We are drawn into ‘Below the Waterline’ by Zoe Fitzgerald Carter’s lovely vocal melody and the narrative details that tell a story in song. That story is familiar to many: a memory of young love that was destined to fail. The San Francisco-based singer-songwriter showcases her excellent songcraft as the music flows and swirls around her words. Carter benefits from working with excellent collaborators; particularly notable is Julie Wolf on keys and accordion, which sounds exquisite throughout.
Zoe explains the inspiration behind the song and video: “Below the Waterline is the title track on my new album, Waterlines. We shot the video in Richmond, California, a town better known for its oil refinery than its beaches but we found a lovely inlet looking out across the Bay at San Francisco. I wrote the song while my partner and I were staying at a friend’s house in the South of France. I had a chorus I liked but no verses and no idea what the song was about! I knew it had something to do with the way emotions, dreams and desires hide below the surface of our awareness – below the waterline so to speak – but that’s all I had. We were staying in one of those classic French towns with a castle and narrow winding streets and it reminded me of traveling in Europe when I was younger and of this mysterious, elusive boy I’d thought I was in love with. Finally – I had my song! He and I would meet in different cities in England and Ireland and the meetings were hugely significant for me although, I suspect, far less important to him. And I tried to capture that jumbled feeling of yearning and disappointment. Writing about him made me realize how unreal he’d been to me, even as I’d felt so unseen. One of the perks of writing about your life, in prose or in songs, is that you sometimes come to a new, less fraught understanding of past events — even the ones that once broke your heart.
Working with longtime Bay Area music photographer Irene Young, who shot the album cover as well as the video, was a joy as was watching Julie Wolf, who plays on the track, walk down the beach with her accordion as the tide rolled in. The drone shots are courtesy of local musician/photographer Tina Silano.”
Carter’s debut solo album, ‘Waterlines’, featuring a range of styles held together by her autobiographical stories, was released in spring 2021. She explains that the title, “…evokes the way we look for clues from the past. Like tracing the watermarks after a river has flooded or been depleted.” Central to her songs’ appeal is the way in which Carter’s life experiences become universal narratives, captured by her fine lyrics, and it’s no surprise to find out that she was previously and author essayist and journalist. Check out this excellent video premiere and lose yourself in remembering lost relationships.