Ally Evenson Talks Back to Trauma on New Single “Bite My Tongue”

Playing Detroit
Photo by Carrigan Drallos

There are some things in life that are impossible to see clearly until after they’ve already happened. Like a bad sunburn in the shower, trauma is often one of those things that doesn’t present its full pain until something seemingly ordinary magnifies it. On her newest single “Bite My Tongue,” Detroit-based songwriter Ally Evenson unpacks this phenomenon and recounts a traumatic experience she endured four years ago. The song is unfortunately all too relatable for anyone who’s been in a relationship ruled by a poisonous power dynamic. 

In the first verse, Evenson sings, “Do I still remind you of yourself/Wide-eyed and hopeful through this living hell/You put me through for loving you?” It’s a tale as old as time: the older, seemingly wiser or “worldly” character lures the naïve, young artist into a relationship where there’s no chance of being equals. Without getting into too much detail, Evenson explains that the song was inspired by a power imbalance in her own life. “I had been wanting to write about this specific experience I had when I was nineteen. I kind of got involved with this person who abused power in the relationship,” she says. “I think I needed four years of complete space from the situation… to realize how truly messed up it was and to write about it.” 

This period of self-reflection is described perfectly in the chorus when Evenson sings, “The way it feels to cry at nineteen/Hurts a lot more when you understand it/Now I bite my tongue and hold my breath/And for what, I don’t know I guess/Maybe I failed at something you did right.” And while this song’s verses are about one specific relationship, Evenson says the chorus is about trauma as a whole – accepting it, learning how to heal from it, and understanding how it can shape you as a person. She explains that the last couple years of her life have been especially trauma-filled and she’s just now figuring out how to process it all. 

Evenson’s 2020 EP Not So Pretty was all about overcoming self-hatred and insecurity. “I went through some pretty tough shit in 2019,” she says. “A person that I knew, we went through a really rough time and they kind of went out of their way to make my life hell for a while for just no reason. I think that gave me a lot of PTSD about things.” Evenson says this experience led her to question everything about herself – whether she was a good person, a good musician, or if anyone even liked her. Obviously, that’s a pretty terrible way to feel, but she says that time and space away from her insular college community during quarantine has helped her heal.

Before the March 2020 shutdown, Evenson was in her senior year at the Detroit Institute of Music Education (or DIME) – picture Camp Rock, but year-round and for college-age students. As fun and educational as it can be, it’s small enough to foster some high school-style cattiness, which deeply affected Evenson. “I just couldn’t perform in my last semester of college before COVID,” she says. “I couldn’t do anything. Every day I would go to school and I was just like, ‘I hate it here. And I didn’t hate it here before.’ And it wasn’t because of the school, it was just because of these people I was coming into contact with. Not seeing those people and knowing that I don’t have to see them ever again is super nice and made my mental health get so much better.” 

Evenson’s newfound freedom re-ignited her ability to write without feeling constantly judged. That’s probably why “Bite My Tongue” feels like it can fit the shoe of so many different relational complexities. Whether it’s realizing your ex was trash, grieving a lost friend, or learning to love yourself again, Evenson captures the essence of self-reflection and forgiveness, coming out the other end exhausted, but exalted.

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