Announcing ‘Empire Builder’ out April 1!

Dear listeners and friends,

It has been a long while (over four years!) since I’ve shared any new music with you. My previous record feels like so many lives ago. I do believe I have some valid excuses for the gap, but in honesty, it always takes me a good while to figure out what I mean to say.

With that in mind, I am profoundly pleased (and really fucking excited) to announce my fourth LP, Empire Builder, set for release April 1 on Barsuk Records (US, preorder) and City Slang Records (UK/EU, preorder). These are my favorite songs I’ve ever made.


I will go ahead here and post a track for your listening, premiered today on NPR’s All Songs Considered….listen here.
(Feel free to skip my babbling and just listen to the track)

But in case you are curious (and can endure some sappiness ahead)…

I named the record Empire Builder for the Amtrak train route I took while in the process of moving from Oregon to New York (full disclosure: I did transfer to the “Lake Shore Limited” train in Chicago and suppose I should make a companion ep called Lake Shore Limited). The title seemed appropriate because it captures a moment right in the middle of a big personal change. The past few years I’ve been haunted by this line at the end of the Rainer Maria Rilke poem, “Archaic Torso of Apollo” which (translated) reads “You must change your life”. I wanted to explore that charge for change within myself, but also grapple honestly with the consequences of such self-change. The title Empire Builder also seemed to speak to the questions I’ve been asking myself over the past few years. How do you tell desire from selfishness? What does it mean to live for others? What does it mean to live for yourself? This record is also about solitude, connection and aloneness. It is about wanting to be a badass strong woman, but also wanting to rip myself open in order to nurture and care for people.

I was able to make Empire Builder with my dream band: Dave Depper, best of pals and walking encyclopedia of rock, played bass and electric guitar and created trippy/dreamy ambient loops; Dan Hunt, who seemed to have rummaged the kitchen and toolshed for items to add to his bag of percussion, played drum parts cooler than I could have ever imagined; and Peter Broderick, whippersnapper genius, composer-violinist built insane string sections (Side note: I met Peter over ten years ago, serving coffee at my first job in Portland. Peter worked at the pizza place across the street and we had a relationship of trading free coffee for free pizza long before we discovered we were both musicians). I shared my producer duties with the wonderful John Askew, man of patient wisdom and boundless energy, and many tricks up his sleeve. John recorded and mixed the songs.

The past year has been the craziest of my life. I came to New York, thinking I’d step away from music in order to learn some new skills (specifically, to get an MFA in Fiction Writing). At the time, moving across the country felt like the hardest thing ever. I am madly in love with my Oregon friends and family (and the herons and the bramble and the Douglas Fir trees). But New York City has been a miracle of kindness.

Many of you know what came next: my apartment and possessions burned to the ground in the East Village Explosion last March. It feels strange and dramatic to bring it up here, but it is, and will continue to be, something that shapes me for the rest of my life. I cannot separate that experience from these songs. The generosity and care I received from so many people (certainly some of you) was astonishing. I think about that compassion of friends and strangers all the time. It makes me weep. As solitary as music-making can be, it always seems like a community effort to complete something meaningful, and this time I feel that more than ever. I want every one of you who helped me to feel like this is your record as much as mine (unless you hate it – then feel no obligation to call it yours), and know that I will give you a copy if you ask for one. The family I’ve found in playing music transcends time and distance and big life-changes. I am incredibly lucky.

I wanted to make something generous and true for myself and for you. At times, making music feels like saving my own life. But I am fully aware that the things that mean so much to their makers often end up hidden under a cushion in a corner somewhere, to only be discovered by a few. I hope lots of people hear these songs (and by all means, please share the heck out of it on social media), but it also feels like such a miracle to have made it at all. So many moments I thought it would end up in a drawer, or somehow evaporate into nothing, but it didn’t. I finished it.

Because so much is left to chance, isn’t it? The building I lived in. The people I met when I first started playing music. The wind blowing one direction and not another. That guy at that show. The words and phrases that came across my vision or into my head. The friends who happened to be home when I had scheduled some days in the studio. Even the things that seem so fated (like love); or the things that are also great acts of will (like moving across the country or running marathons or writing books), or the fact you are reading these words.

So do check in April 1, for some songs, and come hang out with me at a show. Here are the first few (with a bunch more to come):

Wed, 16 March – Pittsburgh, PA * Club Café (Solo show w/ Shearwater)
Thu, 17 March – Toronto, ON * Horseshoe Tavern (Solo show w/ Shearwater)
Fri, 18 March – Ferndale, MI *The Loving Touch (Solo show w/ Shearwater)
Sat, 19 March – Chicago, IL *Schubas (Solo show w/ Shearwater)
Wed, 30 March – Asheville, NC – Grey Eagle
Thu, 31 March – Atlanta, GA – Red Light Cafe
Fri, 1 April – Raleigh, NC – Kings Barcade
Sat, 2 April – Arlington, VA – Iota Club & Cafe
Sun, 3 April – Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s
Fri, 8 April – Providence, RI – Columbus Theatre
Sat, 9 April – New York City, NY – Joe’s Pub
Thu, Apr 14 – Portland, OR – The Old Church
Fri, Apr 15 – Seattle, WA – Fremont Abbey
Fri, 22 April – Brussels, BE – Huis 23@AB (special solo performance)
Sat, 23 April 2016 – Utrecht, NL – Tivoli Vredenburg Cloud
Mon, 25 April 2016 – Manchester, UK – Soup Kitchen
Tue, 26 April – London, UK – Hoxton Bar & Kitchen+
(+ special record-release showcase presented by Bird on a Wire)
Wed, 27 April – Paris, FR Point Ephemere (co-headline with Grant Lee Phillips)
Thu, 28 April – Amsterdam, NL Tuinzaal
Fri, 29 April – Marienburg Church, NL – Nijmegen
Sat, 30 April – Gent, BE – Trefpunt
Sun, 01 May – Lessines, BE – Roots and Roses Festival
Mon, 02 May – Berlin, DE – Kantine am Berghain
Tue, 03 May – Leipzig, DE – Werk 2
Thu, 05 May – Graz, AUT – Postgarage
Fri, 06 May – Vienna, AUT – Haus Der Musik

More shows will be announced soon!

Now back to working on my thesis (I have one more semester till graduation). Currently attempting to write a short story that takes place on the Oregon Trail.

Yours by chance,
and also by will,