Lisa Bastoni is having a great year. The Northampton native, who’ll be the featured artist at Monday evening’s Coffeehouse at the Mews open mic in Provincetown, was one of six artists selected on Nov. 5 to receive the 2019 New Folk Award for emerging songwriters at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Kerrville, Texas. She has also received a Boston Music Award nomination for Folk Artist of the Year — the winner will be announced Dec. 11 — and recently released her second album, How We Want to Live. This comes just three years after restarting a music career that she’d put on hold for a decade.
Bastoni credits her grandmother, noted illustrator Naiad Einsel, for setting her on course toward a career as a folk singer.
“It has a lot to do with the songs that my grandmother played and taught me as a teenager. We would go to the local coffee house music series and see singer-songwriters pretty regularly,” Bastoni says. “I spent a lot of time in her house growing up, and the radio or record player was always playing.” She was immersed in the music of Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, and Joan Baez. “I just think growing up in that environment, that kind of style just feels like home to me, and it feels like a natural fit for my voice and my sensibility.”
During Bastoni’s first go-round as a musician, she would perform at small clubs and busk on Boston’s streets. That came to a halt when she took what she calls “a job in a cubicle” and returned to school to become a teacher. Throughout her hiatus, her grandmother urged her not to set her music aside.
“Every time I would see her or talk to her, she would say, ‘Lisa, you have to write songs. You have to get back to that.’And I would feel bad and tell her, ‘I just don’t feel like it. It doesn’t feel like the right time.’ ” But soon enough, the time not only became right, it became necessary.
“I got married,” Bastoni says. “I had two kids, and when they were one and three, I was feeling really disconnected from myself as a person outside of motherhood. I just found music to be a therapeutic way back to myself. I started writing songs after the kids would go to sleep — in the playroom, in the middle of the night — and started recording them.”
Those recordings became The Wishing Hour, Bastoni’s first album. Its title is a play on “the witching hour,” a time well known to parents of cranky infants. “The wishing hour was my time for myself,” Bastoni says.
While she was recording the album, Bastoni’s grandmother died, but even in death Einsel continued to give her support. “I inherited her guitar and a bag of songs that she had learned to play. And that helped me as far as my commitment — it really gave me encouragement to stay with it.”
Bastoni’s return to a music career came at a price — the end of her marriage. It’s a cost that’s reflected in her current album, How We Want to Live. In the album’s title cut, Bastoni sings, “That was years ago, when you took a chance on me/ You said you needed to feel loved — I said I needed to feel free.” And in “Silver Line”: “Didn’t want to walk away/ Didn’t want to be like everybody else.”
On the whole, though, How We Want to Live is not just a dissection of a divorce. “I think I’m at a point in my life where I’m sort of assessing everything,” Bastoni says, and cites “Beautiful Girl,” a lullaby to her daughter, and “Never Gone to You,” a song that looks at her relationship with her father.
“While these songs are really personal, my hope is that they won’t be just about me,” she says. “I want to write songs that, if not everybody relates to them, then there’s something sort of universal about them. Or they relate to somebody out there who’s had a similar experience and finds some comfort in not being alone.”
Her approach to music is different now than when she first began performing.
“I felt a little aimless when I was doing this in my 20s, and now I feel like I have more of a sense of purpose,” Bastoni says. “I’m having fun. The things that I took for granted the first time around, I appreciate now. I’m just so grateful to have a chance to do this, and to have a second chance at this point in my life feels really good.”
Wish Upon a Song
The event: Lisa Bastoni, featured performer for open mic night
The time: Monday, Nov. 25, at 7 p.m. Open mic sign-up at 6:30 p.m.
The place: Coffeehouse at the Mews, 429 Commercial St., Provincetown
The cost: $5 suggested donation benefits WOMR and Provincetown Theater