In Session: Lissa Schneckenburger

BRATTLEBORO, VT – Adoptive parent, fiddler, singer, teacher, and composer? Is there much that Lissa Schneckenburger isn’t currently taking on? As we delve deep into conversation, the answer to this question seems like a simple, but resounding, no! Releasing her upcoming record of fiddle music, Falling Forward, on March 3rd, Schneckenburger is in full-tilt production mode, as she plans to embark on a short tour to support the album. All this and more in our conversation below!

Lucas Garrett: Thank you so much, Lissa, for taking time out of your morning to sit down with us!

Lissa Schneckenburger: Yeah!

LG: How are you?

LS: I’m good! I’m in the midst of prepping for a CD release tour. I have a new album coming out, so I’m scurrying around, trying to get everything done – all at once – in the next month.

LG: It’s always a very busy time when the album is almost out, isn’t it?

LS: Yep! It’s definitely a little busy, for sure! Hahaha.

LG: Tell us about the album.

LS: We recorded it in December and I’ve just been working straight through for a month-and-a-half doing a lot of the fundraising and the arrangements. The rehearsals. The recording; mixing; mastering; editing – post-production. Now, I’m launching into publicity mode.

LG: What is the name of the album?

LS: It’s called Falling Forward. It’s actually the first album of mostly fiddle tunes that I’ve done in over ten years. You may know that I wear a lot of hats. I’m a fiddler, a teacher, a singer, a composer… I have all these different creative love projects that I’m just excited about! It’s been a long time since I’ve really focused on fiddle music – instrumental tunes. I’m really excited to put some of that music out and to share that with people.

LG: You also had another song, recently, called “Bedlam Blues.”

LS: Yes, “Bedlam Blues” is a single that I put out last year. My last full-length album was Thunder in My Arms, which was a totally different thing. That was all original; a song cycle inspired by my experience as a foster parent. Content-wise and arrangement-wise, sonically, the album is very different. It’s a little more modern and folk-rock than anything else. There’re lots of different arrangements with string sections, bass and drums, electric guitar, and a horn section. That was my last full-length release.

I did two single releases during the pandemic. I released “Labor On” and “Bedlam Blues,” which were both coming out of that Thunder in My Arms sound. That sonic tapestry of original song with a more modern, folk-rock arrangement. “Bedlam Blues” was a single, as you mentioned, that I released that was also inspired by foster care and adoption.

LG: So, these new fiddles tunes that you have coming out… the reason I brought up “Bedlam Blues” is because I can see a very clear transition. In that song, you have this movement, or change in modalities, that is very common in fiddle music. When I heard it, I went, “oh, wow!” The way you wrote that song, you’re modulating to a higher key, but singing in a lower register when you’re in that higher key. That really grabbed my ear. You hear that a lot in some fiddle music. Your work is very creative. I can’t wait to hear the album!

LS: Thank you! That “Bedlam Blues” song was written in collaboration with a poet. I have a local friend in Brattleboro, Vermont. This is a friend that was a former fiddle student of mine that is a very accomplished poet. Her name is GennaRose Nethercott. On occasion, when we can get our schedules to align, we really enjoy doing some songwriting together. “Bedlam Blues” was a song where I had a concept for a song. I sent GennaRose the concept or basic idea, and she came up with more specific, lyrical lines – poetry. We’ve done it a few different ways before.

For this song, she said, “Why don’t you send me some melodies, and I’ll pick and choose some melodies? I’ll write some poetry on top of the melodies.” Sometimes, you’ll get the set of lyrics, and then you write the melody afterwards. With “Bedlam Blues,” I sent her a couple of melody choices and she picked out which melodies she liked and sang on top of that.

LG: Awesome.

LS: As it turns out, that’s where we got the key change from. She picked two distinctly different melodies for the verse and chorus. In order to meld them together in my vocal range, we said “OK, we need to modulate here.” Otherwise, it was too wide and different. It was a fun, creative, and collaborative process, because it did come up with something different. In the end, the resulting song was a little more unusual.

LG: It’s a very interesting piece, you know? I thoroughly enjoyed it. Where are we going to be able to hear your new album when it comes out?

LS: Good question! The official release date, when it’s officially released to the entire world, is March 3rd. People can get their hands on an actual copy of a CD, or LP, download, or stream it online. People can pre-order it, and reserve a copy. They can do that on my website, I’m just making a limited pressing of actual, physical products.

In this day and age, you know, there’s so much downloadable music and streaming music. So, I’m just making a really small number of CDs and vinyl albums. If anybody wants to make sure they get a copy of the CD or version on vinyl, they can go to the website and grab it.

LG: I love vinyl.

LS: I’m a big fan, as well. I inherited my parent’s entire vinyl collection from when I was a kid. It makes me so happy to be able to sift through that collection.

LG: Speaking of vinyl and listening to music, what are some of your influences in general, and when you write?

LS: Oh, gosh. It depends a little bit on the decade and genre. I’ve been soaking up music, constantly – all the time – for the last forty-three-and-a-half years! I go through obsessions, or periods, where I’m really excited about one particular artist, or a group of artists in a particular sound.

As a kid, growing up playing the fiddle, my main influences were: Alasdair Fraser, a great Scottish fiddle player; Liz Carroll, a great Irish fiddle player. She’s my hero – I love her fiddle playing so much. I was also influenced by some of the more New England mentors and teachers. Like, the great Massachusetts-based David Kaynor, and my teacher in Maine, as a kid, Greg Boardman. That’s my original inspiration. That’s developed and expanded over time.

I was also really influenced, as a kid, by the singing of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan and some of the more folky 1990s singer-songwriters. Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan; that whole Lilith Fair crowd. These days, I’m really influenced by a lot of my peers in the folk and fiddle worlds. There is just so much great, new music that is inspiring me.

For example, the amazing fiddler, Katie McNally, produced my new album. She’s a big influence – I really enjoy her playing and listening to her albums. She was right there with her hands in the pot, stirring things up during the recording, mixing, and mastering of the album. She’s a great influence, along with some other friends, like Hanneke Cassel, Laura Cortese – who’s a great singer-songwriter, and fiddler. Or, folks like Kate Rusby, an amazing singer-songwriter from the UK. I’m pretty influenced by other genres, as well.

Right now, I’m in a major obsession with the amazing improviser and modern jazz piano player named Kafari. Amazing musician from Portland, Maine. That’ s my go-to music that I’ve been listening to lately, when I just want to relax at the end of a long day. That’s what I put on.

LG: Your album, Falling Forward, is coming out March 3rd. Do you have any concerts coming up?

LS: Great question. I’m just getting ready for a CD release tour. This is going to be a pretty small, limited series of shows; I just don’t tour as much as I did when I was younger – I have parenting commitments at home, and my health has gotten in the way of me traveling as much as I used to. These shows are a special opportunity for folks that want to hear us play this music live.

There’s just a few: we’re going to be performing March 3rd in Belfast, Maine; Saturday, March 4th will be at One Longfellow Square in Portland, Maine; Sunday, March 5th will be in Brattleboro – my hometown – at the Stone Church; Tuesday, March 7th will be at Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And, that’s it! That’s our mini-tour, for now.

I feel a little bad, because I know I have lots of fans and friends in further-flung places who would love to see the show. But that’s all we’ll be able to do at this point. Maybe more in the future, we’ll do some on the West Coast, and I’d love to head to Europe again. If people want to find out more details about the shows, they can sign up for my mailing list on my website.

LG: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about while I have you?

LS: Yeah, actually! I’d love to let people know if there are any musicians out there reading this that I have a couple things they might be interested in on my website. I have a free “tune of the week” practice challenge that people can sign up for. If they go to my website,, you get a weekly video with a fiddle tune that you can learn on your own, plus a bunch of practice tips and motivation. It’s a whole group-practice challenge.

Also, if there are musicians out there interested in developing their ear training more, and learning by ear, and being part of a more traditional music community, I have a learning-by-ear video series.

LG: I’ll have to sign up for that. I’ve been learning a lot of fiddle music on guitar.

LS: That sounds great! By all means, sign up and tell everyone! I’m really happy to share these resources – especially in the last three years. I cut way, way, way back – obviously, because of the pandemic. During the first part of the pandemic, I was unable to teach in person, and I cut way, way, way, way back on in-person concerts, and workshops, and camps, and festivals. I really used that time to develop some more virtual teaching experiences, and I’m really happy to share those resources with everyone.

LG: Thank you, again, for taking time out of your morning!

LS: Thank you!

LG: Good luck and congratulations on your new album!

LS: Thank you so much!

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