Fruition has had quite a year in 2016! Their work on the latest album Labor Of Love is nothing short of inpeccable, and their tireless touring of the nation has earned them new fans at every stop of the way. Their intensity is palpable and entrancing, led by the front line of Mimi Naja, Jay Cobb Anderson and Kellen Asebroek. The three are whirling dervishes during Fruition performances, selling their intensely personal songs with an impassioned approach that acts as a siren song to old fans and new alike.

Fruition is taking a short, well earned break from the daily cross country grind to rest up and prepare for the approaching winter shows. On the immediate horizon is three night hometown New Years’ run at the Wonder Ballroom, with Jans Ingber & The Funk Fellowship, Sassparilla and Hillstomp each taking a turn in providing support for the run. Those shows themselves will each have a theme, including a tribute to the songs of 1967 as part of the big New Years Eve extravaganza.

With all the fun coming up and the year nearing the end our own Rex Thomson sat down with mandolin and vocalist Mimi Naja for her take on the state of Fruition. They cover the reaction to the new album by fans, her thoughts on songwriting in general and the difficulty of walking tense political lines. Check out their conversation below:

Live For Live Music: Earlier this year you released Labor Of Love to much acclaim nationally, and your shows have grown in attendance in an almost direct correlation. How does it feel to watch from the stage as fans get more packed in and energized by the music you make?

Mimi Naja: It feels amazing. We’ve always considered ourselves more of a live band, and even if some nights the crowd wasn’t there yet, that is where a big part of our energies lie. It is satisfying to put together a record that reflects our live sound more. And if the folks have some tunes that they know and can sing along to, that is always humbling and mind blowing. Especially in a town you’ve never been to. It’s awesome!

L4LM: Fruition’s brand of earnest and relatively sparse, instrumentally, roots based sound has a clarity to it that connects with fans on a very elemental level. You seem to use that connectivity to speak to more universal subjects, primarily love. Is that a conscious decision on the part of the songwriters in the band?

MN: The earnest bit is definitely conscious; to stay earnest, not writing just to be some sort of thing. We write because we want to express something, you know? We don’t have a dance number or something that caters to some poppy purpose. We might have songs that are dance-able and are poppy, but we never try and fit things into some kind of package when we are writing.

Naturally, because we are a live band, that is what comes out of it. Love, growth, longing, highways…

L4LM: Do you subscribe to the concept of “Writing from what you know?”

MN: Yes, definitely. Sometimes when songwriting, or writing in my journals or whatever, it’s fun to take a storytelling vibe, but we always tend to write from some kind of “I/Me” so that it applicable, honest and earnest.

L4LM: Clearly love songs dominate Fruition’s catalog, though some of them are a bit sadder than others. Would you say that is descriptive of the band? Not that you’re sad, but honest and loving?

MN: Absolutely. That’s always a good description of the band. In the last handful of years, four members of the band went from being partners in relationship to being single, and that plays out in the songwriting. Our job as touring musicians, definitely had a part in those relationships going that way. The honesty is quite forward on that part.

L4LM: Are there any examples you could point to from your work as more clearly from your own life than others?

MN: Well, most of my stuff is pretty straightforward. Like the song “Beside You.” It’s really just a straightforward take on a relationship. A love I had and lost; a love that just flew away. It’s very reflective of that “I’m on the road and here I am in this beautiful place but I’m really far away from home and you” feeling I was having.

It’s that longing for home kinda thing. I think that song couldn’t be more honest. The relationship was said and done by the time the record got released, that was kinda funny. By the time we started playing the song live, it was outdated.

L4LM: Is songwriting a continual process for you? Do you designate periods of time to it or set goals for your creative process?

MN: I’m trying to be more disciplined and diligent about it. Because, before our touring and our whole career, before our whole lives became this working experience, I used to just take inspiration when it came. Now we’re busy with what we’re doing and the fun inspiration doesn’t come as much anymore, because you’re driving and loading out. Oh, and actually getting sleep whenever you can.

So you have to be more diligent about taking the time. Jay has always said that, no matter what, no matter where you are, go out and write something. I started taking a cue from him on that thought. Don’t put pressure on yourself. You’re not gonna write a great song every day. But if you write something, then maybe that inspiration will start flowing if you’re dedicated and charged into doing it.

L4LM: You paint very tangible pictures with your lyrics. Do you remember began to connect with word play?

MN: I always loved singing. I used to dig poetry. I wrote my teenage emo poems with the best of them. I always enjoyed it but I didn’t become confident in my lyricism right off. I always connected with ballads. Lyrics in ballads. I loved the classic Ella Fitzgerald/Billie Holiday. I always vibed with the more narrative lyrics.

L4LM: The nation is MORE openly angry and distrustful of authority and each other than ever before. Do you foresee any more socio-political themes music in general or your own writing?

MN: I’m very impassioned member of society, too, but, it’s a really, really, really tricky line when you have been given this platform. Fruition is a group project. This isn’t my own personal place to go off on something. The band members share very similar politics – somewhat liberal, myself included – but because we are respectful of this platform being something we have created together, it is a really delicate line for us to go and cross together.

If we broaden our scope and politically charged lyrics are coming from Fruition, then they will be mindfully crafted. Maybe one of us will bring something to the table, but we would refine it together because we don’t want to something that divides. We want to be something to connect over, not to push or scare or turn anyone away from what we are doing. It is a delicate, delicate line.

I do hope artists feel safe being as vocal as they feel they need to be. And who knows? Maybe in some other project I will lose my fucking mind.

L4LM: New Years Eve is a time when a lot of people take stock of the last year, but Fruition is looking back 50 years to 1967. Did you guys find one of those old “Greatest Hits of 60s’s” discs or was there some other inspiration for the choice?

MN: It was just a great year for music. So many good songs. If you look at one of those “what song was number 1 the year I was born” sites you will see how awesome ’67 was. It is gonna be cool.

L4LM: Fellow Portland singer and funk-ster Jans Ingber is opening the first night, and Fruition is planning on getting funky too during their sets. That seems like a slightly different set of musical muscles than you normally flex. Doing any preparation in particular to get ready for it? Are there “Funk squats?”

MN: That sounds like a good idea. I’m not opposed to idea of funk squats. We listen to a lot of funky and R & B type music and maybe that is reflected in our sound a bit. I think that is going to be a lot of fun. We’re all into these kinds of really tunes, so it will be a good time for us.

L4LM: In the middle of the run, you are taking a loving look into the far corners of your catalog for some rare tunes. Are you using this opportunity to see if any shelved songs are ready to make their return to the rotation?

MN: That is a definitely a part of it. Also, it is just good to play these songs. It’s like “Don’t forget how it goes, just because you haven’t played it for a while.” And Portland is a great place to do that. Our diehard fans are there. Our original crew. And they all know them all. Portland, more than anywhere is a safe zone to dig that stuff up and put it out there.

L4LM: You’re ringing out the old ways in fine style. Next year you have some fun already announced with a short run with your good friends Greensky Bluegrass. Any other plans you can share? More new material perhaps, for your more diehard fans?

MN: I can say we are getting ready to start preparing to get some demos done. We are preparing stuff for the next record. I don’t know anything about the timeline. But I hope we can do this forever. Release an album. Tour the album. Start the next album.

That is what we are trying to do. Not sure whatever announcements I can give other than we are planning on staying busy. We have a couple of ideas I am very excited about, I’ll just say that!

L4LM: You’ve been known to play a bit of kickball with Greensky, and other bands like Elephant Revival, in the warmer months when time permitted. Do you still play in the snow, or is there a winter alternative?

MN: Aw, man. You’d think with all the Winter WonderGrass Festivals we play we’d be snow bunnies by now but we’re totally not. In the snow I’ll drink some wine and that’s about it.

L4LM: Bandmate Jay Cobb Anderson spoke of how hard it is to stay healthy on the road. How have you and the band been holding up lately?

MN: We got off the road about two weeks ago and it has been really nice to unplug and reset. It is a nice reminder that when you are in the flow and working that you need to take the time to find good food and get some rest. And to schedule yourself times to recharge and go to the grocery store and not stay up with your friends. I’m not trying to burn out anytime soon.

L4LM: Playing three nights for New Years in your home town sounds like a pretty smart way to combine the two and actually sleep in your own bed.

MN: Yeah, real smart!

L4LM: Well, everyone is looking forward to your coming to their town and rocking, so if you do end up playing in the snow be sure to bundle up! We appreciate your taking the time to chat with us and have fun rocking out the clock.

MN: Thanks so much!