This month, Atlanta-based singer/songwriter Doria Roberts releases her seventh album, “Blackeyed Susan.” I had the pleasure of visiting her at Urban Cannibals, the bodega she owns with her wife, Calavino. Over an extremely tasty Reuben, we talked about the new album and her upcoming Farm to Ear tour.
Patch: “Blackeyed Susan” is your seventh album and your last album was released over five years ago. How have you grown as an artist since then and what will we hear on your new album?
Doria: This album opened me up as an artist. It’s folk and it’s radical in the sense that it’s at the root of the music I’ve been doing all along. It’s lo-fi. There’s banjo and bass banjo on it. It’s bedroom-recording kind of stuff. There was one song, "Gravity and Grace," that I recorded in my bedroom one night but the quality wasn’t quite right. The next morning I went straight to the studio to record it because I wanted the studio version to have that same sleepy and natural feel.
Patch: This is your first album as a bodega owner. Has that influenced your new music?
Doria: Owning the bodega has been a huge influence. I’m very influenced by the pace of farmers and it’s forced me to slow down. It’s also forced me to write more. After being on tour I would come home and spend days not leaving the house but now I’m in the bodega every day talking to and meeting people. I write more in the way Sylvia Plath would write about washing dishes and changing diapers. In Plath’s words, it’s testament to a true writer in that one finds inspiration anywhere.
Before owning the bodega I’d never been in Atlanta this much and I’ve been here for 15 years. Since starting the bodega I’m touring less and doing more here. This was my first summer in Atlanta and it’s been excruciating(ly hot) but that also lends itself to this slow pace of life. There’s a lot more blues and country in my music.
Patch: “Blackeyed Susan” is dedicated to Odetta and in the CD package you’ve included a photo of yourself with her. Can you tell me a little bit about your relationship to her?
Doria: This album is a tribute to Odetta Holmes. I met her in New York City in 2003 after opening for her and played with her on stage but I never got a chance to collaborate with her and I really regret that. She was an activist and a folk interpreter in the way Billie Holiday was a folk interpreter. The people that knew her knew her but when I would perform and mention her people wouldn’t know who she was. The album title comes from that. I’ve always seen the Blackeyed Susan as the sunflower that didn’t get enough light and I felt like Odetta was like that. I want people to remember her legacy and everything she did.
Patch: Tell me about the Farm to Ear tour you’re doing this fall.
Doria: The Farm to Ear tour will be happening this fall all over the east coast. We’re going to shop at farmers markets and urban gardens and make dinner for my fans at house concerts. We’re going to do some awareness for food banks and fundraising along the way. We’re also doing an underground guerilla food production film of my performances to bring to light the challenges that underground food producers have. The CD release party at the East Atlanta Village Farmers market is the tour kick-off to
help people understand what we’re doing.
Doria Roberts’s album, “Blackeyed Susan,” will be released on Sept. 22 at the East Atlanta Village Farmers Market with a kick-off party at 6 p.m.
Her bodega, Urban Cannibals, is located at 477 Flat Shoals Ave. SE, Atlanta, Georgia 303016.
For more information on Doria Roberts’ music, her Farm to Ear tour, and her bodega Urban Cannibals, visit: