Colorado songbird Esme Patterson is ready to ride the wind. Listening to her latest album, We Were Wild, you’d think she already was out flying somewhere — the record sweeps and circles like a bird who has every reason to wing ever skyward. The singer-songwriter has been steadily picking up speed since her early days as member of the Denver folk collective Paper Bird led to a couple of solo albums that culminated in this latest release, her first since officially striking out on her own.
She released her sharp, vivid debut album All Princes, I in 2012 and quickly followed that up with Woman To Woman in 2013 — both while still working with Paper Bird — but We Were Wild marks her embrace of the role of solo artist. The role suits her. We Were Wild is a bluesy folk album that came out back in June through New York indie powerhouse Grand Jury, and that’s just where her co-signs begin.
She’s been acclaimed by The New York Times since 2013’s Woman To Woman — and also for Wild‘s standout track “No River.” Additionally, in July fastidiously cool teen fashion outlet Rookie opted to premiere Patterson’s adorably carefree head-shaking video for “Feel Right.”
If her third solo release perfectly splits the difference between the pastoral and the psychedelic, then today is her tipping the scales and tapping back into her country side. Patterson has paired with the storied blues and country singer William Elliott Whitmore to release a 7-inch on which the artists cover each other’s songs. Today we’re premiering her cover of Whitmore’s “Not Feeling Any Pain” off his 2011 album Field Songs. Their 7-inch, William Elliott Whitmore & Esme Patterson Play Each Other’s Songs will be limited to 1,000 copy pressing and will be released by Bloodshot Records 11/18.
Hear his original via Spotify here and check out our the premiere of the cover below, along with a short Q&A that covers everything from her musical beginnings to her romantic plans for next year.
Can you talk a little bit about what initially got you into music? Your voice is so distinctive and delicate, I’m wondering if you knew from an early age you’d like to make music?
Music has always been a part of my life. My father and sister both sing, our childhood was full of music, we listened to it and made it and loved it. I always knew that my life would be filled with music, but it took until my twenties to start pursing a career in it.
When did you decide to breakout from the Denver folk collective Paper Bird and put out your own solo record? Now, three records in, how have things changed?
I made my first two solo records while still in that band. I was finding that my musical taste and artistic vision were bending in a different direction and it was time to focus on my own music. I made my most recent album We Were Wild after I left the band and it was a totally new, exciting experience to be able to focus all of my energy on my own music.
My favorite track off We Were Wild is “No River,” can you talk a bit about what that one means to you? I love the way it contrasts natural imagery with human flaws and fidgetiness.
I like that one too. I wrote it as a meditation on getting older. I turned 30 last year, and was taking stock of what I have and what I need and trying to really be honest with myself about what I know. I did my best to distill these thoughts and feelings to their essence. It’s a hopeful song about failing and picking yourself up to try again.
I read you call your new record We Were Wild a “groovy fantasy” as opposed to the more straight-forward style you used in the past. What areas or parts of it felt the most imaginative to you?
On my newest record I moved into some sonic spaces that are new for me. What I was referring to as “fantasy” meant that I was making sounds on the record that I wasn’t sure I could reproduce live; I was making a fantastical world that wasn’t sonically rooted in reproducible reality. It was really exciting and also a big challenge when I took the record out on the road, I had to learn how to use guitar pedals to recreate a lot of the sounds we used on the record.
Though your music does lean pretty psychedelic on this album, it still feels very pastoral to me. How do you see those two elements balancing against each other in your work?
Interesting. I like that. The songs on this album are very personal and reflective of my inner journey over the last couple of years, which at times has been pastoral and psychedelic. If “pastoral” evokes nature and cultivation thereof, and “psychedelic” leans toward chaos and the subconscious, I would say that the subject matter of this record certainly swings between making and unmaking and making again.
You’re involved in a cover series with William Elliott Whitmore and we’re premiering your version of “Not Feeling Any Pain” today. What drew you to this song in particular and Whitmore’s music in general?
I opened for Will on a tour of his last year and was immediately struck by his spirit and the power of his songs. I always felt like “not feeling” would be cool as a rock and roll song and when we decided to do this project I was in a really rough emotional place, going through a bad breakup. I thought it added an interesting layer to the song to hear the singer obviously being in a lot of emotional pain, and saying “I’m not” over and over, like hoping for a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Which song of yours did he cover and what was your reaction to it?
Will chose my song “Elysium” which I wrote for a friend of mine who passed away years ago. It was nice to hear Will sing it and give tribute to the people we love who’ve moved on.
What are you looking forward to the most in 2017?
I just got married so I’m looking forward to sneaking in a honeymoon sometime in 2017!
The 7-inch single William Elliott Whitmore & Esme Patterson Play Each Other’s Songs will be out via Bloodshot Records 11/18. Pre-order it here.