Most of the songs on these individual albums and the chapters in my book were written over the last seven years. All of my writing in that stretch seemed to touch in one manner or another on love, hope, and resilience. As I became ever more conscious of just how many common threads there were, connecting songs to songs and songs to book chapters and vice versa, the more I realized that everything I was working on was a single body of work. Seeing that “big picture” allowed me the freedom to explore different aspects of my writing and music in more depth than I ever have before on a single record.
I’ve always been a long-distance runner at heart, and like to think of Project 5 as a marathon: each leg is its own separate journey, but they all lead to the same destination.
Project 5.1 Album: “Love You Strong”
Love. Loyalty. Friendship.
Remixed, remastered, and re-released: 1/20/17
"Love You Strong" is a collection of songs that put the concept of love under the microscope. Love isn’t all hearts and flowers and it’s not just about broken hearts. Love is being there for someone in both sickness and in health. It’s the unspoken vows given in lifelong friendships. It’s the marriage of trust, loyalty, and convictions that stand the test of time. However, this isn’t an album of “love songs.” It's not a happy record. It's not a sad record. It's an honest record. If there’s one line that could sum up “Love You Strong,” it would be “Reaching for the light underneath a bed of snow” from “Earth-Kind Rose.” No matter which direction the lyrics go on each song, there are no victims on this record. Musically, it’s also very straight forward. I was really thinking about this album as a whole and how the songs fit together, and the music just didn’t lend itself to leaving the earthy parameters of storytelling.
Project 5.2 Album: “Slaughterhouse Sessions”
My second album in Project 5 is an acoustic blues and gospel record with both original songs and cover tunes by Dave Carter ("Crocodile Man"), the Carter Family (“Sun of the Soul”), J.C. Burris ("One of These Mornings"), and Elder Roma Wilson ("Ain't it a Shame"). There's also a co-write with my friend Slaid Cleaves (“How’d You End Up Here"). We recorded some of these tracks at a former slaughterhouse in El Prado, New Mexico. Now converted into an eclectic guesthouse for family, friends, and artists, it's a beautiful and inspiring place to visit and write. Other tracks were cut at The Zone in Dripping Springs, Texas, and at Lloyd Maines' studio in Austin, Texas. With its overall vibe, "The Slaughterhouse Sessions" is a sonic departure from my folk record, “Love you Strong” (Project 5.1). However, the two albums fit together as part of my Project 5 series in that both honor the overall theme of love, loyalty, friendship, faith, and resilience.
On this album, the groove made for a comfortable place to tackle uncomfortable subject matter like war, poverty, and racism. In the end though, regardless of what I'm singing about, "The Slaughterhouse Sessions" is still about eventually arriving at a better place than where you began — be it mentally or physically. It’s a message perhaps summed up best in the title of the traditional hymnal that closes the album: “I Will Arise.”
Project 5.3 Album: “Talk to a Human”
This album addresses the dynamics of communication or lack thereof while striving to maintain real connections in a social media driven world. As the final musical component of Project 5, “Talk to a Human” will serve as a wrap-up of all of the other albums in the collection stylistically, lyrically, and musically.
Project 5.4 EP: “Who is Ann?”
Although I’ve been a closet techno-head most of my adult life, this EP is my first foray into an electronic project. Throughout 2014, I participated in a “song-a-week” group called RealWomenRealSongs organized by songwriter Cary Cooper. The challenge of keeping up with the weekly deadlines helped me really learn my way around GarageBand, which in turn allowed me a chance to experiment with loops and other elements of recording electronic music. “Who is Ann?” is a departure from the other albums because even though the lyrics are still based on the same themes, my goal for the electronic record was to let the music itself do the talking, to get my message across on a more visceral level.
Project 5.5 Book: "The Girl With the Exploding Brain"
This is a full-length autobiography I've been working on since 2003. It chronicles my lifelong journey living with a seizure disorder while simultaneously crisscrossing the globe as a performing singer-songwriter. It’s a brutally honest book about the way I have dealt with the realities of being a performer with epilepsy. Part of the intention is to educate those who know nothing about the condition, but it’s also to let other people who have it themselves be able to read about my journey and perhaps avoid some of my own pitfalls — or to find positive affirmation about their own choices.