Erin Ivey twirls a rose quartz that fits perfectly in her hand as our conversation begins. Gifted to her by friend and fellow artist Raina Rose, Ivey habitually takes the pretty pink crystal (meant to strengthen the heart chakra) into the recording studio with her to occupy her hands while her brain is emoting, at times holding it up to her third eye as she sings. “There’s something that just vibrates in a cool way,” Ivey says during our Zoom interview. “This one in particular has a lot of personal meaning to me because it came from a friend, and it fits. It’s like a worry stone.” Much like the reposeful stone she refers to, Ivey has long found sanctuary in music, a journey that’s reflected in her first recorded material in six years, Solace in the Wild.
Growing up as a self-described “ham” who satiated herself with a healthy artistic diet of musical theatre and live performances, Ivey was particularly drawn to the act of singing as a “self-soothing exercise.” Inspired by Debbie Gibson debut Out of the Blue, she wrote her first song at age 9 and can still recall the pad of paper on which she wrote it, emblazoned with a cat wearing a jazzercise outfit.
She discovered a deeper passion for writing in her teen years when she was gifted a journal by her friend, who filled the first page with inspirational quotes that motivated Ivey to keep writing. “I was turning to it to get my thoughts out,” she remembers.
What started as a hobby has become a prominent part of Ivey’s life – she rarely leaves the house without a journal in hand, as much a trustworthy confidant where she shares her thoughts and song ideas as it is a convenient place to jot down a to-do list. “If I don’t get that stuff out of my head, whether it’s creative or logistical, it clogs up the works and I’m very easily drowned,” she says of the “mystical” process of journaling. “It’s a way to process everything that’s going on inside and around you and also ways to capture a moment. It opens our eyes differently to translate things onto the page. That’s an everyday experience. Then you get to see what you think. It’s like a shift in perception that is so rich.”
Ivey notes that she began songwriting “in earnest” after making the trek from her native Maryland to attend The University of Texas at Austin. She initially intended to study theatre before ending up in the business school, ultimately designing her own major – a combination of art, history and French. But songwriting “became a part of my coping mechanism more and more,” Ivey says, and by 2011, she had burst onto Austin’s legendary music scene with her Broken Gold LP. After working as a full-time musician for eight years, Ivey married husband and musician-DJ Cam Rogers and spent two years working a corporate job and a year and a half in the nonprofit sector at Black Fret. “I like bringing order to chaos,” the Austin-based singer observes of her business acumen and project management skills. “It’s a science and it’s an art.”
But fate intervened and reconnected Ivey with her musical calling when Black Fret awarded her a $10,000 grant that became the “sacred” seed money she used to make her exquisite new album, Solace in the Wild. ”I never feel more fulfilled than when I’m making [music],” Ivey says. “There’s nothing that can take the place of music and live performance. There’s no better, soul-filling endeavor than that. All of the negative parts are superseded by this magic of music, this need to have that in my life to remain sane and balanced.”
For the past decade, Ivey has maintained contact with producer Chuck Pinnell after they worked together on 2011 compilation Dark River, which features Civil War era songs reimagined by Austin artists. He’s contributed arrangements to the lyrics that Ivey has been crafting over the years, and during one of their routine Friday sessions, Pinnell presented her with the title “Lost Girl.” It immediately send a flood of images to Ivey’s mind: a young girl floating in Hamilton Pool, an ancient swimming hole in Texas; a forest on fire surrounding the girl as she peacefully floats in the sanctuary of the water.
The song’s defining lyric became the album’s title and embodied the message she wanted to share with the world. “In that context, it means there is solace in the wild when everything’s on fire. When shit is going wrong, you can still find your center,” Ivey explains. “It’s something that we actually have to do. We have to pay attention how we get there.”
Solace in the Wild comes to life in the form of 10 gorgeously arranged songs that showcase Ivey’s angelic voice. She holds enduring notes in the gentlest ways, as demonstrated on the relaxing “Joy” and the stirring “Jealousy” alike, while the album’s lyrics reflect her brilliant mind.
The album as a whole is drawn from a well of deep curiosity, creating a potent combination of profound thought and emotion that covers humanity’s plight through the ages. For instance, “Dust Bowl” sees the self-professed “history nerd” exploring the drought, displacement, and depression suffered by farmers in the 1930s. “I feel for those people and their stories, and the humanity in that is so palpable,” she empathizes.
But one of the album’s most reflective moments arrives in “Charleston,” a track that calls for healing in direct response to the racially-motivated church shooting that occurred in 2015. Each line is crafted in a way that causes the listener pause, particularly the thought-provoking probe of a chorus: “It is for the good not to be silent/We are all reflections of ourselves/We cannot sit by and abide violence against anybody else.”
Ivey reveals that she originally had misgivings about releasing the song due to its sensitive nature, comparing the subject matter to an “open wound.” But after some encouragement from friends in the South Carolina city, she weaved it into the album as an exercise in helping others reflect on where we’ve gone wrong in the past. “As worked up as people get about politics, I tend to try to be really careful about what I say and how I say it. I think it’s important so that we can keep having conversations even when we disagree,” she continues. “But it is very true that I believe those things. I wrote the song to comfort myself and to try and wrestle with this evil that continues to recur.”
For Ivey, “solace” is the “personal peace that is juxtaposed against something that would keep you from it,” which she finds through such purely simple acts as “dialoguing with my inner child” in her journal, gazing at a burning candle and cradling her rose quartz. “I wanted something that would remind me… that if I do not do that writing, if I cannot find that solace, if I don’t have a mug of something warm, if I don’t take a hot bath and light a candle, if I don’t prepare myself in that way for the world, I show up haggard and cruel,” Ivey says. “I wanted to show up for this album in a way that would allow me to have it show up for me.”
She hopes that, even if Solace in the Wild doesn’t always make listeners feel better, they at least feel something. “Sometimes I think it’s my job to help people feel their feelings, and then maybe to help me feel my feelings,” she explains. “I hope that people enjoy the songs and that they identify with pieces of them; that they are called back to listen again and again and make these songs a part of their life or part of their exploration.”