When we first rolled into New Mexico over three years ago, it was as if we’d left the modern United States behind and entered an entirely different world.
The land felt ancient and timeless, the culture alive and welcoming. Native American, Hispanic, African and European art shared space in extraterrestrial-looking Adobe Galleries. The food was rich and spicy, full of flavor. Everybody appreciated music and understood its rightful place in the heart and soul of the nation. For me, it was love at first sight, sound and taste; the land of enchantment had me under its spell from the get go.
Thanks to the generosity of our friends in the New Mexico artistic community, we were able to record an album there at the state-of-the-art Third Eye Studios in Tijeras. The record, The Journey Unfolds, captured my sound and the spirit of my music to perfection. I became even prouder of the album when I learned it had received FOUR nominations at the 30th New Mexico Music Awards, including Best of the Year, Best Americana, Best Singer/Songwriter and Best Recording Engineer (for David McCrae, the audio alchemist at Third Eye).
The quality of production and musical talent in New Mexico is very high. Artists from throughout the United States record there, so the competition at the NMMA is fierce. I felt privileged just to have been nominated alongside so many great musicians, songwriters and singers.
When the night of the ceremony arrived, the MC and co-organizer, Jose Ponce, defined some of the classifications before announcing the winners. When he reached ‘Best Americana Song’ I was intrigued to hear what he’d say; in spite of being nominated in that category, I’d never really understood what the term ‘Americana’ really meant musically.
“If your music is a little bit of blues and folk, or jazz with a hint of country. If it’s soulful, earthy and acoustic, not plugged-in and pretentious like Indie. If you’re a songwriter who draws inspiration from the land and all its musical traditions then you’re probably Americana,” Jose explained (more or less – I was a little too nervous to have taken down his exact words). He recited the nominees then opened the envelope and said, “The winner is Stacey Joy, Breathing Light.”
I was overwhelmed, surprised, happy and honored; and I still am.
As a singer, songwriter and musician, it’s good to know what you are; what genre you play. I now know I’m an Americana artist. What’s more, I was grateful to receive the Best Americana Award in New Mexico, the state of the Zia, of silver and turquoise, of creativity, cowboy boots and cacti. A place where First Nations are respected and diversity is celebrated, and everyone is encouraged to get as spicy as they want to be.
That’s the kind of Americana I’m proud to represent.