(photo by Holly J. Haroz)
Here are 11 Questions and Answers from the fun-loving musical duo of Vanessa Olivarez and Elizabeth Elkins. Collectively, these storytelling songwriters call themselves Granville Automatic, a name taken from a 19th Century typewriter.
After establishing themselves as successful working writers, (Sugarland, Wanda Jackson and Angaleena Presley), these ladies have been burning up the road with live shows and media appearances to promote their own mellifluous music. Their 2010 debut was followed in 2015 by a concept record of Civil War stories and four singles were released this year.
Granville Automatic’s next project is a self-produced ambitious 13-track concept record, Radio Hymns, a collection of songs about some of Nashville’s lost hidden stories. It will be released on November 2 and features many Music City musical guests and session players.
Elizabeth – let me know when you want to meet for a slice of pizza—my treat and you can bring Vanessa. For now, thanks to you both for joining in on the 11 Question fun, and I look forward to seeing you at the Bluebird in November.
Where are you from originally, when did you move to Nashville and why?
Vanessa: I’m from Texas originally, and moved to Georgia at the ripe age of four. I knew I needed to be in Nashville if I wanted to focus on writing more country music. I had a couple of cuts with Sugarland at the time, but other than that, I’d been writing mostly hip hop and pop. I really wanted to focus my attention on the country radio world and try to build Granville Automatic’s reputation in town as musicians and writers. So, here I am!
Elizabeth: I’m a military brat officially from nowhere, but I lived in Atlanta for years. I heard somebody say Nashville was “graduate school for songwriters” and knew I would end up there. I wanted to be surrounded with people better than I was/am, so I could continue to get better and better as a writer, singer and guitarist.
What are the first and the last records you bought, and where did you buy them? Were they CD, vinyl or digital?
Elizabeth: We both had the same first record we ever bought: Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual. It was on cassette. I bought mine at the Fort Benning PX. The last thing I acquired, I didn’t buy – a bunch of records from my Dad’s collection, mostly Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, etc.
First and last live concerts that you’ve seen?
Elizabeth: My first was Faith No More with Helmet, and my most recent was Father John Misty in St. Louis. I walked in as a cynical rock-is-dead Gen Xer, but I left a true believer in cynicism as art.
Whose star should be added to the Music City Walk of Fame?
Vanessa: Fleetwood Mac. Duh.
Elizabeth: Are they from Nashville?
Where do you go in Nashville for coffee and pizza?
Vanessa: Retrograde Coffee is currently my favorite in town. They are super innovative with their caffeinated beverages, and the vibe inside is chill and easy. For pizza, I’d have to say Madeline Pizza & Pasta! Delicious garlic knots!
Elizabeth: Headquarters is my neighborhood favorite. CREMA for the Cuban. I cannot find good pizza here, please send help.
What’s your favorite record to ever come out of Nashville?
Elizabeth: Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Love and Hate. My God. If I end up in a monastery nursing a broken heart, you’ll all know why.
Where’s the best place to eat late night after a show?
Elizabeth: Sunset Grill, why has thou forsaken me?
The Bluebird calls and asks you to host an “In the Round.” Pick three local songwriters to join you.
Elizabeth: Coming up November 16 with our friends Marti Dodson, Mando Saenz and Aaron Goodvin. We’ve been fortunate to play the Bluebird regularly and are thankful for how good they have been to us.
What are your favorite music venues to play in town?
Vanessa: The Bluebird of course! I also love playing The Local (amazing sound), City Winery, OG Basement, and Station Inn.
Name a musician who you’d like to see move here?
Vanessa: Stevie Nicks in the hopes that I’d run into her in her lazy Sunday wear at Harris Teeter or somewhere super normal like that. And then we’d reach for the same block of cheese and she’d be like “Hey! I like cheese. You like cheese. Let’s write!” Not that I’ve thought about this impossible scenario at all.
Finally, what’s in your musical future?
Elizabeth: One of the perks of being in Granville Automatic is we don’t run out of weird ideas for concept albums. We have three written or half-written: one about the history of Texas called Dancing at El Mercado, one about the lost buildings of New York City called Forgetting New York, and a project about ghosts with 2010 Texas Poet Laureate Karla K. Morton. I really hope they all see the light of day.