“Sometimes vulnerability just looks like trash”: Ok Cowgirl Channel Raw Energy into Fiery Sound on “Little Splinters & “Forever”

Ok Cowgirl © Rita Iovine
Ok Cowgirl © Rita Iovine
Ok Cowgirl’s Leah Lavigne catches up with Atwood Magazine for an intimate conversation about vulnerability, empowerment, self-discovery, and the band’s new singles “Little Splinters” and “Forever” – taken off their highly anticipated debut album, ‘Couldn’t Save Us From My Gut’!
Stream: “Little Splinters” – Ok Cowgirl




“Little Splinters” is about my imperfections, but I sing it confidently. It’s about feeling challenged, but I sing it with hope and conviction. It’s about being disappointed, but I have fun every time I play it.

Ok Cowgirl’s Leah Lavigne has been on a journey of empowerment lately.

She’s been learning to listen to her inner voice and trust her intuition; to allow herself to be vulnerable when she’d otherwise put up walls; to find comfort in discomfort, and accept when situations are in and outside her control.

It’s a litany of powerful life lessons we could all stand to grow from, and through Ok Cowgirl’s upcoming debut album, we can: Lavigne and co. pack all of the above and more into Couldn’t Save Us From My Gut, an emotionally charged, rip-roaring indie rock record born out of unfiltered vulnerability and raw grit (out August 16, 2024 via Easy Does It Records). It’s fiery and feverish collection of raw reckonings and reveries from the up-and-coming Brooklyn five-piece – a soundtrack to personal growth and self-discovery that hits hard and leaves a lasting mark on both the ears and the heart.

Couldn't Save Us From My Gut - Ok Cowgirl
‘Couldn’t Save Us From My Gut,’ Ok Cowgirl’s debut album (art by Joohee Park)
I’m going to plan
Too many coffee dates
And when morning approaches
That’s when I will flake
Inconsequential,
Why can’t you let me be
I don’t want you to need me
Just want you to please my every whim
Oh such whimsy
I wish that I could breathe
In air cold like winter
It keeps me on my toes
Oh little splinters
One day trees will grow
Oh little splinters
One day trees will grow
– “Little Splinters,” Ok Cowgirl

Couldn’t Save Us From My Gut is a profound elevation of Ok Cowgirl’s already breathtaking artistry: The band – one of Atwood Magazine‘s 2022 artists to watch – have evolved considerably since they first introduced themselves in late 2020. “The weight of reflection, connection, and self-discovery hangs heavy throughout Ok Cowgirl’s music,” Atwood Magazine said of their debut EP, released in 2021. “A dreamy and raw reckoning, Not My First Rodeo is as turbulent as it is stirring: A visceral coming-of-age record dwelling in a space of feverish emotion and dramatic sound.”

Ok Cowgirl's Leah Lavigne © Rita Iovine
Ok Cowgirl’s Leah Lavigne © Rita Iovine



Couldn’t Save Us From My Gut will arrive nearly three full years after that first EP, and its spellbinding lead single “Little Splinters” (released in late May) acts as a resounding reintroduction to the band of Lavigne, lead guitarist Jake Sabinsky, guitar and synth player John Miller, bassist Ryan Work, and drummer Matt Birkenholz. “Our previous EP was about feeling lost, and this song is about finding myself,” Lavigne explains. She and her bandmates erupt in a frenzied fury of cool, breathtaking passion on their first song in well over two years’ time.

It’s an especially welcome treat for Ok Cowgirl fans, who have been waiting for this moment with bated breath for quite some time. Thankfully, that patience pays off tenfold.

Homecoming queen
But no date to the dance
Sneaking in chips
In a black bodega bag
Posted a topless pic
Call it an attention grab
To be well liked can feel so small
When you just want one to love your all

“I love that this song is fun to listen to, even though it’s about going through something really difficult. I think that in itself displays the very personal growth this song is talking about,” Lavigne tells Atwood Magazine. “‘Little Splinters’ is about my imperfections, but I sing it confidently. It’s about feeling challenged, but I sing it with hope and conviction. It’s about being disappointed, but I have fun every time I play it.”

“All of that is because I have learned to love myself even though I am imperfect, and to know my power especially when life gets hard. I have gotten so much better at enjoying this life, as heartbreaking and disappointing as it may be at times. I hope that this song makes people feel the way it makes me feel – confident, and hopeful, and strong, and like I’m having a good time.”

Ok Cowgirl © Rita Iovine
Ok Cowgirl © Rita Iovine



Ok Cowgirl’s artistry is proof that vulnerability can be loud, feverish, and unapologetic.

We hear that truth borne out in “Little Splinters,” as well as in Couldn’t Save Us From My Gut‘s sophomore single, “Forever” (released in June). “I hate to pick favorites, but this song might be it,” Lavigne says of “Forever,” explaining how it’s about leaving her first serious relationship, and all the mourning and longing that came with it.

“As I searched for a way out of this feeling, I couldn’t help but wish I could bend time.”

If I knew I would live forever
I might leave you and try to come back
If I knew I could have forever
I might love you with the plan of leaving
After some time passes
To look for greener grasses
That I may never find
But I’d have the time
To learn it the hard way
And still have life to spend
If I knew I would die tomorrow
I’d stay right here in your arms
And if I lived the day that was to follow
I’d stay here too

Atwood Magazine recently caught up with Leah Lavigne for an in-depth conversation about Ok Cowgirl and their new singles. Dive into the band and their new music in our interview below, and stay tuned for the upcoming release of their debut album Couldn’t Save Us From My Gut, out August 16!

“This record… is not about life being just beautiful or dramatic or dreamy; it is about so much more – about the big and small, the mundane and life altering, the lovely and frustrating,” Lavigne smiles. “And I am so grateful that (our producer) Alex Farrar could pick up on this and guide us towards [creating] something that feels honest, raw and potent. This felt like a big step in the evolution of Ok Cowgirl’s sound. I think it serves my songwriting so well and has opened the doors for us to make a more expansive and exciting range of music than ever before.”

— —

:: read more Ok Cowgirl coverage here ::
:: connect with Ok Cowgirl here ::
Stream: “Little Splinters” – Ok Cowgirl



CATCHING UP WITH OK COWGIRL

Little Splinters - Ok Cowgirl

Atwood Magazine: Great to catch up, everyone! Firstly, what's the story behind “Little Splinters,” and why did you choose that as your first bit of music in two years?

Leah Lavigne: We chose this as our first song back mainly because of the energy behind this song. When we play this song live we feel excited, and we wanted our listeners to feel excited and energized as we begin to release new music.

Sonically, this song feels so fresh and fired up. What were you going for when recording it? What was your vision for it, if any?

Leah Lavigne: This song is about a journey of empowerment, so naturally we recorded a bunch of power chords in the guitar arrangement. I don’t know what it is about the sound of power chords that gets me so fired up. Perhaps the ease of playing a power chord allows you to focus less on technicality and more on having a freaking blast while you’re doing it, and that energy is somehow captured. When we brought this demo to Alex Farrar, he immediately identified it as a song worthy of being a single. We wanted it to sound energetic, pop-y, and fun, while still holding on to the grit and vulnerability of the story it tells.

Do you have any favorite lyrics or lines from this track?

Leah Lavigne: We love the line, “sometimes vulnerability just looks like trash.” When I first sang it for Alex he raised his eyebrows and was like, “Did you just yodel? Do you know how to yodel?” – it was hilarious. It is almost yodel like. Switching back and forth between my head and throat voice quickly is a vocal technique that I have been using for the past couple years and keeping in mind when I write melodies because I think it feels evocative and emotional. It reminds me of when someone on the verge of tears has a crack in their voice – how when you are feeling that emotional, your throat voice, your everyday talking voice that is usually so effortless can just slip away from you and you are left with a voice that is softer, higher in register, harder to control. A wail is so close to singing, and there is nothing more emotional to the ears than someone cry-talking.

So, yes, people wonder why they end up crying at our shows… and I guess this is probably why. Because I am practically cry-talking… but like the singing version. Anywho, because I use this vocal technique to express lyrics that are usually vulnerable, it was only natural for me to use an exaggerated version of this to sing the word itself. And to highlight it we decided to dramatically have the rest of the instrumentation drop out at that moment, leaving it bare.

Ok Cowgirl © Rita Iovine
Ok Cowgirl © Rita Iovine



A wail is so close to singing, and there is nothing more emotional to the ears than someone cry-talking.

You've talked about the self-empowerment and self-love that inspired this song. Where, for you, did those emotions stem from? Were these real life, lived experiences, and how did you navigate them?

Leah Lavigne: This song comes very much from my real life and lived experiences.

The first verse:

I’m going to plan
Too many coffee dates
And when morning approaches
That’s when I will flake
Inconsequential,
Why can’t you let me be
I don’t want you to need me
Just want you to please my every whim

…is about how for years I chronically over-scheduled myself. I just tried to do so much. I was really bad at setting boundaries, and I wanted to be everything that everyone wanted me to be at all times. I wanted to be the best daughter, and the best student, and the best employee, and the best friend to every single one of my friends. I was trying to do too much. And ultimately, trying to people-please, trying to make everyone happy all the time, ended up making not only me unhappy, but also those very people unhappy as well. I wasn’t taking care of myself, I was stretching myself too thin, and often that meant I couldn’t show up for people as the best version of myself.

For so long I thought that this people-pleasing tendency was me being generous and caring. I thought making an effort to be who they wanted and “needed” me to be, living up to their expectations, not making them uncomfortable was a generous thing; I thought it made me a good person. But I felt empty, exhausted and eventually I started to feel almost dishonest. My therapist (shoutout <3) helped me realize that actually the most generous thing I could do for myself and for others, was to figure out who I was, and be that, not some hyper-curated, forced or tailored version of myself. Believing this meant I had to learn to believe that I was a good thing, that people could love me for who I really am, that I was enough.

Not expecting myself to please others all the time, allowed me also to not expect them to please me. It has been so liberating to let myself be me, and let other people be themselves. To let myself be free, and to not take others’ actions so personally. It has been revolutionary for me. And that’s the jumping off point for this song.

The second verse:

Homecoming queen
But no date to the dance
Sneaking in chips
In a black bodega bag
Posted a topless pic
Call it an attention grab
To be well liked can feel so small
When you just want one to love your all

… alludes to a more innocent time in my life. “Homecoming queen but no date to the dance” is a somewhat true line. I was voted onto homecoming court, and I was actually never really asked to a single dance in high school. This really hurt my ego when I was younger; it took me so long to get over. It gave me this feeling of not being wanted. This verse is about norms and expectations in our culture and how something like getting asked to a dance is often relied on as a marker of validation. Am I cool, am I pretty, am I wanted, am I worthy? I hinged all of that on whether a handful of 16 year old boys might be attracted to me and have the self-confidence to act on it. It feels so silly now; the world is so big, and there are many things you can’t trust 16 year old boys with. Why would I ever put my self-worth in their hands? But it took me a long time to realize this, and to stop relying on external validation for my sense of self-worth.

To be well liked can feel so small, when you just want one to love your all” is an interesting line because at a certain point in my life I thought that that “one” who I wanted to love me was a romantic partner. I thought that if I had been asked to homecoming that I would feel good about myself, that if I could just have a healthy romantic partnership I would feel better. What I realized after being in several relationships with people who loved me very much (and it never feeling like enough) was that what I really wanted, the person I really wanted to love me was me.

How have you brought yourself back from feeling like a splinter? Any recommendations to others who feel the same?

Leah Lavigne: The chorus of this song is about feeling small, disjointed, prickly. I used to feel like I had all these little pieces of myself, these little fragments, tastes of “maybe I’m this, maybe I’m that.” But I felt confused. I couldn’t find my center of gravity. I couldn’t figure out how these little pieces came together to form something that felt strong, and whole and beautiful, like a giant tree I’d stare at through my window.

And my answer for how to start feeling like that big beautiful tree can be found towards the end of the song. I had to “let it go.” I had to figure out what thought patterns, what behaviors were holding me back, and let them go. And it was hard, it was messy, it felt like wading through the mud. But it got easier, and it was so worth it. Just keep taking one step in front of the other, and while you’re doing this challenging personal work don’t forget to let yourself have a little fun.

Sometimes vulnerability just looks like trash
Shared it just to scare myself and then to have
To let it go… To let it go
I have wasted years
Trying to escape fear
I have wasted years
To let it go…
– “Little Splinters,” Ok Cowgirl

BROOKLYN’S OK COWGIRL PUT FEELINGS FIRST ON STUNNING DEBUT EP ‘NOT MY FIRST RODEO’

:: FEATURE ::



Breaks my heart to say this, but it's been 2.5 years since Not My First Rodeo’s release. Leah, how have you and the band as a whole grown since then?

Leah Lavigne: We have grown so much! For one, we have gone from a 4 piece to a 5 piece! Voila! But another really incredible thing is that we’ve grown closer. Some of us, my drummer Matt and I for instance, have now been making music together for 10 years. It has been such an incredible experience to grow with this group of people as friends and as collaborators. Just recently we were working on writing a new song together at rehearsal, and it wasn’t until I saw the look on our newest band member’s face that I realized how dialed in our process is.

To Jake, John, Matt, and me, writing a song together feels so natural. We know who does what, who does what when, how much input each of us is open to and how to deliver it, when to step away and come back, etc. But to somebody who hasn’t been in that room for years with us, the way we read each other’s body language and minds, the way we pass ideas back and forth with half finished sentences and guitar licks, is probably insane. We are more skilled, more efficient and having more fun than ever. So get ready for more music! I can’t wait for what’s to come.

How, for you, does “Little Splinters” serve as a reintroduction to Ok Cowgirl?

Leah Lavigne: “Little Splinters” feels like a good reintroduction to Ok Cowgirl because our previous EP was about feeling lost, and this song is about finding myself.



Continuing along that line of thought, how does the band we're getting to know today compare to the one we last really knew in 2022? How do you feel you've changed over the past 2-3 years, and what excites you about returning with new music now?

Leah Lavigne: When we were in the studio recording Couldn’t Save Us From My Gut, one of the biggest production decisions that our producer Alex Farrar encouraged was to record things “dryer” or with less reverb than we were used to. I was used to having a lot of reverb on my voice and guitar, but Alex thought it was taking away rather than adding in some cases. Something Alex helped me realize is that I was hiding behind the reverb. Reverb had been so much a part of our sound on previous recordings that we had deemed ourselves a “dream rock” band. When Alex challenged me to lose the reverb I expressed that without it I was afraid my guitar playing or singing wouldn’t sound good enough or pretty. And once I was honest with myself in that way, I was determined to lose the reverb… because my main intentions when I founded Ok Cowgirl were to free myself from insecurity, not be duped by a narrow-minded understanding of “good” nor tamed by a need to be pretty/beautiful that was so ingrained in me as a young girl.

On the record there is some reverb, but instead of being a veil I am hiding behind, it’s a choice, an intentional sonic tool at my disposal on my mission to express myself. This record, after all, is not about life being just beautiful or dramatic or dreamy (things that reverb often evoke), it is about so much more – about the big and small, the mundane and life altering, the lovely and frustrating. And I am so grateful that Alex could pick up on this and guide us towards making production decisions that helped us create something that feels honest, raw and potent. This felt like a big step in the evolution of Ok Cowgirl’s sound. I think it serves my songwriting so well and has opened the doors for us to make a more expansive and exciting range of music than ever before.

Your debut album is named Couldn't Save Us From My Gut. What does that title mean to you, and what can you share with us about this record?

Leah Lavigne: The album is named Couldn’t Save Us From My Gut because this record is about me learning to listen to and trust my intuition in various contexts from leaving my first long-term relationship, to entering my first queer relationship, to coming to terms with growing apart from friends, to navigating my career in a f*d up economy. That’s the through-line, and it’s a direct lyric from the third track, “Our Love.”

Couldn't Save Us From My Gut - Ok Cowgirl
Couldn’t Save Us From My Gut – Ok Cowgirl (art by Joohee Park)



In the spirit of teasing listeners, what else can fans look forward to off the new album? Anything we can share to start getting folks excited?

Leah Lavigne: The second single off of this record is called “Forever” and it came out on June 12th. I am so excited for people to hear this song. I hate to pick favorites, but this song might be it. It’s really quite different from “Little Splinters,” so I think people are going to be surprised by it. We also filmed this stunning music video for it up in Vermont with our friend Nic Motyka. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever done before, so I’m excited for that as well.

Can you talk a bit more about this song?

Leah Lavigne: I wrote “Forever” while I was grappling with the idea of leaving my first serious relationship. It was a strange and new experience to me, to care about someone so deeply and be able to see a future with them yet be plagued by what-ifs. I felt trapped by my life, and I mourned the loss of potential futures I’d never get to explore. As I searched for a way out of this feeling, I couldn’t help but wish I could bend time.

Lastly, what do you love most about “Little Splinters,” and what do you hope listeners take away from it?

Leah Lavigne: I love that this song is fun to listen to even though it’s about going through something really difficult. I think that in itself displays the very personal growth this song is talking about.

“Little Splinters” is about my imperfections, but I sing it confidently. It’s about feeling challenged, but I sing it with hope and conviction. It’s about being disappointed, but I have fun every time I play it. All of that is because I have learned to love myself even though I am imperfect, and to know my power especially when life gets hard. I have gotten so much better at enjoying this life, as heartbreaking and disappointing as it may be at times.

I hope that this song makes people feel the way it makes me feel – confident, and hopeful, and strong, and like I’m having a good time.

— —

:: read more Ok Cowgirl coverage here ::
:: connect with Ok Cowgirl here ::
Stream: “Forever” – Ok Cowgirl



— — — —

Couldn't Save Us From My Gut - Ok Cowgirl

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? © Rita Levine
art © Joohee Park

:: Stream Ok Cowgirl ::



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