FUV Live 24: Artists on Songwriting
FUV Live 24 is a collection unlike any other we've ever released: 23 songs recorded between 2020-2021 in various locales that reflected our FUV Live and Marquee Live at Home sessions during this time of DIY ingenuity, as artists played remotely in home studios, professional studios, rehearsal spaces, empty concert venues, and tricked-out bedrooms and living spaces.
There's a special intimacy and emotional resonance to these recordings as these musicians, like everyone else, dealt with deep uncertainty about the future, finding respite in their own creative process. We're grateful to every single artist who contributed to our latest compilation. (The cover is designed by FUV's artist-in-residence, Nicole Atkins!)
We asked five of the musicians on the new FUV Live 24 to tell us the backstory of the song they've contributed, and how it might have grown or changed in live performance:
Julien Baker on "Faith Healer"
I wrote the first verse of this song in a hotel in Portugal, years before I started making Little Oblivions. I had the idea for a lyric which was just "I miss being high." It's on the nose, but it's honest. I was sober at that time and thinking a lot about how I — and probably many people — are ultimately always trying to alleviate pain, or to manufacture joy, and how throughout our lives we just cycle through methods of coping. Some are healthier than others, but the craving for an end to suffering, even a temporary one, is pretty ubiquitous. I found I was self-medicating with something always, even while sober; a compulsive behavior, an obsession with an ideology, a zealous pursuit of faith. It took a long time before I felt comfortable broaching the subject but I think it's important to talk about. At least for myself, it is helpful to pay attention to the things I put my trust in because they make me feel better and to inquire into how healthy or effective those things actually are.
I've found as we have started playing ["Faith Healer"] live for audiences that I don't hear the lyrics so cynically anymore, maybe. I think when I wrote the chorus I was speaking from a very disillusioned place, making the statement that I'll believe anyone if they make me feel something, as in saying I would willingly be deceived if it provided me a way out of numbness and despondency. Singing it now — hearing people sing along and getting to perform with some of my closest friends onstage — I think that it is less foolish than I thought to maintain belief in something that moves you, even if you have to restructure, redefine, or renegotiate that belief.
Ani DiFranco on "Simultaneously"
I wrote "Simultaneously" in the kitchen of Big Blue — my former home/studio in New Orleans. I wanted to write a song with a good groove that I would enjoy playing live and I succeeded. The world is so heavy these days that everything comes out as a dirge unless I intentionally push myself in a different direction.
"Simultaneously" seems to be the same song on stage as she is at home. My favorite part of the song to perform is coming back into the verse figure after the first chorus — there’s this pause and when the groove kicks back in, if we do it just right, the audience gets happy.
Deep Sea Diver's Jessica Dobson on "Impossible Weight"
My most vivid memory of recording this song was when my producer Andy Park had me run in place for two minutes straight — and then continue to do so as I sang “It's an impossible weight” in the bridge. David Byrne from Talking Heads used to do that on recordings to capture a different, more frenetic spirit. It fit the song perfectly as it deals with the angst of knowing that you can’t carry everything in your life.
I think that "Impossible Weight" always takes on new meaning for me when I’m singing it because it deals with quieting both the past and future critical voices. The angularness of the guitars and how I play the song sometimes feels like a sword against whatever I’m dealing with. I also love playing this song acoustically as it brings out a different tone and weight to the lyrics.
Lake Street Dive's Bridget Kearney on "Hypotheticals"
I completed writing the lyrics for the song in the back lounge of our bus while we were on tour. The last thing that came together was the bridge, and I remember giggling to myself with the hum of the road beneath me as the lines "Nobody can see into the future — even the weatherman gets caught in the rain sometimes" came together. It was a perfectly ridiculous expression of how life surprises each and everyone of us, no matter how much we may try and prepare for it.
The intro to "Hypotheticals" is rubato, or out of time. So there is no exact tempo that moves the chords along and we all have to listen very closely to Rachael [Price] singing the melody to know where the chords should land. It is a nice moment of floating uncertainty (appropriate to the song's themes, I suppose!) that opens up all of our ears and makes the landing point of the beat dropping on the first chorus all the more satisfying.
Local Natives' Ryan Hahn on "Lemon"
The music and melodies for “Lemon” came together quickly compared to a lot of our songs. I remember writing it outside on the porch with my coffee in the morning and driving to Taylor [Rice]'s house to finish it later that afternoon. There’s always a special affinity you feel for the songs that arrive quickly.
One of my favorite memories of working on “Lemon” was our initial meeting with Sharon [Van Etten] a few weeks later at our old rehearsal space in Atwater. We all knew the song still needed an ending section and Sharon almost immediately came up with this beautiful descending falsetto melody that was perfect. At the end of the day we recorded a voice memo demo on my phone. I’ll never forget driving home from dinner with my then girlfriend, now wife, later that night and listening to the voice memo. Both of us got chills when Sharon’s voice came in and we just kind of smiled in amazement. To have been a fan of Sharon’s for so long and to suddenly hear her voice on one of our songs was incredibly thrilling.
We played "Lemon" for the first time live at the Greek [Theater] in L.A. last month. The fact that it was released and promoted during the isolation of the pandemic made it feel that much more like a communal experience finally playing it live. Plus, Lucy Dacus performed it with us that night and together we wrote some new harmonies that made it an even more unique performance. The thing that really struck me live was hearing the low end of Nik [Ewing]'s synth bass booming in at the end. It’s a such a sparse, intimate arrangement, that the bass line feels really powerful when it comes in. “Lemon” was one of my favorite moments of that night.