Rodney Eldridge Lives Life with Intention on Black Box EP

Photo Credit: VNTG PR

If you want to know Rodney Eldridge’s life story, just listen to his music. The North Carolina-born musician and filmmaker discovered his instinct for music while spending his childhood days poised at the piano, playing one-finger chords as he deciphered which notes sounded best together.  “Piano became a really big escape for me. It’s the first time I was like, ‘this is so therapeutic,’” Eldridge reminisces with Audiofemme.

As a child, Eldridge was diagnosed with a variety of learning disabilities, music serving as a sanctuary alongside reading and books. Eldridge turned the sentences on the pages into lyrics to match the melodies in his head, which led to a love of poetry and later, songwriting. He penned his first song for his middle school crush, asking her to be his date to a school dance by writing an original song as the proposal. “I think it’s always been there,” he says of his connection to music. “I would envision myself on this black stage. Everything’s blacked out but the spotlight, but I would be sitting there thinking, ‘this is it. This is my life.’” 

Eldridge turned those visions into reality, setting the stage as a professional musician as part of the pop-rock band, Millennial, releasing their debut EP Dreamers in 2015. Though gaining momentum after a performance at South by Southwest, tragedy struck the group when guitarist Logan Fincher suffered a brain aneurysm that led them to temporarily disband. In the interim, Eldridge turned his attention to his other natural talent for filmmaking. Raised by a father who worked in the film industry, Eldridge was instilled with the mindset early on that if he wanted to break into the industry, he’d have to do it on his own accord. He fulfilled this part of his destiny working with a production manager based in Charlotte, quickly moving his way up the ladder to become a coordinator and production manager, graduating to the role of producer in the niche market of family-friendly films, scoring producing credits on a dozen films in his young career including the Cloris Leachman-fronted When We Last Spoke and The Warrant starring Neal McDonough of Yellowstone fame.

But throughout his filmmaking endeavors, Eldridge was always tethered to music, performing in bands and later reuniting with his Millennial bandmates to form a new group, Foxfire Run. But a major life change inspired Eldridge to go solo in 2019 when he and his wife divorced, leaving behind a trail of emotional pain that Eldridge transformed into his new EP, Black Box. “Writing’s always been like another form of therapy,” he describes. “I think with this record, you can definitely hear the rawness and the realness of it, and that’s how I’ve always written for myself. I don’t really share my emotions a lot in conversation, so a lot of times that is my way of getting out or expressing how I really feel.” 

The four-song EP takes its name from the recording devices on airplanes that document all of the vital information in the event of a crash, Eldridge using the device as a metaphor for the emotional hard drive Black Box represents. “I very much felt that in my life, all these things were starting to crash. I was so overwhelmed with emotions and with life that it’s like my soul had this hard drive that was waiting for me to tap into it,” he shares. “I’m a huge advocate for self-growth and mental health, so that was a huge part of tapping into that black box and being able to be vulnerable and be real and have those moments and really hard conversations [with] myself – who are you, what do you want? I wanted tell a story. I wanted to create this journey that I’ve lived and tell it in a cohesive way.” 

He takes listeners on this journey across a handful of deeply personal songs, beginning with the conversational “Came Here to Talk,” a piano-laden number that sets up an internal dialogue in which Eldridge confesses to feelings of sadness and loneliness. “I need you to know/That you’ll be okay I know,” he reassures himself at song’s end.

Then there’s “Am I Too Late?” an exploratory track wherein Eldridge reflects on his Christian upbringing and the inexplicable anger, fear, guilt and shame he lived with as a child, only to realize later in life that he’d become a passive person. The song holds a mirror up to the patterns and habits he now makes a conscious effort to break. “Healing in itself, I think, is a consistent journey. The moment you think you have it all figured out, you realize that you don’t, because something else happens and then you’re on this whole other growth path. That song comes from that place of realizing all the things in life that you’ve gone through,” he explains. “That song for me was finding that voice. I was able to pinpoint those moments in life. Once you recognize those parts of life, you’re able to then move forward from them and truly learn from it and be able to grow from it. I think that song did it for me when I was writing it. As I get to know myself I’m able to then move forward in a new way and a new light.” 

He touches on this new light in lead single “The Weight.” The singer refers to the track as an “empowerment song” he penned while sitting alone in his parents’ basement singing the lyrics at the top of his lungs, releasing the emotions he was pouring into it. Eldridge greets the listener with a plucking acoustic guitar and lyrical gut punch as he sings in the vulnerable opening lines, “It’s hard to stay sober/When I’m feeling down/Kind of like right now,” conveying a feeling of being crushed under the weight of his own body. “But I won’t give up now/‘Cause I feel more empowered/Than I ever was,” he proclaims in the song’s defining closing remarks.

That empowerment stems from the intentionality “of living every day to be fully you and allowing yourself grace” Eldridge has strived to incorporate into his life following his eye-opening divorce. “I think one of the hard things for me, especially going through a divorce, is I didn’t have that intentionality with the one person you’re supposed to have that with. I am now intentionally being authentic for me,” the Nashville-based singer-songwriter expresses. “I think going through that and how I grew up, I dealt with a lot of guilt and shame that was put on me, that I kept putting on myself because of my background. Every single person is such a beautiful human and a beautiful part of the way life should be lived. Having that intentionality, going through life saying, ‘Whatever obstacles I’m in, this is meant to be lived for me,’ I think we can make that change to be intentional about everything that we say, intentionally being you, allowing yourself the freedom to just be.”

Through writing and recording Black Box, Eldridge’s spirit was liberated in a way he never knew he needed, and he hopes listeners find their own sense of freedom in the music. “I think your soul is constantly trying to talk to you. Your soul really wants you to pause and take a moment and ask those questions, dive in to you. That’s where this record really came from. It’s been one of the most freeing experiences of my life. I had to make very hard decisions, but the amount of freedom that comes along with it, words don’t even describe it,” he professes, hinting that there’s more music to come. “I want people to be them and be okay with it. I want people to find themselves and be okay with that and whatever that looks like, whatever they have to go through in order to get that kind of freedom. Putting out this record is a very weird, emotional thing for me. I really want people to feel like I’m pouring out my heart in it. If you can relate, if they can take something from it, then I’ve done my job as an artist. I just want people to love.” 

Follow Rodney Eldridge on Instagram and Twitter for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: Treva Blomquist Explores Moral Ambiguity on Fifth Album ‘Snakes & Saints’

Photo Credit: Dan Wiley

“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.”

Follow Treva Blomquist on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Olivia Henry Premieres First-Ever Music Video for “Beautiful”

Photo Credit: Jesse Saler

Singer-songwriter Olivia Henry’s first-ever music video has been a long time coming. Having released several singles, an EP, and her debut LP Expectations earlier this year, Henry was more than ready for a bold visual, and on “Beautiful,” she delivers. It’s all too fitting that the track – with its acoustic guitar, an R&B thickness, and Henry’s songbird warble – is all about anticipation and release. In the visual, the LA native celebrates pulsing intimacy and sexuality, as she tangles with a chiseled-jaw beau.

“Beautiful,”  produced by Stephen Douglas Makuta, makes a bold statement. In many ways, it is the culmination of Henry’s entire journey and a rallying crying for herself. Following the release of her 2014 debut EP, Sessions, she was diagnosed with various autoimmune conditions and was forced to take a lengthy hiatus. Henry, whose style naturally leans neo-soul and jazz, did not reemerge until 2018’s “Gotta Run” and “In My Touch,” the album’s magnetic lead-in issued in early 2019.

Expectations is a sharp eight-track release. Olivia Henry bares her soul, from the venomous “In My Touch” to the haunting “Love Me” and piano-tuned closer “Crazy.” Her musical adeptness is as charming and transfixing as her vocal prowess. As far as debuts go, it shows undeniable promise for a lengthy, totally satisfying career.

In writing “Beautiful,” the opera-trained performer leaned into its “provocative, vampish, seductie” nature to craft a style all her own. That commitment to dripping sensuality, musically and lyrically, pulls the listener into a Nora Roberts romance novel. She also plays with “juxtaposing flirtatious lyrics with slow chord progressions and a haunting acoustic guitar,” she tells Audiofemme. 

The video supplies the necessary color palettes, camera work, and performances to punctuate all of the above. Every single frame tantalizes the viewer; it’s an invitation to reconnect with one’s own fantasies. “My desire for the video was to encompass all of that, while still maintaining an intimacy in the storytelling,” she explains. Henry worked closely with director and dear friend Cat Ventura in plotting out the video, initially exchanging ideas over tea and coffee at a cafe nestled in Los Feliz.

Ventura sought to create “a world you could luxuriate in, and as she put it: ‘get lost in the intoxicating feeling of new love without sacrificing the ability [for me] to have the freedom to follow [my] instincts as an artist,’” Henry remembers. “Then, it was all hands on deck with my micro, independent artist budget, and we knocked it out in a 12-hour day. I am incredibly proud of how it turned out, and so grateful for the unbelievable group of people who worked on it as well. Did I say I was excited?”

Follow Olivia Henry on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: Evelyn Cools Dissects Jealousy in “Gold Woman”

Photo Credit: Tye Edwards

Romantic jealousy is one of those feelings almost anyone can relate to. Either we’ve felt like everyone but us had a special someone, we’ve worried our partners would stray, we’ve wanted to be with someone who was taken, or we’ve been non-monogamous and had to face our jealousy head-on. In her latest single “Gold Woman,” folk-rock singer-songwriter Evelyn Cools looks at jealousy from all angles, exploring where it comes from and where it leads.

The sassy, country-inspired song is sung from the perspective of a woman who’s in a bar with her partner when another woman walks in and catches his eye. When Cools performs this song live, she usually prefaces it with “this one’s about cheating” to get a laugh out of the audience. Indeed, with its powerful vocals, electric guitars, and vivid scene-setting, it bears some resemblance to Carrie Underwood’s infidelity anthem “Before He Cheats.” But Cools says the song is more about wanting what we can’t have; the “gold woman” can be an object of desire or an object of envy. At the end, Cools asks, “But was she worth it?”

“I was feeling very analytical about the modern dating world and how easy it is to have this ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’ mentality with relationships,” she explains. “Especially with social media now, it’s just so easy to see what you don’t have, but only the superficial parts of that.”

The song will appear on Cools’ upcoming EP, Misfit Paradise, out August 14, which explores our relationships with ourselves, with others, and with Planet Earth. In the slow-paced, minimalist title track, Cools sings about that feeling of belonging that tends to elude those of us who identify as misfits. She wrote it based on her experience studying at NYC’s Institute of Audio Research, reflecting on what happens when people from all over the world gather together around a common interest.

“It’s about finding the people that fit with you and make you a better person and make you be the best you can be,” she explains. “So many people — maybe all of us at some point in our lives — feel like misfits. Maybe we grow up in a society that doesn’t value our particular goals, or our family or our own thoughts make us feel like we don’t belong, and even though we think that way, there are other people who lift you up and you realize you’re really similar. Finding your group of people is a form of paradise.”

“Soaring” and “Another Night” showcase Cools’ traditional singer-songwriter style, while her folk and roots influences are evident on “Yosemite,” an ode to Yosemite National Park that expresses her interest in the environment and the inspiration she gets from nature.

Cools made a point to use real piano, guitar, and drums on the EP, resulting in an authentic sound that almost resembles a live recording. “It’s so easy these days to resort to samples,” she says. “And with some music, that works wonderfully. But for me, the authenticity of folk music and singer-songwriter music — it does it justice when you bring in those real instruments.”

She and her producer Enrique Lara, who was fairly new to producing, recorded the EP in his living room. “It was actually so much fun figuring out how to make things sound good and putting up blankets around the living room and tailoring the sound to what we were looking for and experimenting with things,” she says. “In the end, it was a really calming and welcoming space for me to record this EP.”

Hailing from Belgium, Cools is currently working on her first song in Flemish, her mother tongue. She’s also lived in Hong Kong, Budapest, and London at various points in her life, which she says has infused her music with an overarching message of solidarity and empathy. “I feel restless sometimes — I feel like I’m constantly searching for an identity and where I belong,” she says. “Sometimes, it’s good to ask ourselves deep questions and take risks and try living in new places. And I think moving around has given me the freedom to do that, because I’m not really from anywhere.”

Follow Evelyn Cools on Facebook for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: Evangeline Gentle Celebrates “Ordinary People” with Acoustic Performance Video

Photo Credit: Kristal Jones

As the world seems to go through one travail after another, sometimes all we can count on to lift us up are the kind words and love of the people around us (or on our screens, as is often the case nowadays). That’s what queer, gender-fluid Scottish-Canadian singer-songwriter Evangeline Gentle reminds us of in their single, “Ordinary People,” an ode to “loved ones who keep me soft when I’m feeling hardened by the world,” they explain.

“It’s brave to be hopeful in this world/It’s brave to be kind,” they sing in a live acoustic performance being released on video today. “Just when I think I’d had enough, your love is a little bit of sweetness/Life softens at your touch.” Though the song was written a while ago, some of the lyrics seem suited to the current moment, such as “Headline after headline draining me/Oh the ugly things ordinary people do for more money.”

With Gentle’s voice front and center against acoustic guitar, the song is simple and sweet, as is the video, which was filmed in Peterborough, Ontario at the Sisters of St. Joseph’s convent. “I had been filming another full production video in their old laundry building, and the director Rob Viscardis and I decided to film a live version of ‘Ordinary People’ for the fun of it while we were there with the crew,” Gentle remembers.

Gentle’s past music embodies the same minimalist aesthetic as “Ordinary People.” Their latest singles, “You and I” and “Black is the Colour,” were both done a cappella and sound almost like old hymns, with repetitive melodies and universal, timeless lyrics.

On August 21, they’re releasing their first album, which will include the studio version of “Ordinary People” and other songs with a similar overarching message – “that despite all of the ways that we are different, we do share the same visceral experience of life,” they explain, quoting a line from “Black is the Colour.” “It’s hard not to feel connected when we realize this.”

The 23-year-old began writing the album at age 19, and the years it was in the making were full of self-discovery and coming-of-age moments, as well as artistic growth. At the end, Gentle realized that each of the songs in their own way was about the struggle to remain open-hearted amid pain and uncertainty.

“[The album is] driven by the belief that it takes extreme strength to be vulnerable, but that the rewards of doing so are far greater than those of being closed-off in the name of self-preservation,” they explain. This idea led to the chorus of the final track: “How do we become good and guided by the heart?”

Gentle, who started performing live by opening for touring bands in high school, considers the female icons of folk, like the Dixie Chicks and Dolly Parton, their biggest influences, though they’re also a big Taylor Swift fan who’s admittedly listened to “Lover” 50 times in a row.

Their goal with the new album was to incorporate poppier elements and expand on the traditional folk genre. “I wanted to experiment with synth arrangements, and I wanted to step outside of the genre I’d felt pigeonholed into as a ‘female singer-songwriter,'” they say.

Pigeonholing is something Gentle is familiar with as a queer artist, but ultimately something they’ve moved beyond. “I’ve spent lots of time struggling with internalized queer-phobia and this idea that I’m less likely to achieve what I want to with my life because of who I am,” they explain. “I don’t feel like that anymore. My hope has always been that in being an openly queer musician, I might help somebody feel less alone or inspire somebody held back by the same shame I have been to imagine a brighter future for themselves and the world.”

Follow Evangeline Gentle on Facebook for ongoing updates.

How Songland Contestant Anna Graceman Turned Viral Videos into Songwriting Success

Anna Graceman wrote her first song, “So I Cried,” at age six, after a family member told her about someone in their life who passed away. “I didn’t really understand at all,” she remembers. “But I could tell they were really upset and missed this person, and I felt all this sadness. I couldn’t imagine losing someone I cared about so much.”

She began posting videos of herself performing her songs on Youtube just so that family members could stay on top of what she was doing. Then, unexpectedly, a video of nine-year-old Graceman performing “Paradise” — a song she wrote about natural scenes from her hometown of Juneau, Alaska and the need to take care of the Earth — went viral, and she ended up on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. “I don’t think I really understood how exciting it was,” she recalls.  “I think about some of the things that I did when I was younger and I think I was just completely unaware of how exciting they were – sometimes I wish those things had happened when I was older so I could enjoy them!”

For some, appearing on Ellen would be the pinnacle of accomplishment, but for Graceman, it was only the beginning. She continued writing songs and performing them on YouTube, channeling powerhouse vocal performers like Adele and singing emphatically about a range of emotions despite her young age — in a 2012 performance of her song “Broken Hearted” she admitted that she herself had never had her heart broken or even thought about having a relationship. Buoyed by the popularity of the show-stopping performances that landed her in the top ten finalists of America’s Got Talent Season Six, Graceman released her first first album at age 12, via her own label, Another Girl Records, and performed at residencies in Las Vegas over the next few years.

At sixteen, she released Rebel Days, a record made in collaboration with her sisters; over the next few years she performed at festivals both alone and with her siblings, all while her YouTube videos – most of which are now non-exclusively licensed by Disney – amassed millions of views. She took a break from performing to focus on songwriting for others, participating in “She Is The Music,” an all-female writing camp focused on writing songs for Mary J. Blige. “She’s hugely influential in the music industry, being a female and being successful and so accomplished, so that was definitely a highlight for me,” Graceman says, who noting that even the engineers and producers who participated in the program were women.

In other words, Graceman is an example of a performer who is wise, talented, and driven beyond her years. Honing her prolific songcraft and stunning vocal ability throughout her childhood has landed Graceman where she is today, on the threshold of turning twenty. She recently returned to television to appear on NBC’s Songland, (a reality show where songwriters perform songs to artists who could potentially sing them); a version of the song she pitched to Bebe Rexha on last Monday’s episode was combined with elements of a song from fellow contestant Greg Scott to become that episode’s winner. “Most of time when you’re pitching a song to an artist it goes through an email, and maybe you hear back from the manager, but usually you’re not in front of them singing the song to them,” Graceman says. “It was a huge honor but extremely nerve-racking because you’re not only hearing what she loved about it, but what she didn’t love.”

Just three days prior, on May 29, Graceman released The Way the Night Behaves, her first solo album since 2012. The new album shares many elements in common with her early work, including a powerful voice and universal themes like love and loss, this time based on her own experience. She even sings another ode to her hometown, a soulful track about Alaska’s rare sunny days called “Sunny Point Drive.” But while it contains hints of the star who grew up on YouTube, The Way the Night Behaves also shows how much Graceman has evolved as both a singer and a songwriter. “Through that process of learning to write for different projects, I grew,” she says. “It’s really been able to affect my own writing in a positive way, and it’s different because I’ve just grown a lot as a person.”

The album was born from a project Graceman began in early 2019 to release a new song on Youtube every month. She had 12 singles by the end of the year, then added a few more songs to complete the album. Her voice demonstrates impressive range, as do the songs themselves, from the upbeat, celebratory “Good Things” and the catchy, rhythmic “Man on the Moon” to the deep and vulnerable “Fragile” and the slow but inspiring “Keep on Moving On.”

In the near future, she’s got new videos coming out for several songs on The Way the Night Behaves. She is also working on a release she hopes will be out later this year. “I wrote the songs three years ago and have been holding onto them, waiting for the perfect time to share them with the world,” she says. It’s not surprising that there are even more songs up her sleeve, and there will undoubtedly be many more as she matures even further as an artist.

Follow Anna Graceman on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Kat Meoz Perseveres Through Rejection With “Back for More”

Kat Meoz’s gritty, high-energy rock is as motivational as it is catchy. On “Royalty,” the title track off an EP released last year, she sings about refusing to settle for less than royal treatment. “Whatever I Want,” from the same EP, declares her unwillingness to follow others’ rules, and on “Are You Ready?” she announces to the world that she’s “on a mission” and won’t be stopped. Her latest single, “Back for More,” continues this same theme of confidence and boldness, asserting that she’ll respond to failure by trying again with even more resolve.

The Los Angeles-based, Venezuelan-American singer-songwriter, composer, and producer wrote the track about rejections she received from people in the music industry she’d been wanting to work with, which “was okay because I wasn’t going to give up on the idea of working with them,” she says. “So, I thought, I’ll be back to offer them more music they can’t say no to, soon.”

The sound of the single mirrors the meaning, with Meoz powerfully belting, “Bet your life/I’m coming back for more” in the chorus and repeating the lyrics “It’s the bait and switch/Makin’ poor men rich” in an infectious, almost conversationally sung pre-chorus. “Back for More” is more bluesy than some of Meoz’s past work, but it intentionally matches the exuberant spirit of her entire catalog, while highlighting her tenacity.

The sentiment of the song also mirrors the process of making it. Meoz first wrote “Back for More” two years ago and began working with her producers Jake Bowman and Teddy Roxpin on it, then decided to rehash it with a different tune almost a year later. “It’s not every day you can have a finished song and then reach out to people several months later to say, ‘Hey, remember that finished song we have? Can we completely redo it and just keep the lyrics?'” she says. “I think their excitement and hard work matched mine perfectly, and the combination of our efforts and good vibes is bringing this song into the world.”

Meoz’s professional accomplishments support the assertion at the heart of “Back for More” – that she can accomplish whatever she wants in her career. She regularly writes songs for ads, TV, and film, which she describes as “a sensory overload that gifts me a feeling of accomplishment like nothing else.” Her favorite role of this kind was as executive music producer for The Dust Storm, a movie about musicians in Nashville for which she got to wear multiple hats, including coaching actors for live performances. “It’s full circle hearing a song that came from the ethers of my mind in someone else’s creation,” she says.

Her impressive list of credentials also includes singing backup vocals on Iggy Azalea and Quavo’s 2018 single “Savior,” which she remembers as “somewhat intimidating,” since she was meeting Azalea for the first time. “One of the first things you learn in recording school is to read a room and have studio etiquette,” she says. “So, when Iggy arrived, the atmosphere became more serious because essentially the boss had arrived.”

A lesser-known highlight of her career was performing “Boogie Shoes” by KC and the Sunshine Band in several locations through LA in a video for Hear the Music: West Hollywood,  a campaign to promote LA tourism. “It was just the coolest experience to get to represent West Hollywood and have it be so connected to music,” she says. “It plays overseas and I get messages from people in the Middle East frequently saying they love my cover of ‘Boogie Shoes,'” she says.

Meoz is currently working on an EP that continues the guitar-centered “swagger rock” vibe of her past work, with hints of  Alanis Morissette, Rage Against the Machine, Led Zeppelin, and Bishop Briggs. On top of that, she plans to release a soul EP later this year under an alias. It’s unclear what’s next after that, but what’s certain is that she’ll be back for more.

Follow Kat Meoz on Facebook for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: Jessie Hyde Finds Catalyst for Healing on Debut EP UNSUPERVISED


Jessie Hyde had no clue how cathartic making her first EP would be. With a background in modeling, tech, and entrepreneurship (as the founder of Glucose Goddess), songwriting revealed itself after an especially brutal breakup. She knew she had to rediscover herself, and through her writing, greatly influenced by Katie Melua and Norah Jones, she found the peace she long desired.

“Making music and releasing this first EP has changed my life. I gained a connection to a calling that I didn’t know existed inside of me, and it makes me feel more authentic,” the San Francisco singer-songwriter tells Audiofemme. “I found a refuge in music, a new nook in which to ground, extract and sublimate my feelings. Making music also invited incredible people into my life, and I’m so thankful for that.”

Hyde’s EP, called UNSUPERVISED, is raw and barebones in tone and structure, as she sifts through the rubble of her aching heart. A minimalist by nature, she rebuilds boundaries in her life with opener “Charity,” crunchy flickers pulsating against a bedrock of keyboard. A heavenly serenity sprouts from her fingertips, even when her lyrics are coarse and unapologetic. Therein lies her greatest strength.

Elsewhere, she braids together her French roots (she was born in Basque Country and later raised in Paris) with “Petite Fille,” a gritty, fear-confronting setpiece. Then, “Perpetuate” closes the release with a choir of songbirds, whose tender warbles backdrop her liberation as she finally, once and for all, declares her self-worth. “My shadow eats pieces of all the women before me,” she sings, cutting the shackles of the past.

Hyde is a monster of instinct, driven to bend her raw, intense emotions into her songwriting. Over the last seven or eight months, she came to understand the importance of honesty in her work, as well as how to define a singular voice. “Inspiration starts with a feeling. I can’t write unless I am experiencing a feeling. I can’t force it or tell myself that the next song I’ll write will be about this or that,” she explains. “It happens in the moment. A feeling comes up inside me, I find a pen and paper as quickly as possible, and I write words immediately.”

She is also “at the mercy of some sort of creative god when it comes time to go to my keyboard and try to put the words onto a melody,” she admits. “I just write words first; I never know what the song is going to sound like until I get to the keyboard. I get excited and nervous as my hands hover over the keys, and I try out a chord progression.”

The chords, melody, and words fly from her being, erupting from some dark crevice in her soul, and even when the parts don’t quite fit together, there is still a lesson to be learned. She surrenders herself to the process, and whatever will be will be. “I don’t get hard on myself if it doesn’t work. It’s not about me. It’s about something I can’t control,” she says.

As much emotion spins around on only four songs, there is an equal two-ton weight still hovering over her heart. The process of healing, from the dark depths of pain to enlightenment, is never really over. “Writing songs is the best catalyst for healing that I’ve ever found. When I have a rough day, feel overwhelmed or sad, I write a song about it in my bedroom and turn the tears into lyrics,” she says. “I extract the pain through this process, and that’s how I heal the wounds. I’ve been through the most growth and healing of my life since I started making music.”

Fear continues haunting her, however, and it’ll take even more time to mend those wounds. “I was really nervous that [this EP] would be bad. I was nervous [about] what people would think once I made the music public. My fear told me that I needed to find a co-writer, a partner, or someone to make the beats, give me their opinion, stir me into a ‘better” direction.’ I felt insecure and like my work wasn’t professional enough,” she says. “Ultimately, I worked through the fear and realized, you know, I’m just proud of myself for doing it and putting something out and learning so much.”

Jessie Hyde stakes her claim with UNSUPERVISED, a four-song anthology of her life, coursing from songs about “boys boys boys” to “more interesting territory” around womanhood and fearlessness. “I know I speak from pure truth and am not scared of telling things like they are. I have a lot to say as it relates to being honest with ourselves and others, having compassion for our process, and making space for healing and finding our power as women.”

Follow Jessie Hyde on Facebook for ongoing updates.

Skyler Day Strikes a Chord Between Art and Empathy With ‘Six Feet Apart’

Courtesy of The Mixtape PR

There’s a strong correlation between art and empathy, a powerful notion Skyler Day carries into her work as an actress and singer-songwriter.

Day knew the arts were a part of her destiny at the age of six when she discovered her love for singing while making her stage debut as the smallest Christmas tree in her school’s holiday play. She added songwriting to her list of talents at the age of 10 and learned how to play guitar four years later. While honing her musical capabilities, Day was also fostering her passion for acting, informing her parents that she wanted to hire an agent to book auditions. “I told them by the time I turned 11, if I booked the lead in a film, then we would have to move to Los Angeles so that I can pursue my acting career,” Day recalls to Audiofemme. True to her word, the determined child soon landed a part in an independent film, her parents shutting down the gymnastics studio they owned in their hometown of Cumming, Georgia, and made the cross-country move to LA to fulfill their daughter’s dreams.

Day has since become a working actress with roles on TV shows including Parenthood, Law & Order SVU, CSI: Miami, Pretty Little Liars and many more. In between appearances on major network shows, Day continues to sharpen her songwriting skills. With a growing catalog of introspective acoustic numbers, the Georgia native credits country music for inspiring her songwriting style. “I feel like country music really takes care of the story,” she describes. “It’s really the foundation of everything I do. It’s how I learned to write. It’s the reason I picked up guitar instead of some other instrument. I love the storytelling, and that’s really how I fell in love with music in general.”

The 28-year-old breathed new life into her career as a songwriter when she won a 2019 BumbleBizz contest for aspiring female songwriters that included a mentoring session with Kacey Musgraves and a performance slot at a major festival. Citing the six-time Grammy winner as a “huge inspiration,” Day flew to Texas to sit down with Musgraves before her appearance on Austin City Limits and imparted her wisdom onto the budding artist. “The main thing that stuck out to me was ‘write what you love, make the music that you love, and then let the rest take care of itself,’” Day recollects of Musgraves’ sage advice. “I love that, and I’ve always subscribed to that, so it was nice getting some reinforcement.”

For Day, writing the music you love means embracing her empathetic side. While acting allows Day to call on her imagination to bring other writers’ words and ideas to life, songwriting creates a personal outlet for her to share her own stories and experiences. “It’s the art of empathy and I feel like that’s the same with music,” she describes of the commonality between acting and songwriting. “It’s about being dead honest about your experience, and I feel like that translates with songwriting. You can tell the same with acting, you can tell when somebody’s being so truthful. It feels more real and like you’re creating a connection there.”

This focus on empathy shines in Day’s latest creation, “Six Feet Apart.” Penned in her LA home days after the stay-at-home order was put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Day’s emotions toward the situation were bubbling beneath the surface, in need of a way to get out. She turned to Joni Mitchell’s album Blue for comfort, sitting in solitude and letting the lyrics wash over her. But at album’s end, Day noticed something profound taking place outside her window. “It got quiet and then I listened and the birds were going crazy. They were singing so loud,” she remembers. “I was thinking, they’re singing so loud and they have no idea what’s happening in the world.”

Her emotions soon began spilling onto the page, Day reflecting on the people who bring color into our lives, from our family and loved ones to strangers we pass on the street. She captures the heart of the song’s message in its potent closing line: “I guess that it’s simple/Now we know that our hearts/They weren’t made to be six feet apart.” “I hope that people feel less alone in the fact that someone else feels the same way and that we’re all really feeling the same way. I didn’t notice how important everyone is around you when you’re walking down the street or you’re at a restaurant. These people in the world, they fill up our lives and now I’m noticing how much I took that for granted,” Day professes. “I think it’s beautiful to now be so aware of the fact that we really need each other.”

Follow Skyler Day on Facebook for ongoing updates.

Tessy Lou Williams Confronts Vice and Heartache with Classic Country Single ‘One More Night’

Photo by Christina Feddersen

Tessy Lou Williams chronicles hard-to-break habits in her new song, “One More Night.”

As the daughter of Kenny and Claudia Williams of the band Montana Rose, Williams was born with music in her DNA. After years of working as a songwriter and live performer, Williams is ready to commit her voice and words to her self-titled, debut solo album, out this Friday, May 22nd. It’s bound to satisfy any traditional country fan’s appetite, and that includes Williams’ latest single, “One More Night,” premiering exclusively with Audiofemme.

The Montana-bred Williams had the idea for a song, about those insatiable vices you need one more hit of, rolling in her head for a while. But a bout with writer’s block sent her into the studio with co-writer Vanessa Olivarez to finish the tune. “It’s about that battle between your head and your heart where you think you feel one way, but you know better,” Williams explains about the song’s meaning. “It’s really not a healthy choice, but you still pine over it. You feel like you need it, but you know you don’t.”

Whether it’s another drink, one more smoke or a past love, told from the perspective of a lonely soul inside a bar at last call, Williams makes those nagging addictions feel universal. “In the writing process we were thinking about it in that bigger picture. We talk about the ‘two more cigarettes in my pack…’ you could be like, ‘I don’t need those right now,’ but you know you’re going to smoke them,” she says, analyzing the song’s opening line. Williams tells the story with mellifluous vocals reminiscent of Lee Ann Womack and Alison Krauss, wrapped around a stunning melody of crisp fiddle and shimmering guitar, creating a classic country sound. “I know I should be gettin’ stronger/Fight the way I feel inside/I tell my heart over and over/All I need is one more night,” she sings.

Williams cites the bridge that proclaims, “Am I fool enough to believe that all I really need is one more night?” as the most personal line in the song, symbolizing a moment of self-awareness. “You realize you’re being ridiculous about the whole situation – you don’t want just one more and it’s not going to be just one more. You try to convince yourself ‘just one more and I’ll be good,’” she says.

Like many of the album’s other tracks, “One More Night” is pulled from the realm of heartbreak. Describing it as one of the most “relatable” songs on the record, Williams hopes that “One More Night” offers a sense of community to listeners who have gone through something similar. “I hope people can listen to it and know that they’re not alone in their experiences, that there are others out there who can relate to their situations. You’re never alone in life and it’s okay to be sad and heartbroken – we’re all there at one point or another,” she says. “We’re all a lot more alike than we think we are.”

Follow Tessy Lou Williams on Facebook for ongoing updates.

Detroit Artist Billionaire Sophia Defies Genre on Ootgoat EP

Detroit-based artist Billionaire Sophia melds pop, R&B, trap and hip hop on her new EP, Ootgoat. Written, produced and mixed entirely by herself, the project is a testament to Sophia’s growth as a producer and artist. She explains that her journey with production started about eight years ago and has been almost entirely self-taught.  “I started making beats and stuff in 2012, but I didn’t get my own equipment until 2014,” says Sophia. “That’s when I started doing it myself, but I didn’t start getting good ’til 2016…and it’s still gotta get better.”

Where Sophia’s at right now is already sounding real good. Following her February 2020 release, Love Not Attention, and recorded in her bedroom due to the state-wide lockdown, Ootgoat expands on Sophia’s languid, stream of consciousness style of songwriting and showcases both her flow as a rapper as well as her ethereal vocals. Sophia explains that she doesn’t practice a locked-in method for her songwriting, but follows whatever she’s feeling at the time. “If I’m listening to a beat I made… I just listen to it and see if I can feel something. Then if I can’t feel nothing I just go to my mic and start singing whatever comes out,” Sophia explains. “Eventually, maybe a hook will come out.”

Her innate melodic sensibility and knack for hook writing are evident in songs like “White Girl” and “Milan” that are almost impossible not to sing back. They’re the type of songs made for warm summer nights, cruising with your friends, maybe burning one. Sophia’s pop-leaning instincts are likely a combined influence of Detroit’s deep electronic roots and a lifetime of listening to pop trailblazers. “When I first started making beats, I was like, I’m gonna make a whole bunch of jittin’ beats, you know, Detroit style beats where you can dance,” Sophia says. “I just like pop music, I like rap, I like all types of music,” she says, citing Timbaland, Pharrel, Jay-Z, Rihanna and Justin Bieber as some of her early influences.

Merging Detroit-style beats with more Billboard-charting influences gives Sophia’s music both catchiness and a musical complexity not found in generic pop music. Her cadence on “Brown Eyes” is akin to the talk-style singing perfected by artists like Sza or Kari Faux that makes the listener feel like she’s talking solely to them – her sultry, whisper-like vocals add to that sensation as well.

While individual songs on Ootgoat act as vignettes into Sophia’s personal life and aspirations, the EP as a whole speaks to what seems to be Sophia’s vibe as an artist: nonconforming. The cover art, designed by Sophia, features the first-ever known statue of a woman, Venus of Willendorf, thought to have been created in 30,000 B.C. Sophia chose this image because of its stark difference to images of women that we generally see in the media. “She is not typical and it’s not what people think what women should be,” explains Sophia. “Really, you can be whatever you wanna be. [There’s] no rule to being a human.”

Like many women, Sophia personally relates to that sentiment, especially when it comes to who she is as an artist. “I just see that I’m a free artist, I do what I want to do, but I’m never going to be understood fully.”

Follow Billionaire Sophia on Facebook for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: Stephanie Lambring Examines Dynamics of Abuse with “Mr. Wonderful”

Photo Credit: Brandi Potter

Stephanie Lambring spent the bulk of her music career as a songwriter at BMG and Carnival Records, writing four songs that appeared on Nashville and others for artists like Andrew Combs, Hailey Whitters, and Mary Bragg. But she soon got tired of the “machine-like approach to writing” and of muting her dreams of singing her own songs.

Hoping to write and perform her own music without worrying about whether her songs were “too jarring or too sad,” she left Carnival a year early. One song that came out of Lambring’s newfound solo career is “Mr. Wonderful,” an exploration of controlling and possessive relationship dynamics. 

Lambring’s songwriting background is evident in her poetic and evocative lyrics. “So you met Mr. Wonderful / Isn’t he wonderful? / You thought you had it all / ‘Til it all had you,” opens the haunting track off her second album, Autonomy, to be released on October 23. “Every day gets harder to crawl out of the confusion / Red flag anger, good behavior / Which is the illusion?” You can hear country influences in the vocals, and the music’s pop structure makes the story Lambring tells seem almost eerie.

A lot of this song comes from my personal experience in a controlling relationship several years ago. Other pieces were gleaned from friends’ experiences in their verbally and/or physically abusive relationships,” she says. “Before my experience, I had no idea about the complexity of the dynamic of an abusive relationship. I simply thought I would never be ‘that girl.’ Well, I was. We need to raise awareness about the red flags and have more candid conversations. It’s more common than we think.”

Lambring released her first album, Lonely to Alone, her senior year of college. BBC2 radio presenter Bob Harris played the album’s eponymous track on his Saturday night program, leading to several UK tours. “I had a bit of momentum going, but I put my artist path on the backburner. I wasn’t ready for it yet,” says Lambring. 

She describes her new album as “a deep dive into the human experience,” tackling body image, sexuality, religion, and family relationships. She wrote the first track, “Daddy’s Disappointment,” while she was waiting tables, and songwriter Tom Douglas challenged her to start writing music again. In it, she explores the impact of growing up with overcritical parents, as well as the pressure to make music based on profit rather than passion. 

Each song, in its own way, is about questioning and breaking free from tradition to carve out one’s own path. “Joy of Jesus” deals with slut-shaming and homophobia in Christian communities, “Fine” validates the choices of single, childfree women, and “Little White Lie” portrays the dissolution of a marriage driven more by external pressures than fading love.

I enjoy exploring the uncomfortable places — the uncensored, raw truths inside us,” she says. “The thoughts and feelings we’ve learned we ‘shouldn’t’ express, not to mention even have. It’s healing for me to sit with the discomfort, lean into it, shed some light on it, and in the end feel a little less alone in it.”

Follow Stephanie Lambring on Facebook for ongoing updates.

Caitlyn Smith is a Force of Nature on ‘Supernova’

Photo by Shervin Lainez

When Caitlyn Smith learned that a dying star emits its fullest, brightest light before ceasing to exist, she took that idea and ran with it, creating a dozen tracks that challenged her to be fiercely open-hearted. Calling it Supernova, Smith wants you to feel the same chills listening to her sophomore album as she did when she learned about the cosmic phenomenon.

The new album follows her 2018 debut, Starfire, which painted Smith as a confident woman, emotional soul and brilliant storyteller – a compelling package she carries into Supernova, where she turns her true-to-life experiences of marriage, becoming a mom for the second time while touring harder than ever and dealing with the loneliness and anxiety of life on the road into song. With an album that is soulful, sultry and at times stormy, Smith tells her story with a voice that is grand enough to command a Broadway stage, yet later so gentle she could sing you to sleep.

“I really wanted to push myself with this album, to try and be more vulnerable, to dig more into the stories that I’ve really lived and experienced,” Smith shares with Audiofemme. In order to tell her story as vulnerably as she envisioned, Smith had to look inward, going on a soul-cleansing journey of meditation, therapy and “personal excavation.”

“I really leaned into trying to become a better version of myself,” she reveals. Part of this process was changing the narrative in her brain to stop the lies and negative thoughts that manifested into anxiety, a sensitive, yet universal subject matter she channels into “I Can’t.” “I wanted to tell this story because I know I’m not the only one that feels this way,” she says of the song that shares her perspective of living with anxiety and depression as an artist. “There’s a lot of different ways that we can lie to ourselves, which then creates anxiety and this stress narrative in your brain. Changing the lens into gratefulness can really change your entire outlook.”

After spending years working as a staff songwriter penning songs for other artists, including Meghan Trainor’s chart-topping duet with John Legend, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You,” and Garth Brooks’ “Tacoma,” Smith admits that it took “a little practice” to tell such personal stories about her own life in the writing room. The continuous act of songwriting helped push her out of her comfort zone, the singer categorizing the roughly 70 songs she wrote for the project by emotion. But there was a distinct deciding factor as to whether or not a track would make the cut.

“If a song didn’t give me chills at some point, I didn’t want to put it on this record,” she affirms. “I wanted people to be able to truly feel these songs.” One particular song that she feels in her bones is the title track. Inspiration struck as she was watching her one-year-old son run around the back yard and she was suddenly overcome with an “overwhelming moment” realizing how quickly her life was moving by, witnessing her parents growing older and her two young children growing more independent each day. She took this insightful idea to co-writer Aimee Mayo to create what she calls “the ultimate emo song” on the record, both reduced to tears as they discussed how rapidly they were moving through time.

“We got this vision of a supernova. We were thinking about all these tiny little details and moments of life, and for some reason it felt right to then compare it to this big, beautiful, bright blast of a supernova,” Smith begins, awe apparent in her voice. “That’s how we need to be living our lives every day – in this full, beautiful expression of love and light.’”

They transformed this grand concept into a song that touches on fleeting moments – the innocence of childhood, growing up and moving away from home – and what its like to long to feel their gravity again. “Time is like a shooting star / A supernova in the dark / You’d do anything to make it last / But it all goes by so fast,” she pristinely serenades.

“[‘Supernova’] almost stated with one word the growth and the more intense expression of myself that’s put into this album,” Smith says. “It seemed like the perfect next step in my artistry.”

Where Starfire built the framework of the artist she was destined to become, Supernova sees Smith stepping into it. Smith proves the strength of her own magnetic force when she proclaims, “Doesn’t everyone cry when they look at the stars / And doesn’t everyone try way too goddamn hard,” in the album’s closing number “Lonely Together.” “There’s something about looking at the stars that makes me feel so connected with everybody else. We’re all under this same amazing sky on this big rock hurling through space, all just trying to navigate this little life that we have and all of these big emotions,” she expresses. “It all is just way too fascinating to not write about and love.”

Supernova is set for release on Friday (March 13). Smith will perform two album release shows on May 7 at Brooklyn Bowl Nashville and her home state of Minnesota at First Avenue in Minneapolis on May 9. She’ll join Maren Morris’ RSVP Tour as an opening act in June.

Love You Later Teases New EP With Video for “Making Plans”

For her synthpop project Love You Later, Lexi Aviles writes honest, open lyrics that make you feel like you’re reading someone’s diary. The 21-year-old artist released her first EP, How Many Nights Do You Dance With Tears in Your Eyes?, in 2018 and has since put out several singles that deal rawly with heartbreak, growing up, and other emotional topics.

Born and raised in Orange County, Aviles has been writing songs since she was 13. She moved to Nashville right out of high school to make it as a singer-songwriter and has since settled in LA.

Her songs are relatable not just because of their subject matter but also because of the conversational tone she writes and sings in. “It’s weird I find my comfort in the city / I miss my mother / cause she’s not here / no, she’s not here / I’m going home this weekend and I’m thinking about / not leaving / and it’s kind of weird,” she sings in 2018 single “Growing Season.” She candidly addresses a lover on 2017’s “Emily,” “Well you can say you’re sorry for nothing / Cause I know that you’re feeling something with her / So go get her.”

Love You Later’s latest single, “Making Plans,” is about a phenomenon many people can relate to: dating as a means of self-distraction. Her second EP, which includes this track and others, is set to come out this spring. We talked to her about her latest song and video and her future plans.

AF: What was the inspiration behind the song “Making Plans”?

LA: It’s hard to be alone. As humans, sometimes we just need someone to pass the time with to get our minds off of the bad stuff. It’s so easy to feel isolated and drowned out in such a big city with so much happening but no one to do it with. I wrote this song from a state of isolation, self reflection, and transparency, which hopefully people can relate to.

AF: What was the concept behind the video?

LA: The video illustrates me and this guy having this exciting and sweet date night, really just to get my mind off of things. He is acting as a placeholder more and more as the night carries on. The shots go back and forth from me enjoying the date to me getting frustrated with myself for choosing to go on this date in the first place because it stems from selfish reasons (loneliness, sadness, emptiness, depression, desperation, etc.).

AF: Does your music aim to help people with the kind of loneliness you sing about? 

LA: I definitely hope to reach people through my music. Vulnerability is such a special part of being an artist. Having a platform to share my story and express my honest feelings is a privilege, and I strive to create a safe space where people feel like they can connect. That’s why I do this whole music thing in the first place. I’ve learned that when you open up, other people will, too.

AF: What other themes do you explore on your upcoming EP?

LA: The EP sums up the freedom, relief, and liberation I felt after I ended a relationship that wasn’t good for me. All of these songs show the progression of that relationship – before, during, and after. The EP is very transparent and emotional, but at the same time, more lighthearted and self aware than the first EP. I’m so excited to release it into the world. I can’t exactly tell you the name yet, but it has five songs featuring “Making Plans” and “Said That You’d Be There,” my two singles leading up to the release.

AF: Who are your biggest influences?

LA: The Japanese House, Bleachers, Caroline Polachek, No Rome, King Princess, MUNA, Clairo, Charlie Puth, LANY, The 1975, and anything ’80s.

AF: Speaking of making plans, what are your next plans?

LA: Releasing my EP in April, playing some shows in the spring/summer, another video coming very soon, and lots more!

Follow Love You Later on Facebook for ongoing updates.

Punk Angst and Country Soul Collide on Kalie Shorr’s Headlining Tour

Photo by Catherine Powell

On Friday, January 31, punk-rock-meets-country goddess Kalie Shorr made her debut at Nashville’s famed rock club, Exit/In, for the opening night of her first headlining trek, the Too Much to Say Tour. Throughout her 90-minute set and two-song encore, Shorr treated the room to covers of My Chemical Romance and Nirvana, sandwiched between emotion-packed originals from her critically acclaimed 2019 album Open Book dealing with exes, angst and poignant thoughts about what it means to move forward after the loss of a family member. Here are the top moments from the show:

“The World Keeps Spinning”

After delivering a collection of powerful songs that reflect her no-holds-barred attitude about life, one of the best songs in the set came in the form of “The World Keeps Spinning.” Shorr and her co-writer Skip Black have both lost family members to overdoses – Shorr’s sister Ashley passed away in 2019 to a heroin overdose, while Black’s niece also died of an overdose at the age of 25. The chatter in the room went completely silent as Shorr began to share their stories, speaking as vulnerably as possible about the perspective that comes with losing a loved one in such an intense way.

“Glossing it over doesn’t help me, it hurts me,” she reflected. She’s turned this pain into a stirring song that recalls the tone in her father’s voice the day she got that dreaded call and puts listeners in the seat next to her as they drive by a wedding on the way to her sister’s funeral. Though filled with raw emotion and reflection, Shorr delivered it with poise and confidence, making for one of the most striking moments of the night.

Bold and brash Alanis Morissette cover 

Introducing the track as one she wholly identifies with, Shorr did Alanis Morissette justice with her cover of “Right Through You,” featured on one of her favorite albums of all time, Morissette’s iconic Jagged Little Pill. Morissette wrote the song about the qualms of the music industry and someone who wronged her along the way. “Someone who says something really shitty…we all have that one person,” Shorr prefaced before delivering a fast-paced, high-energy performance of the song that throws a metaphorical middle finger to the dark side and politics of the music industry. Shorr rocked out all over the stage, and it was clear even from the back of the room that Shorr felt the song’s message in her bones – Alanis would’ve been proud.

“He’s Just Not That Into You”

We’ve all heard this famous line from friends and family when you’re in a relationship where the other half is clearly not as invested. But Shorr has turned this unfortunate situation into an anthemic jam where she exudes all the sass, dancing around the stage like a teenage girl singing into her hairbrush in her bedroom. A highlight of the performance, and the show overall, came when she took to the crowd almost mosh-pit style, charging into the center of the room and head-banging to her heart’s content as fans surrounded her, making for the rowdiest moment of the evening.

“F U Forever”

Shorr picked the perfect way to end the show with “F U Forever.” “If you’ve ever had a garbage ex, sing along real loud,” she encouraged, her sharp wit and sense of humor coming out full force as she unabashedly shamed a low-life ex with unadulterated attitude and her middle fingers in the air. Shorr oozes with confidence, even when admitting her own flaws. The song is custom made for a live show and a guaranteed crowd pleaser, and Shorr delivered on both fronts, bringing her monumental set to a thrilling close.

Shorr will make stops in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and play two shows in Conneticut, before wrapping the tour at the Mercury Lounge in New York City on March 16.

PLAYING CINCY: Elsa Kennedy Celebrates Longing with “Redwoods” Single

Elsa Kennedy redwoods

Cincinnati singer-songwriter Elsa Kennedy released the beautifully forlorn “Redwoods” as the first in a series of singles that will lead up to her EP, Cadmium.

“‘Redwoods’ is an expression of acute longing,” she told AudioFemme. “I find longing endlessly gorgeous. It’s so painful, but it means so much because we never long for things that we don’t cherish in some really honest way.”

The single was born out of feelings of chaos and hopelessness and written for Kennedy’s partner, Amy, and the life-changing people whose love brings us out of dark times.

“I wrote ‘Redwoods’ in one night, and I was very sick, just out of ICU,” she said. “I was feeling a bit dismayed by the weird clusters of catastrophe that have riddled my personal life, longing for some quiet predictability – this was just as the fires in the Amazon were first being heavily-publicized.”

elsa kennedy redwoods
Elsa Kennedy / Photo by Madeleine Hordinski

“‘Redwoods’ is essentially the amalgamation of longing for all of these impossibly magnificent parts of the world to somehow make it through all of this – including my love, Amy – who is perhaps the most unbelievable, enchanting force in my life. And it’s a promise, to her, the world, and myself, to keep unflinchingly yearning for wonderful things.”

The track marks the first of four singles that Kennedy will release at the end of each month, leading up to the release of her four-song Cadmium EP on December 27. She will also release a video for “Redwoods” on October 11.

“I feel lucky to be able to yearn for things, to love someone so deeply, that the longing for them becomes songs, sketches, paintings, and poems, or new ways of seeing things, new ways of listening to the world,” Kennedy continued.

“It’s a dogged love, that’s almost larger than life, like the redwood forests, like the people closest to us that somehow shape our entire world, like the upside-down galaxy of the ocean. And feeling all of that, the impossible beauty of it all, it transcends pain, life, death, everything.”

PREMIERE: beccs Awakens Creative Feminine Energy with “By The Sea”

Photo by Katelyn Kopenhaver

We last heard from Becca Gastfriend, a Brooklyn-based alt-soul singer who performs under the shortened eponym beccs, back in 2016, when she released her harrowing Unfound Beauty EP. The debut (and the powerful video for its lead single, “Therapy”) chronicled her struggles with an eating disorder and celebrated the ups and downs of the healing journey she had embarked on. Now, she’s back with “By the Sea,” a new single that explores coming of age themes, lustful longing, and abandonment, while meandering into hopeful escapism and finally ascending into the higher power of self love.

“By the Sea” is a huge leap for beccs, who makes her debut in music production and filmmaking with the help of co-producer Sam Mewton, guitarist Corey Leiter, and photographer/multimedia artist Katelyn Kopenhaver. “The making of the song — learning to produce, arrange, mix and make a film— made room for me to live what it was speaking about,” beccs says. ““By The Sea” became a testament to women finding out what is possible when they trust themselves and start creating with their own hands.”

I sat down with the John Lennon Songwriting finalist to discuss the inspiration behind the sonically mesmerizing, haunting ballad.

AF: Can you discuss the inspiration and meaning behind “By the Sea”?

Beccs: I feel the original intent behind the song is quite literal. It’s about someone I’m thinking of, but the song, despite its meditative cadence, takes you for a ride. By The Sea mourns the ethereal loss of someone you love as much as it discovers what lays beyond — a return to oneself. I tried to capture, through the sonic and visual direction we took, how both healing and painful this return can be.

AF: How did you connect with your collaborators? What was the creative process for the music video?

B: Katelyn and I have been collaborating for three years now in mostly photography and conceptual work but neither of us had ever made a film. We were at a diner when Katelyn popped the question, “Can you let me make your next video?” I booked our bus right then and there. We were a two-woman crew, writing, shooting, and editing our very first film start-to-finish, working around the sun in the dead of winter with one camera. It was one of the best weekends of my life. Katelyn learned final cut pro in an afternoon and it took us seven editing sessions to finish it up, our eyes and taste maturing as we went. I remember playing K “By The Sea” and seeing her cry for the first time. I’ll just say the song became as much about what Katelyn and I found together as it did about the person I speak to in the song.

Corey Leiter, a most thoughtful songwriter himself, and I had met at a show in Barcelona. I knew his tender touch on guitar was it for “By The Sea.”

Sam Mewton and I met on a Bockhaus bill. Sam had just released his EP Ensnaring (imagine a digital Perfume: Story Of A Murderer meets 28 Days Later). This dystopic soundscape could not have been more different than the demo I was about to send him. But Sam stretched my ears and gave me the space to say no. This sort of collaboration in the music studio felt invaluable to me as a female artist.

AF: Feminine agency is so important when building a body of work that feels authentically your own. Can you talk about your personal growth through the process of reclaiming your voice, and trusting your creative instincts?

B: I feel like I barely got my feet wet – excuse the pun – with “By The Sea.” It was my first stab at producing and arranging, and I can’t begin to fathom how far I have to go. At the same time, it felt monumental relative to my growth. I just never thought I could turn the knobs. I don’t think I was prepared for how much work and stillness it took to sit, listen and learn. At first glance, it’s the technical skills that feel daunting. Looking back, it was the skill of listening—to myself and my song— being patient with the answers and okay with the disappointment that made the greatest difference. It’s true how having so few female producer role models can have a significant impact on an artist. If you don’t see it, it’s hard to believe it. Marina Abramović advised artists to look out into the horizon where the water meets the sky. Observing that expanse has the power to stretch our minds to new possibilities. Luckily, I got out to the sea and had friends and collaborators nudging me back towards me. Thank you, if you’re reading this!

AF: Can you discuss the process of independently learning to produce, arrange, and make a film?

B: I think the first step is dissolving the fear, doubt, and guilt that gets in the way from learning something new, particularly in a field that is male-dominated. It took me a year or so to get past this first wrung on the ladder. I started learning guitar. Then Ableton. I enlisted some friends to give me lessons. Honestly, I had to make sticker charts for myself. It was like pulling teeth. But I did it, though it wasn’t until Katelyn and I had already made the film that I really plunged into the production on this song. Katelyn became a motivation. I didn’t want to disappoint her and I wanted to find the sonic world to match our visual one. Coming back to my cello which I hadn’t touched in years also played a big role in the actual production as did my voice and its different capabilities. I was like “if turning knobs on midi irks me, why don’t we just start with what we like?” So I just messed with my voice. It can do some WEIRD things. It’s funny… the whole thing felt like a letter to someone I love. The more specific and obsessed I got in writing that letter, the deeper I could plunge into the learning of it all. That’s probably why I made these postcards – hit me up if you want one!

AF: Your sound resonates music from generations past. If you could choose a different time period to create music in – even just for a month long residency, which era would it be?

B: I normally would say ’90s and cozy up with Paula Cole (which I’ve actually done!) and Tori Amos and my beloved Beth [Gibbons] from Portishead. But honestly, I’ve been feeling ’60s/’70s Janis Ian and Melanie hard lately. I do have to say that “Mysteries” on Beth Gibbons’ solo album Out Of Season was a big sonic inspiration for “By The Sea.”

Photo by Katelyn Kopenhaver

AF: What advice do you have for women and girls out there searching to find their authentic voice and creative freedom?

B: Spend time with yourself. Embrace your boundaries. Get rid of the miscellaneous — the people-pleasing mannerisms and language we use to muddy our message, mute our power and cut ourselves short from communicating what we really want and need. Develop the skill of listening to the pit in your stomach. The one that cramps up when someone is crossing a line, when you hear a sound you don’t like around your lead vocal, when you’re about to make a decision, big or small, that disagrees with what you believe in. And take the time to become autonomous, take the time to learn. As my friend Paul says, we are always in the middle. Future you will thank you.

beccs performs live in collaboration with Little Kruta Orchestra on Wednesday, July 17 for The Hum Series with opening act Treya Lam. Purchase tickets here., and follow beccs on Instagram and Facebook for more updates.

PLAYING ATLANTA: Victoria Blade Talks Lo-Fi Love Songs and the Long Road Home

For singer-songwriter, actress, and filmmaker Victoria Blade, home is less of a place than a state of mind.

Michigan-born, Blade has since called Detroit, Chicago, Brooklyn, and – finally – Atlanta home. Before you start calculating how much time and energy it would take to simply move from city to city, let me add another daunting task to the list: on top of all of her own creative endeavors, she’s also the co-founder of independent record label, Already Dead Tapes with her husband, Joshua Tabbia.

Her latest release, the warm, deeply intimate debut LP, Lo-Fi Love Songs, is more of a look into Blade’s personal journal than a generic singer-songwriter record. Written and recorded alone with the use of a Tascam 4-track, Lo-Fi Love Songs details the lives of Blade and her husband over the last seven years, at times chronicling their adventures together before diving inward, examining the ongoing changes – and challenges – of the life of a creative nomad. Set to a delicately precise sonic backdrop that blends folk with the sweet sensibility of indie pop, Blade is equal parts studied and effortless, good-natured and introspective, and always – always – carefree in her delivery.

In the midst of days on set, in studio, and on the road, I caught up with Blade to talk all things moving, music, and the simple joys of cheap champagne and hot jazz.

AF: Let’s start from the beginning! When did your musical journey start? Was it always a part of your life, or was it something you grew into?

VB: I’ve been singing forever. I remember discovering a stack of Jackson 5 45s in the garage as an eight-year-old and I was done for. When I was 10, I auditioned for the musical Annie and got the lead role, even though I forgot the lyrics at my audition. I continued to do musical theatre for years. In college, I started songwriting with my soon-to-be husband and composing songs for original plays. I started to realize I had a gift for combining lyrics and melodies in a way that helped make sense out of life. In Chicago, I fell in with a group of songwriters at our local church. It was an incredibly supportive community with lots of creative freedom. I was encouraged to be myself and write whatever I wanted. My songwriting exploded and became a constant source of inspiration in my daily life.

AF: Who do you consider your greatest inspirations?

VB: Otis Redding, Charles Bradley, Elvis Presley. I love their soul and raw vocals. Right now I am really inspired by The Garden and Shabazz Palaces. I’ve always loved Ben Kweller. Also, my husband, Josh Tabbia, is a total badass because he’s a doer and not a talker, writes beautiful music and built Already Dead Tapes from the ground up.

AF: You recently released a pair of new singles: “I Don’t Wanna Worry” and “Moving Song.” What inspired the songs?

VB: Growing up, I was surrounded by a lot of over-thinkers and couch philosophers. “I Don’t Wanna Worry” is a rejection of that way of life. It’s just me processing some bad habits from my youth. My husband is the exact opposite kind of person. He doesn’t overanalyze things. He just works really hard on what’s important to him. And we have a lot of fun!

“Moving Song” is about the pleasure and pain of leaving what you love to discover something new. I used to crave a permanent home. A city I could live in forever. But it hasn’t panned out that way. I’ve moved from Detroit to Chicago to Brooklyn and now Atlanta. I love discovering new cities and tend to get bored once a city is too familiar.

AF: What drew you to Atlanta? Do you think you’ve found a home base? How does the scene differ from other cities?

VB: I’ve learned to embrace change and almost expect it these days. Atlanta was a total surprise. We were living in Brooklyn and ready to move on. NYC is an incredible place but it takes a toll. I’m an actor and started doing research on the film/TV industry in Atlanta. I talked to some actors in Atlanta and couldn’t believe the amount of opportunities here. We decided to dive in and try it. It’s been exhilarating and fun. Wherever I am is home base. It’s never my goal to move. As a couple, we are creative nomads. We move wherever is going to nourish us as artists the most. And right now, that is definitely Atlanta! Atlanta feels like a small town compared to NYC and Chicago. But that’s not a bad thing. I’m not an expert on the local music scene yet – that’s going to take some time. There’s a lot less of everything here, which is refreshing.

AF: What’s your writing process like? Do you typically write alone, or is it more collaborative?

VB: It just depends on the project. Everything on Lo-fi Love Songs is super intimate and simple and written by just little ol’ me. I’ve collaborated a lot over the years and I love that way of creating just as much as writing alone.

AF: Your debut record, Lo-Fi Love Songs, released on May 31st. What message do you hope to share with your listeners? Why do you think it’s so important for them to hear, feel, and connect with that? 

VB: My main goal is to reach people’s hearts. To offer hope, encouragement, and love. That is the motivation behind everything I do as an artist. There’s so much pain and suffering out there. My desire is to uplift and empower others. Life is messy and these songs help make a little sense out of the chaos. When we tune into our heart, we can live with more clarity and authenticity.

AF: What inspired you to write this new record? What do you consider to be the most exciting part of recording it, and what was the most challenging?

VB: The album was inspired by my husband’s and my creative journey as wayfaring artists. The tracks were selected from the many songs I’ve written over the years telling our story. I wanted the recording quality to match the intimate atmosphere of the music. The most exciting part of recording was capturing the warm, lo-fi sound I was going for. This was also the most challenging part as I had to learn to slowly capture each song on a Tascam 4-track that I had never used before. It was a delicate and technical process that I got the hang of eventually.

AF: You’re an actress, producer, and singer-songwriter. What drives you to create? Do you find one of these mediums more authentic or expressive to you, or do you find that they all offer a way for you to express yourself at different times and in different ways?

VB: Songwriting in some ways feels like the easiest and most immediate way to express myself creatively. Acting and filmmaking require so many other steps and collaborators before you can finish or share anything. It can be challenging. So songwriting has been a creative life-saver for me over the years.

AF: You’ve been in Atlanta for just over a year now; what’s your favorite aspect of the Atlanta music scene?

VB: Everything in Atlanta feels so accessible. It feels like an open door. There are a lot of great people here who are doing things out of sheer passion and that’s exciting.

AF: Favorite place for a good show and a drink?

VB: I really like The Earl. But there are so many great venues in Atlanta it’s hard to choose. One of my favorite places in the world for live music is The Green Mill in Chicago where the jazz is hot and the champagne is only $6!

AF: Last one! What’s next for Victoria Blade?

VB: I have a music video for “Moving Song” that will release this summer and I’m looking forward to planning a tour for later this year! Acting wise, I have roles on a few upcoming HBO shows. I’m also shooting a top-secret project with Janelle Monae next month.

Keep track of Victoria and her travels on Facebook, and stream Lo-Fi Love Songs on Spotify this Friday. 

PLAYING DETROIT: Silence Is The Noise Uplifts Black Women With “Nappy”

Detroit-based singer-songwriter Silence Is The Noise (Jewell Bell) has returned after a three-year hiatus with “Nappy,” a striking “love song for black women.” The song is a positive, empowering ode dedicated to uplifting black women and celebrating physical characteristics that have “historically been derided by white supremacy and make black women who they uniquely are.” Bell uses her soulful voice – which can hold a candle to the greats like Nina Simone, Beyonce, and Jill Scott – to embolden black women around the world.

“I am all too aware of the invisibility and marginalization of black women,” says Bell. “In writing ‘Nappy,’ I felt like it was something that I would not only want to listen to and feel strengthened by, but also for the women whom I love as well as black women globally. That affirmation of our beauty, strength, humanity, and visibility has always been a driving force in my life.”

“Nappy,” which was written and arranged entirely by Bell, touches on both the physical and intangible characteristics of black women. In the chorus, Bell sings, “I’m happy to be nappy/Thicker lips, thighs, and ass cheeks/Got soul that has carried me this far.” The message is simple: no matter what society or anyone else has told you, you’re perfect the way you are. Bell’s soul is evidenced in her gorgeously gritty voice, brushed with the wisdom of the world and personal experiences that have only made it stronger.

After making time for grieving and self-care following some personal losses these past three years, Bell is back stronger than ever and ready to share her voice with the world. She says the time off helped her grow as an artist and plans to follow up “Nappy” with an EP later this year. Listen to the single below.

TRACK REVIEW: Rosie Carney “Awake Me”

“My whole life just seemed like a cloud of fog,” Rosie Carney states frankly on her website, sharing explicit details about the pain she’s experienced: bullying, sexual assaults, an eating disorder, being dropped from a major label at the age of seventeen. Now twenty, it’s no wonder  Carney, who hails from Ireland, has such a haunting voice. But on her single “Awake Me,” lyrics like “I’ve been a fool for more than half of my life, I’ve tried to hide/ Awake me,” seem to show that she is confronting and overcoming her past. Not that she needs to claim any great sorrow to be taken seriously as a singer – she’s able to express multitudes even when her voice hovers close to a whisper, and create mountains of tension just by lingering on a pause. All that accompanies her voice are simple, repetitive guitar arpeggios, but as her voice ascends higher and higher in spirals toward the end of the song, it’s easy to imagine her leaving behind the fog, the bullies, the stigma of mental illness – everything.

Find some release and resolve in the gorgeous track below:


Taiwanese-based singer-song writer and actress Enno Cheng is doing a long stay in the Big Apple. She just finished recording a new album, Pluto, due April and she is now working on her first book. Moreover, she just played her debut show in New York at The Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan.

On a rainy afternoon, we sat down at a delicate coffee shop in Soho and chatted about her stay in New York, her upcoming solo album and her love for cosmology.

Audiofemme: You’ve been in New York for about two weeks now, what is one of your observations so far?

Enno: I have attended a few shows since I got here, and the first thing that I picked up on was how self-centered audience members at concerts in New York are. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. I mean how captivated they are when they are attending concerts. No one seems to care about their surroundings. Everyone is lost in his or her own world. It’s pretty magical!

So, I think my biggest observation is that New Yorkers certainly know how to live in the moment and enjoy all of the moments. It doesn’t matter if they are dancing along with music, walking on a random street or just living their daily routines, they don’t hide nor do they shy away from their feelings and emotions; they enjoy it. I think this is a really special thing.

Audiofemme: What is your daily routine like in New York?

Enno: Walking everywhere, everyday. I walk all over the place because New York is a new city to me, there’s so much stuff to see. Whether it is a broad road, a tiny alley, a wall of graffiti, a funny street sign, an interesting restaurant or just people on the street. There are always things to discover.

Audiofemme: Is there a specific song you’ve been listening to a lot since you got here?

Enno: I have Warpaint’s “New Song” on repeat like all the time. It’s the perfect walking around song for me. And I appreciate their arrangements here a lot.

Audiofemme: What are some of your plans in 2017?

Enno: I’m going to release my new solo album Pluto this year. Basically going to start all the promotions for the release as soon as I am back to Taiwan. Also, I’m currently working on publishing a book. I have been writing a lot. So the album and the book are my two main focuses for 2017, and they pretty much will occupy all of my time this year.

Audiofemme: Your last solo album was called Neptune (2011) and your upcoming album is called Pluto (due April 2017); both of them are named after planets, does the cosmos have a special place in your heart?

Enno: I have been obsessed with cosmology since I was little. I especially enjoyed visiting the planetarium and  am very fond of the stars and planets. I find the universe very romantic, in that it can be very gigantic, but it can also be very tiny. There’s no definite; it is all about relativity. This is similar to how I see the world, and the way people interact with each other. One tends to be attracted to the bigger and stronger other. Relativity is all it is.

Audiofemme: How do these two albums differ?

Enno: Neptune and Pluto definitely have different focuses. To being with, I need to start with the relationship of these two planets. Neptune is the farthest planet in the Solar System. Pluto (which is no longer in the Solar System) is a weird one because it interferes with all the other planets in the Solar System except Neptune. Rather, it moves forward with Neptune. They stare at each other in a relative distance.

The surface of Neptune is very cold but internally the planet is hot. At the time when I was making Neptune, I thought this represented me precisely. During the Neptune days, I was still pretty introverted. I hadn’t met a lot of people or experienced many events in life. Therefore, most of the songs in that album were actually monologues to myself; they were actually very personal.

However, years have passed, I have been though various phases, got exposed to other people, grown up and have become a more extroverted and direct person. So, Pluto is more about the strong connection I have with people. It has to do with human relationships; it has to do with love.

Keep your ears out for Pluto, out this April, and in the meantime peep a few of Enno’s gorgeous tunes from Neptune below:

PLAYING DETROIT: Anna Ash “Floodlights”


Michigan native and L.A resident, Anna Ash is holding on, not back. A sincere sorceress of internal voyeurism, Ash’s fragile confidence stands firm ground and shines brightly on her sophomore record Floodlights released earlier this week. Slide guitar and dusty, feathered percussion dip and sway against Ash’s strikingly pure and piercing songbird soprano. Floodlights is a poignant display of a love run dry and/or a love gone awry that rolls with the patience of an impending storm on the horizon; lightening without the thunder.

Is Floodlights a country record? Maybe. It tangos with rock n roll attitude on occasion and yanks on some folky heartstrings, too. But beyond genre displacement, the record is a grand achievement in story telling, quietly exposing the deepest layers of epidermis with a tender honesty that doesn’t require categorization, only reflection.

Recorded in Minnesota, mastered on the West Coast and the reprisal of Ash’s Michigan band (Joe Dart, Julian Allen, and James Cornelison) Floodlights creation is as well traveled as the pictorial pastures and valleys the album dares to explore. “Player” is finger waving, audacious dose of told-you-so whereas Ash’s Lucinda Williams cover “Fruits of my Labor” is a sensual peach bite coated in sultry regret and the track “Hold On” is a bouncy series of what-if’s and hypothetical missteps. No ground is left uncovered on Floodlights but it isn’t until the title/closing track that we are forced to our knees after a perilously raw journey through Ash’s beautifully tormented history. Barely exceeding a whisper, Ash compares the shake of an old car to the way her voice warbles when she lies, professing that “It ain’t gonna kill you to sleep alone once and a while.” A heart wrenching, steering wheel clenching kiss goodbye to us, to them, to who she is or was, “Floodlights” as a singular track and as a collection rattles with a tender brutality that is relatable and malleable, melted and frozen.

Mostly Midwest premiered the album this week and is streaming it in it’s entirety now. Check out the playful track “Player” below:

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PLAYING DETROIT: Frontier Ruckus “27 Dollars”


A summer fantasy written in the thick of a Michigan winter, Detroit’s favorite folky foursome Frontier Ruckus delivers a new track “27 Dollars” from their forthcoming LP, just in time to instill premature longing for a summer that still has a few hours on the clock.

Singer-songwriter Matthew Millia is no stranger to volunteering his vulnerabilities by means of his pleasantly troubled troubadour dance with intimacy to the rich, extensive Americana fabric of the Frontier Ruckus catalogue. Joined by David Jones, Zachary Nichols  and Anna Burch, Milia and company have tapped into a beloved era of mid-2000’s indie with a modern emotional intelligence that is fit for timelessness. A little Belle & Sebastian, a tad Okkervil River with a dash of seasonal repression and hopeful ennui, “27 Dollars” is an upbeat anthem for restless hearts and empty pockets; a true midwestern cocktail. The track bounces with banjo twang and swaying synths, eliciting a backseat tour through pot hole, pock marked streets with a cracked phone screen that you check incessantly despite finger tip splinters.

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PLAYING DETROIT: Ohtis “Runnin'”

adam by kenny

The return of Adam Pressley (Prussia, Jamaican Queens) and Sam Swinson’s beloved project, Ohtis, is really good news. Formed and broken-up in Illinois while currently reunited and divided between LA and Detroit, Ohtis premiered the first track “Runnin'” off of their forthcoming album Bobo, Dad, and Holy Ghost. 

“Runnin'” feels like something out of 2008. A story-driven, soft spoken Fleet Foxes-esque tale or a sad desert realization with dampened slide guitar wading in and out circa Wilco’s self-titled record.  Ohtis brings us a track that feels like a hand floating out of the window of a silent car ride, the wind pushing back against a palm telling it what direction to go, the only conversation being the sound of air escaping between parted fingers.

The track opens with: “The expression you were wearing of emotional pain / Like anybody struggling to keep themselves sane,” that set the tone of Ohtis’ painterly Americana breed of misery. It’s a song about surrender, drunk driving through the plains and crossed fingers for a lovers return. The chorus drifts away from uncertainty and sways towards an invitation into a new past with the line: “We together will be better than me.”

With “Runnin’,” Ohtis has delivered an atypical strain of heartbreak that hones in on what’s to be gained, not what has been lost. The experience feels as it was seen through two sets of eyes, although only one voice remembers everything the eyes had seen. It isn’t until a female voice sneaks into the final reprise of the chorus that you feel that resolve is near and the next adventure even closer.

Ohtis plays a set in Ferndale this Saturday, July 16 at 6:30 p.m. as part of Pig & Whiskey Festival.