Jess Williamson on “Sorceress” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, May 29th, 2024  

Jess Williamson on “Sorceress”

Home Sweet Home

Mar 30, 2021 Issue #67 - Phoebe Bridgers and Moses Sumney Photography by Ian Maddox (for Under the Radar) Bookmark and Share

Phoning from the adopted comfort of her Los Angeles home in early May, Texas native Jess Williamson speaks with disarming candor about the trials and rewards of the rapidly shifting world around us. “I kind of like quarantine,” she laughs. “It’s been a really nice reset, and has helped me get my priorities in order. I think before this, I was so focused on goals and being a really ambitious person, always looking and working towards the next thing, but I’m realizing I was really letting my life pass me by, so I’m enjoying this time to pause and reflect on what really matters. I feel like a lot of us are having a lifestyle like we all moved to the country.”

Williamson’s newest album, Sorceress, is eerily calibrated to this particular time of instability and reflection, centering around themes of sorting through past relationships and finding a home within. Williamson, however, is quick to downplay any authorship of such synchronicity, finding any imputed role of propheteering to be rooted in misunderstanding that she playfully side-steps. “I named the album Sorceress because I think it sums up the largest concepts on the record, and to me, it’s a little tongue-in-cheek calling an album Sorceress when I’m not one or saying I am one,” she says. “I felt, and I think a lot of women feel, that they are expected to be a ‘sorceress’—to be able to take care of all of our shit, and our work, and our creative life, and our friends, and the emotional weight of the whole house, and cook dinner, and have a smile on our face, and do the dishes too.”

The album’s gentle palate of apricot-tinged country-psych-folk lingers like the dust on an old dirt road after a ’70s Chevy flatbed has gone down it. The spindly guitars and slides fill in the interstitial spaces like so many cobwebs lovingly weaved in the farthest corners of a home. All of these moments act as ballast for the ethereal melodies of Williamson’s plaintive and transportive voice. Saying that she always begins her work with the lyrics, Williamson confides that it is often a process of discovery for herself when she is creating. “I have this super long notes folder in my phone where I’m always throwing ideas in everyday throughout the day, and then when I sit down with an instrument and start playing it is almost like I’m asking the lyrics what music they want to be attached to. I start singing them and then more lyrics come from there, usually in the moment, but it always starts with that folder.”

The end result is anything but a pastiche of ephemeral lyrical whims, however, with Williamson’s writerly holism grounding the concepts into a coherent thematic framework, in this case the Triple Goddess of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. “The Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone are these three major archetypes for the life cycle of a woman. In youth, you are a maiden, and then you move into motherhood, and then your crone phase is after you can no longer give birth and you are moving into being a wise elder,” Williamson explains. Williamson shares that it is a helpful guide in determining activity because “you can learn to work with the cycle and at different times of the month you are capable of doing different things better and you can use the phase you’re in to its highest potential by realizing where you are in your cycle.”

Remarking on what the mutable future holds, Williamson says that she is looking forward to continuing to pause from the rat race of our daily lives to deepen her spiritual practice. “The beauty and spirituality in nature is so easy to access if you just slow down and listen,” she says. “I’ve had some really transcendent moments by just stopping and listening. Even last night, on the full moon, I sat outside with bare feet in the dirt and focused on feeling the energy of the earth through my feet and staring at the moon and listening to the bugs and the wind.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 67 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online.]


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