In May, singer-songwriter Molly Durnin decided to start playing music full time.
She’d had thoughts of doing it before — in 2008, she opened for Australian singer-songwriter Missy Higgins at Revolution Hall in Troy.
“That point was a turning point — ‘Hey, I could probably really do this,’ ” Durnin said recently, while visiting family in South Carolina.
When she graduated from Hudson Valley Community College in the spring, she decided not to pursue a job in her field of study, civil engineering. At first, gigs were slow to come, but she has been upping her show count steadily, with performances throughout New England and New York — she even played shows in South Carolina while visiting.
“It was a little slow to begin with, but it’s picked up significantly, to the point where I’m practically booked every weekend until January, and even into May,” she said. “There’s been a steady influx of gigs; it’s kind of overwhelming.”
with Emily Litwin
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Moon & River Café, 115 S. Ferry St., Schenectady
How Much: Free
More Info: 382-1938, www.moonandrivercafe.com
Durnin’s earnest folk and rock songwriting and powerful vocal presence have earned her accolades as well — in early October she won the Exit Factor competition at The Linda in Albany, earning a slot at this year’s Capital Area Indie Fest at The Egg. She’s also gained allies on the local music scene as well, with Stellar Young, Trey Anastasio bassist Tony Markellis, drummer and singer-songwriter Steve Candlen and the late Pat Tiernan all making appearances on her debut album, “Run,” released in June.
This weekend and next week, Durnin continues her busy streak. After shows at the Black Bear Inn in Watervliet on Friday and Nova Mae Cafe in Bennington, Vt., on Saturday, she will headline the Moon & River Café’s Thanksgiving Eve party on Wednesday.
Although her album features full band productions, she sticks to performing solo live, for economic reasons.
“A lot of people have asked me that, and I’ve kind of flirted with the idea [of having a band],” she said. “But honestly, doing music for a living, it’s not profitable to have other musicians. Maybe later down the road, I’d absolutely love to tour with a band, but right now I don’t think it’s in the cards.”
Surrounded by music
Growing up in Grafton, Durnin was surrounded by music. Her mother, a musician herself, introduced her to singer-songwriters such as Shawn Colvin, Bonnie Raitt and Patsy Cline, and by age 6 Durnin was playing piano.
“My brother and I, at a young age we got into doing film, and we actually decided to do two feature films when he was 16 and I was 14,” she said. “My brother wanted it to be legit, so I started writing sound tracks to his movies.”
This led to her picking up the guitar at age 14. The instrument switch felt natural from the start, and she began writing songs.
“It was not something I did intentionally — I just picked up the guitar and started strumming,” she said. “It was a natural occurrence that happened — I never really put a lot of effort into it.”
Her approach to songwriting is similarly effortless — rarely will she spend more than 20 minutes writing a song. Even the song with perhaps the longest gestation period on “Run,” “Holy Ground,” was begun four years ago and finished in a quick spurt recently.
“If I feel like there might be a song in me, I sit down and write the lyrics and chords at the same time, almost all of the time,” Durnin said.
“I think that maybe Jack Johnson influenced me in the way that — he has a very rhythmic way in his lyrics; there’s a percussive beat to them, and I’ve taken that into some of my songs. Lyrically, I’m not the type that really sits down and plans on the lyrics or what I’m trying to say. ‘A Wall Apart,’ I wrote that song in maybe 20 minutes; it just came out of me. It either works or it doesn’t; I don’t try to make it work.”
Year of production
The 11 songs on “Run” were produced over the course of a year by local mainstay Frank Moscowitz. Initially Durnin had planned to record the material, which spans the past four years, solo acoustic, in much the same way she performs live. Fans have requested an acoustic album, though, so that may be next.
“I have so many friends in the music scene, I couldn’t … pass that up,” she said. The album features the final recorded performance Tiernan laid down before his death this year. Stellar Young also features on three tracks.
“It was really fun, especially working with Stellar Young,” Durnin said. “I recorded the acoustic tracks in their apartment and gave them two weeks to just have fun with it. They really brought a lot of creativity to [the songs] that I didn’t expect — they’re a fantastic band with a really unique sound, and I think that shines through on a lot of the songs.”