Singer-songwriter Ava Earl talks about her musical journey and her latest album

When Weinberg’s freshman Ava Earl was 15, she opened for Maggie Rogers when the artist performed in Earl’s home state of Alaska. Today, Earl pursues his music career while studying political science and serving on Northwestern’s cross-country team.

“The best part (of songwriting) is when I play it for someone and get instant validation,” Earl said. “I write songs for myself first and then for other people.”

Earl, who defines his genre as Americana, has released four albums and written hundreds of songs since he was 9 years old. The Girdwood, Alaska native was immersed in music from an early age, eventually settling on the guitar – although her first instrument was the whistle.

Earl said she would modify the songs she learned in music lessons as a young child, which her music teacher strongly encouraged.

“I realized I could express myself through music in a personal way,” Earl said. “I loved discovering that side of myself…and once it started to get more serious, my parents matched my level of enthusiasm.”

With each subsequent album, Earl said she honed her songwriting and production skills to create a sound that was uniquely her own. She said she was inspired by musical influences such as Brandi Carlile, Taylor Swift and Josh Ritter.

But Earl said one of his main influences was Allison Russell of the band Birds of Chicago. She attended one of the band’s performances in Anchorage where she met Russell and JT Nero, the band’s other member. Earl said Nero took an interest in his music and they kept in touch over the next few years.

Eventually, Nero helped Earl produce his latest album, “The Roses,” in Nashville.

“Everyone was struck by her poise, and she was very respectful and very open to anyone’s input or opinion,” Nero said. “The studio can be daunting…You can lose your connection to this spiritual side of music making pretty quickly, but she always knew what she was looking for.”

Nero said one song from the album that resonated with him was “Mountain Song” – the same song Earl’s manager Abbie Duquette said was his favorite on “The Roses”.

Duquette said Nero introduced her to Earl, and she immediately recognized the singer’s potential, calling Earl’s talent “beyond his years”.

“She’s literally one of the hardest working people I know – when she thinks of something, she does it, and it’s so rare and so wonderful to see,” Duquette said. “She also cares so much about people, which is also rare, so when you get the combination of all those things, it’s like, ‘What?'”

Duquette primarily guides Earl through the business side of the industry. Earl said that over the past year she has had to learn to balance her school work with her songwriting and track career.

Although she has a busy schedule, she said she fell into a rhythm, focusing on the track during the school year and singing during the summer. That’s not necessarily a hard line, though – Earl will be performing at Evanston SPACE with Sway Wild on May 8.

Earl’s journey has not been smooth on the road. Last year, she suddenly went deaf in one ear for no apparent reason after she finished recording “The Roses.” Earl now uses a hearing aid, which affects the way she hears and perceives music, she said.

“I’m in a place where I obviously prefer both ears to work – I can’t get over it – but I’m really enjoying what I have right now, and it’s not as painful,” said Earl.

Ultimately, Earl said that although she has many interests, singing is the career she wants to pursue after graduation, as she experiments with new styles and collaborations.

Duquette said she appreciated Earl’s style, wisdom and poise, especially as a youngster in the industry.

“She creates really unique and interesting melodies, and her guitar playing is really unique and beautiful – I love the comb,” Duquette said. “It’s fun to work with someone who is open to new ideas, exploring new avenues and new sounds.”

Check “Sound source: deep dive.” We take a closer look at the lyrics to “Chaos”, Ava Earl’s favorite song from her latest album.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @laya_neel

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— Sound source: Deep Dive: Ava Earl

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