Cf Watkins is ready to sing about other kinds of love. Having made a conscious effort to write toward themes of empowerment, the title track of her latest album, Babygirl, is both a coming of age story and an ode to female friendship. “Romances have come in and out of my life,” says Cf Watkins, “but through it all, the relationships that continue to open my heart the most are grounded in the women I’ve known.”
Based in Brooklyn for the past nine years, Watkins’ Americana-Pop style embodies the influences of her North Carolina roots. Watkins, who’s performed since the age of fourteen, has shared the stage with acts like Langhorne Slim, Future Birds, Chatham County Line, Wilder Maker, Lowland Hum, and Alpenglow. Her forthcoming LP, Babygirl, melds folk and country references with contemporary pop, fitting her alongside artists like Jennah Bell, Julia Jacklin, and Sharon Van Etten.
Watkins’ 2016 debut release, I Am New, as well as the single, "Frances and Jack," was produced by Daniel Goans of Lowland Hum at White Star Studios. It received acclaim on the Brooklyn scene with Thrd Coast saying of it, "C.F. Watkins has a voice for soul-baring and storytelling. It is beautiful—lush, velvety, and strong, but able to express vulnerabilities. She can transform it in an instant from the low croon of Leonard Cohen to the confident folk melismas of Joni Mitchell.”
After looking back on the themes in her music over the years, Cf Watkins is now moving forward. “When I think about my last album, I feel I was writing songs about weakness,” Watkins says. “With this album, I made a conscious effort to write songs about the power of choosing yourself.”
For the recording of Babygirl, Cf Watkins collaborated with Max Hart, a producer and multi-instrumentalist who has previously worked with artists like The War On Drugs, Katy Perry, and Melissa Etheridge. The two met through friends and recorded covers of Patsy Cline and Gillian Welch for fun before they decided to work on an album together.
Their collaboration started simple with Watkins sharing voice memos of song ideas. Hart and Watkins then agreed on which themes to further develop during sessions together in LA. “We were having fun,” Watkins says. “We didn’t know what it was going to turn into. It naturally formed into an album of songs, but it was also just an exploration of our musical relationship.”
Their partnership ignited the music they would write together over several years. “The inspiration for the music morphed over time as we changed over time,” Watkins says. The two allowed the songs to evolve as their lives did.
A few years later, Babygirl came together.
The opening track, “The Tell,” is a mission statement of sorts for the record, centered in expressing the delicate balance of vulnerability and power. “I’m not gonna beg. Won’t beg for you anymore,” Watkins sings.
The following song, “Changeable” came together after Watkins’ father mailed her a stack of letters filled with written exchanges between her grandfather and grandmother. In one letter in particular, her grandfather, who was a decoder in WWII and stationed in NYC for training, wrote, “I’ve been pretty much down in the dumps since I’ve been here in N.Y. Something’s wrong with this place. I can’t tell exactly what it is, all I know is that I don’t like it here.” He went on to use the word “changeable” in reference to his fickle tendencies, a feeling Watkins understands. We hear the sense of wonder and influence of Watkins’ grandparents emerge again in the album with songs like “Frances” and “Little Thing.”
Watkins continues to gather inspiration from the people in her life in both the title track, “Babygirl,” and later in “Holly.” “I wanted to honor my female friends and honor the beauty of female friendship-- the romance and freedom of female friendship,” Watkins mentions. “To me, that feels like the ultimate love.”
With “Dogwood” and “Westfield” we hear from the singer as she’s living in New York, longing for her own return to the winding roads and foothills of North Carolina. Her desire for a homecoming speaks to the larger themes of the album-- the desire for a return to herself.
“Come Around” and “New Hampshire” speak to the unrest that can be found in attachments before welcoming the embrace of another with “Out in the Sun.” The album simmers to conclusion with “White Nights,” a song inspired by a Dostoevsky short story of the same name. Watkins tells of love without regret-- the beauty in a brief relief from loneliness.
Cf Watkins is an artist who understands the urge for connection and the goodness in finding it, who sings with a kind of knowing about the ways we need each other even when, especially when, we feel weak. “I continue to play music because I want to connect with people,” Watkins says. “Babygirl is an expression of gratitude for those bonds that inform and renew us.”
Babygirl, an 11 song, Americana-Pop LP is projected to be released October 16, 2020 on Whatever’s Clever Records.
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