In the beginning of Jess Williamson’s newest single, she utters each lyric in segments, and its slow, anticipatory delivery keeps you leaning in close, intensely fixated on the sentences she’s forming. This is the case on her first new single, “I See The White,” and on the track we’re premiering today, “Mama Proud.” Both of these songs will appear on her forthcoming album Cosmic Wink, which is an on-the-nose description of what Williamson’s music feels like: ethereal, fluttering, in control. Cosmic Wink will be out May 11 via Mexican Summer.
Throughout the song, Williamson asks questions and makes confessions that come off as forlorn and gently destructive. Her textured and soaring vocals soften the blow, though, and as the track progresses, a whole gamut of instruments are introduced and overlaid under overlaid angelic, building “Mama Proud” into a stunning and transcendent composition.
About the song, Williamson said,
“Mama” Proud is one of those songs that started out as a few seeds and once we took it to the studio they all came into bloom. It was a very collaborative and free undertaking. A little mantra throughout making this record was “that’s what happens when you feel safe”. When you’re safe to experiment and you trust the people you’re working with, anything can happen and sometimes it works! We just wanted to play with this song and we agreed that nothing was off limits.
So we started off with only the guitar and lead vocal as our foundation, and then we ran wild together. My voice is sampled, turned into a synth texture, and used as a rhythmic element. The keyboard is played at the end like a bongo, and when I hear that part I always envision bubbles underwater. We layered maybe 9 or 10 of my vocals to create the layers of harmony on the “dance” section and then Dan Duszynski (the co-producer and engineer of the album) added the jazzy drums and piano behind it. The repeating vocals in the outro were a completely unplanned, spontaneous thing. I just started singing the oohs out of nowhere really and we kept it and added more vocals. It felt like that idea came from somewhere else and we grabbed ahold of it before it got away. I attribute things like that to the magic of studio energy.
Recording this song was a huge departure for me musically, and that felt a little unnerving at the time. I remember driving home from the studio and listening in the car to what we’d done and being like, okay I think I love this but is it actually really bad? It’s easy to second-guess yourself when you’re in new territory. It’s also the best place to be when you’re making a record, or anything creative, because trying new things and not limiting yourself usually leads you somewhere good.
Lyrically, this song is about making a big decision and accepting all of the consequences and lingering questions.
Listen to “Mama Proud” above. Jess also heads out on tour today – see when she’ll be in your city below.
4/06 — Valley Bar @ Phoenix, AZ
4/08 — Bootleg Theatre @ Los Angeles, CA
4/11 — Bottom of The Hill @ San Francisco, CA
4/13 — Mississippi Studios @ Portland, OR
4/14 — Sunset Tavern @ Seattle, WA
4/17 — Urban Lounge @ Salt Lake City, UT
4/19 — Taos Mesa Brewing @ El Prado, NM
4/21 — The North Door @ Austin, TX
4/26 — The Earl @ Atlanta, GA
4/27 — The Mothlight @ Asheville, NC
4/28 — Cat’s Cradle @ Carrboro, NC
5/10 — The Southern @ Charlottesville, VA
5/02 — DC9 @ Washington, DC
5/04 — Baby’s All Right @ Brooklyn, NY
5/05 — Johnny Brenda’s @ Philadelphia, PA
5/06 — Great Scott @ Allston, MA
5/08 — L’Esco @ Montreal, QC
5/09 — The Garrison @ Toronto, ON
5/10 — Deluxx Fluxx @ Detroit, MI
5/11 — Schuba’s @ Chicago, IL