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Emmylou Harris ends 'break,' hits road with new album
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Emmylou Harris recently took a year-long sabbatical of sorts, during which she produced a tribute album to the late Gram Parsons, worked with Linda Ronstadt and Willie Nelson and wrote 11 songs.
Clearly, the country/folk artist has a different take on sabbaticals.
"Well, you know, I haven't looked up the word "sabbatical," but I think maybe it could mean a change of pace," the nine-time Grammy-winner said Tuesday while promoting her new album, "Red Dirt Girl."
"Rather than being out working on solo projects and being on the road a lot touring with my band, I took time away from those things so that I could concentrate on songwriting," she said. "I guess it's kind of hard for me to just clear the slate completely."
Shortly after she began writing the title song, Harris saw the film "Boys Don't Cry," about a lesbian woman who was murdered after passing herself off as a man named Brandon Teena.
Uncertain where the character in her own song was going, Harris thought of the people in Brandon Teena's life, "how they were kind of trapped in their lives. And their dreams were kind of starting to turn on them.
"I think that was what gave me the impetus to take 'Red Dirt Girl' to where it ended up," she said.
Springsteen, Scialfa lend help
The recording features guest appearances by a diverse group that includes Dave Matthews, Patty Griffin and Bruce Springsteen.
"I got Bruce, actually, because I invited his wife, Patty Scialfa, who is a wonderful singer and songwriter, to come and sing on this song," Harris said. "And she brought Bruce along. And he sounded so good on the third part that we were able to put him on the record, too."
"Red Dirt Girl" is her first recording with the Nonesuch label, which Harris considers a good match.
"Nonesuch is a company that understands that there are artists who don't live and die by the radio, but who have something to say, and who actually do have an audience," she said. "So I feel that I have, I've sort of come home to roost at a place where we are philosophically in the same place about music, and about radio, and about all those things."
Now, Harris plans to head out on the road again to share the new work with her legion of die-hard fans.
"I love the road," she said. "I love singing live for people. I live playing live with great musicians. And I love the songs."
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