The folk heroine plays Johnny Brendas on Thursday.
Sometimes Meg Bairds voice is so pretty it can be kind of spooky. She hits these high, soothing notes, often accompanied by a single, lightly plucked guitar, that send a static charge up my arms and spine. When I tell her this, I can practically see her blushing even though were communicating via email. Can I print this out and frame it? Maybe tuck it in my guitar case? she replies. Its rough out there. I always want to feel like there is a worthwhile effect to listening to my work. Baird, once a fixture in the Philly folk scene with The Espers and as a solo artist, lives in San Francisco these days. I asked her about that and her latest record, Dont Weigh Down the Light (Drag City), in advance of her big homecoming show this week.
City Paper: I love the song Dont Weigh Down the Light. Tell me something about it that nobody knows.
Meg Baird: There are a ton of ideas and influences behind that songs DNA, but it largely came together when I was thinking about arranging covers for Gene Clarks unreleased demo For No One and Tom Pettys Wake Up Time from Wildflowers.
CP: Mosquito Hawks might be my favorite thing youve ever done. Not a question, just saying.
MB: My first middle eight! I wanted that to sound sort of like Jimmy Page and Kristin Hersh in the chord voicings.
CP: What song on the new album gave you the most trouble?
MB: A song that didnt even make it on the record! I was trying for a mood that made you feel like you were swirling past a cascading pageantry of light and villages and scenes you know, like Pasolinis Decameron but it wound up sounding more like an old jalopy Model T trying to make it up a hill. Im glad I stuck with it, but it really didnt work out in the end.
CP: Whyd you leave Philadelphia?
MB: Good reasons for love! My partner, Charlie, is from the Bay Area.
CP: You miss us, right? You must. Philly is so great.
MB: Philly is wonderful. I miss things about being there all the time.
CP: Tell me about San Francisco.
MB: Its incredibly beautiful. Magic even. Its also currently a disaster of income and housing inequality and displacement. Im so new here but, even so, it can feel kind of under siege. I think lots of American cities are going through the same thing right now, but it is so acute here right now. Be careful, everyone.
CP: What are you reading right now?
MB: Elissa Washutas My Body Is a Book of Rules and William Gibsons Pattern Recognition and Rebecca Solnits The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness.
CP: What else should I know?
MB: Reading three books at once can trick you into feeling like theyre never gonna end. And Philadelphias beautiful and magic, too.
$10 // Thu., Aug. 27, 9 p.m., with Samara Lubelski and Mary Lattimore, Johnny Brendas, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., 215-739-9684, johnnybrendas.com.