Letitia VanSant's lyrics are at once personally and politically relevant. Hailed as one of Baltimore's strongest songwriters (BmoreArt), her distinct voice is fortified by sparse indie folk and Americana arrangements.
In her music as in her life, VanSant’s has always sought to wrestle with worthy questions. Before her return to Baltimore, VanSant earned a Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues concentration from Macalester College (St. Paul, MN). Afterwards she worked for the Obama campaign in Detroit, and then did environmental organizing in Baltimore. Five years of work with a progressive advocacy group landed her in Washington DC. On weekends, she reflected on the state of society through her songs, earning a regional following in coffee shops and clubs.
“We are in this political crisis in part because we have a lot of spiritual work to do,” says VanSant. “This moment requires us to think deeply about our priorities, to confront our fears, to really know ourselves. We have to build the relationships and the emotional fortitude to sustain a movement.”
The pull of music eventually got the best of her, and she ultimately left her nine-to- five job to become a musician. She hasn’t looked back since, and for good reason. In 2017 she won the Kerrville New Folk Songwriting Competition, an honor shared along with the likes of Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, Anais Mitchell, and Caroline Spence. Songs from her new album have also won critical acclaim from the Mid-Atlantic Songwriting Contest (Gold; Folk Category), Falcon Ridge (Emerging Artist), and Rocky Mountain Folks Fest Songwriting Contest (1st Alternate). She’s graced the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, and placed among the Top 10 listener-voted “Songs of the Year” by her local radio station 89.7 WTMD. BBC Radio calls her "very, very, very good - a fascinating new artist."
NEW ALBUM: GUT IT TO THE STUDS
VanSant’s national debut Gut It To The Studs opens in tandem with her life as an artist. To get off of the beaten path, though, one must contend with the uncertainties of uncharted territory. “Where I’m Bound” shows the importance of persevering through a “land of broken promises and streets of fool’s gold” with a “map in the stars,” and by following faith.
With this shift, VanSant left behind a nonprofit career. In an effort to feel comfortable in her new skin, she looked at her emerging life and had to “Gut It To The Studs.” She sings, “gotta get the wires a-running right ‘fore the dry wall goes back up." “Taking Back The Reigns” reflects the notion that insecurities will follow you wherever you roam. In order to face your demons and not allow them to swallow up your life, you have to encounter the forces unseen and look them in the eye. If you let fear drive your soul, “then left unchecked it will rule the whole world.” “Dandelion” echoes our generation’s keen interest in building communities that are nourishing and real.
On “The Field,” VanSant likens her inner journey to the labor of farming, as she sings, “I’ll pick up my plough and I’ll pick up my hoe, for the soil is rocky and dry.”
The sole cover on the album, “For What It’s Worth,” stands the test of time as a true protest anthem. VanSant churns out a powerful Americana interpretation inspired by recent protests against police brutality. She comments, “We owe so much to the people who fought for justice in decades past, particularly in the ‘60s when this song was first released. I recorded this song as a reminder to myself that the present moment is just as critically important to our nation’s history.”
The song "Sundown Town" is an account of her reckoning that perceptions of safety reinforce historical patterns of segregation. Read her blog post about the song here.
Upright bass virtuoso Alex Lacquement (Bumper Jacksons, Charm City Junction) produced the album -- VanSant says, “he has a special talent for taking the emotional content of a song and translating it into a great arrangement.” The songs were co-produced, engineered and mixed by Don Godwin of Tonal Park (Takoma Park, MD), and feature vocals and guitar from David McKindley-Ward, one of VanSant’s long-time collaborators. The album also showcases cameos from some of the region’s greatest musical talents, including Patrick McAvinue (IBMA Fiddle Player of the Year, Dailey & Vincent), Laura Wortman (The Honey Dewdrops), Dan Ryan (Super City), Will McKindley-Ward (Fellow Creatures), Sam McCormally (Fellow Creatures), Dan Samuels (Bumper Jacksons), Nick Sjostrom (Caleb Stine & The Brakemen) and Manny Arciniega--as well as a cameo from Charlie Rose of Elephant Revival
Rusty Sal - a classic country/ honky tonk band featuring guitar player Lucas Chohany and upright bassist Alex Lacquement.
Laura & Letitia Duo - a project with Laura Wortman of the Honey Dewdrops.
ABOUT THE NAME
Letitia is pronounced "Leh-TISH-ah" - "tish" rhymes with "fish." Letitia is an old family name that she shares with a number of women in her family. Because of this, some people know her by her childhood nickname "Sandy."