What does grief sound like?
On Emily Anderson’s sophomore album, the answer depends on the song. “Salt & Water,” due out Friday, was shaped by grief, change and the pandemic, Anderson said in a recent video interview, but you’re as likely to hear acoustic guitar accompanied by plaintive strings as palm-muted electric guitar joined by hand claps as percussion.
“I didn’t want to write a grief album that was all slow, sad songs,” Anderson said. “I wanted to write something that was real, and all of these songs are very real representations of my emotions and who I am at my core. I hope that comes through for the listener, and I hope it is a journey that makes you want to dance and sing and cry and belt in your car at the top of your lungs.”
“Salt & Water” — a title Anderson described as a cheeky reference to tears — was impacted by both the loss of a friend and relocating from Alaska to Los Angeles.
“One of my best friends, an amazing artist and musician in her own right, Sarah Mitchell, passed away in 2018,” Anderson said. “That was so earth-shattering for me. It was also the same year my husband and I moved to L.A. It was just a really difficult and dark season in my life. I just lost my best friend, and then I left home, and the family I knew in Alaska and moved to a new city that’s very overwhelming and stimulating. I’m very grateful to have the partner I do, and to have the friends and the community that I was able to connect with here.”
The album, a follow-up to 2017’s Rasmuson Foundation-supported “Simple Things” was initially slated to be recorded in the first quarter of 2020, Anderson said a studio was booked for that April.
However, before Anderson’s feelings could be channeled in recording sessions, Anderson —and the rest of the world —faced another significant challenge in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was all ready to go with my spreadsheets and had my demo tracks and had a producer lined up and all the stuff ready to go, and then that just completely fell apart, and we had to figure out a new way of doing things,” Anderson said. “It ended up changing things a lot.”
Ultimately, Mike Adams produced the album, and Sarah Tudzin of Illuminati Hotties fame; John Silos; Nick Goldston; Kim Wheeler; and Heath Hyman served as recording engineers. Anderson said much of the album was recorded in Tudzin’s apartment.
“She was just an incredible source of encouragement and fortitude for this project,” Anderson said. “It’s just such a joy to get to work with friends, too. All of these things just happened really organically, and I really enjoy all of these people as people, and also to get to work with them as colleagues was another layer of fun.”
The hold-up led to some new songs making their way onto the tracklist — “Sunshine,” for example was written during quarantine and singles “Faker” and “Toxic Positivity” were written in November 2020. The newer efforts joined a growing pool of s that already reflected a widening pool of influences.
“I do think it’s different,” Anderson said. “I don’t think different is a bad thing.”
She continued: “I think being in a totally different environment … living in a city and listening to a lot of new bands and being an avid Illuminati Hotties fan, I’m getting to see my friends make music and just being around different art inspired me to make different music.”
Anderson said the extra time to tinker was a good thing, but after years of working and waiting, she’s pleased and relieved the album is finally coming out, and while it can be difficult for an artist to say, she’s proud of the results.
“There is kind of a weird pressure for artists when they make their sophomore record because you want it to be better than their first,” Anderson said. “I really think this is my best work I’ll be releasing. I’m really proud of it, and I think that can be challenging to say about her own work.”
You’ve got snail
Those who head to emilyandersonak.com to learn more about the artist may notice the black silhouette of a snail in their browser tab.
Anderson explained it’s an inside joke to a childhood nonsequitur.
“The snail that I used in my first album, and the origin story for that is a little bizarre. When I was like 3 years old, I was playing behind this chair in the corner of our living room, and I was being just really quiet for a long period of time, so naturally, my parents grew suspicious. My dad asked ‘What are you doing?’ I said ‘I’m feeding my snails. Be careful, they bite.’
“So that’s the story of the snails. Be careful, they bite.”
• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.