chosen family. To put the album together and get it out in a very short amount of time without any record label support, we couldn’t have done it without the help from all of these beautiful people who believed in us.”
“Della Mae was formed to highlight women players in bluegrass and Americana music,” Woodsmith said. And this is the most collaborative album they’ve done yet. “Honestly, that was because of the pandemic,” she explained, during which they cobbled together ways to continue to make new material together under the circumstances.
“Kimber (Ludiker, founder and fiddle player) sent me a melody and Avril (Smith, guitarist) sent me a melody and I wrote lyrics over that melody, and once we had a basis for the idea, the flavor of the song, you start sending it back and forth,” Woodsmith said. “We built ‘Good-bye My Friend’ and ‘Heart of my Home’ from the ground up as a trio.”
Woodsmith’s process for writing lyrics takes a similarly grounded but creative approach.
“Notice things, try to be in the moment,” Woodsmith said. “Every experience you have could become a song — people you see walking down the street, feelings you have in certain moments, news stories. I think of my whole life as inspiration, every moment.”
“I’m comfortable enough with my songwriting skill and experience to know that either something will come or it won’t,” she added. “I don’t need to bang my head against the wall if it doesn’t come. It will come next time.”
Now that social gatherings are coming back, the new album, “Family Reunion” was named for being able to see one another for the first time in over a year.
“We haven’t been able to play as much as we would have liked to in the past year and a half,” Woodsmith said. “Not only is Vermont my home state and a place I love returning to, this show is also special because it’s one of the few shows that we do get to play this year.”