Eliza Gilkyson‘s house in Austin, Texas, is well-furnished — with guitars.
“I have a guitar in every room in my house,” Gilkyson said. “I walk by them and they call to me.”
Those guitars are part of the singer/songwriter’s attempts to, what she called, “keep the channels open” when writing songs.
They’re also one of the tricks of the trade Gilkyson, who will perform April 8 at Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota, has picked up over the course of a music career that reaches back to the 1960s.
The daughter of folk musician and songwriter Terry Gilkyson, and the brother of guitarist Tony Gilkyson, who played with Lone Justice and X, Gilkyson, 65, always intended to have a career in music. She just never knew it was going to be so hard.
“I had to learn to lower my expectations,” she said. “I was so convinced I was destined to have certain things happen, and when it didn’t I was gobsmacked. But that was good for me.”
The trials and tribulations — Gilkyson at one time was a single mom raising two kids in a house where the heat had been turned off — make her appreciate all the more what she has accomplished. “To stay in it and make it life-long, that’s rare,” Gilkyson said.
“But doors kept opening,” she said. “And my kids were so resilient, so great, through thick and thin.”
Besides, she said, “There was really nothing else I could do. I was only able to make music. I wasn’t very good at anything else.”
Gilkyson has been very good at music. She released her first album, “Eliza ’69,” in 1969. After a faltering start — her second album didn’t come out until 10 years later — she has been recording and performing steadily. She signed to the respected St. Paul-based label Red House Records in 2000, where her 2004 album, “Land of Milk and Honey,” received a Grammy nomination. Her latest album, “The Nocturne Diaries,” also received a Grammy nomination.
But if there is one single song of Gilkyson’s that has caused a stir, it is “Requiem,” which she wrote about the Indian Ocean tsunami that took place in December 2004. The song, with its message of care and healing, has gone on to be a favorite of choirs around the world.
I’m absolutely surprised,” Gilkyson said. “I had no idea. There are some gorgeous, gorgeous versions out there. It left my hands a long time ago.”
Gilkyson was asked if she writes and sings primarily to change the world, or to comment on it.
“I think what I’m doing is processing how I’m dealing with the world around me,” she said. “What it means to be a decent human being right now. How do we stay human when everything makes you want to shut down?”
Gilkyson said she tends to write songs in cycles. “When I’m in writing mode for a new record, it’s like a trap door opens and all these songs come out,” she said. “When the record is over, that trap door slams shut.”
That’s when she turns for inspiration to those guitars in her house.
What: Eliza Gilkyson in concert
When: 7:30 p.m. April 8
Where: Crossings at Carnegie
Tickets: $24 advance, $27 at the door; 507-732-7616