Posts Tagged ‘Ella Williams’

Squirrel Flower’s cover of Liz Phair’s “Explain It To Me” from her 1993 debut, ‘Exile in Guyville’ serves as the A-side, backed with a new Squirrel Flower original. ‘Explain It To Me’ has been one of my favourite songs since I first heard it when I was 14. I made this recording in my basement while experimenting with self harmonizing for the first time in a while. “Chicago” is a rework of an old song I originally released in 2018. It’s from a studio session a while ago and it never got used, so my brother and I put some extra guitar on it during quarantine and voila.

Ella O’Connor Williams, also known as Squirrel Flower, I originally wrote it in 2015 when I lived in the Midwest. Put it on when you’re lost/moving/found.” – Ella Williams (Squirrel Flower)

released October 13th 2020

Squirrel Flower by Ally Schmaling

Squirrel Flower’s music is ethereal and warm, brimming over with emotional depth, at the heart of it lives Ella Williams’ haunting voice and melancholic, soulful guitar.

Squirrel Flower – the moniker of Ella O’Connor Williams – announces I Was Born Swimming, her debut album, out January 31st on Full Time Hobby. The album’s title was inspired by Williams’ birth on August 11th 1996 – the hottest day of the year – born still inside a translucent caul sac membrane, surrounded by amniotic fluid. Throughout the 12 songs, landscapes change and relationships shift. The album’s lyrics feel like effortless expressions of exactly the way it feels to change – abstract, determined and hopeful. Squirrel Flower’s music is ethereal and warm, brimming over with emotional depth but with a steely eyed bite and confidence in it’s destination. The band on I Was Born Swimming plays with delicate intention, keeping the arrangements natural and light while Williams‘ lead guitar is often fiercely untethered.

The album was tracked live, with few overdubs, at The Rare Book Room Studio in New York City with producer Gabe Wax (Adrienne Lenker, Palehound, Cass McCombs). The musicians were selected by Wax and folded themselves into the songs effortlessly. At the heart of the album lives Williams’ haunting voice and melancholic, soulful guitar. The sounds expand and contract over diverse moods, cutting loose on the heavier riffs of ‘Red Shoulder’. “‘Red Shoulder’ is a song about destabilisation and dissociation,” explains Williams. “Something soft and tender becomes warped and sinister, turning into sensory overload and confusion. How can something so lovely turn painful and claustrophobic? The song ends with a heavy and visceral guitar solo, attempting to reground what went awry.” Williams comes from a deep-rooted musical family tree. Her grandparents were classical musicians who lived in the Gate Hill Co-op, an artistic cooperative from upstate New York that grew out of Black Mountain College.

Ella’s father, Jesse Williams, spent most of his life as a touring jazz and blues performer and educator, and lends his bass playing to the album. Growing up in a family of hard working musicians fostered a love of music and started Williams down her own musical path. As a child, Williams adopted the alter ego of Squirrel Flower. A couple years later, she began singing with the Boston Children’s Chorus while studying music theory and teaching herself to play the guitar.

As a teen, she discovered the Boston DIY and folk music scenes and began writing, recording, and performing her own songs, now returning to Squirrel Flower as her stage name. Sheer determination and belief quickly saw her make a name for herself in this newly discovered scene. Doing everything from making videos and artwork to the production of her music herself she recorded two EP’s and began touring, appearing on bills with the likes of Moses Sumney, Lucy Dacus, Frankie Cosmos, Jay Som, Julien Baker, Soccer Mommy and Big Thief. During this time the signature artful songcraft heard on I Was Born Swimming was formed.

With its scuzzy guitar and gentle percussion, it’s the dreamy, discombobulating sound of Lana Del Rey cosplaying Pavement.” – The Observer

“SF’s voice is both sweetly pure and possessed of a quiet strength, in the manner of Angel Olsen or Adrienne Lenker.” – Uncut

“There’s something of Springsteen’s Nebraska-era echoing loneliness…Williams truly marks out her ground as one of 2020’s most engaging new artists.” – Q

“Ella Williams’ gorgeous debut, hewn from classic rock and folk.” – MOJO

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For fans of Big Thief, Mitski and Sharon Van Etten. Squirrel Flower is the alias 21-year-old Ella Williams adopted for herself when writing and performing songs as a child. Since those early days her movement through music has progressed at a staggering pace and now a reissue of her second EP Contact Sports, available on vinyl for the first time. Contact Sports is a perfectly formed collection of songs about relationships; intimacy, dependency, betrayal and place set to the unique backdrop of the American Midwest. The first three songs represent the push and pull of love and intimacy while the last three are more meditative, more place-based. From the fulsome guitar and visceral, cathartic breakdowns of lead single Conditions to the carefully layered beauty of Hands Melt, this varied collection frequently impresses with its maturity and craftsmanship. Lyrically too, tracks like the fuzzy, dimly-lit euphoria of Daylight Savings are spellbinding in their turn of phrase as Williams sings “I know we’ve gained an hour, but I feel like we’ve lost two”.

What were you doing when you were nine? Ella Williams, aka Squirrel Flower, was touring with the Boston Children’s Chorus singing to the likes of Barack Obama and The King Of Jordan. By fourteen she was taking songwriting seriously, and now aged twenty-one looks set to take world by storm, with the upcoming re-release of her superb second EP, Contact Sports.

This week ahead of the July re-issue, Ella has shared the video from one of the record’s stand-out moments, Conditions. The video, filmed in her college’s athletic centre, ties into the EP’s central idea, that as with sports, in this case basketball, relationships can feel like, “a dangerous game, a competition.”Musically, there’s a stunning maturity to both Ella’s vocal and her songwriting, the intense guitar lines, and nuanced vocal flourishes create an intensity that contrasts the slow-moving percussion. As the song reaches its emotive conclusion, Ella’s vocal repeats the line, “don’t you dare say that you do not know me”, before becoming lost in a barrage of reverberating guitar lines. It’s a stunning piece of songwriting, if you haven’t already explored the music of Squirrel Flower, this is the perfect time to discover your new favourite songwriter.

Contact Sports is re-issued July 20th. Click HERE for more information on Squirrel Flower.

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Squirrel Flower is the project of Boston-based songwriter, Ella Williams. Working in a similar realm to the likes of Mitski or Sharon Van Etten, Squirrel Flower’s music is emotionally raw, and musically intriguing. Waves of crashing guitar chords and steady pounding drums creating a base on top of which Ella’s stunning vocals can soar and cartwheel; and what a voice it is, rich, raw and dripping with deeply, human emotion .

Whilst it’s already out, Squirrel Flowers’ latest release, Contact Sports, arrived so late in the year it was almost unanimously missed a tragedy that simply must be put right. Contact Sports was a splendid record, six tracks that effortlessly blended sweet, hushed moments with raw, almost scuzzy guitar thrashing, sparse instrumentation that somehow sounds rich and full, and a central character who seemed hurt, but not broken, as if strengthened by the emotions life has brought out of her. On the stunning closing track Midwestern Clay, Ella sings, “I got no idea what’s keeping me in the air, but nothing’s keeping me on the ground”, if she gets the exposure her music so richly deserves, she looks destined to soar.


Squirrel Flower’s beautiful new track “Midwestern Clay” is a fine example. A slow, sombre, moody piece of downbeat pop music; in light of recent events it feels wildly important, wildly moving, wildly poignant to sit and bask in its shadow, exuding a sadness that is perhaps needed to bring about some form of focus and rumination in to a week that quickly spiralled out of control.

“I’ve got no idea what I’m doing here, but I’m here, ’cause I’ve got no place else to be,” Ellä Williams bellows towards the end of her new track, her scorched, full-bodied vocal soaring high above a dirge-like guitar that simmers menacingly way down below it all, making for something that is as decidedly poignant as it is powerful.


All of these muddled words are to say that music, and art, and personal endeavours, remain as important and vital right now as they did yesterday, as they did last week, as they did last year, and they’ll continue to be just that regardless of which way this ship steers – and Squirrel Flower’s magical sombreness is proof, if needed, of such a thing.

The EP drops mid-December, via It Takes Time Records