Rhiannon Giddens insists she’s the type of person who would never write an autobiography.
But on Thursday, the Greensboro native released “To Balance on Bridges,” an Audible original that combines autobiographical narrative with musical performances.
Giddens says “To Balance on Bridges” is different from a conventional life story, according to a story in Variety. Throughout the musical memoir, Giddens covers topics like race, culture and class, in addition to performing eight songs from throughout her repertoire.
“I would never think about writing an autobiography, unless it was just a music book where I use my experience to illuminate songs,” Giddens tells Variety. “I’m never interested in telling my story unless it feeds a larger point that I’m trying to make, just about some of the stuff that I’ve been working on for the last 15 years.”
The last 15 years have seen a wide range of musical styles and life experiences for Giddens. She performed with the Carolina Chocolate Drops — a Grammy award-winning old-time string band from Durham — for nearly 10 years before transitioning into performing as a solo artist.
In 2017, she received a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, in part for her “drive to understand and convey the nuances, complexities and interrelationships between musical traditions.“ She now lives in Ireland, and has spent the last few years recording and performing music while exploring its ethnomusicological context and researching African American contributions to country music.
“To Balance on Bridges” is part of Audible’s “Words + Music” series, which blends storytelling and performances by musicians, who have recently included Patti Smith and St. Vincent.
Throughout the memoir, Giddens discusses feeling “neither/nor, something more,” a phrase from her childhood that she uses to describe feeling in-between different categories — a feeling she is familiar with as a multiracial woman who performs in genres ranging from classical opera to country.
Giddens also recently announced a four-book publishing deal with Candlewick Press. The first book, “Build a House,” will be a picture book about the courage and perseverance of Black Americans in the face of enslavement and violence. It is due in the fall of 2022.
This fall, Giddens will be touring in the Northeast, California and Europe with her partner, Francesco Turrisi, an Italian musician.
Though she is releasing an audiobook with an autobiographical bent, Giddens says “To Balance on Bridges” is by no means a capstone to her career. There is still much more she wants to do.
“It does feel like it’s not an end, but a pause point of reflection,” she tells Variety. “I’ve always said that you should never sort of reflect on your life too soon, because there’s so much to live.”