Interview: Kaleah Lee’s ‘Birdwatcher’ EP Profoundly Reflects on the Freedom of Solitude

Kaleah Lee 'Birdwatcher' © Spruce Bohen
Kaleah Lee 'Birdwatcher' © Spruce Bohen
An intimately captured performance of poetry, ‘Birdwatcher’ provides a glimpse into Kaleah Lee’s inquisitive inner monologue.
Stream: ‘Birdwatcher’ – Kaleah Lee

What can you call yourself,” sings a hushed voice in the opening lines of the intro to Birdwatcher, “in the midst of evolution, and decisions, and the stretching of your body, what stays constant?

This moment is followed by a series of questions, each pondering the different parts of oneself that stay intact versus the parts that are left behind over time.

When I first learned that Kaleah Lee recorded and self-produced her debut EP, Birdwatcher, alone in her childhood bedroom, my understanding of the record as a whole seemed to click into place. With raw vocals (recorded in her closet), minimalistic guitars, and poetically observational lyrics, each song on the record delves deeper into the inner workings of Kaleah’s introspective mind than the last.

Birdwatcher - Kaleah Lee
Birdwatcher – Kaleah Lee
Micro-awareness and the passing of time
Wrapped in a ribbon and the lines by our eyes
Notice the hollowing out of your cheeks,
How you’ve grown up to desire nights quiet and meek
– “Where’d The Time Go?” Kaleah Lee

“I’ve always been someone who values and feels the most able to be myself when I’m alone,” remarks Lee in regards to her songwriting, “The writing process for me is such a personal and introverted thing, and it’s almost like I’m able to give myself the space I need to work through whatever it is I’m working through as I simultaneously write. It’s a coping mechanism.”

“I feel that the writing is just so personal and very much ripped-from-my-journal-esque, so putting heavy production or arrangements on these songs might’ve taken away from the rawness of emotion and the message that I’m hoping to convey through them.”

Lee’s process of solitude results in an EP that feels intimate, her voice a warm blanket wrapping around layers of unguarded vulnerability.

Kaleah Lee © Donnel Garcia
Kaleah Lee © Donnel Garcia

The lyricism of each track utilizes an abundance of figurative language, the stanzas of which could be underlined and annotated in a poetry workshop. The titular track, “Birdwatcher,” touches on the idea of being an observer of life, self-reflecting on the past and present. Its repeated acoustic riff tugs on the heartstring reserved solely for great chromatic melodies, fully aware of their own emotive purpose within a song.

Existing and living gets hard on my lungs
So I walk calm to sit far
To see softer
Thinking with grace about what I’ve become
A birdwatcher, birdwatcher, birdwatcher

Birdwatcher includes three songs previously released as singles, “Where’d The Time Go,” “Rotting Fruit,” and “The Same.” Each track highlights Kaleah Lee’s beautiful grasp on guitar finger picking and part writing. “The Same” plays with time, slowing and raising the tempo with ease at every chorus, in conjunction with the lyrics, “but I’m worried for the rain, how it always pours the same.” Lee’s subdued delivery allows moments like this to gently push and pull our sentiments. It is easy to relax into the journey on which the songs are trying to take us.

“I recorded everything inside of my childhood bedroom, where I still live now, and truly just had the most fun experimenting,” Lee says of making the record. “I don’t have any sort of technical background in production and like to describe how I do it by literally pressing buttons and choosing what I liked the sound of and what felt right. I recorded most of the vocals in my closet and everything else sitting on the floor or on my bed.” That intimacy translates directly into these songs.

Kaleah Lee © Spruce Bohen
Kaleah Lee © Spruce Bohen

A standout, never-before-heard track, “Asking Price,” utilizes a strummed acoustic guitar and some light keys to create an atmosphere of melancholy. Lee admits that she prefers to mask certain situations in poetic language, rather than write the details of exactly who and what each song is about.

“I think having that thin sheet of imagery up between me and whoever listens is important for me in terms of feeling like it’s safe to share the minuteness of detail of what I was/am feeling…” she shares about the song. This thin sheet of imagery proves to be nothing but a gift for listeners, who have the pleasure of witnessing Lee’s masterful use of language to relate her experiences to others.

The final track, “Wake,” feels like a circular call-back to the questions raised in the intro of the record. In the song, Lee wakes up feeling “confused and out of place,” noting the strangeness of mourning one’s own shed layers. Though the song deals with heavy emotions, it feels like a hopeful bookend to the EP. The track ends with the repeated phrase, “I am changing,” a sweet recognition of the parts of the narrator’s character that were left behind in “Intro.”

Strange to mourn the overgrown
You’ve chopped and slid away
The mirror will recall things
You’re losing everyday
Kaleah Lee © Donnel Garcia
Kaleah Lee © Donnel Garcia

Kaleah Lee creates vehicles for self-reflection and personal evolution on each track of Birdwatcher. As a whole, the record allows listeners to peer into her most vulnerable moments of solitude, while partaking in parallel moments of their own.

“I hope that listeners take away the value I’ve found in giving yourself space and time to do things and reflect on them with acceptance and without judgment,” she shares.

As of March 22, you can now listen to the entirety of Kaleah Lee’s self-written and self-produced debut EP, Birdwatcher.

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:: stream/purchase Birdwatcher here ::
:: connect with Kaleah Lee here ::
Watch: “Birdwatcher” – Kaleah Lee

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Birdwatcher - Kaleah Lee

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? © Spruce Bohen


an EP by Kaleah Lee

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