Folk Singer-Songwriter Gwyneth Moreland found inspiration for her latest album, Cider, in her family and native soil of Northern California. After studying and working in Denver as a veterinary technician, she returned to her hometown of Mendocino, an artistic community where her father is a metal sculptor and her mother, a fiber artist.
“Our home was always filled with art and music,” she recalls. “My writing is heavily influenced by the environment up here in the misty redwoods overlooking the crashing Pacific."
Growing up, the household of five children didn’t have a CD player or television, but they did collect vinyl by the likes of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and Billie Holiday. For her 16th birthday, she received Gillian Welch’s album Revival from her eldest brother Morgan Daniel. The young vocalist, spellbound by Welch’s songs, joined Daniel to form the bluegrass-inspired band Foxglove. During those years, she was consumed by artists such as Guy Clark, Mary Gauthier, Nanci Griffith and The Carter Family, as well as O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.
All of those influences can be heard in Cider, a satisfying collection that showcases Moreland as one of the Golden State’s most promising folk artists. On lead single “The California Zephyr,” she’s boarding the famed train, bound for something better. Her expressive vocals underscore complicated emotions in songs like “Eloise” and “Your Smile,” as well as more traditional folk numbers like “Danny Parker.” Meanwhile a sleek jazz influence finds its way into “Farmhouse” and “Movin’ On.”
Moreland will introduce her new music during a Blue Rose Music showcase at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City in February, ahead of the album’s March 10 release. Cider was produced, engineered and mixed by David Hayes (Van Morrison) and mastered by Karl Derfler (Tom Waits).
Moreland often performs as a trio with Hayes on bass and her brother Morgan Daniel on guitar. "I love playing with these two guys. We can get some real melodic and old-timey three-part harmonies going," she says.
Cider also marks the latest chapter in Moreland’s musical career. After attending college in Denver, she headed back home to Mendocino in 2005. Before long she was back performing with Foxglove and joined up with singer/songwriter Angie Heimann to start an all-girl band called The Blushin’ Roulettes. These two friends went on to write many songs together including "Movin' On."
When it came time to make another solo record, Moreland struck a deal with local musician and producer David Hayes. Not only was he known in the area as Van Morrison’s bass player, he was Moreland’s high school teacher in the sound recording lab. After Hayes brought his ailing cat, Babs, to the veterinary office where Moreland worked, she offered to make house calls in exchange for sessions in Hayes’ home recording studio, lovingly called The Shack In The Back. This collaboration led to a lasting friendship as well as the 2014 album Ceilings, Floors & Open Doors. One of the tracks from that album, “Slaughterhouse Gulch,” quickly climbed to the Top 5 of the Folk DJ chart.
With the release of Ceilings, life took an exciting and unexpected turn. “I found out I was pregnant the same week I released that album,” Moreland recalls. “I just didn’t know what the future was going to look like for my music at that point. The album was received really well, but I couldn’t tour to support it as much as I had hoped.”
A new arrangement with Blue Rose Music led Moreland and Hayes to return to the studio to begin sessions for Cider, a project that underscores her gift for writing acoustic arrangements. Her friend Gene Parsons, a former member of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, plays pedal steel on the title track; he also plays banjo on “The California Zephyr” and “Danny Parker.”
Performance runs in the family — Moreland’s aunt was Oscar-winning actress Donna Reed — but life in Mendocino is a far cry from Beverly Hills. The family of four live on rural property with the menagerie one might expect from a vet tech: a small herd of sheep, a horse, chickens, dogs and a barn cat.
"I've got the best of both worlds — a couple of kids on a cozy farm, a wildly creative husband and a very supportive label that has made it possible for me to continue to get my music out in a meaningful way,” she adds. “I am looking forward to sharing these new songs with loyal fans from the Mendocino coast and my years on the road as well as with folks that are looking for some real home-grown music."
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