Is this the beginning of doom country?
Americana UK last chatted with then New Orleans resident Esther Rose just over two years ago around the release of what was probably her best album to date, ‘How Many Times’. This time she has a new album out, ‘Safe To Run’, on New West Records and she has moved to Santa Fe. Esther Rose explains to Americana UK’s Martin Johnson that these aren’t the only changes that have occurred with ‘Safe To Run’ marking a new musical phase in her career, and her final acceptance of digital technology. She may have moved to Texas but she still maintains her New Orleans connection with Alynda Segarra and Silver Synthetic guesting on the new album. She half-jokingly suggests that ‘Safe To Run’ could be the start of doom country and offers readers some very personal advice.
How are you, are you still in New Orleans?
I just returned from a long tour to my home in Santa Fe which is where I’ve lived for the past two years. It takes me a few days to acclimate to home life and remember how to relax. So basically I’m watching ‘Succession’ and working out.
We spoke over two years ago about the release of ‘How Many Times’. You are back with ‘Safe To Run’ on New West Records, what else has changed, and what has remained the same?
Much has changed! I now perceive ‘How Many Times’ as the final album I made while living in New Orleans. ‘Safe to Run’ features my Taoseño collaborators as the backing band. Also, I used to be more stubborn about the recording process and needed everything to be analogue and live-to-tape. This time we threw that out the window and recorded digitally so there is much more experimentation throughout.
What remains the same is my perpetual search for compelling new material and my gratitude for all the folks who support my vision.
The title track has a duet with Alynda Segarra of Hurray For The Riff Raff’, what was that like?
It felt like when the cool/weird kid sits next to you on the school bus. I’ve admired Alynda forever and looked up to them as an artist fiercely dedicated to their craft. The song ‘Safe to Run’ is very precious to me and I knew that Alynda would get it and know what to do. I don’t have the right language for the huge feelings I experience when I hear Alynda sing, but anyone who listens to HFTRR knows what I’m talking about. I remember full-body goosebumps when we were arranging the part together in the studio.
You keep things very New Orleans with Silver Synthetic backing you on many tracks. What did they bring to the record?
I am a huge fan of Silver Synthetic and their laidback rock and roll vibe. Halfway through making the album in New Mexico, producer Ross Farbe and I took the unfinished songs to New Orleans to work with Silver Synthetic & Alynda. It feels like there is a sonic bridge connecting my past to the present. I’ve found that certain special bands have the mutability to back up other songwriters. My early albums feature members of The Deslondes and it feels like a similar thing happened with Silver Synthetic. They are featured on tracks 6 & 7 so it feels like for a moment we are back on the dancefloor at BJ’s in the Bywater.
You have a track ‘Chet Baker’, what is that all about?
This song is a time capsule of me at age twenty-three. I wanted to document the “before times”; before New Orleans and songwriting, I was waiting tables in Ann Arbor and waiting for my life to begin. Although I wasn’t exactly looking for trouble, I wasn’t not looking for it either. This song is about reconciling with my past. It’s equal parts “joyous romp” and “you were lucky to survive”.
There are very interesting sonic textures on ‘Safe To Run’, even a mellotron which seems to be going through a mini-revival at the moment. How did you sculpt your sound on the record?
When digging for inspiration prior to recording, producer Ross Farbe and I were simultaneously reliving our obsession with the intensity of Elliott Smith and the timeless rock of Wilco. We threw in some super fun pop & techno elements that may take many listens to notice, like a clap rush in ‘Levee Song’ & pitched up baby voice effect in ‘Safe to Run’.
How much pressure do you feel now your career is moving up a step, and how are you dealing with the new demands?
I have slowly and steadily developed my craft and built my team so any growing pains have been minimal. It has all felt very natural. At some point soon I need to carve out time to detach from social media and industry-related things, which are very exciting and alluring but are not the main course. I’m overdue for a microdose in the mountains.
For anyone who hasn’t caught up with your music yet, how would you describe what they will experience with ‘Safe To Run’?
These are 21st-century digital girl feelings wrapped up in expansive, pop arrangements. I’ve been calling it our “doom-country” album. It’s a good album to put on the headphones and take a long walk.
What do you hope to be doing in 2023 and any plans to come to the UK?
I am definitely going to finish watching ‘Succession’ and work out a bunch. And then lots and lots of touring.
At AUK, we like to share music with our readers, so can you share which artists, tracks, or albums are currently top three on your personal playlist?
Obsessed with Dean Johnson, Kara Jackson, and Westerman.
Finally, do you want to say anything to our readers?
As much songwriting can feel like it is a solitary pursuit, it would undoubtedly be meaningless without friends and folks to share with. So thank you for taking the time to read this. And remember to pee after sex.
Esther Rose’s ‘Safe To Run’ is out now on New West Records.