I love being introduced to new talent. What makes it even more special is when that talent is based here in Maine. Such is the case with this week’s artist, Lena Rich, who will perform on Monday, Jan. 8, at Slates in Hallowell. I called her cellphone to discover that she was at a friend’s home in Bridgton (the Cumberland County town where I grew up; talk about your small world), just 10 miles from my current home in Sweden.

I decided to learn a little more about Rich, so I asked if she was a Mainer.

Rich: Yes, I was born and raised in Edgecomb. I lived in Providence briefly, but then we moved back to Maine. I went to North Yarmouth Academy for high school in Yarmouth, but was still living in Edgecomb. Yeah, I love Maine.

Q: I must confess that I have a special place in my heart for all the talented musicians in our fair state.

Rich: Yeah, I do, too. Especially with this whole process, that’s why I feel so lucky to be in Maine because there’s really not another place where you could find such talented people who are so dedicated to the community and willing to help. People like Paul Thibeault and Steve Jones; they’re just so generous but they’re also so good. I mean Steve’s an incredible guitarist, so I feel like anywhere else that’s just really hard to find.

Q: Now, have you ever performed at Slates before?

Rich: I haven’t played there before, but I have performed at a decent amount of venues around the state. In Portland I’ve played at One Longfellow Square, Blue and St. Lawrence Arts Center. I’ve played at The Rack up at Sugarloaf ever since I was 14, basically every weekend in the season throughout high school with Mason Strunk, and that’s kind of how I fell in love with performing. It was such a fun atmosphere and I’m so grateful to the Strunks for that opportunity.

Q: Is Mason Jud Strunk’s son?

Rich: Jud’s grandson. His dad is Jeff Strunk who owns The Rack. Obviously, I didn’t know Jud, but everyone who knew him says that Mason sounds exactly like him and carries on the family tradition. It’s so fun to hear Mason play some of his grandfather’s songs. It’s really sweet and Mason’s one of my good friends.

Q: Back to the Slates’ show, if we may. Will this be a solo show?

Rich: No, I’ll be playing with Paul Thibeault and I believe Steve Jones, and possibly Marty Joyce. I’m not entirely sure of the back-ups, to be honest, but Paul will definitely be there and it will be a full-band show. Oh, and Paul plays bass. He often plays with Jason Spooner, and Marty is a drummer. This will also be a CD-release show, so I’ll have my albums there and I’ll be playing all the songs from it.

Q: Now are you fairly prolific when it comes to songwriting or is it something that takes a lot of time and effort for you?

Rich: Oh, no, I love it! Yeah, I’ve been writing songs my entire life. When I was, like, 10 I was writing classical compositions for the Young Composers Festival up near Blue Hill, Maine. I was studying classical piano at that time. I started out with the violin, though. That kind of morphed into the genre I’m in now, probably around age 14 where I picked up the guitar and just started writing honestly about my life. I wasn’t really thinking about who would hear the songs or where I was going to play them, it was just something I felt I needed to do to express myself. But, no, I’m writing all the time. I have notebooks of unfinished songs.

Q: You mentioned that this will be a CD-release show. Could you talk a little about that new album of yours?

Rich: Sure. Bob Colwell recorded, mixed and mastered everything. We recorded it all at his studio, The Root Cellar. I think that’s what’s so special: the atmosphere that we captured in that room was so filled with energy. It was positive and everyone was having fun, it was sounding good and those guys just know what they’re doing. It was really great for me. The weight was taken off my shoulders; I could just trust that they were kind of taking the reins of the specific things in the process, so I felt really comfortable. Bob did an amazing job and Paul, as the producer, was great, and Steve, obviously was awesome. The whole situation was a dream come true.

Q: When is the official release date?

Rich: Jan. 13 is when it will be available everywhere. It’s an all-online platform and physical, but the pre-release will be the shows leading up to the 13th, so this show at Slates and The Quarry on the 10th of January and The Rack (Jan. 7). And I’m playing a show down in Redding, Connecticut, on Jan. 5 with a band called Plywood Cowboy. They’ll be opening for my CD release show there. My feature show will be at One Longfellow Square on the 13th, and I’ll have physical CDs for all those shows.

Q: Who influenced you the most musically as you were growing up?

Rich: I would have to say Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan are really my biggest inspirations in terms of their lyrics and their phrasing and their candid storytelling. When I was a kid we listened to their CDs as we drove around the state. But growing up more and trying to broaden my musical horizons and expanding from there, I also like singers like Amy Winehouse and Lauren Hill, who I really look up to. Just any artist who gets really good at something and then totally does something else. Bob Dylan did that when he went from acoustic to electric, it took a lot of courage and conviction to do that.

Q: I concur wholeheartedly with you. I would like to end our chat with my traditional closing question: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?

Rich: I guess just information about my tour which is on my website www.lenarich.com, and I’m just really grateful to the Maine community and particularly Paul Thibeault, Steve Jones and Bob Colwell for being so generous and believing in me — it’s really been exciting.

Lucky Clark has spent 48 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.