Interview: Squirrel Flower Brings Her “Red Storm Cloud” to Life on Stirring Sophomore Album ‘Planet (i)’

Squirrel Flower © 2021
Squirrel Flower © 2021
Squirrel Flower’s Ella Williams dives into her intimate and raw second album ‘Planet (i),’ a vulnerable record blending the ethereal and tangible into a deeply human expression filled with poignant emotion, vivid imagery, and powerful storytelling.
for fans of Laura Stevenson, Angie McMahon, Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers
Stream: “I’ll Go Running” – Squirrel Flower




I’ve been embracing silence and space in music since my first Squirrel Flower EP. Space is everything. Space is not empty.

We are so much more than the sum of our parts, and yet finding a way to express all of our ourselves at once can often feel overwhelming, if not impossible. For Squirrel Flower’s Ella Williams, that intense manifestation of “self” comes to life through an intimate album that seamlessly, yet painstakingly, manages to be so many things at once: “Planet (i) references the world of the album, my internal worlds, and the world of planet Earth,” she explains. “[It’s] my body and mind, and it’s the physical and emotional world of our planet.” In other words, the titular “planet” at the core of Squirrel Flower’s sophomore album is a blend of Ella Williams’ many worlds, her inner and outer identities and beyond.

Intimate and raw, Planet (i) blends the ethereal and tangible into a deeply human record filled with poignant emotion and powerful storytelling. It’s a vulnerable, visceral album that invites its audience to stop, think, and listen; to feel the inhale and exhale of breath coming and going from our bodies; to be present to ourselves and mindful of our surrounding world.

Planet (i) - Squirrel Flower
Planet (i) – Squirrel Flower
I’ll go running, let my hair down
I’ll go running, let my hair down
Won’t give two ears to what you say now
Won’t give two ears to what you say now
I’ll go running, let my hair down
Won’t give two ears to what you say now
I’m a space rock, burning fast
I’m a space rock, burning fast
I’m an oil tank, burning slow
You didn’t listen long enough to know
I’ll tell you everything
Give away every part
And when I get worn out
I’ll dive into the ground
Pack it in and push it strong…
Pack it up and move along
– “I’ll Go Running,” Squirrel Flower

Released June 25, 2021 via Polyvinyl Records and Full Time Hobby, Planet (i) is a transportive, haunting experience: A devastatingly beautiful unveiling of the self dressed in wondrous indie folk and rock, packed with substantive lyrics and tender, breathtaking music. Arriving just a year and a half after Squirrel Flower’s debut album I Was Born Swimming put Ella Williams’ artistry on the map for good, the singer/songwriter’s second full-length effort soars with a stirring warmth and weight.



Squirrel Flower
Squirrel Flower



Out the window of my big beast
Out the window with the flies and the breeze
Out the window of my old guitar
Out the window and we’re driving far, far
You get angry and you’re so torn up
I get lonely and I get fucked up
I don’t know if I will ever change
Oh, just relax and take a breath
And look at the sun
It burns my eyes
Out on the concrete
You got something in your eye
But I know you’re crying
‘Cause your birthday’s in July
The space in the ether
Justify the weather
Storm clouds in my mind
The lightning in my mind’s eye
Storm clouds in my mind
Thunder inside
The lightning in my mind’s eye
– “Big Beast,” Squirrel Flower




Conceptually, Williams describes her LP as “at once a refuge, an act of self-healing, and a musical reflection of Squirrel Flower’s worlds.”

“At the time I started writing the songs that made it onto the record, I was immersed in thoughts of water, drowning, fire, drought, and tornadoes,” she explains. For Williams, this served as a way of conquering, or at the very least, confronting, a lifelong fear of the elements: “To overcome my fear of disasters, I had to embody them, to stare them down.”

Images of nature and natural destruction find their way into her songwriting; as literal reflections of our world’s wonder (and “devastating beauty”) and as metaphors for the emotions and ideas we can’t see, they add depth and nuance to songs that refuse to be about any one thing: Songs that invite us to open our ears and our minds, and discover our own personal interpretations.

Desert wildflowers don’t need much to grow
To be like that, oh, to be like that…
I’ve seen the desert now, and I know I want the water
Think of that, think of that…
I’m not scared of the flood
I’ll be there with open arms and my feet in the mud
I’m not scared of the storm
I’ll be lying on the roof when the tornado turns
And the thunder screams
I’m another piece of debris
Flying above the town
Closer to the stars than I am to the ground
And I’m not scared of the water
The rain is my parent and I am the daughter…
Desert wildflowers don’t need much to grow
To be like that, oh, to be like that…
– “Desert Wildflowers,” Squirrel Flower

Turbulent and serene, existential and emotional, Planet (i) is as much a safe haven as it is a provocation for its listeners: “WAKE UP!” Squirrel Flower half-whispers, half-shouts to herself and everyone else, in confessional songs brimming with immediacy – that kind of tension that yearns for cathartic release. The artist openly explores her own fragility and brokenness, accepting the imperfections of her human existence while expressing a desire for healing and betterment.

Squirrel Flower © Tonje Thilesen
Squirrel Flower © Tonje Thilesen




Planet(i) reinvigorates and renews; it soothes and inspires, igniting a flame within and feeding our inner fire with hungry songs full of passion, pain, and purpose. Yes, Planet (i) came out of Squirrel Flower’s world(s), and yet like a chameleon, it comes to us ready to embody our own identities and channel our experiences. Whether it’s the driving, aching fervor of “Roadkill” or the wistful glow of “Deluge in the South,” the delicate, burned friction and intimacy of opener “I’ll Go Running” or the hopeful, uplifting resolve of closer “Starshine,” Planet (i) makes for an enchanting and fulfilling journey.

Atwood Magazine spoke to Squirrel Flower’s Ella Williams about the inspirations and musical drives behind her sophomore album. Dive into Planet (i) below, and catch this singular talent on her first world tour throughout late winter and spring 2022 (tickets and more here)!

Now, let me unravel it
I saw a hummingbird
Face down in the water
I stole a pack of cards
From your gutter
I tried the best I could
To paint the house and forgive you
But nothing seems to do the trick
No, nothing seems to do the trick…
– “Deluge in the South,” Squirrel Flower

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:: stream/purchase Planet (i) here ::
Stream: ‘Planet (i)’ – Squirrel Flower



A CONVERSATION WITH SQUIRREL FLOWER

Planet (i) - Squirrel Flower

Atwood Magazine: Ella, this album is a very long time in the making. Can you share a little about the story behind this record?

Squirrel Flower: The album came to be over 1.5 years. I wrote and wrote, beginning on tour but also in every setting I found myself in. I started the demos in January of 2020, which continued through the pandemic, and then linked up with [producer] Ali Chant to record it in Bristol, UK.

What was your vision going into this record? Did that change over the course of recording this?

Squirrel Flower: I didn’t have a vision going into the record. I began to write the songs and allowed the songs to tell me what the album was about, to tell me the overarching theme of the music. But at the time I started writing the songs that made it onto the record, I was immersed in thoughts of water, drowning, fire, drought, and tornadoes.

Why the title “Planet (i)”?

Squirrel Flower: Planet (i) references the world of the album, my internal worlds, and the world of planet earth.

How do you feel Planet (i) introduces you and captures your artistry?

Squirrel Flower: I made it, so it’s mine. I honestly feel like that’s up to other people to decide.

Took it too far again
Thought that you were my friend?
I just got the wrong idea in the morning
Took it too far again
Driving too fast again
Thought that I told you the storm ended,
And I’m never wrong
Took it too far again
Followed you home again
Said I’d be back on track once you were gone,
But I guess I was wrong



Listening the record, I felt like I could hear you playing with tempo on some songs. Can you talk about your decisions to speed up and slow down within the songs?

Squirrel Flower: I wanted certain songs to feel like breath, waves; I don’t like rigidity in song tempo, sound, or structure.

What drove your decision to open with the smoldering song, “I'll Go Running”?

Squirrel Flower: “I’ll Go Running” is really about being pissed off with the music industry and the need for rebirth. But as I was writing it, it became a sort of statement of rebirth. I wanted to frame the album with it, force people to listen to it before any of the other songs.

I personally really resonated with “Iowa 146.” How did this song come about?

Squirrel Flower: Thank you! I wrote it all in one go one night when I was doing a deep memory dive. I heard the line ‘if I play you guitar, will everything fall away?‘ in my head and sat down, turned on my voice memo recorder, and played the whole song.

If I play you guitar, will everything fall away?
If I play you guitar, any song you want me to play
I’ll take my sweet time
Getting all the notes right
I’ll take my sweet time
Getting all the notes right
It’s been so long since I’ve seen your face
For old times sake, I can’t replace
But I could play you guitar
And let it all fall away
I could play you guitar
And let it all fall away
We’ve both grown and seen different kinds of things
I can’t help reminiscing
Power lines overhead
Couldn’t wait to get you in bed
On the top of your car
Best night of your life, you said
Take me back to the house where we lay
Orange light fading through the window outside
As you played me guitar, I watched it fall away…
As you played me guitar, everything fell away



Can you talk about your relationship with space, especially empty space, in your music? Did it take a long time to get comfortable with silences?

Squirrel Flower: I’ve been embracing silence and space in music since my first Squirrel Flower EP. Space is everything. Space is not empty.

I feel like the last two songs, “Night” and “Starshine,” are polar opposites - one so intense, the other so tender. Can you talk about this finale and the contrast of these tracks?

Squirrel Flower: “Night” is a deep dark doom song, the heaviness of depression and doom. “Starshine” is a breath, a release, a moment of perspective, the start of a sunrise.

Following this, why end the album with “Starshine”? It's another personal favorite for me.

Squirrel Flower: It didn’t feel right anywhere else. It really felt like the end of the story of the album.

You are the star
And the starshine
And I’m loving your moons, mmm
Air all around me
Spirits move
And confound me
Could I move you?
Put that long list down
Everything changes
Don’t let it pass
Don’t let it wither
Don’t let it pass
Don’t let it wither
The sun doesn’t care
If you made yourself small
It’ll still burn
It’ll still burn you
It’ll still burn
It’ll still burn you
You are the star
And the starshine
And I’m loving your moods
The moon’s rising
Don’t let it pass
Don’t let it wither
Don’t let it pass
Don’t let it wither



As a lyrically forward artist, do you have any favorite lyrics in these songs?

Squirrel Flower: “To the moon I wail of solitude, and she spits on my head.” I just think that’s kinda hot, to be honest.

Do you have any definitive favorites or personal highlights off this record?

Squirrel Flower: Honestly, the entire thing. There are very, very few bits about it I feel I would change.

What do you hope listeners take away from Planet (i)? What have you taken away from creating it and now putting it out?

Squirrel Flower: I hope listeners spend time and listen to the album through at least a few times before picking favorite songs and adding them to playlists etc. I hope they get a sense of trudging through molasses and then release. Of imagining themselves in a desolate world and how they will still be tender then.

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:: stream/purchase Planet (i) here ::



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Planet (i) - Squirrel Flower

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📸 © Tonje Thilesen

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