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‘Universal’ appeal: Songwriter Eliza Gilkyson draws from experience, without revealing too much

Eliza Gilkyson knows New Mexico well – she used to live in Santa Fe.

Former Santa Fe resident Eliza Gilkyson will perform at the Outpost Performance Space on Sunday, Aug. 18. (Courtesy of Todd Wolfson)

“It’s more home to me than Texas,” she says in a recent phone interview. “Some of my most joyful years were in New Mexico. I raised my kids there. I got my start in New Mexico and have a great history in Albuquerque.”

Not to mention that when she was starting out she opened Phil Ochs, Tim Buckley and Allen Ginsberg, all in Albuquerque.

The Grammy-nominated artist is returning to New Mexico for a show at the Outpost Performance Space on Sunday, Aug. 18.

She is touring in support of her 2018 album “Secularia,” a collection of spiritually charged songs. On the album, she has a performance with the Tosca String Quartet, as well as collaborations with Shawn Colvin, Sam Butler and the late Jimmy LaFave.

Gilkyson comes from a writing family; her grandmother was a poet, and her father was a folk singer.

She also teaches a songwriting class during the summer in Taos.

“There are things I don’t write about, and I edit those swiftly,” she says. “I don’t think it’s fair to overexpose people I know personally. My husband sometimes squirms a little bit with my songs. I write love songs, and I’m in love with him. Usually, I try to write universal themes.”

Gilkyson says that in her songwriting classes, she emphasizes being personal without revealing too much.

“There’s an art to it all,” she says. “You want to give just enough imagery to let the listener create their own story. When that happens, you create a memory for them and the songs will trigger those memories and emotions.”

When it comes to editing, Gilkyson says she is “brutal.”

“Every word has to count,” she says. “I don’t edit when I’m writing, because the muse loses interest. I just let it flow out at first. Sometimes I throw out the original form altogether.”

With 23 albums under her belt, creating a set list could be seen as cumbersome.

But she’s figured out a way to make it fun for herself and the audience.

“I do the first set with the newer material,” she says. “This is why I like to do a long show. During the break, I go out and take requests. It’s really spontaneous, and I have to remember the songs on the fly. It’s such a great part of each night, because I get to interact with the fans.”

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