Nora Jane Struthers has had a wild decade. The New Jersey native studied at NYU and taught in Brooklyn until 2008, when she decided to call it quits and take up music full time. By the time she reached Nashville that year, she and her father had already released an album, I Hear The Bluebirds Sing, as a duo named Dirt Road Sweetheart. By mid-2010 she had released a self-titled debut with her band, the Bootleggers, and won the 2010 Telluride Band Contest, a national competition for bluegrass players that the Dixie Chicks won 20 years prior. From there with her band The Party Line, she released two more albums, 2013's bluegrass-drenched Carnival and 2015's Wake, a more rock-heavy release she claimed was the most established album she and her band ever created, a cohesive work of art that blends together many of her personal musical inspirations. Now, with Champion, Struthers and her band sound ready to take over Americana completely, having built on Wake's cohesiveness and bringing a fuller, harder sound to the table.
"My last record was a transition from the acoustic Americana sound to a more electric Americana," Struthers says. "This [album] is the culmination of a lot of change. It feels like the first time we really have our own sound that's cohesive. It feels like we've been living in it for a while."
The sound of Champion—the way rock and bluegrass merge to create a joyous, celebratory feeling—could be interpreted as mimicking what other artists have done recently to distinguish themselves for the genre. While that could very well be an inspiration, according to Struthers her sound developed from a combination of playing bluegrass with her dad while growing up in New Jersey and from being a child of the 90s and going to Pearl Jam, Tori Amos, and Radiohead shows with her older sister. It's a sound she says she's always wanted.
Today, Noisey premieres "Champion," the first single from her album, out October 13 on Blue Pig Music. It's the most rock-heavy of her releases so far, with a soaring guitar solo and accompanying banjo rhythm. It's a love song made for dancing. Listen below.