Interview: Rising Roots Songstress & Multi-Instrumentalist Cristina Vane Talks New Album ‘Make Myself Me Again’

A down-home slide guitar likely isn’t the first thing one might expect from an Italian native; however, for Cristina Vane it’s her signature sound.

The Americana roots songstress’ guitar mastery can be heard on her latest album, Make Myself Me Again, which hit streaming services May 20th. This album is Vane’s label debut through Red Parlor Records. 

Vane was born in Italy, lived in various parts of Europe throughout childhood, and finally moved to the U.S. to attend Princeton University. It was upon going to Los Angeles after college that she said she could “feel more comfortable with her own musical and cultural voice.” Upon releasing her first album, Nowhere Sounds Lovely, she caught the attention of Rolling Stone, Premier Guitar, and the Nashville Scene. She also embarked on a tour throughout the United States, allowing her to interact with her growing following live and in person. 

Exploring the various parts of her identity allowed Vane to develop a sound that set her apart from the expected. Make Myself Me Again shows the listener just what Vane is capable of: a polished sound and a confident voice. She calls it “the sound of growing up.” Her videos for the songs “How You Doin’” and the title track “Make Myself Me Again” show fans even more of her personality with vibrant colors, upbeat energy, and a genuine joy for playing music. Now hunkered down in Music City, Vane continues to turn heads and draw attention to her unique sound and style.

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We had the pleasure of chatting with Vane about the new album, her upbringing, and much more.

So I was hoping you could give us a brief rundown of how you fell in love with making music, and how you found yourself pursuing your passion in Nashville?

Totally! I have always had the bug for music, actually. I sang to myself as a baby, and started playing the piano around 6, and always loved music and singing in choir. I took on the guitar and flute around the same time, in middle school, but the guitar was always just a fun hobby for me until I started writing songs in high school. After graduation, I was pursuing music and I sort of stumbled into Delta blues and the rabbit hole of American folk music, which is ultimately what brought me to Nashville. 

Being born in Italy, raised throughout Europe, and attending college in the U.S., you’ve definitely been exposed to several cultures. How has the landscape of different places changed your musical and life perspectives?

I would say that the landscapes I have found myself in definitely changed my musical and life perspectives- it informs my very sense of self which definitely pours into my songwriting. Moreover, I think that while I missed out on the amazing insular worlds that some of my peers grew up in (bluegrass, fiddle camps, etc.), I was able to get a taste of what was going on in the bigger scheme of music and experience and all of that.

The fact that my background is multilayered means I am also not afraid for my music to take on that same energy, to represent all the different parts of myself just like I represent the different places I have lived. Also, being raised far away from this scene means I am newer to it all, and still feel a sense of wonder and excitement as I discover the different histories of all this music.

On May 20th, you dropped your new album, Make Myself Me Again. What might’ve been a primary influence or inspiration behind this collection of songs? 

Yes, and I am so glad that it’s finally out! The inspiration for Make Myself Me Again was to sift through all the influences I have been drinking in since moving to Nashville, and trying to find a middle ground that hearkens back to my more rock and stripped down roots, but still draws on old time, blues, bluegrass, and folk music. I kept the instrumentation pretty minimal for most of the album, and have a few more songs on there that are a return to my more blues-rock beginnings. I am really proud of it!

What was the writing process like once you ran with that inspiration? 

Well, I look at albums like a chronological collection, so it was less a case of me finding inspiration and more a case of me collecting the songs I had written since my last album, and trying to pick the best ones. 

Where was it produced and who helped it come to life?

It was produced at The Studio (yes, that’s the name!) in Nashville, and Brook Sutton, Jano Rix, and I all co-produced it. Brook also engineered, mixed, and played on the record, and Jano also played drums, so we sort of split the effort. Brook and Jano really have this symbiotic relationship between having produced and played together in that shared space so many times, and they were the perfect pair to bring out the best in these songs. Then, of course, I had all the players- Jake Friel on harmonica, Bronwyn Keith Hines and Billy Contreras both played fiddle, Tyler Larson and Karl Smakula played acoustic guitar, and Kyle Tuttle was on the baritone banjo on our co-write “Oxbow Meander Loop.”

Were there any moments while recording the album that changed how something may have turned out?

There were a few! For example, we really wanted a juke-joint style recording feel for ‘Little Black Cloud’, and on a whim, someone suggested tracking the song with all the separation doors in the studio wide open so each of our sounds would bleed into the room mic. I think it added a lot!

I saw where your album had landed at #37 on the Americana Music Association’s charts and #1 on Roots Music Report’s charts. What does it mean to you to be represented like this for your work/artistry?

Thank you for noticing! It means a HUGE amount to me. Until very recently, I have been 100% self-managed and independent, and now having a little help from Red Parlor Records to put this out into the world. I am so excited that we are reaching the ears of more people over the radio. It’s amazing!

Who is someone that really pushed you as an artist and made you the person you are today?

There are a lot of people who have contributed to where I am today- Pete Steinberg, my fingerstyle guitar mentor from my time in L.A., fundamentally shaped the way I write and play guitar, so he’s worth mentioning. My parents were both phenomenally supportive and without them helping me along the way, I don’t think I would have felt confident enough to take the plunge.  

If you could write a song with any present-day artist, who would it be and why?

I would love to write a song with Bonnie Raitt. She is just… an absolute legend.

What else might fans expect from Cristina Vane this summer and into fall?

I plan to continue touring into the early fall and then mostly writing and teaching over the winter! Keep an eye out for dates on my website. I try and make it all around this big ol’ country. Hopefully next summer will be in Europe and maybe Canada! Onward and upward. <3

Photo by Elisabeth Donelson

Featured photo by Lizzey Oakley

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