Austin City Limits has long wrapped up, and we were lucky to connect with Elizabeth Mitchell, who performed two days at the Austin Kiddie Limits stage along with her husband Dan Littleton and nine-year-old daughter Storey.
I first learned about Mitchell, an educator and long-time member of indie duo Ida, when my daughter was still a baby and I in need for tunes that would make our commute in the car bearable. I was hoping for unique songs that would be refreshing and relaxing. I came across her 2006 album You are my little Bird, and we have been supporters of her music every since.
Mitchell greets me on day two of Austin City Limits with a sweet smile and speaks softly when she invites me into her little “Zen” behind the stage. “What’s your daughter’s favorite song?” she asks. I smile and answer “’Sunny Day.’” She smiles back and says proudly “It’s one of the two songs that Storey wrote to be included on the new album.”
It’s not a secret that family comes first for Mitchell, so it’s natural that her latest album Sunny Day, recorded by Smithsonian Folkways, was a family project including her musician husband and daughter.
The themes are soothing and not just so for children. And that is where the current kid-renaissance owes much to Mitchell, whose music isn’t just loved by modern children but also a hit by parents of all ages.
What inspires Mitchell? Certainly her background of being a life-long educator and having worked in nursery classrooms with children from all different nationalities, her daughter Storey, and children of all ages, who she’s seeking a deeper connection with through her gentle, soothing style that combines folk with Appalachian sounds and has family-style music accompanied by roots themes. Modernized Woodstock songs, as she describes it.
It comes naturally for Mitchell to sing songs such as ‘Tsuki’ in Spanish, and she expresses her love for uniting beyond national borders through travel to places far and wide. While traveling to Japan with her family (I learned that her daughter is home-schooled and along on every trip), Mitchell connects with even more nationalities and loves to incorporate traditional ancient Japanese songs into the modern world tunes. She told me she plans to travel back to Japan this year.
With so much passion, it’s not surprising that Mitchell is giving back in many different ways, and one of these ways is to donate her time to playing charity concerts. When her schedule allows, she’s out to support what she believes in (the education of young children and equal access to music for all) and strives to bring families together by playing 300-year-old melodies that connect timeless to ancient.
And where would Mitchell be, after a complete set and interview round on a sunny day in Austin, Texas? She is sitting next to me with her family, drawing a flower on my daughter’s CD, surrounded by children waiting for the next artist. “That’s where music feels really good,” she explains. She smiles and asks politely, “Do you mind taking a picture of me and my friends?”