Oregon-based musician Heather Woods Broderick has shared a new single and video White Tail, taken from her upcoming album Invitation out April 19th via Western Vinyl. It’s beautifully evocative and startlingly atmospheric.
I caught up with her to find out more.
Invitation takes its name from a quote by Thomas Moore which she stumbled upon while sifting through the cathartic journal entries of your mother: ‘To keep the unfolding self alive, you have to open yourself to change every step of the way. Of course there are times when it is appropriate to step back, settle down, and maybe not move for a while. But to be a person means to be faced every minute with the decision to live OR die; To accept the invitations for yet more vitality or to decline them out of fear or lethargy.’ Why did this speak to you?
At the time my mother sent me this quote I was beginning to transition out of a dark period of a couple years of feeling depressed and lost. Not only had I been going through some big personal life changes, but I was feeling the extreme weight of our political climate, meanwhile hearing each day of musicians, artists, and others who I’d looked up to taking their own lives. It was a heavy time and I was trying understand it all and find my own path through it. When I read this Thomas Moore quote it made things clear for me in a very basic way. I was already to ‘open myself to change’ and try to live as presently as I could. I realized it was my choice to make, and that I was to choosing to ‘accept the invitations’ as opposed to acting out of ‘fear or lethargy.’ It was a clear marker of time and understanding for me.
How did writing this album differ from the previous albums?
In previous years, I’ve always been touring with other musicians while trying to write my own material – making demos between tours. I would record a few songs here and a few songs there, and eventually have enough material for an album.
I wanted to slow down and have a more focused creative process this time, so I stopped touring so much and moved to the Oregon Coast to write Invitation. I wrote and recorded demos over a period of a couple of years at my home studio there. I had a pretty clear idea of how I wanted to record to sound going into the recording process, and I was lucky enough to work with D James Goodwin at Isokon studio in Woodstock, NY. So in the end the project felt more cohesive than records I’ve done in the past because I was able to stay in one place long enough to dream up the concepts and sonic palette ahead of going into the studio.
What inspires you?
While writing for Invitation I was very inspired by the landscape of the Oregon Coast – the juxtaposition of such harshness and beauty in one place, the flora and fauna that inhabit the area, solitude, playing the piano and cello, the beauty of a simple life, being outside in all sorts of weather, reading novels, to name a few.
You’ve been writing for a long time now. How does the process and sound evolve?
Generally I begin with a melody on an instrument. In the case of the material for Invitation, usually the piano. I just sit with the melody and play it over and over again until I begin to dream up words to sing along with it. Usually these first words inspire the story of the song. I have a journal where I write down things I see that strike me, moods, interactions with people, passages from books I’m reading, etc. Sometimes while I’m working on lyrics I open that journal and pick words or small phrases from those pages as a starting point.
You play with Sharon van Etten. Have you learned anything from the experience? How do you learn from other musicians?
Yes I’ve been playing with Sharon since 2011 now, and in many other bands as well. I’ve learned a lot through playing with all of these different bands. It’s interesting to work on other people’s songs because everyone’s understanding of and relationship to music is so different, so you learn a lot about other peoples process. You also learn a lot about patience, especially when touring. It’s a balancing act to mix livelihood with any kind of creative work, and adding in the element of relationships to bandmates and everyone’s personal ups and downs takes a lot of patience and compassion.
I’ll be touring with Sharon Van Etten quite a lot this year, and really hope to get out on the road with my own tour in support of Invitation later this year. Beyond that I plan to write some instrumental music next, and work on another record in collaboration with D James Goodwin. Really looking forward to all of it!