Interview: Nora Jane Struthers

“I think any risk taker reaches a point where the fear of failure is outweighed by the fear of regret,” says roots rocker Nora Jane Struthers, in what just might be the quote of the century. Struthers knows a thing or two about taking risks, which gives her words that much more of a bite when it comes to speaking the truth.

The Nashville-based New Jersey native grew up playing and singing music with her dad, going to musicals on Broadway with her mother, and absorbing her sister’s penchant for grunge. “I had a pretty sundry group of influences,” she says with a laugh. It comes through in her music, which she delivers with captivating, heartstring-tugging emotion, with a gritty sheen. “I started playing guitar at 14—I had a very ‘long game’ approach to guitar,” she laughs. “I was dyslexic too, and I had to put hours and hours into homework to keep up with my peers. I didn’t have a ton of time to invest in learning an instrument for fun. I thought maybe in 10 years I’d be okay at it.”

After graduation, Struthers taught high school english in Brooklyn for three years; “I had the trappings of the American Dream, but there was a deep hunger in me for more,” she reveals. “I saw my life laid out like a ladder, and I just knew it wasn’t going to be enough. I’d always wanted to play music. My mother said, ‘Don’t you think you’ll always regret it if you don’t try?’” As we know, moms usually know what they’re talking about, and Struthers made the leap—she relocated to Nashville to pursue her musical dreams.

On October 13th, she will release Champion, her fourth full-length album, inspired by life’s issues and adventures, which in Struthers’ case, involves struggles with infertility, the ups and downs of marriage, and embracing the present. “I have a condition known as primary ovarian insufficiency; I started having menopausal symptoms when I was 18,” she says of the condition that has rendered her unable to have children. “It’s also a weird part of looking for a partner, because it seems like a big deal to not be able to have my own biological children. For most of human history, if a woman couldn’t procreate, she really wasn’t worth anything, so there’s a lot value judgments women put on themselves if they’re having fertility issues.”

“I fell in love with my husband, we got married, and it all just came to a boil,” she continues. Sturhters traveled the world seeking alternative treatments, but nothing has changed so far. “I feel like there are certain children we’re supposed to have, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t overlooking them,” she laughs. “Knowing I gave it a good shot was really freeing.”

To organize the beauty of her collection of songs in recorded form, Struthers enlisted the help of producer Neilson Hubbard. “He’s so great, it was so much fun. Even though I’ve released other records, this was by far the most fun I’ve had in the studio,” she admits. “I recorded with my road band, we all have so many miles under the wheels together, and playing music with them is one of the highest joys in life. Neilson is great at capturing live performances—he’s not interested in perfection, he’d rather capture the energy of the performance, and that’s where I’m living right in my desire to create art. He makes it sound cohesive, and cut the fat from our arrangements,” she continues. “He makes the song the focus.”

Once Champion is unleashed, Struthers looks forward to touring in the near future, to connect with others who may be facing similar struggles, or hardships in general. “I hope it gets heard, and I hope it finds the people that need it, because I know there are people that need it,” she says of her new music. “I also don’t think you have to listen to this record with my story in mind, I think it has the potential to move anyone who listens.”

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Susan Hubbard

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