International Women's Month · Interviews

Not Your Granny’s Role Model – Interview with Brigid Kaelin


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Up this week for Not Your Granny’s Role Model, we’ve got super awesome and (formerly) local Louisville musician Brigid Kaelin.  I’ll confess, the first time I’d ever heard Brigid’s music was about a year ago on a random Friday when I had 91.9 WFPK streaming in the office (I was on my own and it was a Bank Holiday, don’t hate!).  “Whisky in the Faucet” came on and I was pretty much in love.  Anyhow, I googled Brigid and was thrilled to find out she was another Kentucky transplant in the UK.  She’s back in Louisville now and a new mum, but still makes time for music and for interviews with small time blogs like mine!

Hi, Brigid!  Thanks for taking the time from being a new mommy and playing gigs and moving (whew!) to do a quick interview with The London Diaries!

Like me, you’re a transplant from KY to the UK (Scotland), though you’ve now moved back to KY.  What differences between the two cultures did you find the most difficult when moving to Scotland?  Do you find yourself having trouble readjusting to life in KY?

Moving to Scotland was more of a culture shock than I anticipated. I mean, it’s not like we were doing a Peace Corps trip in Africa or anything, so it didn’t occur to me that daily life would be much different. I think the biggest adjustment was learning to be more patient. Customer service in the UK, for the most part, doesn’t seem to be the priority we expect it to be in the US. That was frustrating. We’ve been back in the US four months now, and we are still trying to get our UK mobile phone service cancelled, after multiple phone calls each month to our provider.

Oddly, we had an equally difficult – maybe more – time readjusting to life in the US. There’s this mentality in America that you have to fight for everything, and I don’t think I noticed it as much before we moved abroad. Health care has been the worst part about being home, especially with a newborn. The whole process of applying for health insurance was miserable, and now we pay ridiculous premiums, and are hesitant to go to the doctor when we think something might be wrong … all because of COST. You should never have to consider cost when you are trying to decide whether your newborn’s fever is worthy of a several hundred dollar trip to the doctor. It would have been cheaper to fly back to Scotland for my baby’s immunizations than to pay out-of-pocket for them here. And I’m not making that up – I checked airfares. Of course, I was always hesitant to go to the doctor even before living in the UK, but now that I’ve had a really great experience with socialized medicine, it makes me livid to deal with the American health system.

We also have continued to live car-free in Kentucky, which is mind-blowing to most of our friends. Living without a car is a lot easier in Europe. It’s possible in the US, but it requires a lot more planning. I preferred being able to mosey down the cobblestone street to pick up fresh food for dinner. The supermarkets in the US are even more gross to me now.

What is your favourite part about performing onstage?

Connecting with people – making them laugh and forget about whatever trouble is on their minds. I’m also a bit of an introvert, but somehow being on stage is totally comfortable. It’s a great rush.

If you could sum up your music in one word, what would it be?

Storytelling. No wait, fun. No … hmmmm … isn’t that why they invented the term “Americana?”

What traits do you think make for a positive, female role model?

A female role model should be doing something she is passionate about, and she should be completely honest. When I think about the women I’ve looked up to, I see women who have made their passions their career, but have never neglected family and friends. It’s still a man’s world in so many ways, and a woman really does need to be twice as talented to get noticed for something besides her looks. I also think it’s really important for a positive, female role model to remember to be kind and supportive of other women.

Has being a mum changed your perception of what a strong, influential female “looks like”?

Absolutely. We all know about the modern woman’s dilemma of career vs. children, but it’s still such a huge challenge in the 21st century. Men have to deal with it too, of course, but I still don’t think that their hurdles are even close to what a woman’s is. My passion, of course, is music – performing, travelling, touring, playing for new people. Can I do that and breastfeed at the same time? No.

Also, just from a physical point, pregnancy is exhausting. I had a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy, and I can’t imagine if I had to work eight hours a day. I did one five-week tour during my second trimester, and I felt completely beat up after each show. It’s really, really hard to keep following your passions when you’re trying to raise a family. I don’t know any woman who would tell you she “has it all,” but I do admire people who keep on trying.

Do you have any women (famous or otherwise) who you look up to or find inspirational?

The most memorable was my first boss at CBS News, back when I was a 20-year-old intern. She taught me a lot about the newsroom, but also about confidence in the workplace. I admired her for many reasons, but her faith in me and treating me as an equal has stuck with me for years.

Obviously, my mother is a source in inspiration. Especially now that I am a mum too, I can understand just how much she gave up to be a present and good mother.

What do you think are some of the major problems facing women today, and what can be done to help?  

I mentioned this earlier, but I think it’s important that strong women be supportive of other women. We need to watch the competitiveness and remember that kindness goes a long way.

Also, having been through a pregnancy and childbirth makes me realize how twisted maternity care is in the US. I’m thankful to have gone through it in Scotland, where it was midwife-led, and I had many birth choices. Most of my friends who have given birth in the US have either had overly-medical-focused pregnancies, or they had to fight for the right to give birth without intervention. I think childbirth is a feminist issue on many levels.

Finally, Hemingway once wrote a story in just six words (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”).  What would be your six word story for your life so far? 

I have always been fascinated by that story about Hemingway. To miss the point first, I always thought that six-word story was so so sad. But now that I have a baby, I think it’s just words of wisdom to parents: babies don’t wear shoes, so all the baby shoes you bought are “never worn.”  Can I dodge the question that way? This is a hard assignment.

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Kentucky songstress Brigid Kaelin is part country, part vaudeville, and all Americana. Whether on piano, accordion, guitar, or the musical saw, Brigid has charmed audiences all over the world with her music and entertaining live show. She’s been called “the Bette Midler of Alt-country” and has received “Best Singer/Songwriter” commendations for the past four years in Louisville. Brigid also loves playing in other bands and has performed with Peter Searcy, Seven Mary Three, Love Jones, Days of the New, Elvis Costello & the Imposters, as well as Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band and Garrison Keillor on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion.

Brigid’s blog has become as popular as her music. Originally writing about music an tour stories, she now shares thoughts on travel, cooking, whisky, whiskey, gardening, history, and the arts.

(Biography courtesy of Brigid’s blog The Red Accordion Diaries.  Seriously.  Go read it.)

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If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1.  Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.

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3 thoughts on “Not Your Granny’s Role Model – Interview with Brigid Kaelin

  1. So I have just spent a while browsing her music and blog and she is SUCH a sweetheart! You’ve had some ace interviews Steph.

    Unrelated: I have fallen in love with country music HARD and went to Country to Country last weekend and got to swoon over Darius Rucker and Leann Rimes and Carrie Underwood. It was a good day and could not find anybody at work who remotely cares 😀

    1. I love her music!

      And I am SO jealous of you getting to go to Country to Country last weekend. I didn’t even know it was happening until Saturday and by then it was too late. I’m sure it was totally amazing… and you’re so dang lucky!

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