listening local naomi by blahnik x

It’s been way too long since I’ve graced the pages on The Falmouth Enterprise with a music column. Not necessarily for a lack of things to write about but more a case of life having other plans. A big house project, a new baby girl and live music kicking in about a month and half earlier than expected made for a bit of a hectic summer. But enough about me. Let’s talk about the reason I have resurfaced from writing retirement (sorry, I love alliteration and couldn’t help myself.)

Naomi Westwater reached out to me about her new EP “Feelings,” which she will release today . Some locals may remember her wonderful set from Coast-Fest 2019 at the Falmouth Bandshell. She is a multimedia artist, writer and educator whose music has been featured everywhere from WGBH to Vanyaland. She is currently Boston-based but hails from Cape Cod.

LV: Did you have the themes in mind for this project when you started writing it or did that take shape as you wrote the songs?

NW: This project just sort of became itself. There wasn’t a moment where I decided to write about racism, and chronic pain, and climate change and make a big political statement. I was just working with the songs, and then realized that there was a really powerful theme. I write songs in many different ways, but commonly songs kind of erupt out of an intense emotion—a sadness or an anger, a longing or a loss. So these songs aren’t intellectualized, they come from my feelings.

LV: The arrangements on the two singles are really great. Can you tell me a little about the recording process and the musicians you worked with?

NW: I worked with some really amazing musicians on this project: Alex Chacon on electric guitar, Dana Roth on electric bass, Francis Pena on drums, Cooper Evello on piano, mixing by Dan Babai, and mastering by Bella Corich. We started out recording four songs at Berklee College of Music and then we recorded two more songs nine months later at Ugly Duck Studios in Brighton. I do a bit of arrangement, but mainly I ask the musicians to focus on a feeling. For example, my song “Home” is about chronic pain, so there’s a lot of anger in that song and there’s some shame in that song, and you can hear those feelings come up in the way that the musicians play. It’s a very simple song to play—it’s just one chord, but the musicians are so talented, they take that one chord and create angst and frustration, and a great groove.

Then in the mixing process I worked with Dan Babai, and was able to bring him a lot of ideas on how to mix everything together. I like to think of mixing as just as creative and experimental as playing and performing, so if you pay attention to certain songs you’ll hear a little electronic details. I had a blast experimenting with him in the studio.

LV: As an artist who works in a lot of mediums from music to visuals and more, how do you decide what to work on day to day?

NW: I’ve been trying to be more disciplined and pick seasons for my work. I’ll focus on creating the music, and then I’ll pause and work on the visuals, and then I’ll pause and move forward with the release. I previously found I was trying to do everything at once and I was so scattered. It’s nice to just focus on one thing at a time for a few weeks, or a few months, and then move on. That being said, I’m still doing multiple things at once, I think that’s just how I’m wired. But it’s a little bit less chaotic right now.

LV: I know you started a Patreon recently. What inspired you, and how has that experience been?

NW: It’s really hard as a musician to be paid for your work. Especially in a pandemic. Most of the money that I make from my work is from performing, and I have felt unsure and unsafe performing for the majority of the last year and a half. I make next to nothing when people listen to my music via streaming. But I know that there are people out there who want to support me. So I thought Patreon (a membership-based website where listeners can get access to exclusive content from an artist) would be a way for me to do something special for people who want to support my work, and also get some steady income for my work. Patreon is also a place for me to experiment a lot. I am sharing the first drafts of music videos, I’m experimenting with merch and snail mail. It’s a really fun way for me to engage with my audience, and for me to feel a little bit unfiltered and that I can be more raw and less polished.

LV: Last year you produced the Song & Sanctuary workshop online. Is this something you plan on doing again and depending on public health protocols, would you try conducting it in person?

NW: Yes! Song & Sanctuary is hosting a three-part, virtual songwriting workshop this fall. The workshop series is called “The Lifecycle of a Song,” and in the first workshop we’re going to focus on the big picture—creating a world for your song, The second workshop focuses on writing the lyrics, editing down the world to just one specific thing you want to talk about, and then the third workshop is inviting in harmony, melody and sonic structure to the song.

There are so many different ways to write songs. I think as musicians if we continue to challenge ourselves to write in new ways, we can keep the creative process fresh and innovative and exciting. The whole concept of Song & Sanctuary is to encourage creativity, and not to feel stuck or stagnant, and to connect with meditation and movement to allow our creativity to flow and be endless.

We are absolutely daydreaming about the possibility of in-person retreats in the future. But I will say there is something really special about doing virtual retreats and workshops. Virtual allows the retreats to be accessible to anyone anywhere, and it also allows us to keep costs down. So I think in the future we will do some kind of combination of both in-person and virtual.

LV: What are your plans around the release of the full project this fall?

NW: I’ll be celebrating the release of my EP “Feelings” on Tuesday, September 7, at Club Passim in Cambridge, and then I’m hoping to do a small New England tour in October with my dear friend, Nan Macmillan. And honestly after that I am ready to dive into several new music projects. I have written so much music in the last year and a half; I want to allow myself a lot of space to write this fall. I am dabbling with both electronic projects, and folk projects, and I’m really excited to allow myself to write a lot of music and poetry.

LV: Anything else you feel like people should know?

NW: I just want to share that this project, “Feelings,” has been two and a half years in the making. It’s been such a labor of love, and I’m so excited that I finally get to share it with everyone.

“Feelings” can be preordered through Naomi’s website.

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