“I’m back in my groove,” says Eszter Balint, and that’s welcome news, especially since it’s been 11 years since she released her second album, Mud.
You can blame it on the costs of making an album in today’s music industry, her acting career or motherhood, but at least now, with the release of the consistently compelling Airless Midnight, she’s back, and she promises it won’t be a decade before the next one.
“It’s not gotten any easier to make these things,” she laughs. “It’s harder. For me personally, the actual craftsmanship of it is getting easier, but just to make it a reality, to get the money to do it, to have it make sense in the world of music, all that stuff is harder. It’s really tricky, but that’s not the only reason I took so long between albums. The other thing was that I was raising a kid, so there was that, and there were a few other distractions. But as hard as it may be, I’m just so happy I did it.”
Far from idle in her time away from the recorded world, Balint was raising a son, now 12, still writing, and also getting the occasional acting gigs, most notably a six-episode run on the hit series Louie. And while she would also perform live, it soon reached a point where she wanted to get her music out to the world, whether it’s CD, vinyl or digital download.
“I had been singing these songs and I felt really strongly about them and I think the timing was right,” she said. “I just needed something new. My last record was too old. I needed something that represented where I was at now and this is what I do. I have to do it. Maybe it will take different forms, maybe it won’t be CDs in the future, who knows. But making art, telling stories, singing, making music, I can’t really stop that.”
That’s not surprising, as the arts are in Balint’s blood.
“I grew up amidst a lot of art, and I have quite a few artists in my lineage,” she said. “My father was a writer, my grandfather was a painter, my great-grandfather was an intellectual essayist. But I don’t know if that’s it, or if the circumstances of the theater are it. Those things definitely fanned the flames that I had in me already, but I think at the end of the day, it just comes down to how you’re wired.”
And whether in music or acting, Balint is wired as a storyteller, and though she feels like she has “a little more control of the story in my own music,” acting has helped her get her point across in ways that she probably wouldn’t have been able to without those chops in her pocket.
“I think so,” she said. “Also, with my background in theater performance when I was a kid, I feel like I bring that into the music in the sense of telling a story and making it very present, being truly immersed in it in the moment, seeking that authentic connection to whatever the story is that you’re telling – not just with words, but with your instrument. So there’s a lot of fluid crossover, I think.”
But what if she had to choose? Would the New Yorker lean toward music or acting?
“I choose music, and that is something I already chose once,” she said. “I made that choice and it was very clear for me. However, I’m becoming a lot more open and interested in acting again. But if I had to make a choice, it would definitely be music. I’m less at the mercy of someone else’s project. It’s my stories, but I now feel like I can bring my experiences as a musical performer a little bit back into the acting, and that’s an interesting trajectory and I like that.”
It’s good to be Eszter Balint these days. She put together an excellent album full of interesting songs and top-notch performances, the critics are loving it, and now it’s time to play it for the world. That sounds like a good way to head into 2016.
“When I perform and I connect to the songs and to the musicians and to the audience, there are few things that feel greater than that,” she said. “I also find singing, in particular, very healing, which sounds really corny and Hallmark-y, but there’s something that really connects you to your heart. It’s all about connections and stories for me, and I love it. And I feel like the longer I do it, the more I love it, in spite of the challenges. In fact, I feel like overall, making this record was probably more fun for me than my previous two records. And once I made the decision to embark on it, and once I was in it, there was no way in hell I was going to back down. No, no, no. I was pretty energized for this one.”
Eszter Balint plays the Living Room in Brooklyn tonight, December 11. For tickets, click here