"Come all ye cowgirls and barflies, tragic comedians and lazy poets, all ye disciples, degenerates, and dowagers. If Bronwen Exter hasn't written a song that speaks right to you yet, it's time you live a little, darlin."
Grassroots Festival of Music & Dance
Turns out, moving home is complicated. You bring along what you hoped to leave behind, and don’t necessarily find what you remembered best about a place. The granddaughter of a Ukrainian communist, a Disneyland-tire maker, an Yves St. Laurent wedding dress model and the Chief Statistician for President Lyndon Johnson, Exter’s life has always been filled with stories and characters. At the age of six, from her bedroom in rural upstate New York, she recorded her first songs. She remembers the bright, grass-green carpet scrap and the old tape-recorder sitting on it. They were mostly songs about cowgirls.
Bronwen Exter’s second full-length album, “Junkyard,” released in June 2012, is a chronicle of heartache and homecoming. Her “warm, all-enveloping voice” (The New Yorker) works a dreamy hypnosis through lush arrangements and dark lyrics that describe a world of hometown characters, flirtatious glances, bedroom stories and solitude.
Onstage, she fronts a six piece band that ranges from the spare to the bombastic, the whimsical to the funereal. Exter’s songwriting is characterized by invented chords and haunting melodies, taking inspiration from Lhasa de Sela, Cat Power and T Bone Burnett.
Bronwen Exter’s début album “Elevator Ride” (2006) garnered comparisons to Rickie Lee Jones and the Cowboy Junkies. Performing Songwriter wrote, “OK, picture this: Lou Reed and Astrud Gilberto have a baby. She’s raised by the band Mazzy Star until the age of 16, when she falls in love with James Bond and runs away to Argentina.” At once visceral and sophisticated, fresh and retro, “Elevator Ride,” was named for a suicidal lyric that evokes the moments before a socialite’s tumble from the top of a skyscraper.
“Elevator Ride,” was co-produced by prolific Englishman Jonathan Spottiswoode of NYC cult underground band Spottiswoode and His Enemies, and Kenny Siegal, ringleader of rock and roll band Johnny Society. Recorded at Siegal’s haunted organ museum in Catskill, NY that houses Old Soul Studios (Beirut, Langhorne Slim, Joseph Arthur and Chris Whitley) by engineer Tom Schick (Ryan Adams, Rufus Wainwright, Norah Jones), the record they made on vintage analog gear brought together the trademark rawness and punchiness of Siegal, the noir cinema of Spottiswoode’s songwriting, and the breathy vulnerability of Exter’s singing.
Tracks from “Elevator Ride” have been featured on primetime television (Six Degrees, The Secret Circle) and in the Dreamworks/ Paramount Pictures release “She’s Out Of Your League.”
“Love at first hear… blend the two female voices, lead and back up, with a song or two of counterpoint, so perfectly blended your jaw drops open… 50s-ish guitar licks… beautifully played keys, just the right, right absolutely right drumming and bass playing and a little bit of strategic hand clapping. Throw in lap steel and a touch of banjo, just a smidge for flavor. Shake it all together, put a punky edgey, feel-like-I'm-in-a-totally sophisticated-Manhattan club or at the very least, dressed in all black and dancing with the mirror at the Continental, clean, tight, but not at all stilted....and baby, you'lL just about understand Bronwen Exter. wow, just wow.”
Website photography by Allison Usavage, Heather Ainsworth, Clare Elliot, Rachel Ferro, Thomas Hoebbel and Brian Dilg.
Videos by Rachel Ferro.