When Colorado Springs native Annette Conlon ventured to Nashville at age 16, the budding singer-songwriter had a rude awakening about the kind of music that gains acceptance there.
"It has a very defined structure, and in order to be successful, you have to write within that song structure," says Conlon, who wants to make music that doesn't come from a spreadsheet. "There are programs out there for your PC, your Mac, your iPad, that will write you a Nashville song. You want to do that, buy the program."
Since 2007, Annette and her husband Doug have made Los Angeles the home base from which they record and perform, both singly and as a duo. They'll be in Colorado this week to share a bill with Chuck Snow, whose former band The Autono they'd opened for back in the '90s.
During that era, the Conlons became regional favorites with their band Somebody's Sister. Later in the decade, they toured heavily as Eden Automatic. Annette Conlon had spent her youth in Colorado Springs, involved with vocal choirs and madrigals at Air Academy High School and First Presbyterian Church, while Doug was attending Cherry Creek High School up in Denver.
Annette and Doug have also performed as The Conlons, but these days they're more likely to support each other's solo work, with top billing going to whoever has the most recent album. Annette's newest alt-country release, Life, Death and the Spaces Between, hit the streets last summer to positive international reviews, so their year-end mini-tour is being billed as a series of Annette Conlon shows.
"We'll be performing some songs from Doug's most recent albums, as well as most of mine," says Annette. "We hope to play a song or two from Chuck's new EP, too."
Conlon was pleasantly surprised to see her album earn her an interview in Country Music Scene magazine, as well as a rave review in a Swedish publication that rated it alongside the latest from David Rawlings Machine. "I've gotten a better reception from this than anything I've done," she says. "Americana clearly has a very special niche, distinct from the Nashville scene."
The album's emotional content also stems from difficult times she went through while making it.
"In 2012, I got really sick, I ended up almost dying. When I got better, I fell and hit my head and got a concussion." On the advice of her doctor, Annette took a break from much physical and even online activity. "'I can't do anything,'" she recalls telling herself. "'I can't listen to music, I can't watch TV.' So I started listening to my inner dialogue, and decided to start writing down what I was listening to, since it was driving me crazy. I realized I was writing songs. I ended up writing the whole album."
The result is a collection that stems from emotions rather than formulas. "My songs aren't written within that structure, and I don't want to write that way," she says. "I'm just thinking about flowing from my heart. That sounds kind of corny, but it's really the truth."