Molly Lins Photography.
The forthcoming release documents English’s personal trauma healing through the lens of the ancient Hero’s Journey tradition, where the vulnerable hero goes on a terrifying adventure, is victorious against all odds, and comes home transformed.
The project has two components: a full-length album, produced in partnership with Josh Preston (of Me and the Machine Records), who played all the instruments, and an accompanying physical book containing color-pencil illustrations and lyrics of each song.
English’s understated lyrics have been a longtime fixture in the Nashville music scene, straddling the line of humor and human tragedy, with humility at the heart of it all. Music reviewer Comeherefloyd says of English “the deep and unique songwriting prowess of Georgia, can be seen from 10,000 feet up, where the obvious thoughtfulness and execution comes through with flying colors.”
The 14-track album follows the narrator through a sonic and visual journey, rich with oceanic scenes, mythological symbolism, and encourages resiliency and hope in the face of devastation. Intertwined throughout the more personal narrative are portraits of current-day America, the end of the Trump era, and a larger exploration of American trauma and its responsibility to heal itself.
Click HERE to presave “Pain and Power“
Tell us about the genesis of your project. How did you get to where you are now?
Oh man, that’s a good question. It feels like the project itself was unraveling in me for a long time, so it’s hard to find a place to pinpoint its genesis.
I hit a life-time low mental-healthwise in the Fall of 2020, and was spending a lot of time and space treating that. One thing that brought me a lot of peace in that time was drawing. I’m in music full-time (as a music educator and a musician), and I was in kind of a funny place with music where it wasn’t bringing me a lot of therapeutic value, since my work-life revolved around it. I’ve always felt a playful connection to drawing — I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a very skilled visual artist, so my ego is a lot less fragile for me there than there is with music.
I started spending just about any idle moment I had drawing, blending colors, and just making mess after mess. It was so fun. And at a certain point, I felt myself break through something, and could actually draw the feelings I was having, in the way that I am able to musically. Like I reached a certain level of fluency with my color pencils where it went past directionless fun to “oh shit, my brain is trying to tell me something – I should listen.”
The visual art really ended up feeding my musical voice, and before long a years’ worth of mind-block and frozen words and chords just felt like they were melting.
I was reading a lot of self-help books to cope with crippling anxiety I was dealing with, and started to notice that to really process what I was reading and apply it to my own life, I needed to kind of cast myself in the role of an imperfect hero, and build some fantasy around it. This naturally lead me to Joseph Campbell’s work, where I found some structure and vocabulary to support my real-time healing story. I took a 3 week leave from teaching and just wrote, wrote, wrote. I bought a big poster board, wrote out the Hero’s Journey template and started sticking my song drawings onto its shape to see how they all flowed together.
On a personal level, it was hugely empowering to have that birds’ eye vantage point, and artistically I felt like I had stumbled into a medium I’ve been trying to find my whole life. I love and appreciate both visual and musical arts, but I think I am most fully inhabiting myself as an artist and human when I combine the two into an Illustrated Book Album!
How would you describe the journey of being an artist?
Pretty parallel to the highs and lows of just being a human, I think. There are times for input, and there are times for output, and we have to accept that we won’t always see the outcomes we want. I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a lot more zen about it, especially as I’ve re-claimed my artistic voice as my spiritual center. I care a lot less than I used to about what people think of the art I make, because it is for me.
What’s a musical guilty pleasure of yours?
I Don’t F*** With You, by Big Sean is my power anthem. Don’t tell the other feminists.
What are some sources of inspiration for you?
My love Kaston, who is also an artist (his band is My Politic) is a huge source of inspiration for me. We are both self-employed music people, and hearing him chip away at his work in the other room though the day makes my own journey a little less lonely. I also am a very loyal meditator, journaler, and yoga-do-er. I’ve found that getting up early enough to have that time with my deepest self every day is crucial for keeping the creative well going.
Who is an artist that you look up to more than others today?
Artists who inspire me include Nina Simone, Lynda Barry (the cartoonist), Lucinda Williams, and Phoebe Bridgers. Barring Nina Simone, who is about as proficient in her craft as a human can get, the last three I mentioned really embrace a beautiful sense of imperfection in their work that I think really invites folks in and makes them feel understood.
Tell us about your latest release and how it came about
My last record, Learn to Drive, came out in 2019, and really captures the first half of my twenties. I wanted to write an album that kind of captured the spirit of aliveness in coming-of-age, falling in love, and leaving home. I hadn’t really thought of it until now, but where that album really explores my early twenties, my upcoming release, Pain and Power kind of book-ends that decade (I am 29 now!)
What’s the future looking like for you?
The pandemic really brought me perspective in how I look at the future. I want to be happy, healthy, and creatively fulfilled. I am working on getting back on the road and performing again. I’m starting to think about what my next Book-Album might look like! Aside from that, I’m teaching amazing kiddos how to find their own musical voices, and am dreaming up a life with my love, Kaston!
What is the most embarrassing memory and most proud moment of your career so far ?
One time on a gig I got drunk and unplugged my guitar with my foot. That was not a good look. My most proud moment is finally modeling my own music career and artistic process with the compassion and authenticity that I try to foster in my students. I’m really really proud of this project and my courage to find the words and images and notes and chords for some of the most painful and abstract parts of my life.
What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
My friend, the incredible musician Paul Rishell told me once “if you have to choose between a note and a feeling, choose a feeling every time.” My grandfather used to end letters with the phrase “remember yourself.” That one always stuck out to me as a kid, and I got it tattooed on my arm this year.
What’s the best way for young artists to make it these days?
Definitely TikTok. I will not be there. Ha!