L.A.-based pop/folk/Americana outfit Single, Girl, Married Girl writes songs that are simultaneously beautiful and devastating with poetic, perceptive lyrics that astutely capture what it means to be human.
Steeped in a folk songwriting tradition that harkens back to Pete Seeger and Joan Baez mixed with modern songwriting elements in the style of Jenny Lewis and Brandi Carlile, Single Girl, Married Girl fearlessly tackles issues ranging from loss and drug addiction to insecurity and depression.
The upcoming album, Three Generations of Leaving, chronicles the trials and traumas of three generations of women from the same family - the matriarch, one of her daughters, and her estranged granddaughter.
Each of the women are of their time: the grandmother a rural 1950s housewife and homemaker devoted to her husband, the daughter a rebellious teen of the 1960s, and the granddaughter a young woman grappling with unrealistic expectations and societal standards in a digital world. The songs shift in style and arrangement, matching the lives and times of the characters.
“When writing this album, we didn’t know how much it resembled our own life, and what it would portend - loss, moving on, change, self-doubt, making art, hopefulness, love,” singer/songwriter and banjo player, Chelsey Coy, states.
“Art happens on a subconscious level and sometimes it's only after you've written the songs that you look back on them and realize what you’re processing," her co-writer and husband, Gary Knight, agrees.
The day before recording was completed in January 2020, Knight was diagnosed with stage II thyroid cancer, and underwent multiple neck surgeries and rounds of radiation treatment. In December of that year, he lost his brother to a drug overdose (the final song on the album, “The Flood,” had been written about his brother’s addiction).
“During the pandemic we were dealing with our own personal tragedies, and sitting on all these heavy, emotional songs,” Knight says. “It was oddly comforting to have them, but it really underscored all this trauma we were going through. It was like we had written the perfect soundtrack for ourselves. Finally getting to share the music after such an eventful period in our lives represents a bigger release than we would’ve anticipated when we wrote it.”
Coy’s bright and clear voice offers a beautiful juxtaposition on these tracks that tackle weighty themes. “The Flood” is a haunting country waltz that tells the story of Knight’s mother looking for her son who’s off getting high (“Looking all over town for him/My hope is fading dim/Looking out for a boy who can’t swim/A needle lost in a stack of needles lost at sea/When I find my love at the oceanside how will I be relieved?”). The song ends the morning after with a scene that proved prophetic, with Knight’s brother appearing to be asleep, but Knight’s mother knowing otherwise: “Have you ever watched the sun come up just before you’ve gone to bed?/It’s the prettiest lie, it’ll fill your eyes with every tear in your head.”
"Hurt Her So" tells the story of a woman grappling with insecurity who ultimately digs deep to find her confidence: “One day she said to me, her lips grown bolder/Could I reveal her pain she hid so deeply, inside her hindered soul we looked down further, for what could render her unable to be able to… brush off all her cares when she was alone/brush off every little comment.”
Recorded primarily in New York at Rift Studios with Grammy-nominated engineer Tom Gardner, who also serves as producer, the album features lush instrumentation, catchy melodies and sweeping musical arrangements that bring the songs’ poignant lyrics to life. Pierre de Reeder of Rilo Kiley tracked the main vocals and some of the instrumentation at his Los Angeles studio, 64 Sound, where renowned harpist Mary Lattimore contributed to the song “Scared to Move.”
Single Girl, Married Girl’s 2017 album Spark was an auspicious debut, but Coy has evolved and come into her own as a songwriter on Three Generations of Leaving. As with many new bands, they struggled to gain notoriety early on, which they documented in the song “Starlight.” Ironically, the tune took off and received half-a-million streams on Spotify, breathing new life into their career.
Named for The Carter Family’s song of the same name, Single Girl, Married Girl has been confused for a dating site on occasion for obvious reasons, with people seeking love connections on the band’s Facebook page; something the band finds ironic, considering their own pursuit of an audience.
Three Generations of Leaving also features longtime band members Charlie Rauh on guitar, Oskar Haggdahl on drums, John Gray on upright bass, and Shannon Soderlund on backing vocals, with guests Thad DeBrock on pedal steel and baritone guitar, Philip Kronengold on piano/organ, Burt Levine on banjo, Callie Galvez on cello, and Haruka Horii on violin.
PHOTOS AND ARTWORK
All photos by Anna Azarov