The Port City continues to hear a rise in powerful female musicians, singers and songwriters: Rebekah Todd; copper-top twins Allie Donnelly and Jacquie Lee of Striking Copper; Crystal Fussell; Jenny Pearson; the Sanchez sisters of Entangled Dreams; Stray Local’s Hannah Lomas and Jessica Landes. And the list goes on.
Among them are two Brandies. Though they aren’t necessarily ILM born and bred, they serve as inspiration for women on our scene. Brandi Carlile is playing a sold-out show at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater on Friday night with opener Brandy Clark. Wilmington’s own Elena Woodard is playing an after-party show at the nearby Dubliner on Carolina Beach Road—but not before she sees the Brandies live for herself.
“My wife surprised me with tickets; I’m so excited!” she says. “I’m a huge Brandi Carlile fan, but this will be my first time catching her live. I’m a big fan of Brandy Clark as well. I’ve seen her live a few times, opening for Jennifer Nettles. It’s going to be such an amazing show, I can’t wait.”
Inspired by several female artists across multiple genres—Janis Joplin, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Ani DiFranco, PJ Harvey, Jewel, Indigo Girls and Brandi Carlile—Woodard grew up surrounded by music. Mostly, at least early in adolescence, she listened to records her father liked to spin.
“It was mine and my dad’s thing,” she tells. “It’s how we bonded and I will forever be grateful for that. I’m half Mexican and his favorite was Vicente Fernández, but I also listened to B.B King, Howlin Wolf, Cream, Jimi [Hendrix], Santana … I mean, I could go on and on.”
Woodard started playing guitar at 15. She learned on an inexpensive classical guitar from Mexico that was once used as a wall decoration rather than an instrument.
“I loved it from day one,” she remembers, “and I started taking flamenco lessons. . . .for about six months, then quit. Mainly out of frustration because I couldn’t read music, no matter how hard I tried. So I took what I learned from my teacher, accepted that I play by ear, and the rest is history.”
As she progressed and started developing her own sound, taking bits and pieces from influences far and wide, and blending it with a touch of blues, Woodard started playing and writing her own material. Her last EP, “Sweet Savannah,” came out four years ago. With a handful of songs, a mix of covers, like Ray LaMontagne’s “Trouble,” and originals like the title track, Woodard went for a more raw sound to show range to potential venues.
“Sweet Savannah” captures Woodard’s deeper bluesy vocals and soulful strokes of the guitar, while “Live Poetry” is filled with lighter licks and speedier beats more indicative of acoustic rock. Lately her interpretations and live performances often depend on mood, audience and space.
“I was going through my set list today and some of my originals took on a more Ani DiFranco tempo and feel,” she clarifies. “I go through phases where I listen to an artist for a week or so and get inspired.”
Woodard’s after-party performance will include “Sweet Savannah” tracks, as well as covers. She will play timeless works by female artists like Janis Joplin and Dolly Parton. She’s no stranger to Pearl Jam and CCR tunes, either. “I could get crazy and do some Paula Abdul,” she quips. “We’ll see!”
These days Woodard continues to perfect more originals as she plays shows from Wilmington to Myrtle Beach. She’s been working on a few newbies she might debut at The Dubliner on Friday night as well.
“I think I’ve finally perfected a song I’ve been working on called ‘On The Rocks’—very bluesy with a little bit of funk mixed in. It’s a fun one to play,” she details. “I also just finished writing ‘In Your Hands,’ a love song that kind of explains my journey from my hometown in California to the East Coast. . . . But a new EP may be in the works, stay tuned.”