ST. CHARLES – Singer-songwriter Anne Hills was an integral part of Chicago’s vibrant folk scene in the 1970s.
Hills, who now lives in Bethlehem, Pa., will perform Saturday, Nov. 2, at the Fine Line Creative Arts Center, 37W570 Bolcum Road, near St. Charles. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $20, available at www.fineline.org.
Kane County Chronicle Eric Schelkopf had the chance to talk to Hills about her upcoming show.
Eric Schelkopf: I understand you’ve played at Fine Line before. What do you like about the setting?
Anne Hills: The last time I was there, they had fabulous artwork all around. I don’t use a sound system, so it’s much more personal. Because of the way the room is shaped, I can do the performance without a sound system.
ES: For people who haven’t been to one of your shows, what should people expect?
AH: Well, I play guitar and the banjo. I’m known primarily probably for my voice.
The audience shapes the way the show goes in many ways, especially in a room that is set up where there is that personal space you are sharing with everyone. I pick up a lot from the audience, which things they are responding to, and move in that direction.
ES: I know you lived in Chicago for a while.
AH: Yeah. I founded Hogeye Music up in Evanston, and I was there for 12 years.
And actually it was in Chicago where I really started to have more and more of a career.
ES: You moved to Chicago in 1976, when there was a strong folk music scene going on at the time.
AH: I had opened a show for some other musicians, and they told me, “You have to come to Chicago, because there are lots of good things happening.” So I did.
You could walk up and down Lincoln Avenue, and there would be different folk artists from one club to the next club to the next club.
ES: What was it like being part of that scene?
AH: It’s very nurturing when you’re an artist. And it was really a community in the sense of people coming to each other’s shows and encouraging each other.
It was very much like a community, a community of people all interested in making good music. So, people would come and sit in on shows with each other, and if somebody new came into town, they were welcomed.
And that was when the Old Town School of Folk Music was a much smaller school off of Armitage Avenue. For a while, I lived within a block or two of the school.
ES: Who are some of musicians you remember from that time? Did you have a chance to meet Steve Goodman?
AH: Yes, Steve Goodman was often on the stage. I became good friends with Steve’s mom.
She was a big supporter of the scene.
I knew her much more than I did Steve, because Steve passed away not too long after I moved to Chicago.
They were great times. And it’s still a great scene in Chicago. Chicago still nurtures a lot of independent artists, which is what I like best about that city.
ES: Your latest album, “The Things I Notice Now,” is a tribute to noted folk musician Tom Paxton, who received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. Was he a big inspiration for you?
AH: Huge inspiration. What Tom really showed me is how you could do storytelling, theater, and change people’s perspectives, all with one song.
His songs make you more empathetic. You begin to see your fellow human beings in a more compassionate way.
ES: What do you think folk music should do?
AH: There is nothing more powerful than storytelling. And by telling someone’s story, you create political change as well.