whose strings II: lena bredeson

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update november 8, 2017: for the latest news with lena, check out this post

although I typically work with guitar and sometimes bass guitar strings, I am always excited to try out new types of strings and materials. when local singer/songwriter lena bredeson told me she had saved her most recent baritone ukulele strings with me in mind, however, I didn't know just how much fun the four pliable nylon strings would be to use for a whole new collection of pieces. 

lena performs both solo and with her new band -- jeff krause on guitar, taylor donskey on stand-up bass, and dan staddon on drums -- who just had their first show last month and who are prepping to record together. I asked lena a few questions about herself and her music. 

        tell me about your ukulele. 

I actually started out on baritone ukulele. we always had a ukulele in the house. my dad was a guitar teacher and he usually used the ukulele to start kids on before they started playing guitar because it's a lot easier in some ways. I really liked the openness of the sound. it's not as high and toy-like as the regular ukulele. I felt like I could play more interesting chords that way and finish chords with my voice. it's been interesting with the band because certain chords that I play on ukulele don't translate to the guitar so they are trying to figure out what I'm playing and how it goes with what I'm singing, so that has been a pretty cool process. 

        are you still playing ukulele with the band or does the guitar replace the uke?

for most of it, I'm still playing ukulele. everything starts with the ukulele, because I'm writing all the songs and I write them with ukulele. some of the songs I am just singing now, which has been kind of nice for me to just focus on singing. but all the chords, all the songs, start on ukulele. 

        what are some of your inspirations?

listening to other people's music. I try to go see as much live music as possible. it really inspires me to write when I hear other songwriters. also reading. 

        what is your writing process like?

mostly I'm just messing around with different chords I can find on ukulele. I have a melody in my head first, and then I mess around with different phrases. usually it's all random at first. I might have an idea of what I want to write about, but it's kind of subconscious. once I sing some words, I'll realize it's something that has been on my mind or that I've been thinking about. I like to record things while I'm going through that process and then I write it down. 

        what are you listening to right now?

I've been listening to the staves. this last weekend I went to prairie home companion and I saw brandi carlile, someone I've been listening to for a long time, and ben folds. I got to meet brandi briefly which was pretty cool. one of my middle school dreams achieved. 

        what else are you into right now?

I've been really working on my latte art. I've been working full time at my family's bakery and that's something that's always been important to me, helping out my family, and we just started a new location. I wanted to be a part of the new place from the beginning. also just trying to be outside. I like taking long walks. 

        is that hard in the winter?

yeah but it's kind of nice. I kind of like that there's no one else out, I like being the only one out sometimes. and braving the cold, it's good for you.

        so you are working on a record with your new band. what has that project been like?

since we just started the full band, I've mostly been working on arranging with the band. they have basically made my songs into something I couldn't have done on my own. they've put things into it that I'm really, really excited about. I am currently looking into a couple different studios to record at. still raising money to get that done as well, and hopefully within the next year to get that recorded. I'm hoping to do six or sevens songs, so like an ep. 

when I found out that both maya (from whose strings I) and lena were both raising money to record their music, I decided to give something back in exchange for their graciousness and strings.

join us saturday april 9th at harriet brewing for a solid night of music featuring myself and maya and lena with their full bands. if you pick up some tsii jewelry at the show, whoever's strings are on the piece(s) of your choosing will receive 15% of the profit for their record funds. all of the pieces shown here will be available at the show and will benefit lena and her band. 

you can check out some of lena's music here, and support her ep directly here. hopefully she'll have to change her strings a few more times during the recording process -- I think I caught the uke-string bug. 

photographs by elena stanton