“I still feel like a stranger to my listeners, and that’s something I want to change”: A Conversation With Willow Avalon

Willow Avalon © Kristin Karch 2024
Willow Avalon © Kristin Karch 2024
From the Deep South to New York’s Electric Lady Studios and stages across the country, singer/songwriter Willow Avalon is finally seeing her dreams come true as she prepares for the major label release of her debut EP ‘Stranger’ – a stunningly warm, achingly intimate and vulnerable introduction to who she is, both as an artist and a person.
Stream: “Honey Ain’t No Sweeter” – Willow Avalon




My music is my form of therapy for myself. I sing about my life and the rights and wrongs that have happened in it.

She’s a hell-bent Southern belle born into a hard hand of cards, who “never took no for an answer.”

Her first word was Elvis, she taught herself to play guitar at age 12, and despite encountering every roadblock imaginable for a young, aspiring artist, she never gave up on her musical dreams – and now, those dreams are coming true right before her very eyes.

25-year-old Willow Avalon comes from a long line of musicians in rural Georgia, and while she grew up on a steady diet of country singer/songwriters, her own music toes the line between Americana, folk, pop, and alternative. After signing her first record deal at 19 and ultimately (successfully) fighting tooth and nail to get out of it, Avalon independently released her debut single “Drivin,” a song she had written when she was just 16 years old, in 2021. As unfiltered as it is exposed, the track aches with the fragility of a bruised heart and the raw fervor of a soul unhinged, seeing its author baring herself for all to see, hear, and feel.

Honey Ain't No Sweeter - Willow Avalon
Honey Ain’t No Sweeter – Willow Avalon

“I was living in my car in Atlanta and getting over an older guy I thought was the love of my life,” Avalon told Atwood Magazine last fall. “But in all actuality, he was a grimy, 2-pack-a-day, alcoholic bass player. I tried to start smoking to be closer to him, and I found myself smoking more after that dumpster fire ended to try and hold on to something from my time with him. I ended up quitting smoking, moving to Los Angeles, and never thinking of him again until I finished writing the song in 2017.”

“I always knew Drivin’ was special… The song was carried through some of the biggest obstacles I ever encountered in my life and still managed to somehow be born. I couldn’t love that song more.”

I remember your eyes of blue,
they saw right through my soul

The way you say my name,
it always leaves me wantin’ more

But you took your time,
you wasted mine leadin’ me on

Sayin’ you couldn’t be,
couldn’t be with just one
So I’m drivin’ down the highway
Thinkin’ of you, babe
Smokin’ menthols to ease my brain
Yeah, I’m drivin’ down the highway
Thinkin’ of you, babe
Smokin’ menthols to ease my brain

WILLOW AVALON’S DEBUT SINGLE “DRIVIN” IS A TIMELESS CLASSIC OF BRUISED HEARTS AND HIGHWAYS

:: ARTIST TO WATCH ::



“Drivin” proved to be Avalon’s big break, earning her millions of early streams, a growing fan base, and the attention of both music blogs and record companies. Atwood Magazine named her one of our artists to watch, and just this month, SiriusXM made her the sixth artist to join their nascent Artist Accelerator program, an initiative aimed at removing barriers in the industry and helping new and emerging artists grow their listener base.

Avalon announced her signing to major label Atlantic Records/Assemble Sound in 2023, and began to build out her catalog at the tail end of last year, first with two reworked/remixed versions of “Drivin” (courtesy of Runnner’s Noah Weinman and Field Medic’s Kevin Sullivan), both of which helped give the song even longer legs than it already had. In October she released her sophomore single “Stranger” and announced her debut EP of the same name, set to release February 29, 2024.

“I felt like I had an obligation to release ‘Stranger’ first to preface my debut record that in a lot of ways reflects me and my perspective of myself in the industry,” Avalon shares. “I have been lucky enough to have great relationships, friendships and romances that have let me meet so many people I admire in this industry. You might know my name a lil, or you might not – either way I still feel like a stranger to my listeners, and that’s something I want to change by being more vulnerable in my songs and really opening up to whoever wants to listen.”




With a harmony-laced, emotionally charged chorus that saw her asking, “What’s wrong with me? I don’t wanna be a stranger to the people I love,” “Stranger” quickly became a new fan favorite – becoming the #1 most played song on SiriusXM’s The Spectrum, the #2 most played song on Hits 1 Radio, and more.

This paved the way for January’s “Honey Ain’t No Sweeter,” the second single taken off Avalon’s Stranger EP. Achingly intimate lyrics and tender acoustic guitars bring to life a beautifully sweet, heavy-hearted ballad about overcoming fears of commitment and impulses to keep looking for love when you’ve already found it in someone.

“The song for me was about my feelings of distrust, fear of commitment, and being heartbroken yet again,” Avalon confesses. “It was a call and response to my deep inner monologue about this whirlwind of a relationship I was diving into. At that time, I was seeing a few people very lightly but when I met him (we can call him C), I dropped everything in hopes that my feelings were right and that this was a good thing.”

“The line ‘the grass ain’t always greener, honey ain’t no sweeter on the other side’ stems from the old Southern saying,” she continues. “In this day and age with dating apps and the internet, I feel like people have a fear of commitment because all they have to do is open their phone and there’s a million beautiful people they think could be better than who they are with now. In my opinion, it’s a plague and very destructive in terms of commitment to relationships and loving who you are with.”

Her chorus is a gentle, cathartic masterpiece of raw, immersive, and unfiltered emotion:

The grass ain’t always greener
Honey ain’t no sweeter on the other side
And love don’t make you weaker
I wish that you could see it from my eyes
The grass ain’t always greener
Honey ain’t no sweeter
On the other side



Out on February 29, Avalon’s debut EP was recorded with a group of close friends and collaborators at the famous Electric Lady Studios in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

For the Athens, Georgia-born singer/songwriter – who now lives in Hell’s Kitchen, on the West side of Manhattan – this record is both years in the making, and just the beginning of her journey: An introduction to who she is as an artist and as a person.

“The Stranger EP was made from many nights – over many years – of me sitting in my house, driving in my car or crying in the movie theatre, just unpacking the complexities of my heart and my life and how I love and hope to be loved,” Avalon shares. “And I hope it helps people that have or are feeling the same type of way. Whether that’s being a stranger to yourself or to the people you love.”

Charming and churning, enchanting and evocative – and brimming with Avalon’s warm voice and confessional, inviting poetry – Stranger promises to make Willow Avalon a stranger no more. Already, its first two singles bring us deep into the artist’s world, as she picks apart her world, unpacking life experiences and processing heavy emotions as they happen to her in real time.

“I’ve grown a lot in my music and the voice I feel is true and honest to me and my roots,” Avalon confides. “I’m very happy to be going in the right direction now that I wholeheartedly believe in me.”



Atwood Magazine caught up with Willow Avalon to discuss “Honey Ain’t No Sweeter,” the long road to her debut EP, and more.

Dive into our interview below, and get to know this 2024 artist-to-watch before she’s a household name!

Willow Avalon’s Stranger is out February 29, 2024 via Atlantic Records/Assemble Sound. Stay tuned for more music from her, as well as tour dates: Following her EP release, Avalon will be supporting singer/songwriter Briston Maroney on select US dates, and she will also be playing at Gulf Shores, Alabama’s Hangout Music Festival (which Atwood Magazine‘s Nick Polak called a “perfect weekend of poolside paradise”) this May!

In this day and age, and with this fear of commitment, I hope “Honey” really resonates with people looking for love.

— —

:: stream/purchase Honey Ain’t No Sweeter here ::
:: connect with Willow Avalon here ::
Willow Avalon © Kristin Karch
Willow Avalon © Kristin Karch



A CONVERSATION WITH WILLOW AVALON

Honey Ain't No Sweeter - Willow Avalon

Atwood Magazine: Happy New Year, Willow! I know you called 2023 “the year everything changed” for you, and I’d love to start there; with 2023 now in the rearview, what were your highs and lows, and how do you think you’ll remember it in the history books?

Willow Avalon: Hiii! Happy New Year! 2023 was a mix of some of my biggest career highs and lows as well as some serious self reflection and internal work after a handful of heartbreaks. Some things ended, some began. Doors closed and new ones opened. I feel so lucky to be coming out of 2023 with a first record I couldn’t be more proud of. I’ll always remember 2023 as the year I found myself, my sound and my people!

I saw you’d been traveling a ton recently, seemingly in preparation for everything that’s to come this year – from rural Georgia to redwoods cabins and beyond! Do any special highlights come to mind for you from this time – any favorite moments?

Willow Avalon: I was lucky enough, with the help of my label Atlantic Records, to go back home to my rural hometown in Georgia for my family barn thanksgiving. I was sent down there with a video camera, a new laptop I had no idea how to use, and a mission to document the amazing intricacies of my southern roots and my family’s connection to music.

Being able to be with my family and listen to / film all their stories about how much music means to us as a family was incredible. The music gene has traveled long and far down our bloodline, and I couldn’t be more honored to continue that.



You released “Stranger” back in October, and it's been on repeat for me ever since. How did this song come about, and why did you pick that for your debut single with Atlantic / Assemble?

Willow Avalon: Blushhh, thank ya kindly!

“Stranger” is a song that came very easily to me. I think for that reason alone I felt like I had an obligation to release it first to preface my debut record that in a lot of ways reflects me and my perspective of myself in the industry. I have been lucky enough to have great relationships, friendships and romances that have let me meet so many people I admire in this industry.

You might know my name a lil, or you might not – either way I still feel like a stranger to my listeners, and that’s something I want to change by being more vulnerable in my songs and really opening up to whoever wants to listen!

I love you like I love my mama
I let her in but from a distance
I never knew what I was missing
Only loving from a distance
What’s wrong with me?
I don’t wanna be
A stranger to the people I love
What’s wrong with me?
I don’t wanna believe
Everyone I love is gonna run



I still feel like a stranger to my listeners, and that’s something I want to change by being more vulnerable in my songs and really opening up…

You're now starting this year off right with “Honey Ain't No Sweeter,” a gorgeous acoustic indie folk ballad that I find absolutely enthralling. What is the significance of this song, for you?

Willow Avalon: I wrote this song while sitting on a dusty porch in Marfa, Texas, I had fallen head over heels for a country singer who swept me off my feet and brought me down to Marfa shortly after said sweeping to come sing at his grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary. Those grandparents were two of the most legendary country artists/poets there could be. I was immediately immersed into a room full of my idols. After we went to the town hall to watch Steve Earle do a solo acoustic set dedicated to my new love’s grandparents, I felt a wave of creativity and rushed home. Sitting in a rickety rocking chair playing my old half broken guitar, I started picking on the chorus idea I had written lyrics for already but didn’t have a melody. Soon after that, the song was born on that very dusty porch that I had found myself on by the whim of my heartstrings.

The song for me was about my feelings of distrust, fear of commitment, and being heartbroken yet again. It was a call and response to my deep inner monologue about this whirlwind of a relationship I was diving into. At that time, I was seeing a few people very lightly but when I met him (we can call him C), I dropped everything in hopes that my feelings were right and that this was a good thing.

The line “the grass ain’t always greener, honey ain’t no sweeter on the other side” stems from the old Southern saying. In this day and age with dating apps and the internet, I feel like people have a fear of commitment because all they have to do is open their phone and there’s a million beautiful people they think could be better than who they are with now.

In my opinion, it’s a plague and very destructive in terms of commitment to relationships and loving who you are with.

Willow Avalon © Kristin Karch
Willow Avalon © Kristin Karch



“Honey Ain't No Sweeter” is so distinct from the more mainstream/pop-friendly “Drivin” and “Stranger.” How do you feel this track continues to introduce you and capture your artistry?

Willow Avalon: I think one thing that hasn’t been spoken about much is that I wrote “Drivin” when I was 16 years old, and later recorded it when I was 18 or so. It was an mp3 unmixed, unmastered file with Garage Band on it that I just self-released on a whim. I’ve grown a lot in my music and the voice I feel is true and honest to me and my roots since recording and releasing that song, so I’m very happy to be going in the right direction now that I wholeheartedly believe in me. Same with “Stranger” – I wrote “Stranger” 2-ish years ago and now at 25, I feel like I’m equipped to make the records I want to make and fully execute my ideas and visions.



Well I told you once, won't tell you again, second chances don't come too often, do you understand that?” you sing at the top – starting us off in the middle of the story. What drove this choice to structure the song that way, and how did you go about writing it?

Willow Avalon: I have this habit of dating emotionally unavailable or not in-touch men. I am a firm believer that communication is key with someone you love, so I found myself expressing my needs over and over again like a broken record to a deaf and unwilling partner. That line was written as a warning to this new love I had dove into – that I’ve wised up and I’m not that girl who will do the broken record thing anymore regarding my needs.

The line “love don't make you weaker” resonates with me... Can you tell me more about this lyric, and this idea of love and weakness, or disempowerment? Where do you think that comes from?

Willow Avalon: C was a very stoic, Southern man who stood about 6’6 and had a hard time showing affection in public – we once made a deal that while we were out, he would only hold my hand. Now looking back, I can’t believe I even negotiated physical affection (lol), but you live and you learn. That line was me trying to tell him that being in love and sweet to your partner doesn’t make you any less of a strong man.

As a lyrically forward artist, do you have any favorite lyrics in this new song? Any lines that resonate the most for you?

Willow Avalon: I think the line “love don’t make you weaker, wish that you could see it through my eyes” is a favorite of mine because it resonates so much with me personally. I guess that’s why I wrote it, haha. I tend to fall in love hard and heavy – the person becomes my whole world, and it’s hard when the person you love is less like that and more hesitant to dive in. That line was written because I felt frustration in my relationship because I felt like I was diving into the love I felt we had, but he had cold feet.

This is the latest single off your upcoming (and long awaited!) debut EP. How does it feel to finally be releasing this record, and can you share a little about the story behind Stranger EP?

Willow Avalon: Ugh I can’t fully express with words how much of a load off and a massive release it is being able to give something to the world that you’ve held near and dear for so long. When you sit on something you’ve made for a long time, it’s hard to not nitpick it to death and drive yourself crazy trying to make it perfect. I wrote “Stranger” almost two years ago, “Call Me On My Way Home” (another song on the upcoming EP) was written 3 years ago, as with a lot of the songs on the EP.

Most people don’t get that some of these records artists put out are things they’ve been sitting on for a long time and the weight of having so much unreleased music sometimes takes its toll on your creativity and ability to write new things. It can feel like an endless abyss of you pouring your heart out into something that sits on a folder in your phone just waiting around until the right time to deliver it to the world! It’s not always the artist’s choice whether they get to release music or not. I signed my first record deal when I was 19 and it took a lot of fighting to get out of that and be able to release music legally!

The Stranger EP was made from many nights – over many years – of me sitting in my house, driving in my car or crying in the movie theatre, just unpacking the complexities of my heart and my life and how I love and hope to be loved. And I hope it helps people that have or are feeling the same type of way. Whether that’s being a stranger to yourself or to the people you love.

Willow Avalon © courtesy of the artist
Willow Avalon © courtesy of the artist



For those who are just discovering you today, what do you want them to know about who Willow Avalon is, and what your music's all about?

Willow Avalon: I’m just a hell-bent Southern girl born into a hard hand of cards that never took no for an answer, pulled up my bootstraps and followed my heart out of the deep South to follow my dream to one day be able to make music that helps people and feeds me – literally and figuratively! Haha

My music is my form of therapy for myself. I sing about my life and the rights and wrongs that have happened in it.

WILLOW AVALON’S DEBUT SINGLE “DRIVIN” IS A TIMELESS CLASSIC OF BRUISED HEARTS AND HIGHWAYS

:: ARTIST TO WATCH ::



What do you hope listeners take away from “Honey Ain’t No Sweeter”? What have you taken away from creating it and now putting it out?

Willow Avalon: In this day and age and with this fear of commitment, I hope “Honey” really resonates with people looking for love and helps them realize if you like or love someone, see it through and understand that what you have is beautiful, love is beautiful, and the grass isn’t always greener on the other side!

— —

:: stream/purchase Honey Ain’t No Sweeter here ::
:: connect with Willow Avalon here ::
Stream: “Honey Ain’t No Sweeter” – Willow Avalon



— — — —

Honey Ain't No Sweeter - Willow Avalon

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? © Kristin Karch

:: Stream Willow Avalon ::



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