Arts & Culture

Winter’s music makes her a nomad, but she keeps coming back to her (adopted) Oly home

Kendl Winter will play Octapas Cafe Wednesday night.
Kendl Winter will play Octapas Cafe Wednesday night. Courtesy photo

Singer-songwriter Kendl Winter, who’ll play her old-timey indie folk music Wednesday at Octapas Café, is one of those quintessentially Olympia types.

Ethereal and quirky — just check out her ensemble in the publicity photo — Winter is a veteran of both K Records and The Blackberry Bushes. She’s a prolific songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, but her DIY efforts aren’t limited to music: She lives on a houseboat she helped rebuild. She’s a vegetarian and former vegan.

And the Arkansas native feels better in Olympia, where she’s lived since 2001.

“I spend a lot of time on the road, but I get back to Olympia and I physically feel good,” Winter told The Olympian. “Something in the environment, in the air, just feels good.”

It’s an experience she has a lot. As half of the popular banjo duo The Lowest Pair, she’s been in the Midwest recording a new album (expected to drop in late spring or early summer) and touring.

Friday, the Pair plays Minneapolis’s legendary First Avenue, where Prince filmed and recorded much of “Purple Rain.”

Wednesday’s show will be Winter’s first solo show in Olympia in years — it’s been so long that she can’t remember how long — though the Pair has played within the past few months.

The Olympia concert, on a shared bill with Oakland, California’s indie-folk T Sisters, is also just the second time she’s played in support of her latest solo effort, “Stumbler’s Business,” released in July.

The new disc is, she wrote on her website, about “the business of falling and catching yourself, or not, scraping your knees, climbing out of the piles, trying again, knowing that stumbling is a part of growing.”

“It’s about kind of being OK with not getting it right all the time,” she told The Olympian.

As far as the critics are concerned, though, she’s gotten it right again on her first solo album in five years. In a review for No Depression, Hilary Saunders summed it up as “a contemplative collection that continues to showcase her inimitable voice and dulcet banjo playing.”

In December, Winter embarks on a West Coast tour, but she keep will — to quote her own lyrics — keep coming back to her adopted hometown.

“We keep coming back; it’s all I know how to do,” she sings on “The Artesian Well” on which she shares vocals with Joey Capoccia of Olympia’s The Pine Hearts, one of many Olympia musicians showcased on the album. “You can only get so far without coming back.”

She explained further. “If you drink the water, you keep coming back,” she said. “That’s the story, right? If you drink the water, you’re stuck coming back to Olympia.”

It’s a love song about a person, she said, but it’s also about the town she loves — and about the water Olympia loves.

“That’s a very Olympia song,” she said. “I don’t think I could have written that song anywhere else.”

It’s emblematic of her approach to songwriting.

“It’s personal, but I tried to make it kind of a universal personal,” she said. “The deeper you go inside, the more you relate to other people.”

Kendl Winter and T Sisters

  • What: Olympia singer-songwriter Kendl Winter — well known as half of The Lowest Pair — plays her first local solo show in years. Also on the bill: Oakland, California’s T Sisters, a sibling trio known for close harmony singing.

  • When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14

  • Where: Octapas Café, 414 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia

  • Tickets: $10-$20

  • More information: 360-878-9333

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