COTTAGE GROVE – Diane Patterson says she’s been touring more lately than ever before.
That’s understandable. After all, she is the Folkgoddess.
“I went to college at UC Davis, and there’s this Whole Earth festival that I played for like 18-19 years in a row,” Patterson said Sunday night after performing a captivating solo set at the Axe & Fiddle.
“At some point, they started calling me the Folkgoddess – so that kind of stuck. And then a few years back, I was about to turn 50, and I thought to myself, ‘Am I still going to do this traveling music thing?’ Then sometime later I thought to myself, ‘Wait a minute, I am the Folkgoddess,” she said. “It was a cool thing about turning 50 and just really stepping into myself.”
She was practically born to be a musical artist.
“There’s a recording of me playing a recital in the 6th grade, and my mom and I were both like, “Oh boy, there’s something there,’” Patterson recalled.
“But things change and evolve, and I’ve definitely needed lessons. Two different times, I’ve had good voice teachers for some months, and they kind of gave me tools that I still have to use – and thank goodness I have them, because some nights are harder than others to sing.”
Patterson is not just another pretty voice, though. Her music reflects her strong beliefs and her activism efforts. Described as Mystic Acoustic Americana, her songs tell stories of the human spirit, how we conquer adversity and heal in diversity. How we plant seeds to grow relationships.
“I do so much traveling and meet so many new friends, I feel like I’m a bridge builder,” Patterson said while introducing “Holy Land,” the focal track to her 2011 album “Build a Bridge.”
Build a bridge, this is holy land
Build a prayer, it’s all holy land
Build a bridge to holy lands
With open hearts and healing hands …
Build a bridge of eagle wings
And condor eggs and fragile things
Just strong enough to hold us well
So we can all still break the spell
So wild birds can still fly through
Those swinging doors to me and you
“Holy Land” was inspired by a Northern California experience Patterson had with her wife, Sheba.
“Sheba and I lived up a country road in a little valley in Mendocino County, and further up the road a friend moved into this beautiful property,” Patterson said. “He noticed there was a big eagle’s nest way up high in an old pine tree that was dead and dying, and right next to it was a power line, so the power company (PG&E) wanted to take down that tree and the eagle’s nest. My friend started writing letters and contacting PG&E, trying to convince them not to take down that eagle’s nest. There’s only so many nesting places for them – for birds, it’s all about habitat.
“Meanwhile, PG&E was putting out all of these ads saying they were part of the solution, they were starting to bury the lines. But when it came down to it, they just wanted to cut that tree down, and we were part of an action to block the gate. We came there and were friends to them, we brought them food, brought them firewood, we housed them, we gave them showers since we were right down the road.”
It took awhile, but both sides kept talking, their attorneys got involved, and the eagle’s nest was preserved.
“When we started working together … SUCCESS STORY! It does happen sometimes,” said Patterson, who still lives in Mendocino County but recently moved into a second home in New Orleans.
Patterson’s career also got a major boost when she befriended punk-folk legend Ani DiFranco.
“That definitely encouraged me to keep going,” she said. “Sheba and Ani have an old-school friendship. Sheba took me backstage to meet her a couple times, then we were on our way to New Orleans on my tour and we stopped to see her. We connected pretty easily.”
They had one of those “small-world” experiences.
“We found out we have a friendship with the same inmate, which was really bizarre!” Patterson said. “I was going into the state prison near Sacramento and singing for the inmates for 10 years.
That all got started when I was brought in to open for Michael Franti & Spearhead, and the inmates had been hearing me on the radio station they could get in their cells at that time. So that’s how I became friends with this inmate, Spoon Jackson. Then I started writing songs about him.”
Patterson’s tour concludes on the weekend of Oct. 27-29, with shows in Portland on Friday and Saturday, then in Ashland on Sunday.
It’s a show that’s well worth catching. It’s not often that you get a chance to be serenaded by a Folkgoddess.