Thirty years into one of the most storied careers in popular music, Emily Saliers decided to record her debut album.
“What’s a 53 year old woman doing making her first solo record?” muses Saliers, best known as one half of the iconic duo Indigo Girls. “What compels someone like me to follow this strong attachment to rhythmic music?”
Murmuration Nation answers those questions both passionately and profoundly. In this “post-fact” era in which we find ourselves living today, Saliers’ fearless voice and insightful perspective feel more vital and relevant than ever before. The songs also reveal a new side of Saliers’ artistry, one that even her most ardent fans might not expect to hear.
“It was so freeing to pursue the kind of music I truly wanted to make without regard to what I’d done before or who I’m expected to be,” says Saliers. I hope that this record can take people who think they know me already on a journey that’ll really surprise them.”
While Indigo Girls is still very much alive and well, Murmuration Nation is Saliers’ first release under her own name, and it’s a surprising journey indeed. The record brims over with life and energy, blurring both musical and geographical boundaries as Saliers breaks down barriers with a bold and infectious spirit of adventure. Recorded with an all-star band—including bassist Tim LeFebvre (David Bowie, Tedeschi Trucks Band), keyboardist Rachel Eckroth (KT Tunstall), and drummers Robert “Sput” Searight (Snarky Puppy) and Will Calhoun (Living Colour)—and featuring guest appearances from fellow luminaries like Lucy Wainwright Roche, Jonatha Brooke, and Jennifer Nettles, the album explores the kind of rhythmically centered, globally inspired music that’s always held a special place in Saliers’ heart.
“I was born in a predominantly African American neighborhood in New Haven,” she explains. “Most of my friends growing up were black, so I was steeped in a musical culture that included James Brown, Otis Redding, and all the great R&B artists of the time. That’s the music that really stirred my spirit and made my body want to move. I found myself loving music from West Africa and South America for the same reasons. I think of it all as ‘body music.'”
The result is a record that defies easy categorization, with Saliers effortlessly mixing disparate musical traditions underneath poetic lyrics that take their cues from the natural world around us. Album opener “Spider,” for instance, brings together hints of heavy metal and Native American a capella music as Saliers weaves an arachno-centric metaphor for geopolitical trickery, while Spanish guitar gives way to orchestral strings and an electronic beat on the slithering “Serpent Love,” and the elegant “Fly” draws on avian inspiration for its message of community and cooperation.
In the end, it all comes down to balance: artistically, emotionally, spiritually. The album showcases a side of Saliers that few knew she carried within her, but one that burns as bright today as it did when she was just a youngster discovering the wide world of music around her. Thirty years is a long wait for a debut, but with Murmuration Nation, it feels like Emily Saliers is right on time.
Lucy Wainwright Roche
There’s A Last Time For Everything
Set out to explore indie singer-songwriter Lucy Wainwright Roche, and you'll discover her unforgettable voice, smart, arresting songwriting, and her stellar stage presence. If you dig a little deeper, you'll find an artist with a colorful musical pedigree who is expanding her sound with an ambitious new recording, There’s A Last Time For Everything. Lucy Wainwright Roche is hell-bent on creating a meaningful career in this post-music business era.
Born into a musical family in Greenwich Village, NYC, Lucy Wainwright Roche is deeply steeped in the musical world. In addition to her parents (Loudon Wainwright III and Suzzy Roche of The Roches) and her siblings, (Martha and Rufus Wainwright), Lucy's various aunts, uncles and cousins are all musicians. After a childhood of touring in vans and hanging out backstage at clubs and theaters around the country, Lucy went off to college and grad school –– a twist on the classic rebellion –– and became a school teacher in NYC. In 2005, on a whim, she spent a few weeks out on the road with her brother Rufus, which in turn reignited her deep connection to life on the road. Shortly after, Lucy left her teaching job to pursue music full time.
Fast forward to 2013. With two EPs (8 Songs and 8 More) and one full-length album entitled Lucy (2010) under her belt, she’s traveled thousands of miles, and armed with a just a guitar and a huge angelic voice, she’s performed solo and with countless musicians from Neko Case to the Indigo Girls in the United States and abroad.
There's a Last Time For Everything was recorded in Nashville with her friend, collaborator and producer, Jordan Brooke Hamlin. Hamlin and Roche worked together to create a dreamy landscape for the album's 11 tracks. Lucy's distinct voice and dead-on songwriting serve as the centerpiece of this rich tapestry. After 10 days in the studio, the entire album was recorded and ready for post-production.
"Jordan and I crafted these tracks over long summer days that stretched into late, late nights," says Roche. "We were gloriously swept up in the process, like kids working on a secret project. Because we were working with a limited time frame, we went with out gut on every decision. There wasn't time for us to second guess or retrace our steps. The urgency of working that way was exciting and freeing - and also a little bit terrifying”
There's A Last Time For Everything includes musical performances from an array of musicians from Chris Donahue (Emmylou Harris, Collective Soul) to Allison Miller (Brandi Carlile, Natalie Merchant) as well as several appearances by guest singers who hail from various ends of the troubadour world.
Colin Meloy (The Decemberists) adds harmonies to "Seek And Hide," which Lucy wrote while watching a man walk up and down the block outside of her building one afternoon, and is the album's upbeat and fleshed out second track.
Roche recalls, "It was a song that I wrote kind of mysteriously - and about a stranger. I knew that I wanted a male voice that was very distinctive to join me on that song. My very first choice was Colin and although I don't know him well, he graciously agreed to sing on the track and really hit the nail on the head and added just the touch I was hoping for."
The album also includes a precise and expertly executed harmony part sung by Mary Chapin Carpenter on the lilting duet, "A Quiet Line.” Both Lucy and Mary get to demonstrate their gift for harmony singing on this track.
Robby Hecht lends his soulful, meditative voice to the final track on the album, "Under The Gun." Also featured on this track, is a mournful clarinet line played by producer Jordan Hamlin.
The song "Last Time" (from which the album gets it's title) is an exploration of the way a relationship changes over time, and the pain and resignation that go hand in hand with those changes. In it's sadness, the track has a playful quality to it
"We had fun building the track for that one - we recorded zippers zipping, spoons clanging, empty yogurt containers filled with beans shaking, anything we could find. We liked the idea of cobbling together the percussion from various objects around us."
There is one cover song on the record: a reinvention of Robyn's dance hit "Call Your Girlfriend.” Roche and Hamlin’s version is stripped down to voice and guitar and fleshed out with harmonies, making it strikingly different from the original.
After the whirlwind recording process, a couple of weeks were spent in post production where Hamlin and Roche continued to fine tune the tracks with the help of additional recording and mixing by Grammy winning Producer Stewart Lerman, who also recorded and produced Lucy's first three recordings. Joshua Moore handled editing and mixing.
"By the end of recording, I was sitting there with 11 tracks that I really loved and I need ask myself, 'How am I going to get this record heard'?
Knowing that she would be working without a record label, Lucy set out to find a way to finance the album and publicize it.
"I thought a lot about doing a kickstarter campaign to raise the funds but I worried that people are burnt out from all the fundraising that’s going on these days. I was interested in finding a slightly different approach."
In the end, Lucy decided on two strategies. The first, to offer the record for pre-order and include a few previously unreleased duets recorded by Lucy and her mother Suzzy. In the process of recording these extra tracks, the pair decided to continue recording an entire album, Fairytale and Myth, collaboration with the late great Rob Morsberger.
"It's amazing how having to think on your feet about funding one record can result in an entirely different recording coming to life."
Roche's second fundraising strategy was to offer house concerts – shows in private homes. The idea has proved very successful and has enabled Lucy to raise money for promotion and production.
"It's a great way to get to know your fans better," she says. "A real point of connection, because you're entering into their world and both parties are taking a chance, not totally sure how it will turn out. It's been a thoroughly rewarding way to raise money and it feels like a very equal exchange, which is something I like about it."