Black and white headshot of a young woman, Norma Jean Haynes.
Norma Dream; submitted photo.

Will Call #76: Norma Dream

Norma Dream is the songwriting project of Norma Jean Haynes: folksinger, banjo player, and wandering musician. Based in western Massachusetts, Norma Jean has followed a love of traditional song to Corsica, Bosnia, England, South Africa, and Appalachia, and her original songs are inflected by these experiences. Her debut album, Mothers & Daughters, embarks on an exploration of nature and relationship as she strives to define a tradition of her own.

Norma Dream’s forthcoming album, entitled Mercy Drops: une catalogue des brûlages, seeks to capture the experience of a summer spent in Corsican with songs in English and French. At once timeless and timely, Norma Dream’s original material uses traditional idioms to explore contemporary life.

With a feather-light voice and a backbone of New England grit, Norma Dream is where Emily Dickinson meets Pete Seeger, where Robert Frost meets Anne Briggs, and where Edith Piaf meets the Hilltowns of Western Massachusetts.

Accompanied by her father Christopher Haynes—celebrated local pianist and accordionist whose credits include Claudia Schmidt and the Young at Heart Chorus— along with fiddler Ben Wetherbee, Norma Dream promises to win your heart with her originality, simplicity, and sense of wonder.

Norma Dream’s Upcoming Dates

7:30 p.m.

Norma Dream

The Foundry
2 Harris Street, West Stockbridge, Mass.

10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Ashfield Fall Festival

Ashfield Town Common
Main Street, Ashfield, Mass.

7:00 p.m.

Bridget St John with Norma Dream

The Institute for the Musical Arts
165 Cape Street, Goshen, Mass.

Find Norma Dream on Instagram, Facebook, and Bandcamp

NTRVW: Norma Dream

(VERY rough transcript)

Will Call: Norma. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Norma Dream: Thanks for having me, Mongrel. Excited to be here.

Will Call: Well, we’re very excited to have you live and in person at the Foundry West Stockbridge on September 23rd. And I think when we were talking in the digital green room, there were some reasons that that I especially wanted to to, you know, sort of praise your you’re showing up here in the Berkshires. Number one, you are sort of local, right? I mean, you went to Smith College, correct?

Norma Dream: I did. I just graduated as an ADA Comstock scholar last May.

Will Call: Sweet. So North Northampton is a very cool, very cool town. I really wish that we could just drag the whole city into the Berkshires, to be honest. But, you know. You know. Go ahead.

Norma Dream: I also lived for a number of years in Cummington, Massachusetts. Right. They call it the Gateway to the Berkshires.

Will Call: Yeah. The exceedingly severe weather gateway to the Berkshires. I love Cummington. In fact, when we my family was looking to to settle in Western Mass, that was very high on our list of places that we wanted to to consider. We ended up in Franklin County, but that that is a beautiful and sometimes severe landscape, isn’t it?

Norma Dream: I would say it can be. They get a good deal of snow sometimes there sudden storms it happens.

Will Call: But that’s I would say that the the hills and Cummington I think they they they shoot up the rise of a run I think is most severe in Cummington. There’s just they just jut right up out of the out of the earth there. And you also have the Cummington Creamery which I would also love to drag into the Berkshires because the creamery is I’m sure that you probably made that at home, right?

Norma Dream: Well, I worked there.

Will Call: Oh, you did?

Norma Dream: I played there many times. Yeah. No, I lived in Cummington. Most of the songs off my first record. Mothers and Daughters were written in Cummington and about Cummington.

Will Call: Okay, Well, it’s and we talked about that in the Digital Green Room. I love that album, and we’re going to talk about that. Smith That was a that’s not the choice for everybody. It’s a it’s a women only school. If I well, more or less, except for the fact that you’ve got that five colleges agreement, what is it like in the 21st century to go to a women only school?

Norma Dream: Well, you know, there are things about it that are really special. I think it gives women and also non-binary people and trans people the opportunity to experience real leadership in a sort of a in a protected environment before going out into fields that can be dominated by men, for example, in music or in engineering. That’s a big one. It gives, you know, young women the opportunity to experience what real leadership feels like before entering into an environment where they’re faced with more challenges related to sexism.

Will Call: That’s an excellent point that I had not actually considered. Yeah, I mean, before you have to deal with the sometimes really sleazy tactics of men in business and in other areas. It is good to be able to find yourself, to be able to be grounded. I’m guessing to be to to get to know yourself and to to recognize your own strengths and to hone them before you have to hit that that that. Mostly binary world. At least it’s a world that kind of wants to stay. It’s. It’s clinging desperately to 20th century binary values. It’s good to hear that that Smith is also a safe place for LGBTQ and yes, people. Is it because I had not I had never spoken to anybody about that. But but it’s pretty cool. It’s safe there.

Norma Dream: I mean, I can’t speak on behalf of on behalf of LGBTQ people as I’m a straight person, but I know a lot of queer people who are happy there. I’m sure there are some who are unhappy there. It’s, you know, it’s a it’s a it’s an institution. It’s a large institution. And every institution will serve some people and and others will struggle. I think they do try. I think they do try.

Will Call: Well, that’s more than some colleges do. So I think I think that’s great. And you are a a scholar of French and education, correct?

Norma Dream: Yeah. So those were my those were my two majors when I was at Smith.

Will Call: And if I am correct, you spent some time as you were writing your upcoming album in Corsica, correct?

Norma Dream: Yeah, I was actually through Smith. I had the incredible opportunity to live in Paris for six months, and then that following summer I received a grant to and I studied art education in France, and that took me to Corsica, where I was studying traditional song with Corsican song masters and that landscape and the experiences I had there were the inspiration for my next album.

Will Call: Well, let’s talk a little bit about let’s talk a little bit about your entrance into music before we get to talking about that album. You are a. A brilliant lyricist. I just want to say that their your music, your lyrics are I was trying to categorize them in some way or at least describe them. They’re difficult because the thing that impresses me the most or sticks with me the most is that I feel like the details that you drop into your songs make you feel very present. The things that they’re details that are in the moment in a way that, you know, it’s not vague, it’s not abstract. There are a lot of very concrete, small but concrete details that really pull you into the story that you often tell. What what is your what is your inspiration or your some of the the artists that have maybe been your your musical mentors?

Norma Dream: Oh, wow. Well, thank you for saying that. That is not something I’ve heard before. But I feel like those are we’ve we’ve got two questions there. Um, so I when I read a song, I often think of a song as sort of like a spilling over of emotion. Like if I have a really big feeling, it’s almost like a cup that’s filling all the way up and then a little bit spills over the top and that’s Spill Over is sort of the song. So what I’m trying to do when I write a song is to capture images and experiences that get at what that feeling is. Um, so a lot of my songs are sort of collections of images and experiences that, um, that encapsulate a feeling for me. Um, in terms of artists who have been really inspiring to me, both locally and more broadly. Um, there are traditional ballad singers like Anne Briggs and songwriters who, who I love, um, Anne Briggs, Lisa O’Neill from Ireland. Locally, Cloud Belly is a friend and a hero of mine. Um, Bridget Saint John, the songwriter out of New York. Um. People who, um, whose music has a strong sense of place, um, and is also sort of rooted in a certain kind of tradition.

Will Call: So when we’re talking about your, your album Mothers and Daughters, you say that it is inspired by Cummington. How do you translate the sense of place? How do you find the the elements of of coordinates on a map and humanize them and emotionalize them? Yes.

Norma Dream: Well, there’s something really special in Cummington. And I don’t know if you experienced this in the Berkshires at large about sort of the way that. That human lives correspond to the seasons. Like the way that that patterns change in our lives over the course of the year. Um, and, and when I was living there as a young woman around 19 to 22, um, I was really, I found something almost alchemical about the relationship between, like, about between people and nature and how, how the relationships I was having with people were developing in this landscape over time. Like walks I took with people, specific people. Um, like on the bank of a specific river and the way that the leaves looked on that day, or to have the geese flying overhead or the apples ripening or the first real like skateable ice of the winter. Those experiences were made richer by the relationships that I was having with people I met there. And, um, and so a sense of place is also a sense of people is what I’m getting at, I think.

Will Call: And I like the, the use of the word alchemical in, in this description because it really is transforming one form of, of matter or energy into another, isn’t it?

Norma Dream: That’s right.

Will Call: Mm hmm. Um, when you when you chose your, your majors going into into Smith, you chose education in French? Yes. Why? Why not music?

Norma Dream: Well, I started doing Covid. Smith was online when I started there. Um, and for me, studying music on the Internet was not going to be compatible with what music is in my life. Um, it’s not true for everyone. A lot of really phenomenal musicians and technicians have have found ways to continue their studies online, and I really admire that. But, um, personally. It wasn’t going to be the thing. And and for me, music and community are really intertwined. So studying education sort of felt like a no brainer because education is a study of how people learn in community.

Will Call: Got it. Got it.

Norma Dream: Yeah. And friendships makes sense because I love language and I’ve studied for a long time.

Will Call: Yeah, a French soap commercial actually can sound sexier than most English poems. So I get you there. I would say the same with Spanish and Italian as well. Yeah. It’s like.

Norma Dream: Um. Being myself, being a musician, I have managed to spin both French and education in the service of music.

Will Call: Hmm.

Norma Dream: Now I am a music teacher and I am. My second album will be bilingual in French and English.

Will Call: This is. You’re going to have to let me butcher the title here. It is Mercy Drops.

Norma Dream: You can just call it Mercy Drops, but the subtitle is UN Catalog de Privilege.

Will Call: That’s what I was going to try and butcher. And but I would have said it perfectly. I promise you, if I had not heard you just say it. So un catalog de boulange. What is Boulange?

Norma Dream: It’s sort of like, um, it it just means burnings or fires. But also there’s, it’s an art form that has to do with like with, with burnings on paper, but it really just means fires. Hmm.

Will Call: Well, let’s see here. So you, you are. You’re a complicated person to interview. You’ve got so many, so many directions. I could go here.

Norma Dream: I’ve had a lot of lives.

Will Call: Oh, I hear you sound like a kindred spirit. Um, well, let’s start. Let’s. Let’s stay with mercy drops here, because that’s where we’re. That’s the. The the plate we’re standing on. Um. Corsica. It is a it’s a nearly mythical place. Yeah. What? What would you say would be the if we’re using the same alchemy that we used in sort of trans transcribing cummington the place into into cummington the the song, the music, How would we how would you describe Corsica in that along those lines?

Norma Dream: Well, I was in Corsica for about a month and it is it is a land of extreme contrast. And I was there in peak summer. The, the, um, the um, motto, sort of an unofficial motto of Corsica is from like, from the mountain to the sea. Like the mountain slope directly to the ocean. There’s nothing in between. It’s just like mountain sea. And in the summer it is dry, but it is surrounded by this glittering, perfect ocean. But the land, it is just so, so dry. And it’s hot and the ocean is just glittering, like some kind of mirage. And then all of a sudden there’ll be this epic hailstorm like we were there. It was the middle of July, and these hailstones fell down and they were huge, the size of golf balls. And it was just, um, that’s where actually the title of the album came from because I was there with some singers. We were singing in this shape note hymn that talked about Mercy Drops falling from the Sky. And and then these hailstones fell from the sky and everyone was calling them mercy drops because it has so dry. And so for me, this album is about. About extreme contrast and also in love in the absence of love. Extreme contrast.

Will Call: Interesting. You know, Corsica is an interesting place. Have you been? No, no, no, I have not been. But I have sort of an interest in the roots of civilization and. And the roots of the human experience. And Corsica is one of those places that has been occupied in Europe for a long, long time and have had and has had, you know, settlement human settlement there for a long time. Yes. And, of course, it has changed hands many, many times. Oh, sometimes through. Bloodshed sometimes through just sort of the amalgamation of cultures depending on the century. What can you say about the people that you met? What what? Because you said that very often the sense of place is also the sense of people. What did you experience there?

Norma Dream: Well, I met a lot of different kinds of people, so I did meet Corsicans, as one does. Um. Um, who are exceptionally kind to me. But actually, um, a lot of the songs on that album are, are love songs for a young man I met on a Mountain and he’s actually Swiss. He’s Swiss. He was, um, he was I was hiking there in the mountains and I met this Swiss man, and a lot of the songs on the record are for him.

Will Call: Well, that’s fantastic. It’s not every young man that gets to be immortalized in song.

Norma Dream: He’s a very special and strange one. He was a sculptor.

Will Call: Fantastic. Well, how did a Swiss sculptor end up in Corsica? I guess. How did an.

Norma Dream: American banjo player end up in Corsica?

Will Call: Excellent point. Excellent point. So you mentioned shape note. Are you familiar with Alice Parker? Yeah, of course. Okay.

Norma Dream: She was a mentor of my mentor.

Will Call: Yeah, she was one of my neighbors in Franklin County.

Norma Dream: Oh, wow. What a phenomenal woman.

Will Call: Right, Right. I mean, and the energy that she has at I don’t even know. I don’t even know how old she was when she was still touring. Um, but yeah, like 92, 93. And she’s still like, getting on planes going across the world. Yeah.

Norma Dream: So, yeah, yeah. She’s a very special person. We’ve only met once or twice.

Will Call: Tell us about Shape Note. What is it?

Norma Dream: Well, shape note is a New England tradition. A New England tradition of choral singing. Um, basically there was this movement in the churches to sort of to make New England churchgoers better singers and more consistent singers. And someone decided to that the way to do that would be to assign shapes to the notes on the page, to make the relationships between the notes easier to follow, to make the music easier to read. Um, so you have a whole, a really enormous tradition of these hymns that were written with, with shape notes, with the notes in the form of different shapes. There’s four shapes. Um, and I am drawn to shape note because, because it is a, it’s a New England tradition. And as a banjo player, I’ve grown up studying different musical traditions and sort of a tradition based approach to thinking about music. So I’m always curious about the traditions that surround me and the ones that I might have learned from without maybe even realizing it.

Will Call: Um.

Norma Dream: And I did grow up singing shape note So there’s that.

Will Call: There is that. Well, you know, I this is why I love this show. I get to to I knew a little bit about that, but that was the most concise explanation that I have heard. Oh, thank you.

Norma Dream: It’s very popular in Northampton.

Will Call: Yeah. I mean, and. And it is popular. All over the world in pockets. There are people that come to visit Allah that come to visit Alice from all over the world to sort of study under her. So it’s it’s one of those, you know, those one of the things that we can take from the Puritans and accept them and with with thanks. Yes. Can accept everything that the Puritans did with thanks. But the shape note system, I think we can we can be pretty happy with. Let’s go backward and talk a little bit about education. You said that education to you is a very community centered thing, and I love that you you say that because I don’t know that everybody feels that way. At least not in the sense that it belongs to everybody. But your song, your book, rather making Make Music a Kid’s Guide to Creating rhythm. And is a it is as basically everybody can make music.

Norma Dream: Yes, that is a philosophy to which I subscribe wholeheartedly as a music educator.

Will Call: Go ahead.

Norma Dream: Yeah. No, no.

Will Call: Well, I was going to ask what what do you think the evidence is? Because I just I was just interviewing somebody who said I can’t sing, but which I thought was really strange because he had this very melodic, sonorous voice. And I thought, I bet you can sing. You just for whatever reason somebody told you you couldn’t and you believed them. What what do you think about this notion that everybody can make music? Where does it come from?

Norma Dream: Well, I can I have not I have yet to sleuth my way to the bottom of of why people say that they can’t sing. I’ll have to get back to you in 5 or 10 years on that one. But I do think that everyone can make music, and I just think I think it’s because my idea of music is rooted in the sounds of the natural world. Like everything makes sound and and birds sing naturally. It’s just like an expression of what’s inside of them. And I do feel like singing is sort of just an extension of speaking at the base. And then there are levels and levels of discipline that you can put on top of that to become a great concert singer or a great folk singer of any style. But. At the base. Rhythm. Like melodic sound. Melody like melody and rhythm and timbre and pitch. These are just parts of our lives. These are just how we communicate. And also, it’s all just vibration. So it just feels like if you are capable of making sound, you’re capable of making music and anything else in there is just a mental block.

Will Call: I’m going to go with that. I’m going to agree with that. A mental block is is why we say we can’t do math or mental block is why we say we can’t dance. Right? I mean, it’s typically something. And I think that well, you know, I’m guilty of saying I’m math is is is a language I don’t understand. I think that probably if I were to dance more and play more instruments, math would probably come easier because math is is music is is mathematical, as is dance. I mean.

Norma Dream: Music will will come easier to some people than to others. And also people have more exposure. People have more resources. Like it’s not fair. But but it also. I think this idea, you know, have you been to see the Gunnar Schoenbeck exhibition at Mass MoCA?

Will Call: No.

Norma Dream: So there’s this musical instrument inventor who taught at Bennington College, and his collection is at Mass MoCA, and they on the wall there. It says, Music is for everyone. Um, and I don’t know, it doesn’t necessarily mean like. Everyone is already a musician. I think it’s more like music belongs to everyone. And sometimes in this era of recorded music and music as an industry, we forget that music belongs to everyone.

Will Call: I agree. I agree. I think that music I mean, everyone can make music, but as you said it, it’s a matter of discipline and a matter of of time and sometimes a matter of opportunity. But but I think everybody certainly should be able to internalize the music of their lives, whether it is, you know, humming as you’re doing tedious work. Housework, for example, is is a I think probably if you ask people when do they get to listen to the most music, it’s probably when they’ve got, you know, earpods in as they’re doing laundry or vacuuming. And so like you don’t have to make it a special thing. It already is, no matter when you’re doing it.

Norma Dream: And also one of the things we get at in my book, Make Music a Kid’s Guide is like. Well, what if you take out the headphones and is are the sounds of your laundry a kind of music.

Will Call: Mhm.

Norma Dream: It’s sort of like that’s the inquiry, that’s the line of inquiry that I like to take kids down sometimes.

Will Call: No that’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. Um, I think there’s all sorts of different work that lends itself. I find that chopping wood, yes. Has a wonderful rhythm to it. And actually there’s a, there’s a minister over in your neck of the woods who wrote an entire book. What was his last name?

Norma Dream: Philbrick. He’s a good friend.

Will Call: Yeah, he. He and his father wrote a book about splitting wood. I don’t agree. I don’t agree with everything. But I do say I will give them credit for convincing me that the mall should be your first line of attack. And rather than an ax. I grew up I grew up using an ax. That was my father’s tool. But but then again, we had acres and acres of straight oak, you know, it was like, you know, 80ft before you hit a branch so you could cut that with an ax easily a maul. However, you have to sometimes, you know, if you’ve got these curly maple things or whatever, you’ve got to really whack it and whack it. And that’s where the music comes in, because you can choose to to create a rhythm of your own. You can choose to. To allow whatever grunts and groans and sometimes profanity to enter that song. And that’s not even a joke. I think that there’s a, you know, work of all kinds sometimes is even the most tedious or difficult or painful work can be made better with allowing the mind to to sort of, again, alchemize it into.

Norma Dream: Yes. And also especially with the example of something like chopping wood. You are inserting yourself into a rhythm that people have been practicing before you for hundreds of years. And that’s special too. And that is the same sort of experience I have when I sing a folk song is like inserting myself into a musical or a rhythmic and melodic structure that people before me have been inhabiting for hundreds of years.

Will Call: Hundreds. Thousands, sometimes. Yeah. Excellent point.

Norma Dream: Are you like, are you? It’s the same as when you do something like chop wood in that way. I mean, it’s a big metaphor, but I love metaphors. Yeah, but it connects you to not only to your environment, but also to the past.

Will Call: Yeah, there is a there’s a place in Maine that sells the size that we used to use before the Civil War. They were hand hammered. They weren’t drop forged. And there’s a whole story behind that. Basically, after the Civil War, we needed to do something with all these factories that we that we had to make guns. So we literally turned our swords into farm equipment because the factories had all this capacity and it was good for a lot of things, but it was terrible for the the PSI, which is a precision instrument, not this big, clunky cast iron or drop forge thing. But so you can still order a European PSI, which is what we used to use. And they are they are razor sharp and they are very lightweight. And when you get going down the field, when you’re cutting hay with a PSI, if you don’t hear the music, I don’t know what to tell you. I just don’t know what to tell you.

Norma Dream: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

Will Call: And rural life. I don’t think I have to convince you either, because, you know, you’re sort of a folklorist here. Rural life does not, I think lays claim to so much of our musical tradition. Before before it was sort of taken over by, you know, big city interests. I shall say.

Norma Dream: Yeah, absolutely. Well, one thing I think a musical life requires is time. You have to have time. And when you have a lot of repetitive chores to do. You have time.

Will Call: That’s true. That is true. And I grew up on a farm, so I can attest to that. And time to think of things. Time to write lyrics in your head. Time to do all sorts of things. Um, let me ask you this last before we leave the children’s book. Did the the children’s book, did that come out of your, um, your studying education or was it before that?

Norma Dream: That book was published. I was approached about work, so I didn’t go back to college till I was 24. Um, that book, the Story publishing, approached me about working on that book when I was 19.

Will Call: Awesome. Yeah. Awesome. The story is great right here in North Adams.

Norma Dream: Yeah, I love story. They’ve been really good to me.

Will Call: Yeah, Yeah. A lot of writers get their start. My wife worked for Story for a number of years. Oh, wow. In fact. So, yeah. Small world all around. Um, yeah. One of the things that’s great about stories is that they are not always looking for multi book published authors. They’re looking for people who know, know what they’re talking about, whether it’s raising raising sheep or whether it’s doing some sort of weaving. They will work with people who may not necessarily be authors initially, but they they take experts in their fields and and help them distill their knowledge onto the page.

Norma Dream: Yeah, absolutely. Well, they took a they took a risk on me. And I’m really grateful that having that opportunity really opened up my world and helped me really see myself as a music educator.

Will Call: We’re definitely going to put a link to that book in the show notes for this episode. So that’s that’s great. Um, and now let’s talk a little bit. About. About mercy drops and that’s that’s your most recent and well it’s upcoming. When is when are when is mercy Drops going to drop.

Norma Dream: It actually won’t drop until the spring time.

Will Call: What.

Norma Dream: Sorry. Yeah it’s I’m just gathering sort of momentum for it now.

Will Call: Okay.

Norma Dream: All right. Getting my hand together. Yeah.

Will Call: That. That kind of really. Gosh, that just. That just shook me. How could you do that, Norma? I got so excited to hear this. This all this romance just spilling over.

Norma Dream: If you come to the Stockbridge West Stockbridge show on the 23rd, you’ll hear a good number of those songs.

Will Call: Oh, okay. So, ladies and gentlemen.

Norma Dream: Playing that material and I’m working it up with a band at West Stockbridge. I’ll be playing with a trio and and we will be recording it in Goshen, Massachusetts this winter and then releasing it in the spring for a summer of touring.

Will Call: Um. Okay. My heart has settled down a little bit. I can. I can live with that. Now that I know that I can hear the music. Not all of our listeners can. I mean, they can if they want to catch a flight. We have we have listeners all over the world. So.

Norma Dream: Fabulous. Well, you know, I will have, um, little teasers coming out, um, all throughout, probably beginning in November. December. Okay. Yeah. You can follow me on socials and, and get on my mailing list and things will get out there.

Will Call: Things will begin to, to sort of leak. Well, I’m, I’m glad to hear that. So let’s. Let’s just sort of wrap it up here. The only thing that we haven’t talked about is banjo. Yeah. Why Banjo?

Norma Dream: I ask myself every day. I just fell in love with it. I mean, I didn’t. It turns out the woman who was my babysitter as a toddler ended up being my banjo teacher for about a decade when I was a teenager. Um, and I mostly learned in her basement. But since then, I’ve been. I’ve been really involved in the old time music scene. Um, that is like banjos, fiddles, guitars, basses. Um, yeah, it’s. And I’ve learned a lot from that. It’s. I never was interested in guitar. Now I play guitar, but the banjo is just it.

Will Call: Mm.

Will Call: Well, this is exciting. Very exciting. Well, it fits very well. You know, the original idea that I had was to was I’ve got a number of different podcasts. One of them is Will call and that is a performing arts as you, as you guess performing arts podcast. Another one is the top left corner which is. Notrillioneally. Appropriate since Stockbridge is definitely not the top left corner of Massachusetts, but the one that is probably most has the biggest audience is the Cornbread Cafe. And it is all about American roots music, old time music, gospel, blues, you name it. And it goes up to and inclusive of rock and roll that is heavily flavored by folk or gospel or, or blues. Yeah. So and it even will, you know, I’ll even dabble in some alt country from time to time if it’s not too tear in my beer. And you know, my wife stole my dog and my truck and that sort of thing. But I think that you’ve got a an absolutely solid, a solid place on the Cornbread Cafe. So you’re going to be probably in two different places, probably locally for the Berkshires you’ll be on will call and then elsewise. I’ll have at least a portion of this interview on the Cornbread Cafe, and I would love to feature a song, if you will, if you’ll grant me permission to to play a song from your most recent album on that episode from Mothers and Daughters. I loved a couple of different tunes I really loved. Um. A blot on the flag. That was. Oh, yeah, a very. There was a surprise. I like that. It was, you know, I it, I was listening to so many in major in major keys and then blend the flag starts and it drops into minor and I said ooh I better get ready for this. I have a feeling it’s going to be good. And and of course it was. But you know, like Clay was, you’ve got a video out on that. So that’s obviously a loved one. What what would you what would you recommend that I. A feature on that episode.

Norma Dream: Well, you know, I would encourage you to go with whichever one seems like it would be a good fit for you and for your audience. I love Blood on the Flag. It is the only song I have written of that kind that actually the melody from that is a traditional British ballad. Um, that song has a whole story. Um, and like, Clay was written for a potter in Windsor, Massachusetts, named Constance Talbot. Um, both of those are. Yeah, like. Like would be a good one. Especially since the video is out there.

Will Call: Could do that. Well I’ll see. I’ll see which. What other tunes. Sometimes it has everything to do with, you know, the collection of the eight songs or so that I’m playing and what sounds best with, you know, altogether. Sure. You said that you’re going to be recording in Goshen. Yeah. Is that at the The Institute for Musical Arts?

Norma Dream: Yeah, they’re major collaborators of mine now.

Will Call: Do you want to tell us a little bit about about the Ima?

Norma Dream: Sure. So the Institute for the Musical Arts or the Ima for short is a nonprofit founded by Ann Hackler and June Millington. They were founded in California, but then they moved out here. June is is a is a founding member of one of the first. All female rock and roll bands signed to a major label in the United States called Fanny, and Anne ran the women’s center at Hampshire College for a number of years. Basically, the Ima is a nonprofit, um, committed to supporting women in the music industry. Um, I have worked as an intern and then as a faculty member at their summer camps for pre-teen and teenage girls and non-binary youth. I also recorded mothers and daughters there and am planning a concert series there this fall, so they offer a lot of opportunities for women in music to to network, to expand their careers, to come for retreats. Um, they have an incredible network of music professionals to tap into highly recommend.

Will Call: And they’ve had some, some some big names actually show up as, as as instructors. And one of the things that I love you’re never going to get another interviewer who’s going to know as much about like this stuff as I do. I’m just going I’m going to say that I love the fact that they don’t just focus on the the the music. They also focus on the business side of music careers because that’s one of the place where probably women have been most exploited. Yeah. So being able to teach women how to manage their careers and how to keep from getting ripped off or exploited is is a super important thing even today.

Norma Dream: Huge. I was just there a few weeks ago with the pre-teen girls watching a professional drummer teach these ten year olds how to run a soundboard, how to adjust their own sound, and set up their amps and get their microphones the way they need them. And just thinking like these young people are going to know are going to be literate around their own technology because that music tech side is a place where I have certainly felt sort of helpless as a woman in music. Nobody taught me about how to run a soundboard, about how to what to ask for when I’m working with a sound person. Um.

Will Call: Yeah. And you have to you have to advocate for your, for your own sound. I mean, as a lead singer and, and although I do play guitar badly and I play piano even worse. Um, but, but generally as a lead singer, they don’t let you touch the soundboard. They don’t let you touch anything unless you happen to own the equipment. And so I went many years feeling like my vocals were, were mushy or were were sort of cloudy. And I always I always suspected that it was it was the guitarist who owned all the gear that was, was, was keeping me down. That’s what I was suspected that they were jealous of my my razor sharp vocals and they were trying to try to crush me. No, I’m kidding. You have to you have to be able to to know what to you have to be able to to know the language, to know the vocabulary of of of the technical side of music. And you have to be able to to advocate for yourself and kind of like I would say it’s probably a little bit like Smith College in that when you learn these things as a young woman in an environment where you don’t have to compete with pushy male lead guitarists or whatnot, you get to sort of. You get to sort of find yourself first and find your place in music first.

Norma Dream: Yeah, I would say that that is true. And also to know that no matter how much frustration you have experienced in your career that you have somewhere you can go to process that with people who want to support you.

Will Call: Awesome. Awesome. Well, we’ll put a link to the Ima in the show notes as well.

Norma Dream: They have lots of opportunities for women of all ages.

Will Call: Cool. All right, well, so let’s just say one more time. Where can people other than other than what did we say was September?

Norma Dream: September 23rd.

Will Call: And third.

Norma Dream: At the foundry at 7:30 p.m.. I’m also playing the Ashfield Fall Festival on October 8th, and I will be a little further down the line at the Ima in Goshen on November 11th with the incredible and celebrated British songwriter Bridget Saint John. That is one not to be missed.

Will Call: Okay, well, we’ll put a little mini mini calendar in the episode. You’ve given me a lot to sort of pack into the show notes here. Sorry. No, that’s great. That’s great. I don’t always have that from from just one artist. But this is fantastic.

Norma Dream: And graduated from college. And I’m I’m I’m getting the ball rolling, as they say.

Will Call: Well, you know, like like you said, the so much was inaccessible, undoable during the pandemic. And it’s sort of like you’re emerging from a chrysalis at just the right time in your sort of musical journey. Um, what where can people go to find out more about Norma Dream?

Norma Dream: Well, I’m very active for for Instagram users. That is a great place. I am at Norma Dream, Jean. I’m also I have a Facebook page. Norma Jean. Norma dream. Um, and I have a Bandcamp which is Norma Dream Dot

Speaker3: All right.

Will Call: Well, we’ll put links to all of those in there. Thank you for such a lovely almost hour here. I’m not sure where we’re going to. I’m not sure where we’re going to fit any music in this episode, but. All right. No, thank you so much for that. It’s been a really enjoyable I feel like I’ve been talking to an old friend since we know so many of the same stuff and we will see you at the foundry in West Stockbridge. And until then, safe travels and keep us in your your thoughts as you as you share more stuff out there.

Norma Dream: I will. Thank you so much and thank you for the time and the platform. It’s been nice talking to you. Great.

Will Call: Take care. Bye bye.

Jason Velázquez

Jason Velázquez has worked in print and digital journalism and publishing for two decades.
Phone: (413) 776-5125

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