One-woman band Patches and Gretchen releases first disc

Songstress (and sister to Aimee Mann) pays her own homage to Dylan

Gretchen Seichrist is a winsome, redheaded bossy-pants of a girl with a thing for Bob Dylan. A really, really, really big thing for Bob Dylan. Known as Patches and Gretchen (the band) or Gretchen and Rags (bossy girl as artist) she has just come out with her first album, Music from Little Big Pink, 16 songs recorded with Rich Mattson at Sparta Studios up on the Iron Range over one and a half days—the amount of time she had a baby-sitter.

Created with borrowed money and the help of generous and talented friends, this CD, named after the legendary album by the Band, captures the sweet-sweet fringy feel of a group of friends playing guitars by a bonfire in the woods circa 1968, hand-painted in lush sepia tones. The images in these songs are both bittersweet and joyful—while the daddies may be gone, the children still spray hoses in the air, slow motion, on a fine summer's day, but Mama's mascara is a little smeared and her granny apron is faded, too.

Gretchen is part Patti Smith, part Liza Minnelli, and part wild-West showgirl (with, of course, a heavy pinch of Dylan thrown in the mix). This scrappy little fawn shows us that in order to make beautiful and moving music, a girl does not need to know all the chords, nor does she have to sing "pretty." In order to go on "tour," one only needs a laptop and endless energy; her tour consists of homemade videos broadcast from the computers in her friend's homes. Come readers, listen in as Gretchen and I talk on my patio in St. Paul; the flowers are in full bloom and the birds are a-singin' on this lovely afternoon as we ladies chat over iced tea (me) and cigarettes (her).

Gretchen Seichrist, the mastermind behind Patches and Gretchen
Darin Back
Gretchen Seichrist, the mastermind behind Patches and Gretchen

City Pages: Tell me about the process of making your record.

Gretchen Seichrist: I had tons and tons of songs and poems. I always had them but I didn't really tell anyone about it. I was always around these musicians and I just kept my mouth shut.

CP: Was it a lack of confidence? Or was it the idea of wanting to do something different?

Seichrist: I think it was a lack of confidence but also my idea of what I wanted to do was not really the same thing—I didn't just want to be in a band to be in a band.

CP: Like practicing in the basement?

Seichrist: Yeah, or even to just have a band. I don't know how to play the guitar that well but I don't mind because it just fits. I would learn that I needed one more chord and I would go and find someone to show me that chord. That's all I wanted to know. It was like dressing up; it wasn't the band I wanted to be in, I wanted to play this song.

CP: You wanted to tell this particular story, paint this picture.

Seichrist: Exactly.

CP: So you went up to the Iron Range to make this record?

Seichrist: Yeah, well, I have this whole romantic love for Bob Dylan and the crazy thing was, it was just like I pictured it, although Robbie Robertson and Rick Danko would have been up there, too.

CP: Giving you piggyback rides?

Seichrist: Um-hum. So, I got a babysitter and I grabbed a hundred sheets of paper. I couldn't explain to anyone what chords to play, I would say, "play it like this" [makes crazy sounds sort of like guitar chords]. I am actually really shy and here I was with all these people I didn't know and some of the lyrics are pretty intense and personal, and it was just this moment of "what the fuck, I got the babysitter."

CP: So, it was like standing in front of everyone with no pants on.

Seichrist: Exactly. But I was not going to go back [without making the record].

CP: You also co-wrote a song on your sister's [Aimee Mann's] new album.

Seichrist: I co-wrote a song called "Medicine Wheel." It was really great to have a song on the radio. That record [@#%&*! Smilers] came out the same week as my album. It was great to be recognized; then maybe someone will take you more seriously as a songwriter because somebody else gives you that nod.

CP: But it's not what you want as the headline of your story.

Seichrist: Yeah.

CP: Do you think it helps, being this age, whatever that age is that we are [late 30s]?

Seichrist: Yeah, yeah, it's great. You just don't care anymore. Now I am actually kind of pushy because I am not wasting my time. The best you feel is when you stop trying to separate all the things that you are. There has got to be a way for all of that to come together; I am going to be able to be who I am and I am still going to be able to function. The biggest fear turns into not living, not saying what you want to say. I have made tons and tons of mistakes, and you can use it all. You decide to just admit it: I am all these things. But this isn't Ladies Home Journal.

CP: It's not? 

PATCHES AND GRETCHEN performs a CD-release show with the Starfolk and the Tisdales on THURSDAY, OCTOBER 9, at the TURF CLUB; 651.647.0486

 
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