Name: Lindsay Paige Garfield
City: San Francisco
Occupation: Singer-songwriter and leader of the band Paige and the Thousand
J.: Where are you from originally? When did you first start singing and making music?
Lindsay Paige Garfield: I grew up in a town about 20 minutes north of Boston, where there’s a large Jewish community. I’ve always liked singing; I don’t remember a time when I didn’t. But my first time singing in front of people was in a choir in Hebrew school when I was 9, which I joined because I heard you could get out of class if you were in choir. (Laughs.) So that was appealing to me.
J.: How did you start to take it more seriously?
LPG: I studied music in college at the University of Miami, and made a little demo when I was there because you could record for free thanks to their music engineering program. I moved to San Francisco in 2004 because my mom had moved to the Bay Area while I was in college, and I just fell in love with the city. Then I started playing with more bands, and in 2005 I met the kids who would make up Or, the Whale.
J.: Or, the Whale had a strong local following, released two albums and performed on “Good Morning America.” After they broke up in 2011, you started Paige and the Thousand, a folk band that’s much more stripped-down and minimalist. What was that shift like?
LPG: I had felt for a long time like I wanted to express my voice differently; I’d been writing all these songs that were more introspective, and weren’t really a good fit for a big indie country-rock band. So I teamed up with my friend Kirk Hamilton and we co-wrote an EP, “We Are Now the Times,” that we put out at the end of 2012 after raising money with an Indiegogo campaign.
J.: What’s behind the band’s name?
LPG: “The thousand” is a reference to the book “Watership Down,” in which a family of rabbits has to flee their home. In the book, it’s something like the rabbits can only count up to 10, and anything after that is 1,000, but the reference is also personal: For one, when I first set out doing my own songs I felt really vulnerable and I wanted to feel powerful, so it helped me feel bigger in a way.
J.: And the name doubles as a reference to your Jewish heritage?
LPG: Yes, I also wanted to pay homage to my ancestors. That [ancestors] is what “the thousand” is referencing in the book — and the book’s journey reminds me of my Jewish ancestors who immigrated to this country from the Ukraine and Poland in the early 20th century in order to escape religious persecution. I wanted to honor that because I’ve had an incredibly fortunate life, and I’ve been able to observe and explore my Jewish identity, and I’m really grateful for that freedom.
When I think about what my relatives had to do to get here, the incredible courage it would take to leave your home and have no guarantees about what was on the other side, not knowing the language or anything, it’s so incredibly inspiring. That’s one reason why I’ve come full circle to identifying as Jewish, even though I’m not very observant. Wanting to honor my ancestors is a big part of it.
J.: Does your Jewish identity shape your music?
LPG: Definitely. I find myself drawing from old Hebrew folk songs and hymns a lot. They’re so beautiful and yet they come from such a place of pain and real struggle — and I mean, the first time I really sang was in Hebrew school choir. I think unconsciously that has definitely infiltrated my music.
J.: Where can people see you perform next?
LPG: Dec. 18, I’ll be playing at Viracocha [an arts space in the Mission District] as part of a fundraiser to help keep the place open. I’ve been working on new stuff, so it would be great to have people come hear it!
“Talking with …” focuses on local Jews who are doing things we find interesting. Send suggestions to [email protected]