Music often is viewed as a young person’s game. Some musicians carve out a career early, while other recording artists finally figure it out and connect at midlife.
Eliza Gilkyson is in the latter camp.
Gilkyson, 67, grew up in Hollywood in a musical family. Her father, Terry Gilkyson, was an acclaimed singer-songwriter, and her brother, Tony Gilkyson, played guitar with such seminal punk bands as X and Lone Justice. Eliza Gilkyson helped her father with musical projects, but didn’t find her voice as a folkie until the 1990s.
“It’s better late than never,” she said by phone from her Austin, Texas, home. “It took me a while to put it all together, but I finally did it. Some people never make it to this point. I have no complaints regarding my path.”
Gilkyson was impressive in the 1990s, but hit her stride at the turn of the century, with “Hard Times in Babylon” in 2000, a collection of passionate and irreverent folk, and with the gritty “Land of Milk and Honey” in 2004.
“It took time for me to find myself,” Gilkyson said. “Not everyone can reach that point in which they are where they should be when they’re 25. It’s good that things happened for me later in life, since I’m realistic about things.”
Gilkyson is so pragmatic that she doesn’t participate in the colossal music conference/festival South By Southwest, held in Austin every mid-March. She refers to the festival, which ended March 16, as the festival of broken dreams.
“So many recording artists come down here and have incredibly high hopes,” she said. “This is a tough business and a tough world. It’s not easy when you’re of a certain age in this business, but I think you have more to say when you have more experience.”
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Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Neil Young have proved that it’s possible to craft exceptional work as a senior citizen. Gilkyson has accomplished the same with her latest album, “Secularia,” a deep, thoughtful look at the spiritual unknown.
“This album is a reboot of my sense as a spiritual being,” she said. “It was a real challenge to throw out the bathwater without losing the baby. This album sent me down some strange alleys looking at mortality. You look at everything and know that it’s all impermanent. It’s not going to last forever. At some point we die and the reality is that things continue without us.”
Gilkyson, who grew up Episcopalian, explores a higher power while playing soothing folk. The mandolin, fiddle, electric guitar and upright bass propel a variety of songs. The collection includes new tunes, cuts that have been placed on the back burner and even some poems from her grandmother Phoebe Hunter, including the sobering opening track, “Solitary Singer.”
“I looked at everything I had at my disposal, and what my grandmother wrote applies very much with what is happening today,” Gilkyson said. “It’s been fascinating looking at things that aren’t explained. I loved that aspect of this record. It’s a subject we can choose to deal with or not deal with.”
Gilkyson, who will showcase “Secularia” on Sunday (3/24) at CSPS Hall in Cedar Rapids, has written some of her finest songs of her career, such as “Dreamtime,” an apocalyptic gem. “That song could be about dying or our uncertain future. Who knows how this is all going to play out?”
In the meantime, Gilkyson will continue to make music.
“It’s a great way to cope,” she said. “I can’t control what’s out there. What I can do is vote in 2020 and try to change things in that manner, and I can write songs. That’s what I was meant to do.”
WHAT: Eliza Gilkyson
WHERE: CSPS Hall, 1103 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday (3/24)
TICKETS: $20 advance, $25 door, CSPS Box Office, (319) 364-1580 or Legionarts.org/events/upcoming/eliza-gilkyson/
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Elizagilkyson.com