Free, luscious, uplifting, joyful. These probably aren’t words many of us would use to describe how we feel right now, in the dog days of a uniquely stressful and solitary summer.
But that’s how Michigan singer-songwriter May Erlewine hopes you feel listening to her new album Anyway. The record is a collaboration with Woody Goss of Vulfpeck, and it’s scheduled for release Friday, August 14.
Erlewine and Goss started recording the album nearly two years ago. It was ready this spring, but they decided to hold off on its release as the COVID-19 pandemic turned everyone’s world upside down. Now, after months of social distancing and lots of uncertainty about the future, Erlewine says she thinks the music on Anyway might be a welcome sonic respite.
“I thought that people would enjoy these songs, just in their uplifting, kind of joyful sentiment and free-feeling sentiments, as we go through this weird summer,” she said.
The free, easy feeling of the new album comes in part from the musicians’ style of collaboration. Erlewine says there actually wasn’t much rehearsal. She and Goss worked together virtually to write a lot of the music and lyrics before ever practicing in person. In the case of one song, “Palm of My Hand,” the first time the whole group actually performed it together was when they met in the studio to record.
“We just played it three times, and it was done, and we moved on,” Erlewine recalled. “The session was a lot like that, where the band had never heard the songs before, and we were really just in the moment together, feeling the music, which was really, really fun.”
Like many musicians, Erlewine had to rethink her plans after the pandemic led to widespread event cancellations. She says it’s typical for artists to schedule work six months ahead of time, especially if they’re touring. The ever changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has made that impossible.
“It was pretty overwhelming to consider all that being canceled,” she said. “I had two album releases, one with Woody and one with The [Sweet Water] Warblers. That was canceled, and that’s a huge financial investment, so that was really a huge blow.”
But Erlewine hasn’t stopped working—she’s just reframed her approach. She’s currently using Patreon, a subscription platform for fans to connect with and financially support artists, as well as performing online concerts with a virtual tip jar.
“That’s how I'm staying afloat right now, is the people that believe in my voice and are taking their own hard-earned dollars, in their own, probably, economic crisis, and supporting my art as a thing of value during this time,” she said.
Anyway will be released in full on streaming platforms Friday, August 14.
Support for arts and culture coverage comes in part from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Nell Ovitt.