“Did You Hear That?” – Hilary Woods Interview

photo by Joshua Wright

Music interviews: often they are nothing but boring walls of text meant to promote albums and/or artists. Sure, we at Soul Feeder also wish to give the spotlight to artists we believe deserve it. However, we also wish to get to know the artist. By sharing 3 random tracks with the artist, we wish to ignite interesting discussions regarding relevant themes, lyrics and the song itself. What does the artist think of the tracks we love? This episode: Hilary Woods. What are her thoughts on tracks by James Blake, Da$h and Moses Sumney? Also, what song would she recommend himself?

To introduce Hilary Woods as just another member of the fantastic Stereo Sanctity label (Zola Jesus, Shigeto, Jenny Hval, Anna von Hausswolff, Gold Panda) would be an absolute insult as she is so much more than that. Even though she gained most of her reputation as bassist of the Irish band JJ72, her first solo album Colt proves that she’s a skilled songwriter herself, one that isn’t afraid of delving into the depths of her own psyche while exploring an extensive and thrilling sonic palette. Therefore, it’s an absolute delight that we got to speak to her to discuss the main themes of her album, music we love and a few other topics as well.

First off, congratulations on your fantastic new album! How have you experienced the past few weeks?

Thank you very much! All is going good, thanks. The last few weeks have been about performing live. Meltdown went well.

As the concept of this interview series involves us recommending you three songs, I wish to base these recommendations on the most prominent themes of Colt, the first one, and in my opinion also the most obvious one, being love, or rather a strong desire for a lost/disappearing love. This song by the phenomenal James Blake taps into these subjects.

What do you think of this song and have you heard it before?

I think its stunning, James Blake is great. That was my first time hearing it.

In an interview you stated that this album was entirely based off of personal experiences. How should we “read” this album? Are these stories part of the same arc or are they unrelated to each other?

I’m not sure how this record should be read, it was written from an intensely personal place. I’d like to think though there’s room for the listener to meet the songs in their own way. And yeah, I do think there’s a dialogical aspect to the record – the songs speak to each other.

The way the songs are placed on the album works amazingly from a sonic point of view. Did you also place certain songs at a certain place for thematic reasons? For example, the way Prodigal Dog, a song about realizing you’ve been in a one-sided relationship with someone who doesn’t deserve it is followed up by Take Him In conveys, in my mind, a really strong message of losing yourself to a certain negative temptation.

I lived with the running order for a while, at some point I felt the songs told me where they wanted to be placed, so I just ran with that until I reached a stage where I no longer felt I had a choice in the matter! Running order was primarily based on sonics. With time the record just appeared.

Do you feel like writing songs about love is a difficult venture from an artistic point-of-view due to the fact that it’s a topic that has been so frequently used in music? How do you write such songs without turning to certain clichés?

I think writing about love is inevitable. Even if one writes a conceptual piece about current political affairs, it all requires a love or need certainly, to engage with it artistically. Writing about romantic love and avoiding clichés on some level, I’m not sure if it exists. It’s all in the approach.

A theme that only appears on one song but that nevertheless feels extremely important to me is faith. Jesus Said, the fifth song on Colt, seems to put certain beliefs into question, especially with the lines “Jesus said he loved me / but I couldn’t see it”. A song that does so as well but in a radically different way is RicHie K II by A$AP Mob affiliate Da$h. On the first lines of the song he raps: “Just got a text message from God / Tryna collect off a bet that I lost / Delete the convo because I was sauced”.

What do you think of this song?
It strikes a chord, keeping it real.

This song treats issues with faith but also other issues with an incredible amount of aggression and firmness. What strikes me is that, despite the fact that these songs were written during a hard time in your life, there barely seems to be any anger on this album. Is that an emotion you purposely didn’t want to add to the album or was it simply not there?

I don’t think I’d leave aside any emotion purposely, I’m not sure if it was there. The record doesn’t have any acute angles or edges to it, it engages with stuff through a different portal.

Could you explain what Jesus Said is about? The final lines of the song state: “When Jesus said he loved me / All I could feel.” After these lines, the song merely continues instrumentally. Could you explain what this sudden ending is supposed to imply, if anything? Is spirituality an important driving force in your songwriting process?

‘Jesus Said’ is a song in pursuit of catharsis, it’s a song that wants to abandon all noisy monologues in a given head space and inhabit the body, so in that vein it shifts a gear halfway through the song to predominantly beats and synths and freestyle piano playing. It’s circular and almost trance like – or at least that’s how I felt when I made it! It’s also light in comparison to other heavier material on the record and gets into the bones, I like playing it live.

Re: spirituality and song-writing; I certainly am not afraid of using any kind of language that is usually reserved for and/or confined to other contexts and laden with symbolism – religious or otherwise, in my writing. In this particular case – re-contextualising lyrics that are culturally weighted with meaning and making them my own, was very creative and fun.

Finally, another important theme on Colt, as you’ve mentioned several times in interviews, is solitude. This track, written by the amazing Moses Sumney, deals with loneliness and the emptiness it can create. It first appeared on his 2016 EP Lamentations but it was also on his debut album, Aromanticism.

What do you think of this song and have you heard it before?

It’s beautiful. The rolling guitar and strong vocals, the video is pretty stunning.

Do you reckon that the songs that showcase the most desire, like Take Him In and Kith, were written during your loneliest times?

I feel there’s a world between solitude and loneliness, I’d say the songs were written more in the former climate – not that the latter was completely absent.

A cause that is often mentioned in regards to contemporary loneliness is the internet. It seems like we’re more connected than ever but also more distant from each other than ever. What are your thoughts on this?

Yeah, I think just the very act of mindlessly scrolling endlessly, is in itself loneliness-inducing. To connect genuinely to something or someone seems to have become rarer.

It is obvious that you couldn’t have written this album if it wasn’t for personal experience but do you reckon that certain modern social/political/technological developments also changed the lyrical and thematical aspects of the album? For example, could Colt exist in 2005 from an emotional point-of-view if the same things had happened to you back then?

It would have been a very different record if it was made in 2005 emotionally or otherwise. I think we all to varying degrees absorb what’s going on around us. In saying that the lyrical content of ‘Colt’ is one that draws on very different wells of being; I certainly never consciously addressed political or technological themes. No doubt though social feeling at the very least creeps in somewhere on some level into every contemporary piece of work, even if its presence is solely felt on the subliminal sonic bedding of a record.

Finally, is there a song you wish to recommend to our audience yourself? If yes, which song and why?

Insignia by Ben Vince

Ben Vince’s “Still … Moving” from his record “Insignia”, his musicality is breath taking.

 

Stream Colt down below:

 

 

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