What do you do if you’re an aspiring drummer and someone steals your drum set? Well, if you’re Piney Gir, you become a singer. Because, as she figured it, “They can’t steal your voice.”
Gir grew up in a fundamentalist Pentecostal household in Kansas, attending church four or five times a week. She got the solos in the choir and grew to love performing. The singer, whose real name is Angela Penhaligon, eventually found her way to London and the world of indie art-rock.
Her sound has been compared to Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline, but on her latest album, Geronimo, Gir sometimes seems to be conjuring up ‘60s pop from girl groups to The Troggs. The singer-songwriter spoke with NPR’s Scott Simon and making the album, her music influences and her next project.
On naming the album Geronimo
“There’s a double meaning to that title because I’m a little bit Native American. I came back to the States to record this album, and it felt like a bit of a homecoming. And there’s a lot of tribal drums on it, so that’s a bit of homage to him. But also, it’s that fearlessness, that battle cry. I wanted to do something I’d never done before, and I wanted to do it with my whole self and dive in and just try something new. So it’s that kind of Geronimo. So it has those two significances for me.”
On recording the album with a live band
“I think you get a certain live energy when you can look at your drummer in the face or you can glance over at your guitarist and give him a wink. You can even take the song in a bit of a more jammy direction because you can take it as it comes versus contriving it and structuring it in a rigid way. So it gave us a kind of freedom.”
On musical influences growing up
“I grew up mainly on a diet of church music, which was sort of bluegrass and gospel influence with a bit of ‘happy-clappy’ thrown in there. … Happy-clappy, you know, that kind of happy Jesus music where people play tambourines and dance around — very melody-driven. In that sense, I can thank my church education.
“Friday nights, my dad was often doing a youth ministry. My mom and I would watch The Muppets. And that was like, amazing. Johnny Cash was on there and Elton John. I got kind of hooked on The Muppets, so that probably planted the seed.”