Where: The Ark
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 22
There’s plenty of food to choose from at Betty’s Diner.
But folk singer Carrie Newcomer urges saving room for the rhubarb pie at the restaurant – the setting for her 10th album, “Regulars and Refugees.”
“This is the kind of place where they tell you they have three vegetable sides and one of them is applesauce,” Newcomer says.
The only problem a potential Betty’s Diner customer may have is finding it. It isn’t real, after all.
“Betty’s Diner lives in my head,” Newcomer says. “It’s a composite of different places.”
The singer/songwriter used various diners in her town of Bloomington, Ind., to mold the fictional restaurant and its frequent diners including a recovering addict, an abused housewife, a single mother and a gay pastor.
“None of the characters in Betty’s Diner are real people,” Newcomer says. “Some of them are based on, perhaps, someone I know or people I’ve met, but they’re fictional characters.”
On “Refugees” predecessor, Newcomer gave listeners a glimpse of the characters on the track “Betty’s Diner.”
“Here we are all in one place, the wants and wounds of the human race/Despair and hope sit face to face when you come in from the cold/Let her fill your cup with something kind, eggs and toast like bread and wine/She’s heard it all but she don’t mind.”
“The diner people weren’t done with me,” she says. “They still had something to say.”
Newcomer’s lyrics derive from her poetry, short stories and prose, which is atypical from the lyrics-after-music pattern most musicians follow, she says. Some stories are humorous, others are poignant and some deal with intense issues.
A gay pastor named Olivia gets booted from her church when others discover her sexuality and the story serves as the foundation for “Be True.” Previous to writing the tune, Newcomer shared a meal and wine with several pastors – some gay – and discussed their stories, which inspired the song.
“Love, the things that we love, and the things that we are that we love … will give us the very absolute best of what we’ll know in this world,” Newcomer says. “But usually what we believe in and what we really love will finally and eventually take us to a crossroad and say, ‘All right you have to be true to this.'”
Although Newcomer is all too familiar with the story of Olivia, being true isn’t always easy, she says.
“You have to say, ‘OK, I say yes to this and I will be true to this because it’s who I am and what I am and it’s what I love and who I love,'” she says.
“I think that that personal journey of what is my spiritual life about and what is my religious life about and where do I work from the inside and make change and where do I step outside of the ‘I can’t be part of this anymore’ … is a powerful thing that’s happening in the gay community but I also think it’s happening in the human community.”
Miranda, a single mother who works as a waitress, is the “eyes and ears of the diner.” Newcomer feels as though she and Miranda are close relatives. She also relates to the exotic dancer.
“I’ve never been an exotic dancer, but I have been misjudged when I was doing the best I could,” she says.
“I have been a single mom and the lady at the PTA wouldn’t shake my hand. I know what that’s like and I can bring it to the character.”
The characters in Betty’s Diner were inspired from Newcomer’s travels, where she stopped in diners and soaked up the atmosphere, the one that’s missing from the outskirts of most cities.
“You can go to Applebee’s anywhere and McDonald#39;s is the same everywhere,” she says. “There’s a similar outer skin around every town anymore but if you go in and find the local places … then you can get a pulse.”
For now Olivia, Miranda and the other diner’s customers will go into hiatus as Newcomer concentrates on a personal collection. She says, “The diner characters have decided to just kind of sit back for a moment and watch.” And eat that rhubarb pie.