UNC-TV Arts

FULL EPISODE

Abby the Spoon Lady

Abby Roach is one of the few professional spoon players in the US. Abby arrived in Asheville by mistake, but has become very popular to the street music scene there & attracts large crowds. She has transformed into a musician, radio personality, storyteller, & activist fighting for the rights of street performers across the country. She has become known worldwide as simply "The Spoon Lady."

AIRED: May 15, 2018 | 0:07:41
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TRANSCRIPT

[blues music]

- I'm a "Spoon Lady".

And...

I like playing spoons.

I'm from...

Wichita, Kansas, and I first came to North Carolina,

because I jumped on the wrong freight train,

and I like what I do here.

[blues music]

- She's the "Spoon Lady".

She's a Legend.

She calls Asheville home,

she moved here for the busking scene,

because the streets of Asheville are so welcoming

to street performers that it's possible for

somebody with Abby's talent to be successful.

- The spoon playing is a throwback to the type of

genre in music that Busking really represents,

and I think that her doing that is what has kind of driven

the success of Abby "the Spoon Lady",

and busking within Asheville.

[train horn sounding]

- [Andrew] Abby spent a lot of her younger years riding

trains from place to place, and that experience

is what led her to start playing spoons,

and learning from other musicians that she met

that were living that hobo lifestyle,

and taking songs, and music, and culture,

from place to place.

She learned the spoons, and now she takes the spoons.

And that musical tradition and culture from place to place.

- [Abby] When you have everything you own in one bag,

it makes you realize what's important, and what's not.

Not expecting to necessarily travel the way I did,

and not expecting ever,

ever to be a professional spoon player,

I just kinda kept going.

[blues music]

- I think people are drawn to personalities like Abby,

because she, it's just different, it's unique.

She's really good at what she does,

and it's not something you get to see very often.

You know, somebody playing spoons well,

it's sort of a lost art, if you will.

- Just as a baby, I remember trying to play the spoons,

and thinking, because I saw em played at the shindig,

and you know, family members playing,

but the thing that I think people,

a lot of people like about em is that,

they're like, "Oo, I can go home,

and pull em out of my drawer, and try to play the spoons",

but the thing about Abby,

she just does em really good,

and very awesome, and it looks cool,

and people don't realize how hard that is,

and they go home, and then they fail,

sorry, I mean you might not fail,

most people probably do.

- These are two regular spoons,

they're not special spoons, they're not made for music,

they're made for soup and chili.

Hold em in my hand, very simple like.

Two fingers in the middle, two fingers on the bottom,

and my thumb on top.

And keep the top spoon really really loose,

so it just hammers on top of the other spoon, and then...

[blues music]

- [Abby] The real reason though that street performance

is important, and the reason that it should be preserved is,

because it turns our side walks into our front porch.

Since the invention of the air conditioner,

we've all gone inside, and nobody is sharing anything

anymore, nothing's raw anymore,

and when you do experience any kind of culture,

it's through a lens, or sorting through, on a screen.

What street performance provides is a live avenue

where people can experience, witness,

and even sometimes partaken in these cultures,

and have it put in front of them.

- Abby decided to make Asheville her home,

and so knowing that it's sort of the first place

where people get introduced to music in Nashville

is on the streets of Asheville.

She saw that, you know, what a great thing that was for

the community, but also realize that there were some things

that needed to be changed to in a way protect,

and sort of change with

the times of how buskers are perceived.

- I think Abby and I agreed that busking is one of

the pillars of music, culture, and industry.

Many cities have treated busking like a disease to be cured,

rather than a tradition to be celebrated.

- I think Abby recognizes the importance of how buskers

can help a community.

Asheville, big tourism destination,

and the busker scene is really drawing people in,

and bringing people to Asheville so they can see it,

participate in it, and appreciate it.

[audience cheering and applauding]

- Very often street performance is

lumped in with soliciting, panhandling,

other kinds of not so great things.

The truth of the matter is is that it doesn't matter

whether or not you have

a fancy Rolex watch,

or you got out of your your fancy old Mercedes,

or whether or not you rode your bike up with a flat tire,

and pulled out your guitar with three strings on it,

the truth of the matter is it's about sharing,

it's about caring, it's about learning about your neighbor.

[blues music]

- I'm singing from my heart what I feel.

I'm singing for God, he's stoked on that.

Abby is doing what, she's being herself,

doing what she's doing from her heart,

and we're not following any kind of rules,

or any kind of guidelines on,

we're not trying to sound a way,

we're not trying to look a way,

we're just being ourselves,

and people want realness,

people are craving that.

- [Abby] I have to admit that there's something

a little bit cliche about coming off the Blue Ridge Parkway

to see some barefoot toothless women playing music on the

side of the street.

But there it is, and I'm this way whether I'm on

the side of the street, or if I'm at home hanging out,

at the Spoonerverse.

So I guess, you know for me it's just...

You know, it's okay to go down there without make up,

It's okay to go down there and play

what you pulled out of your kitchen drawer.

It's okay.

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