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Vermont Quarterly

Catching up with Celia Woodsmith ’07

Della Mae band with Celia Woodsmith


Catching up with Celia Woodsmith ’07

The last we checked in with Celia Woodsmith it was June 2007, just weeks past her UVM graduation. She was in the midst of an east coast concert tour as one half of the UVM-hatched guy-girl-duo Avi & Celia. Eight years later, Woodsmith is on the road again, though things have changed considerably from that summer when she and UVM pal Avi Salloway packed their guitars and camping gear in a Saab hatchback. 

VQ recently spoke with Woodsmith as she and her bandmates in Della Mae made a stop in Portland, Oregon, on the first leg of an eight-month tour. Woodsmith sings lead vocals and plays guitar in the all-female Americana band that is riding a burgeoning fanbase and critical acclaim with the May release of their fourth album.

VQ: How’s the tour going?

CW: Really well. We played in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and had a beautiful drive up California. On our day off we camped in the redwoods last night. It is the little things like that that make you realize you’re really lucky to be doing what you’re doing. There was a very winding, long dirt road out to a place called Gold Bluffs Beach, which we attacked with our twelve-passenger van.

VQ: What venues are you playing?

CW: It’s mixed, that’s sort of the name of the game. You get your anchor date, a nice theater or a festival, then you plan around that with the smaller clubs and things along the way. Just on this tour we played in a little Mexican restaurant, then a huge festival with 100,000 people the next day.

VQ: What excites you about your new album?

CW: We were lucky to work with a great producer, Jacquire King.  Jacquire and the material were able to pull out our deepest musical influences from each one of us in the band. I grew up listening to blues, rock and roll, gospel music. And I was able to cut loose with my vocals a little bit and employ more of the blues flavor. Though this is our fourth album, it’s the first that is self-titled because we feel like we really do sort of come into our own with this record.

VQ: Are you in touch with Avi these days? How is he doing? 

CW: He’s doing really well, playing in a group called Bombino, an African Tuareg rock and roll band.  So he’s been touring the world with Bombino and also doing a lot of work with an organization called Heartbeat, which brings Palestinian and Israeli kids together to play music. Avi has continued with a lot of the social causes that he was into when we were at UVM.

VQ: Tell me about some of your most memorable moments performing with Della Mae.

CW: We’ve travelled pretty extensively with the U.S. State Department. One of our first shows in Pakistan we were playing for women who had never really seen live music before, and they were just totally, totally enjoying every second of it. 

It’s those moments when I’m standing in a place where I never thought I’d ever be standing, playing for people I never thought I would meet, that are the most powerful for me. 

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