“We live in a world of snakes and saints/It’s hard to tell the difference these days,” Nashville-based singer-songwriter Treva Blomquist sings in “Strong,” the opening track on her latest album, Snakes & Saints. Blomquist’s angelic voice is comforting as she goes on to deliver sage pieces of advice like “It’s less about who you’ll meet/And more about who you’ll be” in the country-tinged pop song.
The contrasting imagery that comprises the LP’s title stuck out to Blomquist because of their moral opposition – and also their moral ambiguity. “You get an idea of good and bad, and you get an idea that the snake would be bad and the saint would be good,” she explains. “I don’t think that’s the way life is or works. Operating that way is like judging a book by its cover. It is what lies inside the book that tells the story. There’s a lyric in the bridge of ‘The Light’ which says ‘What are you holding onto?/Is it making you who you want to be?’ I think it’s an important question to ponder and an important step in the process of self-discovery.”
The song, and the album as a whole, deals with self-empowerment in a world where decisions are rarely clear-cut. “It’s about deciding who you are and where your heartbeat is and moving towards that, regardless of what the people around you are going to do or say,” Blomquist explains.
Snakes & Saints is Blomquist’s fifth full-length album, a followup to 2016’s The Risk & the Gift. Each track, in its own way, explores the complexity of the human experience. In the cacophonous, synth-heavy “Anger,” Blomquist personifies the emotion and examines how you can respond to anger with love instead of more anger. The catchy, uplifting “The Light” similarly asks how we can “carry the goodness continually and keep it alive and believe in it regardless of what’s happening around us,” she says.
“The Light” came out on May 28, just as protests were breaking out around the killing of George Floyd. Even though it was written more generally about feeling the heaviness of the world, Blomquist was glad to be able to send that message at such a synchronistic time.
“That felt really timely,” she says. “I believe there are real powers of good and evil at play in this world. ‘The Light’ started with me feeling like I was standing in the dark with one tiny little light. It’s hard to know where to step and what direction to take when you can’t see very far in front of you. In those moments where we find ourselves in the dark, the light that we are carrying to guide us is so important. Without it, we can’t see. That’s the picture I was trying to paint with this song.”
Other songs on Snakes & Saints deal more directly with relationships. In the blues-inspired “Sugar,” Blomquist sings of losing trust in a partner. In “Sorry,” a recent single off the album and the subject of a cute lyric video resembling a hand-written card, Blomquist apologizes to ex-lovers for her previous immaturity. “I was thinking about my past relationships, like my first relationships that I was in, and I was thinking about how much I did not know about love and about what it is to be in love and to love somebody,” she says. “We’re all just learning about love, and it’s really messy and really clumsy.”
“I wrote [the album] while I was kind of going through some disappointment, so I was just trying to find the hope and the meaning in relationships,” she adds. “What happens when you get disappointed, or when people disappoint you, or when you disappoint yourself, and how do you move beyond that to where you’re okay with who you are?”
Blomquist’s friends Nathan Johnson and Brandon Owens accompanied her to record the album, using electric and acoustic guitar, bass, drums, and a synth called the Op1. In contrast to her more Americana and country-inspired earlier work, this record turned out poppier than the rest, which she says wasn’t planned. “The guys I worked with, they produced the album, and I feel like they influenced the sound a lot because it’s much more indie pop,” she says.
The quarantine hasn’t stopped Blomquist from sharing her music — she’s been posting live concerts on social media and intends to keep them coming. To celebrate her album release, she’s planning a “Live from my Yellow Couch” concert at 8 pm CST on Thursday, July 30th via Facebook and Instagram Live. On August 1st, she’ll get to share her music in person at a drive-in concert in Nashville.
“I’m just trying to figure out how to promote a record and play for people when we’re in this COVID place that we’re in,” she says. “It’s interesting — I’m so grateful for technology.”