When I ponder my favorite singer-songwriters, I think about musicians that are authentic, honest, and speak from the inside out. Catchy hooks don’t hurt, either. Local musician Briget Boyle (www.brigetboyle.com) exemplifies these characteristics in her debut solo album, The Parts Interior. After many years spent performing in an assortment of music groups within multiple musical genres, Briget has now broken out as an individual songwriter and the result is an album both emotionally resonant and beautifully harmonious! I spoke with Briget about The Parts Interior and her journey to this point…
You’ve been on a long musical journey involving various groups and projects. What made now the right time for your solo debut?
Well, I had carved out a lot of space for myself creatively. Brass Menažeri is no longer together and I left Kitka a few years ago, and that space has given me the time to start writing again and really dig into myself as a songwriter. There was something holding me back for a long time. I wasn’t writing for a while. It’s hard to say exactly what it was, but I’ve been doing a lot of work on myself over the last couple of years and through that work, both emotionally and spiritually, I realized that I needed to let my songwriter shine. I had a lot of support from my partner, Harlow, and my community. I was able to raise money to do this and it all just fell into place really nicely.
There aren’t too many Balkan or Eastern European sounding moments on the album. Was this on purpose or just coincidence as a result of the songwriting process?
It’s coincidental. I’ve tried to write Balkan music. I’ve tried to write in that style but it’s not what naturally comes out of me as I’m creating. In fact, I’ve been working with a creative coach named Holly Shaw and it’s been a really great experience. One of the challenges she gave me was to write a Balkan song—an original song in the Balkan style. I tried it a few different times in a few different ways and it felt really contrived and not what naturally comes out of me. I’m naturally a folk singer who sings in English, you know? <<laughing>> It’s really made me appreciate the Balkan music that I’ve done and I still feel like that’s a large part of my identity. But I’m realizing that it doesn’t have to be combined with my songwriting and it’s okay to keep them separate. Maybe in the future, as I get more involved with myself as a creator, it’ll come out more. Because maybe after 10 years of doing music from the Balkans, I think it’s ingrained in me in ways that I’m probably not aware of yet. Maybe in the future it’ll manifest itself through my songs. We’ll see.
Can you describe the meaning behind the album’s title, The Parts Interior?
I feel like the person that I put out musically for so long, over the past 10 years that I’ve been involved in the Balkan music scene, is an exterior thing. It’s not very personal. I sing in other languages that I don’t necessarily understand, or I don’t speak. So the experiences that I’m singing about when I sing Balkan music are very much outside of myself. When I was working on this music, it felt clear to me that this is the internal me. This is the interior part of who I am. I’m letting that out. It’s a look inside to what’s actually going on in my head.
Where did you record the album?
I recorded it at Hyde Street Studios, in Studio C, with Scott McDowell. He produced along with Harlow Carpenter and me. We all produced it together. It’s interesting because Hyde Street Studios was the place where my dad worked when he was in the Bay Area thirty years ago. So it really felt like coming full circle, with my first album being recorded there.
During the songwriting process, what music did you commonly find yourself listening to for inspiration and/or respite?
I listened to a lot of pop rock, like Tegan and Sara. I listened to Regina Spektor, and Jesca Hoop, and other female singer-songwriters. And it’s really interesting because I really don’t write like them, but just hearing their flow and hearing what they’ve put out really inspires me to work harder on my music. I was also just going onto Pandora and putting on a station of a genre or an artist, like I would put on a Jesca Hoop station, and listen to that all day and hear different things. I’m also really into Sufjan Stevens and Andrew Bird. That stuff is really inspiring to me.
If I may dive into a specific song for a moment —
“Matters” is absolutely stunning, and it’s both sorrowful and redeeming. Describe the evolution of that song.
Well, I’ve been in recovery, sober, for a couple years now and that song was sort of a reflection on the recovery process. There’s one saying that I heard when showing up for recovery, that “you’re getting up, you’re suiting up, and you’re showing up every day” just to keep the evolution happening and to keep yourself sober. So that’s what that song is about, really. I feel like the person I am now, the person writing the song, is different than the person in the song. The girl that I’m talking about is me a few years ago. And that evolution was really striking for me and has been really life-altering. And that song came out in twenty minutes! <<laughing>> I was just sitting at home and it just happened. I remember listening to the recording of me singing it with my iPhone—singing harmony—and I couldn’t stop listening to it. It was one of those things because it was so honest. When I wrote it, it was such a clear expression of what was going on with me and it was the first time I had actually put to words what I felt about recovery and what I learned from recovery. And when the recording was happening, it just had a magical vibe to it. The whole song, from the beginning, the whole evolution, has been magical. We had a really fun time mixing it. I hired a mandolin player, Avi Vinocur, to play on it, and I never even met him. He just came in and laid down a mandolin track when I wasn’t in the studio, so I’m hoping I’ll get to meet him someday and play with him. There’s something really organic about that song. It didn’t take much production. It just sort of happened. I think that comes through in the recording.
It’s very personal.
Yeah. For sure.
So what’s next up for you, if you’ve even had time to think that far?
I have a CD release show on January 17th, and I’m working on booking some shows in February. I’ve also been writing a lot. Like I said, I’ve been working with a creative coach, Holly Shaw, and on December 29thwe’re doing a show at the Flight Deck in Oakland and I’ll premiere three, maybe four, new songs I’ve been working on. There’s going to be a dancer and a choreographer who are also going to premiere new work. After that, I just want to get into writing. I feel really inspired by this whole process. It cleared out some space for me. A lot of the songs were written over the past seven years and I finally recorded them so I’m ready to continue writing. Hopefully I’ll record again soon, because I want to keep this energy going. It was a really good experience. I feel really good about it. It opened up my creative sense and I’m ready to go! <<laughing>>
For more information on Briget Boyle, visit http://brigetboyle.com/
Her album release party for The Parts Interior will be on January 17th, 8pm at Awaken Cafe in Oakland.