Photo: Kendall Bailey

Q&A: Southern folkster Earleine delivers spellbinding debut EP and answers our questions (BPM Premiere)

Perhaps more than albums, EPs let you really into an artist’s worldview. On Earleine, the first release from Earleine, Durham-via-Nashville artist Ashley Wright creates beautiful and rustic compositions with ample amounts of depth.

Bearing influences across the decades, from the likes of The Byrds, Grateful Dead, and Big Thief, Earleine‘s most timeless quality is its subject matter. Wright covers sensitive topics like alcoholism and mental illness with absolute grace.

Featuring production from Saman Khoujinian of Sleepy Cat Records and additional instrumentation from Joseph Terrell and Libby Rodenbough, Earleine is a must-listen for anyone into moody folk. Stream the EP below and read some questions with Wright beneath.

The first thing on this EP that stands out with the opening track “Less of The Same” is the production; dreamy, rootsy, and very personal. Where was this recorded and what was that process like?

I’m in love with the production on “Less of the Same”. We recorded all four songs at Arbor Ridge Studios in Chapel Hill, NC. The studio is a cozy little building tucked behind the owner’s house, and built for comfort. The band and I spent three days in the studio together just laughing, crushing seltzer, and creating these beautiful tones. The energy in the studio was really magical, and I have to give the credit to Saman Khoujinian who is just the ultimate tone master. Everything he produces I love, which is why I was so excited to work with him on these songs. 

There are some strong themes throughout these tracks, some darker than the music may let on at times, sometimes almost a dark and modern take on southern folk music. Can you speak to some of those themes from your perspective? How does Tennessee influence you?

Yes, the darkness…it lives. All of the songs on the EP have very strong individual personalities/themes. “Less of the Same” speaks to my personal experiences with sexual harassment in the workplace – the most impactful being at my first job when I was 16. It’s sort of a plea to the patriarchy to just STOP, and it’s also a love letter to myself to keep going. 

“Rita” is about my struggles with alcohol addiction. ‘Rita’ is a blackout drunk persona that used to reveal herself to strangers, and sometimes friends.

“Let That River Roar” is the only song written from another perspective. I wrote it thinking about a mother warning her child of the dangers of the real world. The corruption, hypocrisy, violence, etc. which lives in our world in past, and present times.

“Still Call” or as I like to call it ‘token breakup song’ talks about my amicable split with my most recent partner. The line “I’m okay I just feel like a failure” is one that swirls around in my head most days about most things.

I’m very open about my struggles with anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and alcohol addiction. Tennessee is my home state, and I have a lot of love for the place. I grew up in Clarksville, TN and my mom’s family is from Nashville. I’m sure Tennessee influences me in some way, just as any environment would during your formative years. I actually hated country music when I spent my weekends and my paychecks in Nashville as a teenager. I would just go to the Ryman to see Modest Mouse, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Death Cab for Cutie… it wasn’t until I was around 26 when I even dove into the classic country realm and fell in love with Dolly. I really admire a lot of artists in the Nashville scene right now: Brittany Howard, Becca Mancari, Sierra Ferrell, Lily Hiatt, Erin Rae, Thelma and the Sleaze, Margo Price, Liza Anne… the list goes on. I do love Nashville, and think about moving back someday!

Lastly, how does releasing this EP in the current world change it’s intent? Even if you won’t be able to play shows and do the typical roll out, what do you hope people will take away from it?

The intent remains the same for me. I make music for myself first, and then for others. I’m so proud of these songs, and I feel so grateful for the team of amazing humans who helped bring the EP to life. Sleepy Cat Records is a dream, and I’m just happy to have my work released alongside so many other talented artists in the triangle area of NC. Releasing my first music video for “Rita” has also been a major accomplishment. Zach Strum, the director, really nailed the dark satire invoked by Rita. I hope listeners take away whatever it is that they need to take away from the songs. The great joy of any piece of art, whether it’s a painting or an album, is the person consuming/observing can have an utterly unique perspective. If anything specific, I hope that speaking openly about anxiety, depression, addiction, etc. will help normalize these topics of conversation. We are all experiencing more confusion and existential dread than ever before, so hopefully one of these songs can block out the head noise for a bit. 

Earleine’s self-titled EP is out today on Sleepy Cat Records, and can be purchased here. Follow Earleine on Bandcamp, Facebook and Instagram.