For me, I think education is—it’s so at the heart of my story. I took the time to really learn the craft, and I’m still learning. I always found power in knowledge. Because especially with the music industry or with music or as a woman in the world, the more I could learn and the more that I could do myself, the less it felt like my vision was mitigated. I always measure artists by the distance between their brain and their instrument. And the goal is to always be making that distance shorter, so that when you have a creative thought, you can execute it.
So much of that education and that real slow process and the practice was about honing the craft. But I think it’s important, too, to note that the path wasn’t always linear. I thought I was going to be a music journalist. I went through long periods of writer’s block. I tried different things.
Notes from the Archive showcases four different phases of my early creative development. It starts with my shoegaze-y rock band at the end of college, which is crazy because I made that record at the same time as Now That the Light Is Fading and was sort of like, Okay, I love synths and I love guitars, so now what? I actually almost put it out right when everything was exploding just because it broke my heart to leave it behind, but I showed it to Sharon Van Etten, and she told me, “If you love these songs, save them, and they’ll find a home and their own light.” She was right. Then there’s my mid-college record Blood Ballet, where you can hear me starting to experiment with different types of production and kind of hone my writing. Then it works backwards to my first band, Del Water Gap, which I started with my friend Holden at the beginning of NYU. We used to play all around New York in bars and stuff with giant underage X’s on our hands. That was really where I started to cut my teeth as a performer and learned how to be a collaborator. And then, it ends with the oldest stuff, The Echo, my very first album that I wrote and produced and recorded from 16 to 18. It’s just banjo and strings and me learning how to engineer and mix.
All these phases were so crucial to me becoming the artist I am now. And it feels really important to honor that growth, no matter how weird or nonlinear. It was all so important to me. As I’m getting really, really excited and deep into making this new record, I can hear all the pieces. I’m coming back to themes and answering questions I had when I was 18. And it feels like coming home.
What’s so cool is that when you actually listen to the archive record, you get to hear such a full spectrum of yourself. And you hear these parts that maybe we got hints of on Heard It in a Past Life, but it’s almost like you’re hearing the origin story for all of these little notes of you that we get.
Yeah. And I think it’s important for me that you can hear me learning. So much of it is just me engineering and producing and mixing. I left all of the mixes in their original form. I didn’t touch anything because I think all of those moments and imperfections are so crucial. It’s amazing when I hear it now because I can hear how much I’ve learned. And I think it’s so important that you can hear that growth throughout the record, and take all of that information, and maybe it makes you listen to something. I wanted you to be able to read between the lines. Both for my own personal repair and remembering that even though it was fast, I’ve been doing this work for a long time.
I love that you said it’s nonlinear, because it is nonlinear in the sense that you are going back to look at this work. I also love that it’s—speaking about ambition, it’s like we live in this culture that’s so obsessed with achieving the next thing and getting to the next project and questions like: Where are we going? Where are we going? Where are we going? And I think that’s part of why it’s such a refreshing statement for an artist to make, to say, “Yeah, okay. I know where I’m going, but I don’t want to leave myself behind.”
Yeah. I think it’s really important for me to not let that part of me get left behind and to honor that work, because it was truly my first record and first complete artistic statement. Just because that person didn’t sell out headline tours doesn’t mean that she was invalid, and to disregard a body of work that defined so much of who I am would feel like a real crime against my 17-year-old self. That woman would be fucking livid.