by Caroline Smith
Your new video for ‘To The Boys’ came out a few days ago, and it’s stop-motion animation except for your face– which is transposed onto a paper doll. Where did the idea for that video from?
The video concept was totally the animator’s idea! For this album, I wanted to go to directors and artists that I really admire and just let them go with it, and give up some of my control over it. I reached out to Emily Ann Hoffman, the animator, and that was what she came up with. I loved the concept so much and I felt like it worked with the song really well, so it was super easy for me to just sit back and let her do the work!
I also love your new single “Wild.” What was the writing process like for that song, and what does it mean to you?
That one was the last song I wrote before we went into record, and I wrote it only a day before we actually recorded it– so it was a pretty fast turn-around. I write pretty quickly once I have an idea, and then I bring it to my guitarist Dailey Toliver and we work it out together before bringing it to the band to record.
I want to talk a little bit about your background. You studied jazz vocal performance in college, which is amazing. Why did you decide to study music? Did you always plan on that, or did you have some sort of realization that this was what you wanted to do professionally?
I was never a great student, really, and I was never interested in school [laughs]. But I always knew that I wanted to pursue music, and I wanted to get experience with performing– so studying that in college just kind of made sense.
Your music is obviously a mix of genres, with your more vintage-y jazz vocals and your partner Dailey Toliver’s country guitar work. What drew you to combining those sounds together?
Dailey isn’t classically trained and didn’t finish school, but he’s always been in orchestras and things like that. Our sound really just naturally happened– I feel like we’re pretty organic in the way that we work together and play together. We’ve both taken our influences from classical music and jazz music, and as musicians we just click together.
What are you most excited about in your new tour? Is there a city or venue that you’re particularly
I’m really excited about this tour mostly because I have a new band set-up. I’ll have a five-piece band so I’m not going to play guitar, I’m just going to sing, which is something I haven’t done before on tour– so I’m really excited about getting the chance to just focus on my vocals. In terms of places to visit, I just love the East Coast in general, and especially the East Coast in the fall, so. That’s probably where I’m most excited to visit.
Are there any lessons you learned from your first tour that you’re bringing into your First Flower tour?
Oh, yeah, so many lessons [laughs]. Touring is just a million lessons all the time. I’m slowly learning how to eat better and take better care of myself, like learning how to not get sick and things like that. I’m very sensitive to band member dynamics on tour, so I’ve also been very careful with who I’ve asked to come with me on tour this time around.
Is there anything you’d want your listeners to take away from your new album, conceptually? Please Be Mine was more about the ups and downs of love, but your new singles seem to depart from that. What would you say are the larger themes on First Flower, and your inspirations for writing it?
I feel like there’s a lot more interpersonal themes on First Flower, like about my struggles with anxiety and my own fears. I would love if people could relate to that, and feel like they’re not alone in those feelings. I was really inspired by how I felt after the couple years of promoting and releasing Please Be Mine, and having a lot of anxiety during that time because things were just moving so quickly.
You mentioned earlier that you wanted practice performing in college, was that something that was a source of anxiety for you?
Yes, but not anymore. I did when I was kid, and I had just started performing. I had really intense anxiety around it where I would worry about a performance constantly. I would go completely red in the face and sweat because I was so insecure, but since then I’ve had a lot of experience and I don’t get anxious like that anymore. My tour anxiety now is more that it’s so over-stimulating, and you don’t get a lot of alone time to decompress, which can be really overwhelming– but I do like touring, I promise.
You’ve talked a lot before about female vocalists being a huge influence for you, particularly big jazz vocalists like Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. Are there any contemporary female vocalists working today that you draw inspiration from?
Yes, absolutely! I am obsessed with Ariana Grande’s new album– I love pop voices so, so much. I also love Natalie Prass’s new album, and Mitski’s new album. Pretty much any contemporary woman with an amazing voice I am super drawn to.
What songs are you most excited for people to hear from First Flower?
The third single we’re releasing, ‘Candy,’ I’m really excited about. There’s also a song called ‘Every Little Thing,’ which is the last song on the album, that I’m excited for people to hear– it’s actually a song I wrote a really long time ago, and it’s just this simple, stripped-down ballad that I think turned out really well.
This is just kind of a fun question– what’s something that people who know you very well would be surprised to learn about you?
Oh, man. This is a really hard one for me. I feel like everyone knows everything about me even if they don’t know me that well. I’m just an open book.
Be sure to check out Molly Burch at The Lilypad on 10/14.