May dates, May dates!
A country singer-songwriter who got her start in ’90s Brooklyn is going back to her beginnings. Acclaimed songstress Laura Cantrell is headed out to play shows all over the East Coast in May, but she will be back in the borough every Tuesday to play a show at Park Slope’s Union Hall, where she said she hopes to channel the energy of those halcyon days.
“One of the reasons I wanted to return to Brooklyn for this residency was to recapture some of the spirit of fun from those early days before music was my job,” she said.
Cantrell hails from Nashville, but moved to New York City in the late ’80s for college, where she learned to play guitar and started working as a radio disc jockey. She moved to Williamsburg in 1991, where she said she honed her musical chops playing with the hoards of young performers who also moved to the city’s new creative outpost at the time — not least of all John Linnell and John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants, with whom she recorded in 1992 on the band’s album “Apollo 18.” In 1993, she began presenting her long-running country music show “Radio Thrift Shop” on New Jersey radio station WFMU.
Cantrell recorded her first demos at the legendary Coyote Studios on N. Sixth Street, between Wythe Avenue and Berry Street. She said it may be hard to believe now — the Coyote Studios space is now an Urban Oufitters — but Williamsburg was the perfect place for up-and-coming artists at that time.
“It was a great time and place to develop as an artist,” she said. “Williamsburg was like a blank canvas about to change back then. Nobody, except for maybe real estate developers, knew what it might become.”
Since these humble beginnings, Cantrell, who moved to Queens in 2003, has released five studio albums and garnered plenty of critical praise. She found international success when legendary British Broadcasting Corporation disc jockey John Peel reportedly fell in love with her 2000 album, “Not the Tremblin’ Kind,” and brought her on his show to record several live “Peel Sessions” with him. She spent last year touring the U.S. and United Kingdom in support of her latest album “No Way There From Here.” But back in the borough where she cut her teeth, Cantrell said she is excited to spread her wings.
“For these shows, I’m really looking forward to playing with some different lineups and visiting material from our first album to the most recent, and duetting with some of our great guests,” said Cantrell, whose guests will include rock band the Human Hearts, featuring music writer and local music fixture Franklin Bruno, and the Michael Shelley Band, whose namesake member is also a longtime WFMU presenter. “The point of these shows is to be celebratory and fun, to stretch out over the four weeks and see how much fun we can have.”
Laura Cantrell at Union Hall [702 Union St. between Fifth and Sixth avenues in Park Slope, (718) 638–4400, www.union