Impassioned and beautiful, indie folk singer/songwriter Skylar Gudasz’s album ‘Cinema’ offers a moving expression of (and reflection on) life’s intimate, everyday moments.
Stream: “Waitress” – Skylar Gudasz
All I wanted to do was write you a song so true it would save your life and save mine…
Singer/songwriter Skylar Gudasz’s sophomore album starts with a whisper, rises to a bellowing roar, and ends as quietly and subtly as it began. “You can blame it on the stars; you can tell it to the moon; babe, I wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t feel so good. You can try and escape me, but I came for you…” Just like the snare she sets in her album’s opener “Femme Fatale,” the impassioned and haunting Cinema is a moving, dramatic expression of (and reflection on) life’s intimate and everyday moments. It’s indie folk; it’s alternative; it’s delicate and soft; it’s sweepingly grand; and no matter how we go into it, we come away from this album feeling like we’ve made a new friend.
I give to you my troubled mind
I give to you my apple pie
I send you my regrets from this diner
I’m a loner who loves
to lay low in your arms
you can’t help what it is you love
there’s lipstick on my coffee cup
I write down the words that I find you in
on a napkin, the mark of your teeth
still in my stockings
you say that I’m stuck on the blues
well they were there before you
and it’s likely they’ll be here
long after you’re gone
so I play along & keep my shades on
my dreams in cyan
– “Waitress,” Skylar Gudasz
Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering the Jacki Huntington-directed video for “Waitress,” taken off Skylar Gudasz’s recently released sophomore album Cinema (April 17, 2020 via Suah Sounds). Shot on location at North Carolina’s Wildacres Retreat, the music video finds Gudasz, clad in a series of eye-catching red dresses, slowly making her way from within four walls to the natural world. Symbolic of our human journey from ashes to ashes, dust to dust, the video faithfully carries the track’s mission of rendering life through song.
“[It’s] sort of a puzzle of wondering how do you in fact write a song worthy to sing to honor someone’s life, that ended up turning into an artist statement,” Gudasz says of her new album’s final song – its poignant bookend, a finality of sorts.
all I wanted to do was write you
a song so true it would save your life
and save mine
my, the truth might set you free
but it won’t free you from time
so I give to you my troubled mind
I give to you my apple pie
do you forgive me for
all the ways that I missed you
did I ever not miss you
in my bones, in being myself
I could be no one else
“Waitress” may be the record’s final statement, but it is far from its only meaningful one: With its gorgeous indie folk arrangement and Gudasz’s breathtaking voice guiding the way, Cinema transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.
“Cinema comes from the ancient Greek for movement, and I liked thinking about all the meanings of that: A movement as part of a work of music, or a change or shift, or the marking of a passage of time, and how that’s essentially what a record is,” Skylar Gudasz tells Atwood Magazine. “Across the album, there’s a lot of imagery of everyday life and labor as performance, and the drama of identity.”
Gudasz is a modern-day poet like Dylan, and a modern-day storyteller like Mitchell; she encases her words with wondrous melodies and spellbinding timbres, all as raw and vulnerable as her emotions are bare. Recorded between the famed April Base in Eau Claire, Wisconsin with producer Brad Cook (Bon Iver, The National, The War on Drugs, Waxahatchee), and various “secret studios” in the “forests” of North Carolina with Jeff Crawford (Daughter of Swords), Ari Picker (Dante High, Lost in the Trees) and Missy Thangs (the Love Language), Cinema is a vivid, unabridged patchwork of a life in progress: A life being lived….
two girls drinking wine, smoking rollies
out the window by the Brighton Pier
I locked myself out of the club after my set
little bout of freedom
I guess I’ll walk while the star appears
I tell myself that it is just the sea
and the wilding effect it has on me
these days I can’t eat & when I do
I’m like an animal
and everything makes me manic
sleeping in hotels or rather not sleeping
and dancing alone to Tom Petty
in my room until the morning comes
the highs and the lows
the peaks and valleys and the fit of your clothes
is there any place I haven’t left my heart?
salt in the water, skin in the dark
and always the wind, hey
I’m an animal
…I swear that I’ve been down this street before
but Skylar of course
you’ve never been here before
you’re just lost and talking to yourself
like an animal
– “Animal,” Skylar Gudasz
Fragility has never sounded so confident; regular moments never felt so… special.
Skylar Gudasz’s ability to elevate “the little things” has led her to create some truly spectacular songs, and it is this innate, inimitable talent that will allow her to continue lighting sparks of depth and connection, for herself and others, throughout her life.
Experience the full record via the below stream, and peek inside Skylar Gudasz’s Cinema with Atwood Magazine as the artist goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her sophomore album!
Stream: ‘Cinema’ – Skylar Gudasz
:: Inside Cinema ::
The film noir archetype of the femme fatale has always intrigued me, and I wanted to recast her in this song as, essentially, the personification of the angel of death, and hear how this voice of destruction sounded, and the power in that. When I’m writing, I love to think of the lyrics of the song as a script the singer gets to say, and I approached Femme Fatale from that angle – trying to leave bombastic and fun lines for this powerful character to deliver. I used to sing Femme Fatale, the Velvet Underground song, with Big Star’s Third, so there’s a little nod to that, but they’re not really related. Getting the building strings, spectral choir and exploding guitar solo right were all very important to me – Jeff Crawford helped me through a few different recordings of it and Ari Picker made some bold mix moves that really brought the drama. When I first played my demo songs for Brad Cook I remember him saying that he thought this should be the first song on the record. I was surprised to hear that – I hadn’t considered it originally, mainly because I felt like it would be an intense beginning – but once I sat with that, it made total sense to me. It sets the tone of where we wanted the record to go emotionally.
This is a song for artists and dreamers and their day jobs. I have vivid memories of being in stockrooms with cans of peaches and dreaming of being anywhere but there. When I wrote this song, I was living in LA for a time, working on this record, and I was thinking about all the role playing that goes into the labor of the service industry. I wanted to use the movie dialogue “let’s get out of here”, and I liked thinking about performance as an escape. My dad loves old Hollywood movies, and there’s a Bette Davis quote – “Take Fountain” – in there for him.
Play Nice was advice I got about surviving the music industry, which can be really tough, especially as a woman. After some bad blood personal experience, when I heard that advice I immediately wanted to turn it into a song, because it struck me how while playing nice is a survival tactic, at the same time it can be hiding some deep ferocity that’s otherwise overlooked, and that sort of secret weapon is an empowering thing to think about. I originally set out to record “Play Nice” as a demo with Ari Picker (Lost in the Trees, Dante High) at Goth Construction Studios which is deep in the North Carolina forest, but we found this groove and these emo synths that became super fun to sing against, and then it became the real thing.
This song features Libby Rodenbough (Mipso, Jake Xerxes Fussell) on the fiddle and we recorded it live as the first take with Brad Cook (Bon Iver, War on Drugs, Waxahatchee) at April Base in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. There’s this magical overtone in the electric guitar track that sort of presents as a high ringing or a bell at different parts in the song that made us all really excited. The song is kind of like a lover asking Can you really handle me, the totality of who I am? Can I even handle it? When I wrote it, I was envisioning this stretch of highway in Virginia on the way back to my childhood home, where the road and the trees go on for a very long time and make this kind of hourglass, and you feel like you are riding up the hourglass toward the center of the horizon. I settled on the title Rider because it’s a term passed down in some old folk, traditional and blues songs (‘I know you Rider’, ‘C.C. Rider’, ‘Woman Blue’) but also because it’s a fitting word for how it feels to be a human — so much of life, we must simply hang on for.
“Animal” was written on a walk around the Brighton Pier after I accidentally locked myself out of the club I had just finished playing right as the headliner took the stage. I sang it into my voice memo as I was walking around and it became a kind of stream of consciousness snapshot of being on tour, where everything feels familiar and strange at the same time and it’s hard to know which beauty you should hold on to. It’s about feeling wild. After initially recording the fiddle and dictaphone touches in Wisconsin, we polished Animal off at Arbor Ridge Studios with Jeff Crawford’s (Daughter of Swords) crunchy guitar tones and I got to play some flute on it.
“Short Staying” is a goodbye song. I wanted to reference the “bright morning” of Appalachian standard I’ll Fly Away, which has long been a song I’ve sung and heard sung throughout the Shenandoah Valley where my grandfather’s family is from. Featuring Casey Toll (Mount Moriah, Nathan Bowles Trio, Jake Xerxes Fussell) on the droning upright bass and Libby Rodenbough on an echoing unison fiddle.
“Go Away” is an uptempo piano number we decorated with sparkling synths, warm organ tones and a driving bass to set the backdrop. I took the lyrics from old diary entries in my tour journals (“daydreamer with the nightly blues”) that I kept while on the road after the release of my last album, Oleander.
Have We Met, Sir
The imagery for this song is part greek mythology, part family history (mainly my dad’s family who owned and lived above a funeral home), part this recurring dream I have had since I was a child – I’m walking on a bridge and then the bridge ends and the only place to go is in the water. We recorded this while it was snowing in Wisconsin and I was playing the old piano in studio B and Shane Leonard (Field Report, Kristin Andreassen) was on drums in Studio A. We were separated by a floor, and we had never played it together and so relied on learning it by listening very carefully to each other over the headphones. The mics picked up the creaking of the piano pedals and sticking pads and it lent this tension and intimacy that felt really special.
I wrote this song after a party at a film festival when a filmmaker asked me if I would write a song to sing at his wake, which I thought was a darkly hilarious way to try and talk to me and served as a great writing prompt. sort of a puzzle of wondering how do you in fact write a song worthy to sing to honor someone’s life that ended up turning into an artist statement. “All I wanted to do was write you / a song so true it would save your life”.
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📸 © Chris Frisina
:: Stream Skylar Gudasz ::