Posts Tagged ‘I Was Born Swimming’

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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Squirrel Flower (aka Ella O’Connor Williams) is releasing a Dinked Edition of her Polyvinyl debut, I Was Born Swimming, at the end of the month. She made a splash with lead single “Red Shoulder,” a wrenching rock tune that pairs her poised vocals with scorching guitars,

No matter how vulnerable or genuine a musician’s work is, when they get up on stage there is always an added performative element. Whether under their own name or an alias, they’re recreating a past state of mind — one that still might be fresh, but is reconstructed nonetheless. Ella O’Connor Williams considered this when deciding to make music under her childhood moniker Squirrel Flower. After releasing a few albums under her birth name, she opted to change it up a bit when her music started to evolve.

She landed on a vibrant and playful phrase with an origin she can’t recall. When people critique the name, she gets defensive and rightfully protective over a piece of her younger self: something she recognizes in various ways through her music. Her debut album I Was Born Swimming is built from flashes of her past — from reflections about her birth to moments when she was attending college in Iowa — with moody country tracks that detail tatters of lost relationships and crunchy rock songs that document her growing fortitude.

sounding astoundingly alive. “Headlights,” Williams’ second track from the record, is practically its opposite—a soft, shimmering track that proves she’s just as excellent in the realm of tender introspection.

Her first semester away from home wasn’t the easiest. The transition from just 20 minutes outside of Boston to a rural farm town led to homesickness, depression, and taking the next semester off. It was during this resting period that she started making music as Squirrel Flower. She soon realized that time in Iowa had left its creative mark.

“I had written all these songs that were different from what I had been making in high school,” Williams explains. “I think the songs I was writing were influenced by just how stark the winter and the fall there was.” She contemplated transferring, but decided to stay. “It was a great decision because I ended up being really happy there,” she says.

Her music as Squirrel Flower isn’t something you’d find out of the hippie movement per se, but there are remnants of folk, twinges of Joni Mitchell or Neil Young. She began releasing EPs in high school, self-taught and inspired by British folk and 2010s acts like Bon Iver and Laura Marling. (Learning from the latter, she explained to me, was a blessing considering Marling’s songs are in “crazy open tunings” that gave her “a totally different way of playing” guitar.)

It wasn’t until her second year at Grinnell — where she double-majored in gender, women, and sexuality studies and studio art — that Williams started experimenting with distortion and electric guitar. She liked how powerful she sounded. Moving forward, she was determined to balance the blunt spaciousness of her folk music and powerful grandiosity of electric guitar-based rock.

Squirrel Flower

Squirrel Flower – the moniker of Ella O’Connor Williams – recently announced her debut album, “I Was Born Swimming” out January 31st on Full Time Hobby. Along with the announcement she shared the video for lead single ‘Red Shoulder’; today she has followed up with new single ‘Headlights’. Showcasing a gentler side to her songwriting, ‘Headlights’ comes with a stunning video by Bao Ngo.

The track is tender and beautiful, exemplifying the way her lyrics stick firmly in the mind of the listener, lingering long after the track is over.

Speaking of the track Squirrel Flower says: “Headlights takes place in a moment of solitary reflection; a glance back and a glance forward. I wrote it on tour driving through the pioneer valley in Massachusetts in some heavy fog. Suddenly I was aware of the space the car was plummeting through, both physical and temporal.”

Bao Ngo says of the video: The video for ‘Headlights’ was inspired by cheesy, classic imagery of actors riding in cars through LA— evoking glamour and sunshine. Here, we ran with the concept and placed it in a Massachusetts suburb on a cold winter day, driving around in circles in a convertible, shooting from morning til night, playing with a slightly warped sense of time so that the video would feel a little cold and a little lonely, and perhaps at times a little jarring, while still aiming to subtly reference the beauty of older Hollywood films.”

Throughout the 12 songs that make up I Was Born Swimming, landscapes change and relationships shift. The 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.

“Headlights” is taken from Squirrel Flower’s debut full length album, I Was Born Swimming, out January 31st, 2020.