A Message Of Welcome, With A Twang, From Singer Songwriter Abe Loomis

Mar 29, 2018

Abe Loomis of Conway, Massachusetts, says he feels deeply connected to western Massachusetts and to the Berkshires. 

Loomis is a singer songwriter who writes music rooted in Franklin County, with a little twang. His most recent full-length album is called, "The Hoosac Line," which is the name of the railroad tunnel that travels through five miles of rugged Massachusetts mountains from Florida to North Adams.   

I met up with Loomis in a recording studio in Conway. 

On His Musical Beginnings

"First, my mother signed me up for cello [lessons], when I was in fourth grade. I was really not happy about it, but I pursued it for a while, and learned from Gideon Freudmann -- who has this whole Cellobop thing -- and makes all kinds of amazing sounds on the cello… and that was really exciting for me, as a kid hearing someone doing that!

"But I realized that my connection with music was through songwriting -- and I did write a few songs on the cello. But it just wasn't as easy a medium, as easy an instrument to do that on. So, I was writing songs on guitar for years, and then I got a banjo! And that really opened up a creative vein for me, because there was just something about it, something about the twang, something about the ease of movement around the instrument that allowed me to really start writing even more prolifically, I suppose."

A sign for the Hoosac Tunnel in 2015.
Credit Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/masstravel/

East portal to the Hoosac Tunnel in Berkshire County, Massachusetts.
Credit Flickr user cmh2315fl / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/21953562@N07/

On His Latest Album

"I’ve always felt kind of a connection to that side of the range, the Hoosac Range, and also to that tunnel. I would say the Hoosac Tunnel has been a really inspiring concept for me. It’s this amazing five-mile passage through the heart of this deep, dark mountain, you know, and it's right down the road, really.

"So the album was really about place. And it’s really about -- well, there's a lot of Franklin County in it. There's a lot of Conway in it. And there's a lot of celebration of a particular pretty special part of the world, that is really the place that I came from, and that has inspired a lot of my music."

On The Origins Of His Latest Single, “Refugees Are Welcome Here”

It’s hard to say, where any song comes from, but this one was ... it kind of started as a personal response to the current political scene. My songs, I think, tend to be more eloquent than I can be, (laughs) when I'm just talking.

Singer songwriter Abe Loomis plays his guitar in a sound isolating recording booth in a studio in Conway, Massachusetts.
Credit Carrie Healy / NEPR

A large banner saying "Refugees Welcome" means solidarity for all. Photo taken in November, 2015.
Credit Rasande Tyskar / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/rasande/

"I just wanted to say something, and I wrote it over the period of a couple of weeks. The phrase, “refugees are welcome here,” has been used so often in politics, and on posters and so forth... that it was a little bit of a conundrum for me, because most of the time, such phrases aren't really where my best songs come from.

"They tend to be more accidental, and come out of thin air, or something I hear walking down the street, or in a restaurant, or just talking to a friend. But that was one where I really felt that was what I wanted to say [laughs], and that that was a patriotic thing to say, and something that needed to be said."

On Leadership

"I just think that there have been many over the course of history who have forced good people to leave their homes, and acknowledging that is important when we look at the many people who want to come to the United States.

"The vast majority of them are simply families and children, and mothers and fathers, and people who are escaping something really terrifying and really dangerous. And I think the proper attitude towards someone seeking shelter, to my mind, is one of welcome."

Visit NEPR's Spring Music Series for more stories.