Pieta Brown gets by with a little — actually a lot — of help from her friends on her new album, Postcards. The 10-song set, dropping March 10, features collaborations with fellow artists such as Dire Straits‘ Mark Knopfler, Calexico, David Lindley, Carrie Rodriguez and Mason Jennings — the latter on “How Soon,” which is debuted by Billboard exclusively below.
Brown came up with the idea about a year and a half ago while at home in Iowa and just getting started on new material. “I had been writing very stripped-down versions of songs. A lot of them were so new it wasn’t like I had a super-realized vision of them,” Brown tells Billboard. “I thought, ‘What if I took these and just sent them to people far away and see what they send me back — a complete experiment. That’s what I did, and it worked out magically.”
Brown did have an inkling of who would work best for each song, most of which were started while she was on tour. On “Street Tracker,” for instance, she “knew (Knopfler) would work. I knew he liked motorcycles, for one thing, and that’s what that song’s about.” Brown actually had “a couple of songs” she felt would be suited for Jennings before settling on “How Soon.”
“I had a feeling maybe he would connect to that song,” Brown explains. “I knew from doing a few things with him before that he could play, and he’s kind of magician, too. He can play just about anything and bring something musical to it — drums, bass, guitar, harmony. He does it all. So it was really fun to send (‘How Soon’) to him and have him do all of that, ’cause it’s just me and Mason for the most part.”
Rather than nerve-wracking, the whole Postcards process was “pure fun, like getting presents in the mail. It was just really super fun to send a song and get it back and see what they sounded like.” Lindley’s contribution to “Take Me Home,” meanwhile, came with a particularly memorable conversation.
“I’m a huge David Lindley fan, and I don’t really know David. I opened a couple of shows for him in California quite a few years ago but don’t really know him,” Brown says. “But for some reason I kept thinking of him on that song. I got my confidence up and sent him a little email and he said, ‘Why don’t you call me about the project?’ He gave me his phone number and I called him and just answers his phone with this big ‘Hoo-rah!’ That was the first thing he said to me, kinda screamed in my ear. And then he agreed to do the song.”
Brown will be playing some live shows to promote Postcards, but she doesn’t anticipate intensive touring. “It’s hard because of the collaborations, but hopefully I’ll be able to do a few shows with some of the guests,” she says. Meanwhile she’s made her first foray into acting, in a untitled drama filmed in France, Belgium and Switzerland that’s due out later this year and for which she also wrote some music.
“It’s about a singer, a songwriter lady and kind of the back story of her relationship with her family,” Brown says. “I really enjoyed it. I had no idea what to expect and I found it to be a lot like music, actually; It’s about the moment, that minute you’re doing it, and then it’s gone. It was pretty amazing. I’d definitely like to do more.”