Annie Bacon Opens Doors to Empathy through Music

. May 29, 2019.
Photo by Cybelle Codish
Photo by Cybelle Codish

Album Release Party at the Blind Pig

We’re not the first to welcome Annie Bacon to Ann Arbor, but we’re nevertheless excited to introduce all of our readers to the San-Fran transplant singer/songwriter as she brings her heartfelt voice, indelible melodies, and lyrical composite of compassionate poetry and contemplative portraits of the human experience, to her new home here in Washtenaw county. “I’m so amazed at how open and excited people have been,” says Bacon, reflecting on her new hometown scene. “It definitely seems like a perfect home, musically.” Bacon is releasing her fifth album July 25 with a performance at the Blind Pig.

Bacon moved here with her partner (who has roots in Dexter) one year ago, and has already bonded with several local songwriters and performed at spots like Grove Studios in Ypsi and Crazy Wisdom in Ann Arbor. “I already feel like I’m part of a great community,” said Bacon, reiterating the welcoming vibe she encountered after settling into town. She completed her latest album, Nothing Stays The Same, here, but recorded a good portion of the 14 tracks in Nasvhille with (Avett Brothers/Langhorne Slim) producer Paul Defiglia, at Sensitive Sound Studios, while others were completed back in San Francisco.

Bacon didn’t start writing her own songs until her late 20’s, and admits she’s “moved fast,” in terms of writing and releasing her current canon of music. “I’ve been obsessed with music from my earliest days,” said Bacon. She grew up on an interesting mix of 70’s soft-rock and Top 40 Pop with the cerebral soundscapes of Pink Floyd and the starkly honest and fearlessly vulnerable works of Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, and Tom Waits. But those raw influential materials were poured into a mold that fits more in the realm of folk-rock, Americana, or neo-country. Indeed, Bacon has an affinity for the legacy of folk music and its sustaining potential for forging connections. She is, for example, very candid about her struggles with depression, pointing to how some of the works of aforementioned artists saved her life by way of “affirming my sadness.”

Whatever you want to call it, folk, blues, soul, Bacon was reinvigorated by a music that was simultaneously earnest and intimate. “I used to think ‘folk music’ was about the instrumentation, but it has more to do with people. It’s about humans. From Woody Guthrie to Joni Mitchell to Tracy Chapman, the gift of the folk musician is to understand humans and to express that understanding in a way that communicates how caring for other people can be healing.”

Bacon said a lot of the influence for her newest album “is related to my own mental health and my ebbs and fows of feeling connected to myself and the world. I just feel like (music) saved my life. I think, for myself, to join the lineage of folk musicians? It’s hard to answer that, because it’s not necessarily a choice I’m making; it’s who I am, I’m a humanist, I’m an empath…”

Bacon had been part of and performed with other rock bands before starting her solo career. But she had a quiet revelation a few years ago. “When I perform, I’m opening a door. People can choose whether they want to come through or not, but the door is opened. We can come in to this space together, and be in this safe space together, this vulnerable space together, and it’s not about what the door looks like, it’s opening (the door), that’s all that matters. My vulnerability is an invitation to others to connect their experiences with…, and if you don’t like this door? …There will be another one in about four minutes.”

Bacon mentioned Joni Mitchell and Tracy Chapman earlier, and there’s no doubt that fans of those icons would find a new favorite artist in Bacon, as well as an aesthetic (and poignant) correlate parallel with a mix of classic and contemporaries like Stevie Nicks or Neko Case. Bacon’s voice can be soothing and bracing, as elementally enlivening as a spring sunrise but as honest as an autumn gale.

Even the mere richness of her intonation would be enough to suggest that this singer has some stories to tell, but then her poetry beings to paint cinematic pictures that can seem to be montages from any of our memories in terms of relatability. Her OSHEN is the backing band across her releases, which have fluctuated in membership a bit, but by doing so, created stylistic layers and blurred genre tropes across the arrangements on her albums.

“I consider my purpose, as an artist, to be connection. It starts with the personal, in the writing process, connecting to my own experiences or those I’ve witnessed in others; the goal is to help people hearing it to connect more deeply to themselves and feel they’re heard, like they’re seen.” She repeats that folk music can be “healing,” but it can require an effort to engage, confront, or exorcise a deep emotional sadness. But again, Bacon’s intent is to open that door, to make an invitation toward (and an invocation of) that healing.

And of course, the good work of making healing music requires supportive collaborators. Bacon praised Defiglia’s encouraging disposition and overall supportive efforts as a producer, as well as all of the many musicians who contributed to Nothing Stays The Same, such as James Nash (The Waybacks) Omar Cuellar (Facing New York), Henry Nagle (part of eight belles, with Kalamazoo-based singer Jessi Phillips), Elizabeth Greenblatt, Meryl Press, Rachel Garcia, Erica Kane Fink, Douglass Allen, Kira Hooks, and The Singer & The Songwriter (the latter of whom Bacon will be on tour with, soon).

Before Bacon hits the road in September, she’ll be celebrating Nothing Stays The Same (as well as celebrating her new hometown) on July 25, at the Blind Pig.

Annie Bacon Album Release Party
Thurs., July 25 | Blind Pig
Also featuring Ed Dupas (Releasing New Music)
208 S. 1st St., Ann Arbor | blindpigmsuic.com
anniebacon.me | soundcloud.com/anniebacon

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