I was encouraged to contact Carrie Newcomer by her close friend, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor – who said that they could talk about books until the sun come up.  When I reached out to Carrie, she was finishing up a recording in the studio, but was excited to get involved with our project.  Carrie Newcomer is an American singer, songwriter, author and activist.  She has a dedicated following, having released 15 albums and won several awards for both her music and her charitable efforts.  Carrie has traveled the world as a cultural ambassador for the United States of America, performing organised shows for a range of causes.  I thoroughly enjoyed my interview with Carrie, and encourage you to discover her incredible back catalog of music if you have not already!  Here is my interview with Carrie Newcomer…  

When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?

Musician, Recording Artist, Author, Educator and Activist.

gifts of the dark woodWhat are you reading at the moment?

I just finished Gifts of the Dark Wood by Eric Elnes.

When you think about your childhood, what book comes to mind?

I’ve always loved books.  As a child there was a book mobile that came to our streets during the summer months.  There was a wonderful librarian that remembered me and how I would check out my limit of books every two weeks.  Once I’d read most of the books in my age level in their regular mobile collection she  began to bring special books for me .  She brought books about the natural world, about cultures around the world, art books with projects to make, chapter books with wonderful stories.  I think of those books and that wonderful librarian.

I also think about the Encyclopedia Britannica.  My parents had gotten an encyclopedia and I read it cover to cover.  I know…that officially makes me a lovable geek!

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

An artist, an author, a musician or a veterinarian.

What do you think your school aged self would think of the present day you?

I’m not sure.  She would like that I created stories and songs.

sufi book of lifeIf you could wrap up a single book and gift it to yourself as you left education – which book would it be?

I don’t believe I could wrap up just one.  But in terms of ongoing vocational reflection as I left school I’d choose Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer.  In terms of what I do as a songwriter I’d wrap up New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver, A Part by Wendell Berry and a collection of the lyrics of Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon.  In terms of spiritual reflection I’d  wrap up Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Rilke and An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor and The Sufi Book of Life By Neil Douglas-Klotz.  In terms of novels; The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

Does your reading have routine? Is there a particular time or place that you like to read?

No, I’m always reading.

Which book has had the biggest impact on your career so far?

I really can’t say one book.  But I can say that reading has been my constant companion.  I believe to be a passionate writer always includes passionate reading.

Do you have any books that you strongly associate with someone important in your life?

Yes, Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer and A Hidden Wholeness by Parker J. Palmer, anything by Barbara Kingsolver, A Private History of Awe by Scott Russell Sanders, and My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor.

What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?

I am a walking talking bookmobile librarian.  I am always talking with friends and family about what I am currently reading.  I love asking them what they are reading as well.

Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?private history of awe

I read both.  I can’t imagine only reading one or the other.

Do you think reading is important?

Yes, reading opens our hearts and our minds and our hearts.  Reading allows us to stay informed about the world around us and helps us to understand things outside of our own experience.  Reading creates community and comforts us as an expression of our shared humanity.  Reading gives us language for the longings that we cannot yet describe in words.

Reading helps us to remember, reflect, it expands and inspires.

What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?

I’ve been revisiting some books that inspired me greatly at certain periods of my life.  Its good sometimes to revisit a work that was the perfect book at the perfect time for you.  Sometimes there is a new insight that can come from that reading.  But new books would include, Non Fiction: Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor, Quest for a Living God by Elizabeth Johnson, Gifts of the Dark Wood by Eric Elnes.  Fiction: My Grandmother Asked me to Tell you She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman.

Do you prefer real books or digital books?

I prefer paper poetry books.  But in general, I can read more easily with a digital reader.   I travel a lot for my work and my suitcase was always filled with several books.  I mean it’s a problem to go out on tour with more books then socks and shirts.  Now I carry the one digital reader which is very convenient.

Name a book that you feel every human should have to read by law.

I believe when the heart is ready the right book usually shows up.   I would be very shy to prescribe a one size fits all book.  But, I do believe that literacy and access to literature should be a human right.  Reading reminds us of the best of who and what we are as individuals and as a society.  It expands us and educates us. I’m bias of course, but I believe that access to the arts is fundamental for a healthy society.

grandmother told me to tell you she's sorryWhat is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life?

There has not been one book I can point to.  But reading has made enormous impact.   Reading has changed me, inspired me, expanded me, comforted me and opened me to a world of ideas I might not have encountered.   Reading itself has made the biggest impact on my life.

Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?

Gosh, I could give you a list of 100 or more books easily.   Perhaps the best thing to offer is to read widely.   Read the works the poets and prophets, storytellers and scientists.  Read what is new and disturbing, old and grounding, tender and true.  Read in the morning, something reflective to start your day.  Read in the evening instead of turning on the commercial media.  Read and weep, read and sigh, read and laugh out loud.  Share what you read and ask questions to others about what they are reading.  But most importantly, read.

If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?

I’ve recorded 16 albums on major and independent labels.  Each one could be considered an autobiography of sorts.  So that would include;  A Permeable Life, The Geography of Light, The Beautiful Not Yet, The Gathering of Spirits, Regulars and Refugees, The Age of Possibility.  But if you need something new…the Autobiography Id be working on today is On To The Next Chapter.

If you’d like to learn more about Carrie Newcomer, you can find her at her website, on Facebook and on Twitter.

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