introduction by tom johnson
words by alela diane
Alela Diane is both a wondrous storyteller and singer, someone who is able to draw upon both of those two skillsets, and channel them in to the most absorbing pieces of work. New album ‘Cusp‘ is immediately testament to such things, Diane’s elegant and eloquent voice not just singing these songs but telling them too, beautifully enunciated in a way that makes it difficult to look away from, difficult not to bask in the words unrolling towards us.
As she tells us below, the songs were “written through the lens of motherhood” and they certainly take on a maternal glow, but there’s something else here too: a wild sense of adventure, both filmic and grandiose, even in the smallest details; a great sense of imagination brought to life and delivered with a voice that is equally intricate and precise.
The album is released today – February 9th – and you can stream it in full at the bottom of the page. Before that, however, Alela herself walks us through ‘Cusp’, sharing her thoughts on the record and each of the tracks within. Check it out here:
by alela diane
These songs were written in a snowy cabin in Oregon in January 2016. I was alone for the first time since the birth of my daughter, who was then 2 years old. They were written through the lens of motherhood – inspired by the chaos of such pure loving joy and the darker undertones I carry inside my heart.
I discovered piano part to Albatross late one evening at home. I remember playing it over and over, relaxing into it like a meditation. I sat with it for a while, and at some point it became clear that the song wanted words. I wrote about leaving my daughter at home when I flew overseas without her for the first time. It was hard to get on that plane, and heavy to leave my heart so far away from my physical form.
I’ve always looked to nostalgia for the past, and dreams of the future in my songs. The Threshold is an acknowledgement of that. You know what’s hard? Living in the present day. Especially when home with kids.
Moves Us Blind
While I was at Caldera (the artist residency where I wrote most of the album), it snowed and snowed and snowed. I’d sit by a huge wall of windows overlooking a stream and watch it fall. I thought of how my life had shifted, and how I’d suddenly been thrown into an entirely different chapter since my daughter was born. Time moves strangely, and leaves me
dumbstruck sometimes. It’s endlessly fascinating to me.
When I saw the photograph of Syrian toddler, Alan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish shore, I felt the tragedy deeply. He was about the same age as my daughter at the time, and the realization that this could be anyone’s child really struck me. I wrote Émigré to acknowledge that no mother should have to risk her life or the lives of her children in pursuit of safety and
freedom. I’ve realized that while I don’t always know where to begin to make positive change in the world, what I can do is use my voice and sing about it.
My mom and I have always had a hard time seeing eye to eye. Since becoming a mother myself, my own daughter has given me the gift of compassion toward my own mom. It’s such a hard role to be in charge of another person’s well being, and we all arrive on this planet with our own spirit and ideas. Although this song was written about my own relationship to my mom, it’s become clear that it’s also about my oldest daughter and me.
Song for Sandy
Sandy Denny was an amazing singer-songwriter in the 1970’s who died tragically shortly after becoming a mother. I’ve loved her music for over a decade and I felt compelled to tell her story in song. Leaving a child without a mother is so deeply sad, so of course, I had to sing about it.
I grew up in a beautiful forested town in California with the most magical emerald colored river. While I was pregnant, I remember floating in the ice cold water on an August day. The feeling of carrying another life inside is so surreal, and pregnancy is such a mysterious, uncertain, and in-between place to exist. It’s a cusp.
Ether & Wood
I often think about all the people who used to live in my 1890 Victorian house. I like to imagine the chapters that unfolded within our walls: the births, the deaths, the fights, and the passion. Ether & Wood also acknowledges the lives that I’ve moved through within these same walls.
Quite simply, Yellow Gold is a love song. It is a celebration of two hearts.
Motherhood is the most beautifully exhausting job I’ve ever had. Loving a child is a bit painful, because you want to protect them at all costs, and no matter how in control we try to be, nothing is certain in this life. So Tired is a surrender.
Wild Ceaseless Song
This is the first song I wrote after my oldest daughter was born, and the last song to be finished for Cusp. I’d forgotten about it, and nearing the end of the writing process for the album, I remembered Wild Ceaseless Song. I learned how to play it on piano and changed some words. It became the final song on the record, and I think sums up the narrative of this
Cusp is out now, you can buy it here